If a Bomb Brought Down EgyptAir 804, the War on Terror Is About to Change


Source: Time

By Karl Vick

While the cause of the crash is still unknown, the possibility of terrorism looms large

First, the caveats: No hard evidence of a bomb has been found, and no claim of responsibility has been announced. But because of the way EgyptAir Flight 804 dropped out of the sky, and the fact that it was headed to Egypt—scene of the only airliner bombing in 14 years—government officials and outside experts agree that the odds favor a terror strike.

No one yet knows how it might have happened, but two main possibilities present themselves—and both present mind-boggling implications.

The first and perhaps most likely possibility is that the airliner was brought down as airliners usually are—by a bomb sneaked onto the plane at its last point of departure. That was Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) in Paris, which was thought to be among the most secure in Europe. If the bomb got onto a plane at CDG, it calls into question all the preventative security measures taken to safeguard global civil aviation since 9/11, because no city would be taking safety more seriously than Paris since the attacks of last November, to say nothing of the Brussels bombings of March.

If Paris was where a bomb got on board a plane, the spotlight then focuses on the 86,000 airport workers cleared to work in the so-called “reserved zone” beyond the reach of passengers. That’s a huge number of people to vet for security; and in France, where 7 percent of the population is Muslim, the fear is that any of them could have quietly gone to work for ISIS. As TIME’s Vivienne Waltreports, French security services already have tried to detect evidence of radicalism among airport workers, and in fact 57 workers lost their clearances through November of last year. In Belgium, something similar happened at nuclear power plant, where 11 workers were barred after concerns were raised about “insiders” stealing radioactive material for use by ISIS.

This is part of what makes ISIS so challenging. The group does not operate like al-Qaeda, which saw itself as an elite, members-only strike force that put immense thought and planning into choosing its targets. ISIS operates more like a mass movement with a very low bar to entry. The world’s perhaps 1.2 billion Sunni Muslims are its declared constituency, but anyone can join—”anyone who is angry, really,” as former ISIS hostage Nicolas Henin told me recently—and all are encouraged to stir up mayhem where they can. A Russian jet carrying 224 people was brought down last November over Egypt by a homemade bomb tucked into a 12-oz. aluminum beverage can and rolled onto the charter flight with the other catering.

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