- As Troops rescue another 150 from B/Haram
The Russian commercial jet that crashed in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula in October was downed by terrorists bent on damaging Egypt’s tourism industry and its relations with Russia, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi said Wednesday.
Egyptian authorities previously rejected Moscow’s findings that blamed a terrorist attack for the crash that killed 224 people aboard the Airbus 321-200. An affiliate of the Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for the tragedy.
“He who caused the plane crash … aimed to spoil the relations with Russia,” al-Sisi said in a speech translated by the The Cairo Post. He acknowledged that terrorism has not ended in Egypt but said it will “if we unite.”
Metro Jet Flight 9268 was loaded with Russian tourists en route from the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg when it crashed Oct. 31.
Ayman el-Muqadam, Egypt’s chief crash investigator, said in December that his team had not come across any evidence to suggest the crash was caused by a terrorist act. Russian investigators consistently maintained the plane was brought down by a homemade explosive device placed on the flight. Russia subsequently suspended flights to Egypt.
Peter Goelz, a former managing director of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, told USA TODAY that al-Sisi’s pronouncement would shift liability away from the Russian airline and toward Egypt’s security apparatus. But as the evidence piled up, Egyptian authorities had no choice but to take ownership of disaster, he said.
“I think there was no alternative,” Goelz said. “People were not going to go back to that resort unless they acknowledge what happened, fix the security and go forward.”
Al-Sisi has been laboring to jump-start Egypt’s tourism industry, which continues to struggle amid security concerns dating back to the 2011 revolution that drove longtime President Hosni Mubarak from power.
Al-Sisi met this week with Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of the United Nations’ World Tourism Organization. Daily News Egypt reports al-Sisi stressed improved security efforts and said local authorities have spared no efforts in providing security for tourism.
Goelz said that may not be enough.
“The unrest in that entire region makes a normal tourist think twice about picking Egypt as a destination,” Goelz said. “I think they have a long way to go, frankly.”
In the meantime, troops at Kodo in Borno State have rescued another 150 people, majority being children, from Boko Haram terrorists.
In addition, a house with Boko Haram flag at Fatake caught fire with several ammunition destroyed and three insurgents killed.
Acting Director in charge of Army Public Relations, Colonel Sani Usman who disclosed this also noted that troops of 7 Division carried out major operations against the Boko Haram terrorist locations in Talala and Kumshe axis.
He stated that the joint operation, which was carried out with Cameroonian forces was quite successful as a number of the terrorists were killed, their weapons and equipment either destroyed or captured.
According to him, the joint operation between elements of 7 Division and the Cameroonian forces along Banki-Kumshe axis, led to the killing of 20 Boko Haram terrorists, destruction of four AK 47 rifles and capture of a gun truck mounted with an Anti-Aircraft Gun (AA Gun) and two AK 47 rifles, as well as a 60mm mortar and a Dane gun.
He said three soldiers sustained injury and a vehicle damaged as a result of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED).
Usman disclosed that troops also encountered about 10 other IEDs along the route of advance which were cleared. Most of the terrorists ran in disarray towards Fatake where troops on blocking position cleared them.
He said, “It is important to state that 5 Brigade and 7 Multinational Joint Task Force were doing well in their respective area of operations. This is made possible by the steady supply of needed logistics into the various formations and units fighting the Boko Haram terrorists.
USA Today with additional report from Tribune