Posts

The Islamic State poses a Global Airline Security Threat

metrojet flight plan

Metrojet 9268 Flight Schedule, October 31, 2015.

Saturday morning, October 31st, Flight 9268 a Metrojet Airbus A321 with 224 largely Russian tourists, and crew aboard were bound on a course for St. Petersburg from Sharm el-Sheikh on Egypt’s Sinai Red Sea. The aircraft reached an altitude of 31,000 feet at 430 knots, when something catastrophic occurred at 23 minutes into the flight. Communications with the pilot abruptly ended, the plane struggled to gain altitude and just as suddenly plummeted earthward with the tail section broken off and the rest of fuselage sent crashing into the desert and mountains were a flash was seen via satellite.

All 224 passengers and crew aboard were killed. The crash occurred less than 300 miles from the resort area at the tip of the Sinai Peninsula at the mouth of the Red Sea. The passenger remains and  aircraft debris were scattered over a wide area. All of this was recorded in real time on satellite flight status internet reports and satellite imagery. Forensic teams from Egyptian, Russian and Airbus air safety organizations were dispatched to retrieve the flight data recorders. Egyptian military and Red Crescent teams were engaged in recovery of the remains, personal effects and luggage of those killed in the crash.

Grief was overwhelming at funerals held in Russia this week with the arrival of the remains of the victims.  The immediate questions were what caused the aviation catastrophe and who may have been behind it.

Watch this CNN video on “Did a Bomb take down Metrojet Flight 9268?”:

Russian-jet-crash-sinai

Metrojet Flight 9268  Tail section. Source: AFP

If the emerging facts surrounding the fate of Metrojet Flight 9268 are confirmed this aviation disaster, possibly perpetrated by Islamic terrorists,  could well be Russia’s 9/11.  Shoshana Bryen of the Washington, D.C.-based Jewish Policy Center suggested that in an American Thinker blog, “Could the destroyed Russian plane be jihadi payback?” The inference being that the bombing of Metrojet Flight 9268 was a deadly rebuke to Russian President Putin for his entry in the Syria conflict attempting to bolster the faltering Assad Regime in alliance with Shia extremist Iran and its proxy Hezbollah. Boaz Bismuth writing in Israel Hayom  penned an op ed about the alleged bombing with the prescient title, “ISIS aims for the global skies.”

A lot is at stake, as the Sinai had become a veritable Islamic terrorist venue with Al Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS echelons attacking Egyptian security forces. Sharm el-Sheik is  a major European tourist destination attracting millions of visitors annually from the EU, Russia and other countries. For the El-Sisi government, terrorist involvement in the aviation disaster in the Sinai would have a chilling effect on billions in income from tourism. For Russia it could be an un-reckoned threat arising from its entry in the Syrian conflict. It is seeking to keep at bay Caucasian and other Russian Muslims from flocking to join the self-declared Caliphate, the  Islamic State.  For the international airline industry it may have profound implications for assuring security for passengers and operations both at home and in destinations adjacent to jihadist conflict zones.  If airport or airline servicing contractors were involved, then a major security gap would be opened by this latest aviation terrorism episode.

Several theories were developed as to what caused the aircraft to go through  violent maneuvers. The aircraft may have been hit by a shoulder held air defense heat seeker missile or MANPAD, it might have suffered a high altitude structural failure which caused it to break apart or the aircraft could have suffered an internal bomb explosion. Both the MANPAD and structural failure explanations were dismissed in view of the altitude at which the incident occurred, 31,000 feet , exceeding the maximum  altitude of MANPADs, 15,000 feet. Moreover the high altitude structure failure possibility was obviated by the service record of the Metrojet aircraft indicating that it had undergone structural repairs after a 2001 incident that occurred on a rough landing.  The bombing possibility, while initially dismissed, became a palpably plausible on Wednesday, November 4th. Both UK and U.S. intelligence suggested they had intercepted electronic information indicating that an explosive device may have been secreted on board Metrojet Flight 9268 by possible operatives of ISIS groups active in the Sinai Peninsula. Perhaps they were posing as local catering and cleaning contractors with access to the aircraft. Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood  or ISIS operatives could have secreted a bomb in the rear lavatories or rear luggage holds on the Metrojet A321.

Evidence is mounting to the ultimate conclusion that this might have been  a bombing.  Shoshana Bryen  indicated that photographs of the aircraft wreckage in British media “show some of the holes in the wreckage. They are outward-facing – meaning something inside the plane moved out. A blown fuel tank – which is on the outside – would have caused inward-facing holes.” Then there were reported  forensic evidence of metal shards among the clothing and effects of the victims.  Bryen also cited reports “indicating  that security at Sharm el-Sheikh was totally lax; which helps make the case that someone inside did the job. Since Egyptian tourism and Russia are targets of the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS respectively, and since ISIS came from the MB root, collaboration here is a twisted “win-win” for them.”

‘UK PM Cameron underlined the increasing evidence of a bomb plot to destroy, Metrojet  Flight 9268, saying, “It is ‘more likely than not” that a bomb brought down  the Metrojet over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula”. He took extraordinary measures grounding all UK charters for a security sweep at Sharm el Sheikh airport leaving more than 3,500 British passengers delayed until given clearance. CNN cited Cameron’s  office issuing a statement saying,  “Outbound flights from the UK to Sharm el-Sheikh remain suspended and the Foreign Office continues to advise against all but essential travel by air to or from Sharm el-Sheikh airport, but we are continuing to work with the Egyptians to get back to normal service as soon as possible.” Similar announcements came from Irish authorities and Lufthansa.  Sharm el-Sheikh is visited by more than 1 million tourists, annually.

The Israeli resort of Eilat at the head of the Red Seas also is a major European and international tourist destination.  ISIS Sinai affiliate formerly known as Ansar Bait al-Maqdis has targeted Eilat for a possible bombing attack. The possible ISIS terror bombing of the Metrojet  could have rippling effects there to assure the usual tight security arrangements of Israel international carrier, El Al, and  domestic ones like Arkia.  El Al aircraft are already equipped with electronic counter measures like the Elbit C-Music anti- missile system to foil possible MANPAD attacks. Doubtless, the Israelis may also have better security clearances for aircraft maintenance, catering and cleaning employees, as well as barriers and surveillance of the Egyptian border to thwart infiltration of MB and ISIS terrorists.

ISS Facility Services Receives State of Utah Refugee Services Employer of the Year 2009

ISS Facility Services Receives State of Utah Refugee Services Employer of the Year 2009.

ISS Facility Services Receives State of Utah Refugee Services Employer of the Year 2009

The downing of the Metrojet with its innocent Russian victims  has more than just Russian, Egyptian and Israeli concerns. From investigations by the Wall Street Journal,  CNN and others, security clearances for baggage handlers, catering, and cleaning personnel with access to the tarmac and aircraft here in the U.S. is lax.

Further investigations by the Lisa Benson Radio Show National Security Task Force of America  have revealed employment of Somali refugees  by major international groups like ISS Worldwide A/S headquartered in Copenhagen. The US subsidiary  ISS Facility Services, Inc. is based in San Antonio. ISS Worldwide employs over a half million through their outsourced network of airport and commercial facilities maintenance contracts. ISS specializes in a broad range of facility management services including janitorial services, especially for airport authorities and major manufacturing  companies.

The Somali Muslim émigré population has been the source of both Al Shabaab and increasingly ISIS recruitment in the U.S.  One illustration of the inherent ISIS risk among U.S. Somalis employed at US airports was  the reported death in September 2014  of  American Somali Émigré ISIS  Jihadi

The late ISIS Fighter a former Twin Cities airport cleaner

The late ISIS Fighter a former Twin Cities airport cleaner.

The late ISIS Fighter a former Twin Cities airport cleaner

Abdirahmaan Muhumed, 29.  That revealed his employment as a cleaner for Delta Global Services, Inc.  that gave him security access to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.  Muhumed left behind 9 children in the Twin Cities to become an ISIS jihadi, before his death in Syria. Muhumed had unfettered access to jetliners at the airport, which handles 90,000 passengers a day. He also had access to the tarmac and special security clearance to other parts of the airport. Muhumed had no criminal record in the United States that would have prevented him from getting a job at the airport.

This revelation following the death of Somali émigré ISIS fighter Muhumed, should raise the concerns of both the TSA and Homeland Security regarding screening of airport and aircraft maintenance personnel at U.S. Many of who have contracts with groups like ISS Worldwide A/S and Delta Global Services, Inc.  Moreover, without active community policing programs in the major U.S. communities recruitment of Muhumed and other ISIS recruits could not have been detected.  Thus, the downing of the Metrojet in Egypt by alleged ISIS perpetrators reverberates here in the U.S.  FBI Direct James Combey has warned that ISIS jihadis lurk among us in all 50 states.

RELATED ARTICLE: ‘Unvetted foreigners’ working as U.S. baggage handlers

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Qatar Ambassador to U.S.: “We Don’t Support Hamas”

Qatar’s Ambassador to Washington  H.E. Mohammed Jaham Al-Kuwari is a veteran diplomat with 32 years of service to the small gas rich wealthy Arab state on a peninsula jutting into the Persian Gulf off Saudi Arabia.  American educated at the University of Portland, Oregon with graduate work at the University of Madrid in Spain, he speaks several languages including Farsi used during a diplomatic post in Tehran.  He has held a number of diplomatic posts, Foreign Ministry and Cabinet positions. As Qatar’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, he presented his credentials to President Obama in the Oval Office in March 2014. Ambassador Al-Kuwari spoke Friday, December 5th at the monthly meeting of the Tiger Bay Club in Pensacola, Florida.

Qatar with its capital of Doha has fewer subjects than the metropolitan Pensacola area, approximately 300,000. There are also upwards of 1.7 million foreign workers residing in Qatar with some evidence of human rights violations. Human Rights Watch in its 2014 World Report noted:

Migrants continue to experience serious rights violations, including forced labor and arbitrary restrictions on the right to leave Qatar, which expose them to exploitation and abuse by employers.

The soft spoken Qatari diplomatic representative flew in from “wintry DC” the prior evening to be greeted by Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward, Escambia County Commissioner Michael Underwood and the board of the Tiger Bay Club.  He presented a check for $10,000 to Mayor Hayward and proceeded to unroll a charm campaign on this Gulf Coast community in North West Florida with a heavy military presence.  Located in Northwest Florida are the famed Pensacola Naval Air Station, Navy Training and Information Dominance Commands, the Naval Flight Training Center at Whiting Field, the USAF Air Force Special Operation Command Headquarters at Hurlburt Field, Eglin and Tyndall Air bases.  It is not uncommon to see personnel from the six Arab States, members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, undergoing training at these facilities.  One of the Tiger Bay board members who attended the private dinner Thursday evening opined the Ambassador gave a “smooth performance.”

The Qatar Charm Campaign

Tiny Qatar across from Shiite Iran is endeavoring to explain the presence of the leaders from terror groups Hamas and Taliban ensconced in luxury in Doha.   There are also allegations by the US Treasury that some Qatar individuals and charities may have funded these groups, as well as, the self declared Islamic State, formerly ISIS. A bit ironic, as Ambassador Al-Kuwari said ISIS is a threat to them that needs to be addressed through immediate military action.

On the diplomatic side, Qatar is one of two Gulf Arab States, the other being Oman, that have diplomatic relationships with America’s ally in the Middle East, Israel.  He stressed their recognition of the State of Israel which has offices in Doha.  He spoke about the role of Qatar trying to bring about peace between the Jewish State and the Palestinians, what he repeatedly deemed as the principal  root cause of unrest and violence in the region. He spoke about the criticism from fellow Arab League members questioning why Qatar tolerates Israeli presence and Jewish visitors.

Ambassador Al Kuwari propounded the view that the Al Jazeera satellite TV network was founded as the “voice of the Arab Spring”, promoting democratic aspirations.  He pointed out Qatar’s own aspirations to build democratic institutions noting a possible future elected parliament, given the two century rule by the Al-Thani family.

“Qatar doesn’t support Hamas”

He astounded some in the audience when he claimed that Qatar does not support Hamas.  This despite the $1 billion pledge by Qatar made at a Cairo conference to underwrite one quarter of the $4 billion cost to rebuild Gaza after the third Hamas perpetrated war with Israel since 2008. In his Tiger Bay talk he referenced the 2,200 Gazans killed in IDF Operation Protective Edge, not mentioning that the majority were Hamas and Palestinian Islamic jihad operatives who had used civilians as human shields. Nor did he mention that the $400 millions pledged after the 2012 Gaza war may have been used to build the terror tunnels that enabled cross border attacks inside Israel during the recent summer war.   As he put it, “better to have Khaled Meshaal, the leader in Qatar than across the Gulf in Iran”.

As to questions concerning permitting a Taliban office in Qatar, the Ambassador said that was to facilitate discussions with the Afghan government leading to an inclusive democratic government.  He recommended the terror group relinquish its threats of violence and denial of empowerment of women through education.  He noted the role played by Qatar in release of several Taliban leaders from detention in Guantanamo in exchange for release of captive US Army Sergeant Bergdahl.  However he did not respond to questions as to whether any of the released Taliban commanders in Qatar were rumored to have subsequently joined ISIS.

When asked about the Muslim Brotherhood, he suggested that there could be democratically elected Islamist governments, decrying the imprisonment by Egyptian President el-Sisi of Brothers, liberals and human rights advocates by the newly elected government.  The Ambassador suggested that the Muslim Brotherhood may not have resorted to terrorism, which appears contradicted by Egyptian, Saudi and UAE designations.   He was, however, silent about the long term presence in Qatar of exiled Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood preacher, Yusuf al-Qaradawi founder of the Union of Good, a US Treasury Global Designated Terror Group supplying Hamas.

As Ambassador Al-Kuwari was finishing his presentation The Investigative Project was reporting:

 Interpol issued a bulletin Friday seeking the arrest of the Muslim Brotherhood’s most influential cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi. The bulletin was sparse on details but said that Egypt wanted the 88-year-old Qaradawi “to serve a sentence” for crimes including “incitement and assistance to commit intentional murder.” …  According to the Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Watch, Interpol issued a “red notice” which is both its highest level alert, and a move subject to later review by the international police agency.

The Egyptian El-Sisi government had requested extradition by Qatar of al-Qaradawi to stand trial.

Ambassador Al-Kuwari painted a glowing picture of Qatar as the Switzerland of the Middle East with billions of dollars holding hundreds of international academic, business and interfaith conferences akin to Davos. He touted American universities like Cornell, Northwestern, Texas, and Virginia Commonwealth that set up programs in Doha. He said that Qatar wanted to invest in economic enterprises in the region to create jobs for the large number of unemployed university graduates.  In the US Qatar is spending $5 million funding university courses to teach Arabic.

 He emphasized the humanitarian contributions of Qatar reflected in the $100 million given for the rebuilding of New Orleans following hurricane Katrina, the $850 million to rebuild Haiti after the 2012 Earthquake in cooperation with the Clinton Foundation and a major push against Polio in the less developed world in conjunction with the Gates Foundation.  But there were also investments in the US, like the $1.5 billion City Center complex developed with the Hines group in Texas revitalizing a derelict section of Washington, DC.

When asked about the depiction of Islam as being prone to violence reflected in the barbarism of ISIS, he deplored that.  He contended that ISIS and Al Qaeda affiliates were a distinct minority that had infiltrated the demonstrated record of tolerance of Islam. His message was that Qatar was following the example of the 800 year Muslim reign in Al Andaluz, southern Spain, where allegedly Jews, Christian and Muslims lived in tolerance. This is not demonstrated by the history of intolerance and barbarism akin to that perpetrated by contemporary ISIS and the Taliban during the successive waves of invasion by extremist Berber-Muslims from North Africa.  He noted Qatar’s approval for building a new Catholic church.

Is Qatar a Frenemy?

Seasoned observers of the Middle East Region say that Qatar under the two century rule by the Al-Thani family “has been punching internationally above its weight class” to use the boxing analogy. Yet Qatar has often been referred to as a Frenemy.  Not exactly a friend, not exactly an enemy.

On the friend side Qatar has assisted in building several major bases including the forward command center at al-Udeid air base for the US Central Command, headquartered at MacDill Air Base just outside Tampa, Florida. Qatar has supplied air contingents in the US-led coalition of 60 countries seeking to “degrade and destroy” Sunni extremist group, the Islamic State, formerly ISIS. The capital, Doha has been turned into an international education hub for the Middle East with the aid of US academic institutions and think tanks like the Doha Center of the Washington, DC –based Brookings Institution.  Qatar has created jobs here in the US by purchasing $19 billion  of 50 Boeing 777s  for expansion of its Qatar Airways in major hubs  Dallas, Miami , Philadelphia to bolster existing facilities in Houston, Washington, DC, New York and Chicago .  Further, Qatar has signed agreements with the Pentagon to purchase more than $11 billion in Patriot Missiles, Apache helicopters and Javelin anti-tank missiles. Moreover, it acquired the Current TV channel, now Al Jazeera America, from former Vice President Al Gore and investors.

On the other hand, there is a troubling story.  Qatar in a New York Times op-ed by Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor called Qatar a “Club Med for Terrorists”. He was referring to providing sanctuary for Khaled Meshaal, the billionaire leader of Hamas.  Dr. Jonathan Schanzer of the Washington, DC-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies in testimony before the Joint Subcommittee on Foreign Affairs on September 9, 2014 said “that Qatar is currently Hamas’ ATM”:

“If you add up the annual $400 million that we believe has been pledged by the Qataris and perhaps the rumored $300 million provided by the Turks, then you’re looking at $700 million out of a roughly $1 billion budget,” Schanzer told members of Congress. “I’m no math major, but that would be 70 percent.

Earlier this year three Arab states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Bahrain, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, briefly withdrew their Ambassadors from Qatar.  They were, among other reasons, objecting to the Qatar funded Al Jazeera satellite TV network broadcasting across the region in Arabic the extremist inflammatory statements of exiled Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood preacher, Yusuf al Qaradawi.  In November 2014, the UAE joined Saudi Arabia placing the Muslim Brotherhood on its list of world terrorist organizations, including Hamas and, here in the US, Muslim Brotherhood affiliates, the Council of American Islamic Relations and Muslim American Society.

There are questions about what Qatar is doing concerning wealthy Qataris who have funded Al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusrah and the Sunni fundamentalist Islamic State in both Syria and Iraq.

There have been  accusations that some of the $220  billion funds for the infrastructure  in preparation for 2022 FIFA World Cup competition may have involved bribes to FIFA officials and  possible  diversion of contractor payments  to fund the Jihad of the Islamic State.

Some Members of Congress have called for black listing both Qatar and Turkey because of these individuals’ contributions to ISIS, even suggesting that the U.S. move CENTCOMM bases in Qatar elsewhere in the region. Those accusations led the US State Department while calling the current relationship with Qatar “productive”, to also state that “disruption of terrorist financing by Qatari individuals and charitable associations remains inconsistent”.

Conclusion

Qatari Ambassador Al-Kuwari’s Pensacola presentation will doubtless be repeated frequently during his Washington, DC posting. After all the campaign is laced with prospects of American communities and businesses receiving billions in economic rewards.  If Qatar is to succeed it might wisely follow the path of fellow Gulf Cooperation Council member Kuwait and rein in terrorist financiers in the tiny state. Qatar might start by honoring the Interpol Red Tag warrant for the arrest and extradition of Muslim Brotherhood preacher Al Qaradawi.  As to fostering peace between Israel and the Palestinians, if Qatar’s track record negotiating cease fire proposals with Turkey on behalf of Hamas in the recent summer Gaza war is any indication, that is an unlikely prospect.

Listen to the Qatar Ambassador’s Pensacola Tiger Bay Club presentation.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

United Arab Emirates Secretly Offers Funding for Israel’s Operation Protective Edge to Defeat Hamas

Ilana Freedman of The Freedman Report posted this from The Peninsula alleging the United Arab Emirates  (UAE) had met secretly with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman offering to fund Operation Protective Edge to defeat Hamas.  The Peninsula report notes this about who might have facilitated this development:
clear

Former Fatah Security chief, Mohammad Dahlan circa 2006

Sheikh Abdullah’s Security Adviser, Mohamed Dahlan, was also present. Dahlan, a Palestinian, is a former Fatah member expelled from the party and Gaza and now lives in the UAE.

Former Palestinian Authority Security chief Dahlan had been cited by the Jerusalem Post at the start of Operation Protective Edge denouncing Hamas for “fostering  new terror groups,  threatening Egypt’s security, and laying siege to the Gaza Strip.”  Jonathan Schanzer of the Washington, DC-based Foundation for Defense for Democracies chronicled the acrimonious split between Dahlan and PA President Abbas in his book, State of Failure: Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Unmaking of the Palestinian State.  Read our November 2013 NER review on The Failed State of Palestine  for more details about Dahlan’s split with Abbas.

The secret meeting between the UAE and Israel is in sharp contrast to Qatar that has gone on record yesterday in a The Gulf in the Media  report supporting the Palestinian people and Hamas in Gaza. Both developments in the Gulf come amidst the current Israeli ground incursion directed at destroying Hamas’ rocket inventory, launching facilities and extensive network of tunnels.  That appears to fit the Arab dictum “the enemy of my enemies is my friend”.  Despite supporting Hamas,  Qatar has a friend in the Obama Administration.  This is further evidence of a deep division among the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council  (GCC) regarding the threats from affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood the Islamic State, formerly ISIS.  PA President Abbas was in Ankara yesterday visiting Premier Erdogan, a Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas supporter.  Today, he was in Doha, Qatar seeking support for a cease fire in the current conflict, but without support from Egypt.  Today, 21 Egyptian soldiers were killed in a machine gun and rocket-propelled grenade attack at a Libyan border checkpoint 300 miles West of Cairo, perhaps by Muslim Brotherhood or Salafist terrorists.  That may be a why Egyptian President el-Sisi’s government is blocking the Gaza- Egypt frontier  while blaming Hamas for the current conflict.

Here is the Freedman Report post:

UAE, Israel have secret meeting, UAE ‘offered to fund Israel’s Gaza offensive’

Posted on July 19, 2014 by the Peninsula – 19 July, 2014

The UAE knew in advance of Israel’s plans for an offensive in Gaza and even offered to fund the operation provided the militant Palestinian outfit Hamas was eliminated in the process. Israel’s Channel 2 claimed in a recent report, according to local Arabic daily Al Sharq. The daily says in a report published today that Israel’s leading national TV station (Channel 2 in Hebrew) disclosed details of secret parleys between the UAE’s foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman, in Paris at the end of last month.

Both leaders met on the sly in Paris on the sidelines of a meeting of foreign ministers from the GCC states and Jordan with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Israel’s foreign minister was also in the city.

The meeting was to discuss the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian issue.

Al Sharq said the UAE was aware of Israeli’s planned military action in Gaza beforehand and Al Nahyan, at his meeting with Lieberman, expressed his country’s keenness to fund Israeli’s Gaza offensive provided the Hamas movement was annihilated since it had close links to the Muslim Brotherhood.

According to Al Sharq, Channel 2 reported that just a few days ago there was a meeting between Sheikh Abdullah and an Israeli minister in Abu Dhabi.

Sheikh Abdullah’s Security Adviser, Mohamed Dahlan, was also present. Dahlan, a Palestinian, is a former Fatah member expelled from the party and Gaza and now lives in the UAE.

Read the original article here.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the New English Review.