Cairo (AsiaNews) – The Russian plane crash in the Sinai that killed 224 people is an attack against Russia and its commitment to the war in Syria. It is also a way to punish Egyptian President Abdelfattah al Sisi, "guilty" of moving away from the traditional friendship with the United States. It is also a blow against his attempt to revive the Egyptian economy of which tourism is a pillar.
For Samir Ghattas, 66, a terrorism expert (with the Middle East Forum) who is now running for parliament, the Metrojet plane crash and the drop in tourism are “part of an international action”.
If a bomb was on the plane, he said, it was a sophisticated one, certainly made abroad by someone who knew his stuff. Turkey, Qatar, the Muslim Brotherhood, Great Britain and the United States are among the suspects.
He slams the hasty decision by some countries (Germany, Great Britain, France, etc.) to stop all flights in and out of Sharm el-Sheikh, which they did not do in the case of Tunisia when the Bardo Museum and a beach in Sousse were attacked. Because of this, Egypt is set to lose more than US$ 300 million in revenue per month from tourism.
Here is Samir Ghattas’ interview with AsiaNews.
How are tourism and Egypt after the accident (or terrorist attack)?
The crisis is becoming very complex. Tourism is one of the most important sources of foreign currency. The Muslim Brotherhood controls 60 per cent of currency exchanges. In the past, the Egyptian currency was lower vis-à-vis the dollar or the euro. Now this happens, and tourism is badly hit.
Is this terrorist attack just aimed at the tourism industry or at the Egyptian nation?
I am sure that this attack is part of an international action. It is not something that an average terrorist can do locally. If the bomb exploded on the plane, it is not any bomb; it was put on the plane with a mechanism that would go off at a certain altitude . . .
It is a blow against Russia and to its commitment to the war in Syria against ISIS. The incident is also an economic blow against Egypt and affects the friendly relations between Egypt and Russia. This goes along with what the Muslim Brotherhood is preparing in Turkey with the help of Qatar, to make life more difficult in Egypt.
Do you have any evidence that it is an international conspiracy?
Yes, I have the evidence. If it is a bomb, it is too complicated to blow up in a plane. It is not the same as a car bomb or a bomb that explodes on the ground.
It must be set to go off in the air under a certain level of air pressure. Israel recorded the voice of a terrorist who mentioned a possible attack in the air, wishing success in the operation. The terrorist in question is supposedly an Egyptian from the Sinai, Oussama Abou el Masri. Perhaps a local terrorist planted the bomb on the plane, but the bomb was certainly prepared abroad, given that it needs an altimeter and a complex mechanism.
What do you think of US and British statements that first suggested a terrorist attack?
This confirms what I said, namely that there is an international plot. If you compare it with what happened in Tunisia, the European Union and France were very sympathetic towards Tunisia and did not repatriate their tourists. In Egypt’ case, Germany and France suspended flights in and out of Sharm el Sheikh. The British ambassador, less than an hour after the accident, went to Sharm to push his compatriots to leave.
British media were the first to talk about the bomb. The day after al Sisi began his visit to the UK (where the Muslim Brotherhood has its headquarters) under a terrorist and economic threat.
What can be done today to counter these threats? Just boost security?
The attack is meant to punish al-Sisi for being too friendly with Russia and buying weapons from Russia. In so doing, he has moved away from the United States, which is very frustrating for Obama.
We must boost security and forge closer ties with friendly countries, including Italy, who has a lot of experience in security matters, as well as a thriving economy.
Investment in Egypt is dropping, mainly from Saudi Arabia. That is why the government is encouraging investment from around the world, but it is a huge task.
For al-Sisi, this is a great task and challenge ahead of elections and the anniversary of Mubarak’s fall (25 January 2011).
I think there will be an attempt to frustrate these events by a coalition that unites the Muslim Brotherhood, Turkey, Qatar and the secret services of Great Britain. I think they are preparing demonstrations in Egypt and an increase in tensions between the security forces and the population.