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Was terrorism behind EgyptAir plane crash, or not?

Some of the security pundits have been speaking with certainty, but in truth we are no closer to working out whether terrorism was the cause of yesterday’s Egyptair disaster.

In fact, we might even be slightly further away.

An Egyptian military ship searches for wreckage from the crashed plane Credit: Egyptian Military/Handout via Reuters TV

This morning, Panos Kammenos, the Greek Defence Minister, said he could not speculate about the cause of the crash. But yesterday, officials in Cairo were absolutely clear: Terrorism was the most likely cause.

So what’s changed?

A preliminary assessment of satellite imagery by analysts in Washington has found no conclusive evidence of an explosion. And a study of the passenger manifest has turned up no names from any international terror watch-lists.

This shouldn’t lead us to rule out terrorism, but it explains why today’s statements in Cairo and Athens about the cause of the disaster are more cautious than yesterday’s.

The plane disappeared over the Mediterranean, en route between Paris and Cairo Credit: Reuters

Some 36 hours on, no terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The usual channels of chatter and 'insider' social media feeds have been silent – even yesterday, when officials engaged in a surprising amount of prediction, commentary and speculation.

It took ISIS a few hours to claim responsibility for the downing of a Metrojet plane in Sinai last October. Sometimes it takes much longer to produce the accompanying propaganda package and pump it out over social media, ‘friendly’ news agencies and radio stations.

The absence of a claim of responsibility might be explained by that.

Another explanation, of course, might be that terrorists had nothing to do with the EgyptAir disaster at all.

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