Why Would Terrorists Target EgyptAir Flight MS804?

by Kastalia Medrano

Clues are beginning to emerge about the disappearance of EgyptAir Flight MS804, which vanished from radar early Thursday morning en route from Paris to Cairo. According to Greek airport sources who spoke to The Telegraph, Airbus A320, which was carrying 66 people including security and crew, may have crashed into the ocean near the Greek island of Karpathos. Egypt’s civil aviation minister has already said terrorism is a more likely explanation than technical failure, stating: “If you analysis the situation properly the possibility of having a terror attack is higher than the possibility of having a technical [problem].” However, he also urged people not to jump to conclusions. Update: Egyptian military officials found debris and personal belongings from the EgyptAir flight 804 in the Mediterranean Sea early Friday morning.

President Francois Hollande of France has also acknowledged that terrorism is on everyone’s mind (15 French nationals were on board Flight MS804), but stated in a Thursday morning press conference: “No hypothesis was being ruled out and none is being favored.”

By no means have international officials and experts concluded that terrorism is the culprit. Moreover, no organization has yet claimed responsibility for the crash, though, as The Telegraph reported, “it was several hours before the group claimed last October's Metrojet crash."


If a terrorist group is behind the crash, it’s not yet clear why it would target this particular plane. ISIS has, however, claimed responsibility for downing planes in Egypt in the past. It was only in November that the group published a photo of what it said was the bomb that caused a Russian passenger plane to crash in the Sinai Peninsula.

ISIS alone has claimed responsibility for 14 major attacks in Egypt in the last year and a half. According to a U.S. defense official who spoke with the Military Times last month, the terrorist group’s ranks are swelling within the Sinai Peninsula, where some are speculating it’s trying to make up for lost ground, literally, in Syria and Iraq. Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said, "We know that ISIL is active in the Sinai."

Terrorists target planes not just because we often fear air travel disproportionately to how dangerous it actually is (it’s really the safest method of travel we have, much more so than driving). They also know downing a plane can have long-term economic repercussions for the nation targeted. As a CNN editorial explained in the wake of ISIS claiming responsibility for the Russian passenger plane crash in November:

Osama bin Laden stated before and after the 9/11 attacks that two of the goals had been to cause economic harm and trigger reactionary spending, and subsequent attacks have shown terrorism can indeed hit a country's economy; the 2004 Madrid bombing and the 2005 London bombings both drove down those countries' respective stock markets. More recently, after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January, there was widespread cancellation of reservations at Paris restaurants, bars and hotels.