Perhaps clarity on EgyptAir Flight 804 will surface with the black box, which reports say sensors have located on the Mediterranean floor. But a week after the airliner went down, from what experts and government officials from Cairo to Washington continue to say was very likely a terrorist attack, no terrorist group has taken responsibility.
That’s unsettling all by itself. ISIS and al-Qaeda, the big global terror powers, tend to make their claims promptly. And even when they take their time, specious claims bubble up from obscure groups trying to seize the spotlight. “Historically, numerous organizations make a claim even though they had nothing to do with it,” said Samuel Tadros, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.
But this time, nothing. In the vacuum, terrorism specialists are weighing the possibilities:
It wasn’t a terrorist attack at all
The lack of a claim may well indicate a lack of responsibility. “Why bring down a plane if you’re not going to take credit for it?” asked Clint Watts, formerly executive officer at West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center. Watts finds “somewhat reassuring” not only the silence from jihadi groups, but also the physical facts of the event. Flight 804 departed for Cairo from an extremely security-conscious airport in Paris. (“I’d be much more concerned if it was coming from Cairo.”) What’s more, it went down late in the flight. That, as much as the absence of any suspicious names on the passenger manifest, argues against the presence of a suicide bomber on board, Watts speculated. “You get in the plane, you reach altitude, you detonate it,” he said. There have been exceptions, he noted, citing the “underwear bomber,” but even that exception offers a measure of solace: He said he waited because he wanted the plane to explode on U.S. territory. Flight 804 was over international waters.