A BuzzFlash News Analysis
A BuzzFlash News Analysis
November 1, 2001
Was EgyptAir Flight 990 the Prelude to September 11th?
A recent New York Times article on the September 11th tragedy briefly mentioned that investigators were looking into a connection between those attacks and the crash of EgyptAir flight 990, which left New York for Cairo on October 31, 1999, and crashed in the Atlantic ocean, at about 1:50 a.m. EST, under highly suspicious circumstances.
BuzzFlash believes that EgyptAir Flight 990 represented a pre-September 11th crew-based hijacking -- and that Flight 990 was chosen because the passenger list included more than two dozen Egyptian military officers, some who were considered "high-ranking."
"In addition to the efforts against Al Qaeda, officials said they renewed their interest in people who might know something about the crash of EgyptAir Flight 990 off Nantucket in October 1999, suspecting a connection. But officials said they had not determined any link between that crash and the attacks of Sept. 11. United States investigators say they feel strongly that the crash was the result of an unexplained suicide effort by the plane's co-pilot, but Egyptian officials have angrily rejected that conclusion."
As reported by ABC news, the transcripts show the relief crew pilot and likely suicide terrorist, Gamil el-Batouty, uttering "I rely on God," over and over, just prior to the plane's crash.
of Flight 990
Shortly after the first NTSB reports were released and there were talks of handing the investigation over to the FBI (which would make the case a "criminal" investigation), the Egyptian government and el-Batouty's family denied that he would have crashed the plane.
"The family of the Egyptian co-pilot U.S. investigators believe deliberately downed a passenger plane two years ago held a quiet anniversary memorial Wednesday, and continued to reject the unofficial American version of what happened to EgyptAir Flight 990."
However, as CNN reported in November, 1999 -- and NTSB documents related to the investigation clearly indicate -- shortly after the plane's primary pilot, Ahmed Mahmoud El Habashy, left the cockpit to use the bathroom, presumably leaving el-Batouty alone, the autopilot was disengaged and the plane began simultaneously picking up airspeed and losing altitude.
"Investigators are working on the assumption that el-Batouty was alone in the cockpit just before the plane began its fatal dive."
"Sources agree that backup co-pilot Gameel el-Batouty's voice is heard on the cockpit voice recorder making reference to God -- just before the auto pilot was turned off and the plane started its fatal dive."
Additionally, the transcripts show that after the plane's descent began, the primary pilot came bursting into the cabin yelling, "What's happening? What's happening, Gameel?" And despite repeated requests for el-Batouty to assist the pilot, data recorders show that the plane's "elevators" were being manually adjusted in opposite directions. This means that the two were probably struggling against each other for control of the plane.
One piece of the puzzle that has received less coverage was the passenger list. As the Emergency Response and Research Institute reported on November 2, 1999, Egyptian authorities confirmed that were more than two dozen Egyptian military personnel among the passengers on Flight 990.
"The official al-Gomhuria newspaper said: 'Egyptian sources said that a number of officers of different ranks and from various branches of the armed forces were among the victims of the plane that crashed off the U.S. eastern coast.' It was the first time that local media had reported the military presence on the plane, after aviation and security sources told international news agencies on Monday that more than 30 officers -- several of them high-ranking -- were on the plane."
"One security source in Cairo said the group included four Air Force officers, two brigadiers- general, a colonel and a major. There were also at least two army majors-general, one brigadier, four colonels and two lieutenant-colonels."
If one also takes into consideration that some of the hijackers, as reported by Reuters, were Egyptian or carried Egyptian passports, and, according to a report in the Houston Chronicle, one of Osama bin Laden's highest ranking lieutenants, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, is Egyptian and a prime suspect in the assassination of Anwar el-Sadat, the potential terrorist targeting of Flight 990 becomes more understandable.
"Atta, a 33-year-old pilot who traveled on an Egyptian passport and lived in Florida for a time before the attack taking flying lessons, was aboard American Airlines Flight 11, the first plane to hit the World Trade Center in New York.
"Among top lieutenants to Osama bin Laden, several are Egyptians, including a surgeon from Cairo who ranks second in the hierarchy of the al-Qaeda organization and is seen by some intelligence experts as bin Laden's most likely successor.
"The man, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, 50, was the leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the terrorist group blamed for the 1981 assassination of President Anwar el-Sadat. He joined in an alliance with bin Laden's group in 1998."
BuzzFlash is not saying that the crash of EgyptAir 990 and the hijackings on September 11th were directly related, just that the two were both terrorist acts likely carried out by Al-Qaeda.
In the case of Flight 990, there is a strong possibility that Al-Qaeda used a pilot recruit to murder senior members of the Egyptian military. Egypt has been the ongoing target of Al-Qaeda because of its cooperation with the United States, its peace treaty with Israel, and its suppression of Islamic extremists.
Egyptian government understandably did not want to admit its vulnerability
to a likely terrorist suicide attack committed by one of its own pilots.
Americans, as we know, faced a worse fate two years later.
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