Terrorist Theory Preferred

The Russian inquiry has always leaned towards the terrorist theory as the cause of the Siberian Airlines 1812 crash into the Black Sea last Thursday, October 4, in which all 67Israel passengers and 11 crew aboard were killed. Russian spokesmen played up the Ukrainian missile theory out of political considerations, although they were perfectly aware of the weighty technical counter-arguments against a stray Ukrainian missile having downed the Tel Aviv-Novosibirsk Tu 154.
Going through the motions, Russian defense minister Sergei Ivanov demanded of the Ukrainians more technical data on the S200 ground-air missile fired at the time of the crash, which the Pentagon claimed its satellite had picked up impacting the Tel Aviv-Novosibirsk flight. Moscow also asked the US government for satellite photos to support its claim that an SA-12 downed the plane. In fact the Russians and Americans are talking about two different missiles.
But debkafile‘s counter-intelligence and intelligence sources report exclusively that Russian and Israeli investigators alike have ruled the missile option out in favor of the terrorist theory. They are coming to believe that an explosive charge attached to a handheld radio was planted in the ceiling of the passengers cabin before it left Nosibirsk for Tel Aviv.
Palestinian terrorists have made frequent use of cell phones in the same way for detonating booby-trapped cars.
The bomb, it is believed, was most likely planted on Wednesday October 3, by a terrorist attached to a Siberian airport technical crew. One such “electrician” reportedly pulled out a number of ceiling tiles and spent some time checking the wiring, before the Tu-154 took off for Tel Aviv. He was not seen again.
If this is confirmed, then the doomed plane carried the bomb from Novosibirsk to Tel Aviv and took off again, without any of the security inspectors – Israeli or Russian – checking the interior of the plane’s fuselage.
No one disputes that the plane exploded before crashing into the Black Sea. The timing of that explosion puts the terrorist theory miles ahead of any other. The investigators have established that, contrary to many reports, the Siberian airliner did not depart from its regular flight plan. It blew up short minutes after disappearing from Turkish radar screens and, furthermore, over the deepest section of the Black Sea. Its wreckage scattered over a 15-km stretch of water 2000 m deep (roughly 10 times the depth of the Barents seabed where the Kursk submarine went down), making the salvaging of the scattered fragments – and finding evidence – virtually impossible.
A further difficulty aside from the extreme depth is the high level of hydrogen sulfide in these waters, which make them exceptionally corrosive. Any metallic evidence not collected within a day or two will be destroyed. The “black boxes” encased in orange plastic will be safe from corrosion, but may have sunk too deep for divers or submersibles to reach.
In addition, the Armenian pilot who was the sole witness of the disaster reports hearing two bangs – one when the plane exploded and one from its splashdown. The first was emitted from the plane’s interior.
The S200 ground-air missile about which the Russian defense minister demanded more data from Ukraine has a range of no more than 240 km, while the distance from its presumed firing site in Crimea to the point at which the Siberian plane was downed was more than 300km. These missiles are anyway fitted with self-destruct devices in case they go astray and their launchers would have activated this device had they spotted a civilian airliner in the missile’s path.
As to the SA-12, which the Pentagon claims its satellite picked up, this is Moscow’s most advanced missile defense system, called Triumph, Russia’s version of the US Patriot PAC-3, and hardly likely to be handed over to the Ukraine before it is operational in the Russian army.
The Russian investigators therefore had many reasons for announcing Sunday, October 7, that they were turning away from the Ukrainian missile theory, although they did not withdraw their request for the US satellite photos.
President Vladimir Putin, a former senior KGB officer, knows perfectly well that the Americans will never turn these photos over because they would betray such spy satellite secrets as their photographic resolution.
The political upstaging began shortly after the crash on Thursday and were the real cause of Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon’s angry outburst that same night, when he warned the Western powers against appeasing terrorists as they did Hitler in 1938 by throwing Czechoslovakia to the wolves. He has since apologized and the White House has said the incident was over.
debkafile‘s political sources reveal what led up to it. In several hours on the phone with Putin, the two agreed to announce that terrorists had brought down the Siberian airliner.
When this was reported in Washington, the Americans asked both the Russians and the Israelis to hold off on the announcement. They feared Moscow would exploit it to launch a general offensive in Chechnya before the American campaign in Afghanistan was properly launched. They also wanted to prevent Israel taking the opportunity of hitting the Palestinians or the Lebanese Hizballah.
Sharon blew his top – not over US Middle East or anti-terror coalition policies, but over this particular episode. He had imagined the Bush government, after the grievous blow America had sustained from air terrorism, to own an interest in bringing out the true cause of the Siberian Airlines disaster. But he miscalculated.
Even now, the Russian investigation is not expected to be free of political overtones. It will therefore not be surprising if the true cause of the crash in which 78 people lost their lives over the Black Sea may never be officially admitted.

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