The UK and US governments have indicated that it is more likely than not that the Metrojet disaster in the Sinai on Saturday was caused by an act of terrorism.
Civil aviation has long been a high priority target for some terrorist groups. While not ruling out an accident, reports suggest the British government has intelligence that leads it to suspect an explosive device may have been placed in the hold.
We can only speculate on what happened to Flight 9268 at this stage. But the UK government’s measures to halt flights and repatriate travellers without their luggage expose how serious its reservations are about security screening and air-side security at Sharm el Sheikh International airport.
There have been, and there remain, serious concerns in the international security community about the terrorist threat to civil aviation. Western officials have said on multiple occasions in recent years that terrorists in the Middle East have developed the capability to build explosive devices designed to thwart security screening and metal detectors. Such explosive devices have been successfully put on-board planes before, in 2009 and 2010. Fortunately those attempts failed.
If this was indeed an attack and not an accident, the investigation will undoubtedly try to establish whether a hard-to-detect bomb was used to slip past up-to-date screening techniques and processes - or whether a device more easily detectable by screening systems got through simply because of inadequate security measures.
The aviation sector has been under pressure over risk assessment and sharing information on threats since the shooting down of MH17. A bomb onboard the plane would add to this pressure and raise important questions about airport screening and security standards, and which airports are up to scratch.
Henry Wilkinson, head of intelligence and analysis, The Risk Advisory Group