ISIS, Russia, and Clash of Civilizations Rhetoric about the Downed Russian Plane in Sinai

In the last 48 hours a slightly clearer picture has started to emerge about the Russian plan which broke up in mid air and crashed, killing all aboard. The Islamic State’s extension in the Sinai- known as Wilayat Sinai- claimed responsibility but didn’t explain how they did it. This led many, including myself, to begin wondering if they had used some kind of surface-to-air missile, though that was immediately questioned by many, and their doubts seem to be correct. The plane was too high up and it’s not clear that ISIS in Sinai has any weapon that could carry out an attack like that even if the plane were at a lower altitude. It now seems there was a bomb in the cargo hold, most likely in someone’s luggage. How they got that through security is not clear. For some really good background on terrorist groups fighting the Egyptian state in the Sinai, see this great post by Ellis Goldberg.

The details of the bomb itself aside, people are coming around to the likely reality that ISIS indeed planted some kind of bomb on that plane as they claim. This new video, which I just came across on twitter not even an hour ago, explains some of their motivations. The video starts with confusion and screams from victims in what the viewer comes to figure out was a Russian air strike. A young boy’s voice shouts in distress that it’s his nephew (ibn ukhti). We see the chaotic scenes of people carrying out the dead body of someone killed in what we are to assume was the same strike. Sirens wail in the background. The graphics that interrupt the images have the words “شفاء النفوس بقتل الروس” which roughly translates to “healing souls by killing Russians”. It continues, stating that ISIS in Sinai had brought down the plane, killing the Russian “crusaders” on board. This term “صليبين”, meaning “crusaders” has also been used by Al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups in the past to refer to the United States, insomuch as they perceive the United States to be Christian. This responds to the statements of the Russian Orthodox Church, when they described the Russian airstrikes in Syria as “a holy war against terrorism“.
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The video continues, describing how Russia aligned itself with Iran and “bombed the homes of Muslims” in Syria, which they undertook to “promote their interests and realize their ambitions” in Syria. In doing so they made themselves an extension of the “Nusayri” state (meaning Assad’s regime) and they killed women and children in the process. Since ISIS couldn’t just refer to Iranians, they call them “مجوس”and “روافض”, which are both sectarian insults Sunnis direct at Zoroastrians and Shiiites, respectively. They continue, making broad statements about how Russia has entered into a losing war and that they failed to heed the warnings of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The second half of the video is a series of short statements from people on the ground speaking in support of ISIS. The congratulate their compatriots there on taking down the plane. They refer to the Russians as “cowards” for bombing from the air, and they wish for more successful strikes with the help of god against the Russians. One man, who starts speaking at 5:43, refers to the Russians as “communists” who don’t believe in god, breaking from the message of the others that the Russians are “crusaders”. He ends speaking clearly, outlining that this is the equation, or exchange- “if you kill, you will be killed. You will live in security and peace if we, Muslims, can live in security and peace.” That’s a loose translation but I am confident it expresses his intent.

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