At a Glance - December 19

Aviation: Explosives Traces Lead to Criminal Investigation of EgyptAir Crash Last May

Egypt’s Civil Aviation Ministry announced last week that traces of explosives have been found on the bodies of some of the victims of the crash of an EgyptAir flight into the eastern Mediterranean Sea on May 19, and that a criminal investigation will be conducted (photo shows the actual aircraft that crashed). The cause of the crash, which killed all 66 people onboard the Paris-to-Cairo flight, has not been determined, but the identification of explosives residue increases the likelihood that this could be a terrorist attack.

In May, early in the investigation, data from the aircraft’s automatic detection system indicated smoke a few minutes before the Airbus A320 plunged into the sea. The data showed smoke in a lavatory and near the avionics, as well as other alarms activating.

No terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

White Supremacists: Dylann Roof Found Guilty of Shootings at a Church in Charleston

On December 15, Dylann Roof, a 22-year-old white man, was found guilty of 33 federal hate crimes charges for murdering nine people in a racially motivated attack at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church (see photo) in Charleston, South Carolina, in June 2015. The jury deliberated less than two hours before reaching a verdict. The sentencing phase of the trial, which begins on January 3, will determine whether he receives the death penalty or a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

Prosecutors said that Roof, a self-described white supremacist, wanted to start a race war. They showed video of his two-hour confession to the FBI and presented the contents of his journal, which documented his attitude of racist hatred. A witness who survived the massacre testified that Roof told her he killed the African-American victims because “I have to. You’re raping our women and taking over the nation.” Prosecutors also presented evidence of Roof’s preparations during the seven months leading up to the attacks, including compiling a list of potential targets, including several black churches and an African-American festival; trips to Charleston to conduct surveillance of the Emanuel AME Church; purchasing a .45-caliber Glock handgun and stockpiling ammunition; and videotaping himself taking target practice with his handgun in the backyard of his home.

Egypt: ISIS Claims Responsibility for Bombing of a Coptic Church in Cairo

Last week, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a Coptic Christian church in Cairo on December 11, which killed at least 24 people, mostly women and children. The online statement said the attacker, identified by the pseudonym “Abu Abdullah al-Masri,” entered the church in the “Cathedral complex” and detonated his explosive belt “amid gatherings of Crusaders.” The statement said the attack was part of what it called a “war against polytheism.” The statement went on to say that the group will continue to attack “every infidel and apostate in Egypt.”

The attack was the most deadly against a Coptic church in Egypt since the bombing of a church in Alexandria after a New Year’s Day service in January 2011. The ISIS affiliate in Egypt, known as the “Sinai Province,” has mainly attacked police and military targets and natural gas pipelines in the Sinai Peninsula, but it has also targeted security forces and government officials in Cairo.

For more information, please contact NJOHSP's Analysis Bureau at or 609-584-4000.