Did Al-Qaeda In China Blow Up Malaysian Airliner?

The disappearance in the Gulf of Thailand of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 to Beijing, China after 2 hours 5 minutes of normal flight has all the trademarks of a terrorist attack against China by Al Qaeda. China’s Ministry of Defense on November 30th began militarily enforcing an expanded Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) covering the oil rich Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea and was about to claim a new ADIZ covering the oil-rich Spratly/Nansha Islands in the South China Sea. These ADIZs are highly contested by Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, and South Korea. The loss of Flight 370 follows the spectacularly gory March 1st attack by Uighur Muslims that killed 33 and wounded 143 at the Kunming railway station in southern China.  Both assaults appear to have Al Qaeda’s terrorist trademark of attacking symbolic public venues to inflict highly media-visible casualties.

Los Angeles Times reported “Mikael Robertsson, cofounder of FlightRadar24, which tracks about 120,000 flights per day with 3,000 receivers around the world, said the last transmission it recorded from the flight was at 35,000 feet.” FlightRadar believes MH 370“lost radar contact about 40 minutes into the flight, not two hours as the airline said.” He added, “I don’t want to speculate, but something very sudden happened.”

Thai Meteorological Department reported the cool and sunny weather with Southerly winds 10-20 km/hr. Malaysian Flight 370 transponder pings indicate the plane was cruising level at 35,000 feet, with no adverse weather, and no crew reports of mechanical issues.  The aircraft was an 11-year-old Boeing 777-200 carrying 225 passengers, two infants, and 12 crew members.  The only fatal accident of any Boeing 777 after 18 years of revenue service was Asiana Airlines Flight 214, where pilot error caused the plane to miss the runway in San Francisco. About 150 of Flight 370’s passengers, or 67%, were Chinese citizens on a regularly scheduled 5 hour and 55 minute flight. After flying level for an extended period, the plane abruptly veered 200 meters off course and then vanished, seeming to indicate the plane imploded into pieces after a catastrophic event. Given that two passengers were reported to be flying on a stolen Austrian and a stolen Italian passport, the most likely scenario is the plane imploded into pieces shortly after an onboard explosion from a large bomb in a luggage compartment.

Recently Muslim Turkic Uighur militants, who have been fighting an insurgency for years in the remote northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang against Chinese rule, changed tactics and began organized attacks against large cities.  The targeting of random civilians in populated areas matches the “tradecraft”of Al Qaeda affiliates, who are known for identifying high-visibility targets, using surveillance to find security weaknesses and then contriving effective means to exploit the vulnerability. Senior Al Qaeda planners are always looking for novel approaches, such as using jumbo jets as human-guided cruise missiles in America and blowing up the train station near the Sochi Olympics with an improvised explosive device hidden as a pregnancy prosthetic.

On October 28th, three Uighurs drove a jeep around a barrier and sped toward Tiananman Square, the most politically sensitive spot in China.  They crashed into a wall next to the large portrait of Mao Zedong that hangs near the entrance to the Imperial Palace. The car was then detonated, killing the passengers along with two tourists and wounding 38. On March 1st, a group of around 10 knife-wielding Uighurs traveled 3,000 miles to stab victims indiscriminately at Kunming railway station in Yunnan, China. Police shot and killed four attackers and arrested one female attacker, but several Uighurs escaped. The area was covered in blood from the 33 killed and 143 wounded.

The Chinese Communist Party called the Kunming attack an “organized, premeditated, violent terror attack” and Chinese President Xi Jinping told the country to maintain a high level of awareness about the dangers of terrorism and urged police to increase security measures, especially in crowded areas. To calm public fears, populated transportation centers are now visibly inundated with black-clad anti-terrorism troops.

The disappearance of Flight 370 occurred during the politically sensitive annual meeting of the China's National People's Congress (CNPC) and People's Political Consultative Congress (PPCC) that began March 5th. In the past five years, the total assets of Chinese banks have exploded by an unprecedented $15.4 trillion to an epic $24 trillion – some two and a half times the nation’s entire GDP. In contrast, the U.S. has twice the economy of China and American banking assets grew by only $2.1 trillion over the same period. With American domestic energy costs falling as supplies surge due to the boom in fracking for shale oil and gas, Chinese manufacturers are becoming economically uncompetitive compared to the U.S. producers. With trillions in debt beginning to default, China stepped-up military spending by 12% and is determined to aggressively assert military claims to oil-rich islandsoff Asia held by other nations.

China’s Ministry of Defense on November 30th began enforcing with fighter jets and warships an expanded ADIZ, which now covers a huge ocean expanse of the East China Sea, including the disputed oil-rich Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, currently held by Japan. China has drafted a South China Sea ADIZ that would include the Spratly/Nansha Islands, currently held by the Philippines. It was rumored that a new ADIZ would be declared next week at the end of the CNPC and PPCC.

Blowing up Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 loaded with Chinese citizens during China’s most important leadership meeting; where they were about to militarily establish another Air Defense Identification Zone, is consistent with Al Qaeda tradecraft. Such a spectacular feat would demonstrate Al Qaeda has opened a new terrorist front against in China.

The author welcomes feedback @ chriss@chrissstreetandcompany.com
Chriss Street is teaching microeconomic at University of California, Irvine this spring from March 31 – June 8, 2014.  Call Student Services at (949) 824-5414 or visit http://unex.uci.edu/courses to enroll! 

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