Although there have been no claims of responsibility or specific indications of sabotage, the disappearance of a large airliner without warning is extremely rare and investigators say no potential causes have been ruled out. Today, aviation authorities revealed another Air France flight from Buenos Aires to Paris was grounded temporarily May 27 because of a telephoned bomb threat.
The circumstantial evidence for terrorism, according to Douglas Woodwell, assistant professor of international relations at the University of Indianapolis, includes a history of Islamic extremism in and around Brazil, where the flight originated, as well as the recent opening of a French military base on the Arabian Peninsula.
But Brazilian Defense Minister Nelson Jobim said the existence of large fuel stains in the water likely ruled out an explosion, making a bomb attack less likely.
“During the past week, the French government announced the landmark opening of a military base in Dubai, the first permanent overseas military base the French have opened since they decolonized in the early 1960s,” Woodwell says. “The fact that the United States had stationed troops on the Arabian Peninsula during and after the Gulf War was probably the most important concrete factor motivating Al Qaeda in its subsequent attacks on the United States, including 9/11. The French basing agreement was announced on January 15, which is sufficient time for Al Qaeda sympathizers to organize a response.”
Who are the Al Qaeda sympathizers in South America? According to Woodwell, the so-called Tri-border region where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet is home to a large Muslim population with a history of militancy.
“Terrorists from this area are believed to have launched attacks against the Israeli Embassy and a Jewish community center in Argentina in the early ‘90s, killing hundreds of people,” he says. “Radical groups recruiting amid this often-alienated Muslim diaspora would have no problem finding young men or women willing to bring down an airliner.”