Hostage still being held
AN ATTEMPT to free 45-year-old Egyptian truck driver Victor Tawfiq Guirgis from his captors in Iraq has apparently failed, reports Rasha Saad. Guirgis and a Turkish driver, Bulent Yanik, were taken hostage two weeks ago.
On Sunday an unidentified mediator said both men were set free; he later admitted that they were still being held. The mix-up occurred, he said, because people involved in hostage-taking are intrinsically difficult to deal with. "This is the kind of thing that happens every time," he said, adding that the only thing to do was wait.
The masked kidnappers, meanwhile, appeared on a videotape broadcast by Al-Arabiya satellite channel on Saturday to announce that their 10-day-old threat to execute the two men -- branded as "collaborators" of the US occupation of Iraq -- was no longer valid. A spokesman, who said he represented the "Mujahidin brigades" in Iraq, said the suspension had been agreed upon to prove the group's "good intentions". He called on the Egyptian and Turkish public to "demonstrate against the policy of the US enemy". It was not clear, however, whether the decision to suspend the executions was temporary or indefinite.
Both Guirgis and Yanik worked as drivers for a Kuwaiti catering company contracted to the coalition military. The Egyptian and Turkish governments have both indicated that they have been working for the men's release.
El-Zomor's hunger strike
TAREK El-Zomor, who was sentenced to 22 years in jail for his involvement in the 1981 assassination of late President Anwar El-Sadat, began a hunger strike a week ago to protest against his not being released after the completion of his term, which was supposed to end in October 2003. El-Zomor was a member of the Jihad group, which plotted to assassinate Sadat during a military parade.
In May, the Interior Ministry appealed a military court order ordering El-Zomor's release. Under the emergency law in force since the assassination, the ministry has the right to extend the detention of prisoners for up to five years on security grounds.
A new centre?
THE OUTLAWED Muslim Brotherhood has announced the establishment of a new human rights and anti-discrimination centre. The centre -- to be called Sawasiya (Equal) -- would be run by 30 Egyptian and Arab figures from a spectrum of political trends. If the centre manages to obtain a legal licence to operate, Islamist lawyer Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Maqsoud would probably be chosen to chair its executive council.
At the same time, the founders said they already had a court ruling sanctioning the new centre, which may help them circumvent obtaining a licence from the Social Affairs Ministry.
Abdel-Maqsoud said the centre's goals and operational strategies were still being planned. He said its work would not be limited to defending the rights of Muslim Brotherhood members, but would span victims of oppression across Egypt and the Arab world.
A BLAZE destroyed the two-storey Nile river restaurant boat "Sunset" early Sunday, causing nearly LE10 million worth of damage. Three of the boat's employees were injured in the fire, while 100 other workers and 40 guests escaped without harm.
Initial investigations indicated that a short circuit in the boat's electrical system sparked the fire, but police said a final cause had not yet been identified.
Last month, a specialised committee including representatives from several governmental bodies examined the boat and recommended that it be shut down. According to the committee's report, the boat's administration was not abiding with emergency and safety regulations, and the boat's electrical circuits and fire extinguishers were inadequate.
EGYPT'S population is expected to reach 75 million by January 2007, a five-million increase over the January 2004 population figure of 70 million. Ahab Elwi, head of the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS), said Egypt's population grows by 1.03 million persons per year.
Elwi also announced that the unemployment rate stood at 10.1 per cent, or 2.1 million of a total working age population of around 20.7 million.
Nearly 150,000 CAPMAS employees will soon be embarking on a new census to canvass Egypt's population.
Compiled by Mona El-Nahhas