Wednesday,18 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1253, ( 2 - 8 July 2015)
Wednesday,18 October, 2017
Issue 1253, ( 2 - 8 July 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Security challenges

Monday’s assassination of Hisham Barakat raises questions over the strategy being adopted to fight terrorism. Ahmed Morsy reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Monday’s assassination of Prosecutor-General Hisham Barakat took place when security forces were on high alert ahead of the second anniversary of the ouster of Mohamed Morsi security forces.

Following the murder of Barakat, it was announced that the Interior Ministry had presented a nationwide security plan to the presidency.

In anticipation of further terrorist attacks security has been stepped up around vital facilities, public offices and transport networks, according to a statement released by the president’s office.

Earlier in the week a group calling itself the Popular Resistance in Giza issued a video threatening attacks against security forces to coincide with the anniversary of Morsi’s removal. The video, which circulated on social media platforms, warned that police personnel would be targeted “in the coming days”.

Though the group later claimed responsibility for Barakat’s assassination on its Facebook page the post was quickly deleted.

Security experts are doubtful of the claim. The Popular Resistance, they say, is an inexperienced militant cell that emerged in late 2014 and early 2015 alongside groups such as Revolutionary Punishment and the Execution Battalion. 

On Saturday security forces arrested 15 members of the Revolutionary Punishment after a man was shot in Helwan. The detainees confessed to shooting student Walid Ahmed, whom they accused of being a police informer. There are reports that they also admitted to taking part in 113 terrorist attacks over the last nine months.

Since Morsi’s ouster in July 2013 terrorist attacks in Egypt have claimed the lives hundreds of security personnel. Though Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis — now known as State of Sinai — is behind most incidents targeting security forces, smaller militant groups, including the Popular Resistance and Revolutionary Punishment, have emerged.

The assassination of Barakat — which occurred when the threat of increased terror activity was high — raises a number of questions over the performance of the security forces, not least how the perpetrators gained access to information about the route that would be taken by Barakat’s convoy. 

 “Security forces are on high alert. At least 150,000 police and 100,000 military personnel were scheduled to be deployed on Tuesday, the anniversary of the 30 June protests,” security expert Brigadier General Khaled Okasha told Al-Ahram Weekly.

While Okasha insists the attack on the General Prosecutor’s convoy should not be seen as a result of security failings, Major-General Mohamed Noureddin, a former assistant to the interior minister, told Al-Watan newspaper that “what happened on Monday is evidence of a dereliction of duty on the part of the security apparatus”.

“The routes taken by state officials’ convoys need to be combed in advance,” Noureddin was quoted as saying.

“It is not so much restructuring that is necessary but a development of the ministry’s work and performance. This development can only be achieved by paying far more attention to the human element in the ministry’s work. Education and training programmes, as well as psychological support, are urgently needed, and the work day needs to be reduced from a twelve to an eight hour shift,” human rights activist Negad Al-Borai told the Weekly.

Major-General Fouad Allam, former deputy head of the National Security Apparatus, questions the effectiveness of the strategy adopted over the last two years to combat terrorism.

“A security-only approach to counter terrorism is destined to fail,” Allam told the Weekly.

In its annual report, issued on 31 May, the National Council of Human Rights (NCHR) reports that 2,600 people have so far died in the violence that followed the ouster of Mohamed Morsi. The casualties include 800 security personnel.

The report also notes that “the number of terrorist attacks targeting army and police personnel… has greatly increased.”

“A national council to combat terror needs to be formed,” says Allam. “Its mission should be to formulate a holistic response to terrorism and oversee its implementation.”

“History shows that when we try to combat terrorism by relying solely on security forces we fail. When we adopt a more wide-ranging strategy, as happened following the assassination of Anwar Al-Sadat in 1981, terrorism begins to disappear. Indeed, by 1997 it had been eliminated.”

To successfully combat terrorism requires coordinated action on the political, cultural, economic, social and religious levels. “All relevant ministries, and Al-Azhar, should be included. It is only when all elements are working together that we will be able to counter the false beliefs of terrorists and make people understand the correct teachings of the religion,” says Allam.

Monday’s attack is the second time judicial figures have been successfully targeted. On 16 May Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for the killing three judges and their driver as they were travelling to Al-Arish. On Sunday a video of the attack was posted under the title “the extermination of Judges”.

The video justified the murders on the grounds that judges had “betrayed God’s covenant”, by ordering the release of former president Hosni Mubarak and issuing mass death sentences against Islamist defendants. In the video the Sinai-based militant group appeared to try and distance itself from the Muslim Brotherhood by referring to Morsi as among those “falsely trying to call for legitimacy”.

Earlier in May three small bombs exploded near the home of Moataz Khafagi, a judge who has handed death sentences and lengthy jail terms to Islamist defendants. The blast injured four passers-by, damaged the façade of a building and shattered the windows of three cars.

In March a small bomb exploded in front of the house of Fathi Bayoumi, the judge overseeing the trail on charges of corruption of Mubarak-era interior minister Habib Al-Adli. The words “a gift for Al-Adli’s acquittal” were scrawled on a wall near to where the device detonated.

In January a bomb planted near the home of Khaled Mahgoub, one of the judges in the Morsi jailbreak case, damaged the windows and walls of his house.

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