Monday,16 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1314, (6 - 12 October 2016)
Monday,16 July, 2018
Issue 1314, (6 - 12 October 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Another failed assassination

A new militant movement claims responsibility for the assassination attempt on the assistant prosecutor-general, reports Ahmed Morsy

Al-Ahram Weekly

A little-known militant movement, Hasm (Decisiveness), on Friday claimed responsibility for the assassination attempt on the top prosecutor-general's deputy, Zakaria Abdel-Aziz, whose convoy was passing through the First Settlement of New Cairo a day earlier.

The Ministry of Interior released a statement following the attack, saying that a car bomb exploded on Thursday night near Abdel-Aziz’s motorcade, but caused no casualties. A passerby was injured by shrapnel from the explosion and was taken to hospital for treatment, according to the statement.

The explosion also damaged three cars belonging to the assistant attorney-general’s entourage.

The explosion happened as Abdel-Aziz was reportedly leaving the public prosecution headquarters in New Cairo. Following the incident state security forces were deployed to the area, and investigators attempted to obtain surveillance footage to discern who was responsible for the incident. According to a security source, the bomb was made out of about 10 kilogrammes of heavy explosive material, “likely to be TNT”.

Hasm wrote on its Facebook page on the following day that the attack “was in revenge for death sentences handed down to thousands of convicts”. The militant movement accused judges of “sentencing thousands of innocent defendants to death, or jailing them for life, at the command of the military”. “You will face justice," it said in a statement.

The militant’s statement also included several photographs of what appeared to be Abdel-Aziz's car with the caption "target's car" as well as his house and guards. It also threatened to stage other operations.

Its Facebook page says Hasm was created in July and claimed responsibility for four other operations in the last three months, including the failed attempt on the former mufti of the republic Ali Gomaa in 6 October City in August when four masked gunmen exchanged fire with Gomaa’s bodyguards as he was on his way to Al-Fadel Mosque, some 50 metres from his house, to lead Friday prayers. The cleric escaped unharmed while one of his personal security guards received a minor injury in the ensuing crossfire.

The group claimed it had targeted Gomaa “because he is the sheikh of hypocrisy” and “a supporter of military regimes”. Following Gomaa’s attack, the former grand mufti linked his attackers with both Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis and the Muslim Brotherhood. Several military experts jumped to the same conclusion. Security expert Khaled Okasha said it was very likely that Hasm was an offshoot of the Brotherhood.

Earlier, the group claimed responsibility for killing a policeman in Al-Fayoum on 17 July in its first operation.

Since the ouster of Brotherhood member Mohamed Morsi as president in 2013, Egypt has been fighting an Islamist insurgency led by the Islamic State's branch in North Sinai, formerly known as Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, during which hundreds of soldiers and police have been killed. In addition, judges and other senior officials have increasingly been targeted in similar operations. Egypt's top prosecutor Hisham Barakat was assassinated in a Cairo bomb attack in June 2015.

“This week’s incident is very much like the assassination of Hisham Barakat which was carried out after his convoy was monitored,” Okasha said. Okasha said he believed that if Hasm used high explosive material, it would have destroyed the entire car of the assistant attorney-general.

Major General Abdel-Hamid Khairat, head of the Egyptian Centre for Security Studies and Research, said in a televised interview that the timing of terrorist operations is always linked to certain occasions. “The timing of this operation is associated with the approach of sentences of some of the Muslim Brotherhood leaders. This operation targeted judges to send a warning to them, to make their hands tremble while handing down the verdicts,” Khairat said.

Abdel-Aziz reviews all major terrorist operations and leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. Following the assassination of Barakat, Abdel-Aziz was assigned adviser to carry out the functions of the attorney-general until the appointment of a new vice-general.

Major General Mohamed Noureddin, a security expert, said the incident carried multiple messages. “The first is to terrorise the judiciary and the second is to send a fake message to the world that the security situation in Egypt is out of control to affect the economy of the country in light of the efforts made to improve the tourism sector,” Noureddin said.

An investigation into the attack on Abdel-Aziz said six people carried out the operation, according to the Supreme State Security Prosecution. The prosecutor explained that two of the six were riding a motorbike and filmed the blast while the others detonated the explosive device. They fled by car.

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