Friday,22 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1387, (29 March - 4 April 2018)
Friday,22 February, 2019
Issue 1387, (29 March - 4 April 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Another failed assassination attempt

Ahmed Morsy reveals the details of the attempt on the life of Alexandria’s security chief

Another failed assassination attempt
Another failed assassination attempt

The Interior Ministry on Sunday announced the killing of six members of the Hasm (Decisiveness) terrorist movement in an exchange of fire with police forces during a raid in a residential apartment in Beheira governorate. The six, the ministry said, were affiliated to Hasm, the banned Muslim Brotherhood’s armed wing and which is believed to have been involved in Alexandria’s bomb attack a day earlier which targeted the Mediterranean city’s security chief Mustafa Al-Nemr who escaped unharmed.

An improvised explosive device placed under a parked car detonated in Roushdi’s Al-Moaskar Al-Romani Street on Saturday as Al-Nemr’s convoy drove past, killing two policemen — Ali Galal, 45, and Abdallah Mohamed, 19 — and injuring five others.

Security forces combed the area for more bombs after rushing to the explosion site. Prosecutor-General Nabil Sadek ordered High State Security and Sidi Gaber prosecution to investigate the incident and question the injured.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast. However, the Interior Ministry said on Saturday that according to National Security information, the members of the cell were led “by the fugitive Brotherhood leader Bassem Gad” who is on the run in another Arab country.

The Interior Ministry said it had “dealt an effective blow to the armed wing of the Muslim Brotherhood” by killing six elements. Three of them were identified and had arrest warrants previously issued against them: Emam Fathi Khraibah, Mahmoud Mohamed Abdel-Hamid Mabrouk, and Ahmed Magdi Ibrahim Zahra. During a raid on the cell’s apartment, security forces found four automatic rifles, four safes, various types of ammunition and six explosive devices, the statement said.

Gad, the statement says, is responsible for ordering the cell to carry out Saturday’s attack on the security chief’s convoy. In preparation for the attack, the ministry says, Gad purchased the car used in the incident, a silver Mitsubishi Lancer, on 17 January 2017 and forged its licence plate number. It added that the cell was also ordered to target a number of prominent figures and vital facilities in Alexandria, Beheira and Kafr Al-Sheikh.

Since 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. Hundreds of soldiers and policemen have been killed. While Beit Al-Maqdis is at the forefront of militant groups launching attacks against security targets, smaller militant groups — most notably Hasm (Decisiveness) and Lewaa Al-Thawra (Revolution Brigade) — emerged in 2016, carrying out terrorist attacks in Cairo and provincial governorates.

Hasm claimed responsibility for six previous operations, most of them failed assassination attempts. In November 2016, it claimed responsibility for a failed assassination attempt on a judge, Ahmed Abul-Fotouh, who was targeted by a parked car bomb as he drove in Cairo’s Nasr City district. At that time Hasm threatened further attacks.

A month earlier, using another parked car bomb, Hasm said it was behind the failed assassination attempt on the life of Deputy Prosecutor-General Zakaria Abdel-Aziz when it targeted his convoy in the First Settlement of New Cairo on 30 September. In August 2016, the militant group was also behind the failed attempt on the life of former mufti Ali Gomaa when four masked gunmen exchanged fire with Gomaa’s bodyguards as he was heading for Al-Fadel Mosque in 6 October, some 50 metres from his home, to lead Friday prayers. The cleric escaped unharmed though one of his security guards was injured in the ensuing crossfire. The group staged its first operation in July the same year, killing a policeman in Fayoum.

Security experts said Saturday’s attack sent several messages. The first is that the terrorist groups are trying to send a message to the world that Egypt is not safe and that the situation is unstable and that they still exist despite the achievements of the counter-terrorist Comprehensive Operation Sinai (COS) 2018. Major-General Fouad Allam, a member of the National Council for Combating Terrorism and Extremism (NCCTE), said they didn’t achieve their goal.

“Their lesser frequency and smaller scale operations when compared to two years ago proves the efficiency of the precautionary and pre-emptive operations carried out by the army and police forces,” Allam told Al-Ahram Weekly.

“Two years ago, militants in Sinai were able to carry out multiple terrorist attacks during the same week and sometimes the same day. Moreover, they were able to attack police stations in North Sinai and occupied one of them for several hours,” Allam added.

The second message, according to analysts, was linked to the operation’s timing: two days ahead of the three-day presidential elections, thus sending a message of intimidation to voters not to participate. Indeed, last month, Islamic State’s branch in North Sinai released a video in which it warned Egyptians against voting and urged Islamists to attack security forces and leaders.

In a statement issued by the cabinet the government condemned the attack. “These desperate attempts by terrorist powers and the countries that support them aim to affect the positive atmosphere that Egypt is witnessing and which will only increase the determination of the Egyptian state to continue on its political path and economic programme, and will not hold Egyptians back from continuing the democratic process and development efforts,” Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said.

Alexandria Governor Mohamed Sultan also condemned the terrorist attack and promised “we will not stop protecting citizens”. In a telephone interview with the Extra News TV channel Sultan expressed optimism that Egyptians would not be afraid of such terrorist operations. “They will not weaken their determination to participate in the election.”

The Weekly toured Al-Moaskar Al-Romani Street in which the bomb was detonated. Residents said they heard a huge blast when the bomb exploded on Saturday morning. “I felt as if the building would collapse as it caused an earthquake in the area,” Mohamed Zakaria, an accountant living in the same street, told the Weekly.

Yasser Hassaballah, a lawyer in his 40s, lives in a residential building facing the car that went off. “The terrorist attack didn’t intimidate me from participating in the elections. It only enhanced my determination to cast my vote,” Hassaballah said.

Iman, a nurse in her 50s who also lives on the same street, said that the explosion didn’t frighten them because “life is in the hands of God.”

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