Saturday,23 March, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1424, (3 - 9 JANUARY 2019)
Saturday,23 March, 2019
Issue 1424, (3 - 9 JANUARY 2019)

Ahram Weekly

Counter-attack on militants

Security forces launch a counter-attack on militant hideouts following the death of four people in a terrorist attack on Friday, reports Ahmed Morsy

 

Counter-attack on militants
Counter-attack on militants

Egypt’s Prosecutor-General Nabil Sadek ordered an urgent investigation into Friday’s terrorist bus attack in Giza’s Marioutiya district that took the lives of four and left 11 injured. In an official statement, Sadek stressed the importance of accelerating the investigation and forensic report of the bodies to identify the perpetrators and bomb material.

On the night of 28 December, an improvised explosive device was set off near a bus carrying Vietnamese tourists on its way to the Pyramids in Giza, leaving three Vietnamese tourists and their Egyptian tour guide dead. The injured, including 10 Vietnamese, were transferred to Al-Haram Hospital for treatment.

According to the Interior Ministry, an explosive device was hidden behind a wall and exploded at 6.15pm while the bus was passing by. The immediate vicinity was evacuated and security measures were taken. No militant group has claimed responsibility for the attack so far.

Visiting the injured, Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli said the tour bus “deviated” from the pre-determined secured route without notifying security officials before it was targeted by the improvised bomb. Madbouli also told reporters that all touristic trips and their routes are highly secured in a detailed manner by the Interior Ministry.

He said terrorism is a global phenomenon facing all countries, and added that security forces in Egypt were taking the necessary measures to combat it, including strong pre-emptive strikes against terrorist spots.

The prosecution listened to the testimony of the bus driver, the owner of the tourist company, the owner of the bus company and the supervisor of the trip to determine why the bus took a different route to the Sphinx instead of heading towards Old Egypt (Misr Al-Qadima) where the hotel the tourists were staying in is located. The prosecution also checked the mobile phones of all those responsible for deciding the bus route and its stops.

Security expert Major-General Fouad Allam said the tourism company was responsible for the incident as its bus took another route which necessitated prior coordination with security forces. “It is crucial that tourism companies coordinate with the Interior Ministry before taking any route and before transporting tourists so as not to repeat such incidents,” Allam, a former head of the State Security apparatus, told Al-Ahram Weekly.

He said attempts by terrorist groups that aim every year to export a negative image of Egypt’s New Year celebrations will not succeed, especially in light of the security forces’ ability to significantly control the situation.

The dramatic incident, the first targeting foreign tourists in Egypt in more than a year, apparently did not affect tourists who visited the Giza Pyramids and Sphinx just 24 hours after the attack, according to AFP.

Egypt’s tourism industry, which suffered a sharp fall since the country’s 2011 uprising, is recovering, according to figures. The number of tourists who visited the country during the first half of 2018 reached 5.1 million, a 40 per cent increase compared to the same period last year. April witnessed the highest number of monthly visitors, 990,000 tourists.

A day after the terrorist attack the Interior Ministry issued a statement saying that security forces killed 40 suspects in a security crackdown on Saturday in Giza and North Sinai.

Thirty terrorists were killed in two separate raids in Giza governorate, as well as 14 in 6 October city and 16 in an area near the Oases road, while 10 others were killed in North Sinai’s Arish, the statement said without directly linking them to Friday’s attack.

Based on information from the State Security apparatus, security forces launched the raids at “a group of terrorists who have prepared and planned a series of hostile attacks targeting state institutions, particularly economic institutions, in addition to attacking the pillars of the tourism industry, the police forces, military personnel and Christian places of worship”.

Security expert Khaled Okasha said the announcement of the killing of 40 terrorists, hours after the bombing of a tourist bus, was the result of security sweeps and raids announced about two weeks ago in Giza and North Sinai. “When we talk now about Giza and Arish again, we have work that is being completed. About 10 days ago there was a signal from the Ministry of Interior that the list of targets is long and not limited to places of worship and venues celebrating New Year’s Eve,” Okasha said during an interview with the BBC Arabic channel.

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, during which hundreds of soldiers and police have been killed. Though Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis is at the forefront of militant groups launching attacks against security targets, other smaller militant groups — including Hasm and Lewaa Al-Thawra — have recently emerged, claiming responsibility for attacks.

Friday’s incident received widespread condemnation. British Minister of State for Middle East Affairs Alistair Burt on Saturday confirmed his country’s support for Egypt in its war against terrorism. In a tweet re-posted by the British Embassy in Cairo, Burt regreted the loss of life in the attack and expressed condolences to the families of the victims.

In a press release published by the US Embassy in Cairo on Twitter, US State Department Deputy Spokesman Robert Palladino expressed condolences to the families of the dead, wishing the injured a speedy recovery. Palladino also confirmed that his country is supporting Egypt in its war against terrorism.

Head of the European Union delegation to Egypt Ivan Surkos on Friday strongly condemned the attack. “The EU stands hand in hand with Egypt in the fight against terrorism,” Surkos said in a statement.

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