Monday,18 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1182, (30 January - 5 February 2014)
Monday,18 December, 2017
Issue 1182, (30 January - 5 February 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Facing terror

Security experts say they expect more terrorist attacks, Ahmed Morsy reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

“The rise in terrorist attacks against police and military forces will not derail the transition to democracy,” said interim President Adli Mansour during his brief televised speech on Sunday. “These terrorist attacks aim to break the will of Egyptians. I say to these terrorists your despicable acts will not realise your goals.”

Egypt witnessed a spike in terrorist operations in the recent days. On Tuesday , one policeman was killed when two assailants opened fire on the Church of the Virgin Mary in 6th October, leaving Sergeant Mohamed Taha Sayed dead and another injured. The Ministry of Interior said that a black car stopped in front of the church and opened fire on the forces that were guarding it. An exchange of gunfire followed and security forces caugh two of the attackers who are currently detained in hospital.

On the same day, General Mohamed Said, head of the minister’s technical office, was  shot dead in Giza’s Haram district. Two assailants riding a motorcycle targeted Said while he was leaving his home near the governorate building and Talbia police station.

Earlier, in Greater Cairo seven terrorist attacks occurred, four of them on Friday. The largest attack, claimed by Al-Qaeda-linked Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, targeted the Cairo Security Directorate the day before the third anniversary of the 2011 revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak. A car bomb ripped through the building in central Cairo, killing four and injuring 76 , according to the Health Ministry.

“This is a vile and desperate attempt by terrorist forces to disrupt the success Egypt and its people have achieved in the transitional roadmap and the passing of the new constitution,” said Prime Minister Hazem Al-Beblawi.

Hours after the 6.30am blast a primitive bomb exploded after being thrown at a moving police vehicle near the underground station in Giza’s Dokki district. Eleven people were wounded. In a third blast a small bomb was detonated close to a police station in Talbiya. The attack did not cause any casualties. Later the same afternoon an explosion near Radobis cinema in Giza’s Haram killed one person.

“We are in a battle against terrorism. The Cairo Security Directorate blast could happen again,” Major General Fouad Allam, security expert and former deputy head of the National Security Apparatus, told Al-Ahram Weekly. “Terrorist operations will continue to threaten Egypt. Our first priority must be to support the security apparatus.”

On Saturday a military helicopter crashed close to Sheikh Zwayed in North Sinai leaving five army officers and one soldier dead. Security sources immediately said the helicopter crashed because of technical problems. The following day Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis posted a video which it claimed showed one of the group’s fighters hitting the helicopter with a surface-to-air missile.

The Al-Qaeda inspired group also said it was behind attacks on military support forces in the area surrounding Jura International Airport, a mortar attack on Al-Zohour military camp and the shooting of soldiers in Sunday’s Al-Kharouba ambush.

Some security experts have expressed concern that the Interior Ministry is becoming overstretched. Not so, says Allam. “Security forces have made major advances in Sinai, seizing large quantities of weapons. The extent of the arms seizures have not been made public for fear of causing public worry.”

Soon, says Allam, groups like Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis will be eliminated, but “as the siege gets tighter more attacks should be expected” in the short term.

Interim President Mansour vowed in his address that the government would fight violence “relentlessly” and will not hesitate to resort to “exceptional measures” if need be. Some security officials have said the government may consider imposing partial curfews.

Allam does not rule out the possibility of re-imposing the state of emergency which ended in November 2013.

Sameh Seif Al-Yazal, former intelligence officer and currently chairman of Al-Gomhuriya Centre for Strategic Studies, is opposed to any recourse to emergency laws. “I’m against exceptional measures being applied. The existing penal code is enough to deter terrorism,” Seif Al-Yazal told Al-Hayah channel.

Allam argues that the Ministry of Interior should recruit an additional 100,000 to join police ranks.

The Egypt Freedom Party, founded by former MP Amr Hamzawy, issued a statement criticising the government’s strategy in confronting terrorism. “State practices in confronting terrorism and in maintaining democracy need to be revised,” the statement said, “if the dream of attaining stability is to become achievable.”

“After six months it is clear more is needed than confronting attacks. The roots of the problem need to be addressed… there needs to be a way out for members of the Islamist current who oppose violence, and assurances of the possibility of their political participation.”

Many political forces have joined with the interim authorities and blame the Muslim Brotherhood for the terrorist attacks. Tharwat Al-Kherbawi, a former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, claims Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis was founded by Hamas which was originally an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Freedom Party’s statement advised “members of the Muslim Brotherhood who wish to take part in the political process to categorically and permanently denounce violence and distance themselves from involvement in any new criminal acts carried out by their allies”.

In a joint statement released on Saturday 13 civil society organisations condemned the terrorist attacks while also criticising the authorities’ inability to move their anti-terrorism strategy beyond media statements. Among the 13 organisations which signed the statement are the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre, the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression and the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights.

“Instead of facing up to the cancerous growth of terrorism the security forces oppress peaceful opposition and youth activists,” the statement read. “The security forces, while failing to protect its own headquarters or the lives of citizens from terrorist attacks continues to use the war on terrorism as a pretext for random arrests and the restriction of freedoms”.

Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya, the conservative Islamist group that was a strong supporter of Mohamed Morsi during his one-year rule, released a statement on Sunday insisting Egypt is passing through a political crisis and not a security one.

The statement said the state is offering “false explanations of the current crisis, making it appear like a security crisis although its core is political and requires a political solution… the regime is wrong to think that if it accelerates the presidential elections the conflict will be resolved and stability will be achieved… it will only escalate the conflict and deepen polarisation.”

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