Saturday,25 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1205, (10 - 16 July 2014)
Saturday,25 November, 2017
Issue 1205, (10 - 16 July 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Under control?

The security apparatus was blamed for a series of explosions that rocked Cairo last week, Ahmed Morsy reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

According to official statements, the Interior Ministry is in the process of ramping up security precautions to “thwart the schemes” of Islamist terrorists after a series of bombings rocked Egypt last week. In a statement released on Friday, the ministry blamed the Muslim Brotherhood — classified by Egypt as a terrorist organisation — for “creating a state of chaos”. The ministry said the Muslim Brotherhood planted a series of low-tech explosive devices both in Cairo and other governorates. According to a ministry spokesman, some 150 explosive devices have been defused since last week, while others exploded, causing casualties.

Last Thursday, the first anniversary of the ouster of former, Muslim Brotherhood-backed president Mohamed Morsi, a bomb exploded on a train arriving at Sidi Gaber Station in Alexandria, injuring nine. On the same day, another bomb in the village of Kerdasa, west of Cairo, killed one — allegedly the person who planted it. That day, three separate explosions took place in Imbaba as well. According to a police source, six unidentified attackers on motorbikes threw the explosives at three targets: two police stations and a workers’ residency, fortunately leaving no injuries. Security forces also found and defused two homemade bombs in Talbia in Al-Haram district. Also on 3 July, two bombs exploded in Assiut governorate, the first on Riyadh Street behind the Assiut Police Station, the second in Al-Mahata Square, leaving no casualties.

Security experts told Al-Ahram Weekly that explosives experts as much as police forces in general require training to deal with such numbers of the low-tech bombs planted.

A day earlier, on 2 July, a car bomb exploded near the Air Force Hospital in Abbassiya, injuring one and causing a state of panic among the residents. According to witnesses, two men were in the car when it exploded. One was injured and captured by the residents of the neighbourhood while the other managed to escape. According to primary investigations, the two men belong the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood group. Explosions were also expected on Monday 30 June, the anniversary of the uprising that led to Morsi’s ouster, but the security apparatus failed to deal preemptively with the situation. That day three successive bombs at Al-Ittihadiya Presidential Palace rocked the neighbourhood of Heliopolis. Police colonel Ahmed Al-Ashmawi and Mohamed Lotfi, explosives experts, were killed while attempting to defuse the bombs. The terrorist group Ajnad Misr claimed responsibility for the attack.

Social Media users launched a wave of sarcasm targetting the Interior Ministry’s failure to confront terrorism, since Ajnad Misr had posted, three days earlier, a statement announcing they planted bombs around the presidential palace. The statement gave details of the exact locations of the bombs, warning civilians against being at those locations since the group’s intention, the statement said, was to target policemen. However, the Interior Ministry rebuffed the statement on the same day, announcing that the presidential palace was clear.

“There was a lack of seriousness in dealing with the statement, and even when the policemen reached the location of the bomb, three days later, they were not wearing protective clothing,” Ahmed Abdel-Halim said.

A source in the Heliopolis prosecution office said retrieved surveillance footage shows four individuals disguised as garbage collectors planting the explosive devices that went off in the vicinity of the presidential palace, according to Reuters. That footage obtained from the palace’s surveillance cameras and nearby shops showed four assailants planting the devices some time between the dawn prayers and 6 am in the garden at the intersection of Ahram and Merghani Streets, the same location mentioned in Ajnad Misr’s statement. The staff working in the surveillance camera rooms have to be qualified for their job, Abdel-Halim said: “The footage proves that the surveillance employees at the presidential palace were oblivious to the garbage collectors who left the explosives and went.” He added that the entire vicinity of ​​the presidential palace is monitored by surveillance cameras. “All the monitoring staff were transferred immediately to investigation for negligence.”

Despite popular anger over security forces’ handling of the incident and the reported desire of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi to sack Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim, the two met on the following day at the palace. The meeting also included a number of the minister’s assistants for internal affairs, national security and general security to discuss developments in the country. Official spokesperson for the presidency Ihab Badawi said an agreement was reached during the meeting to implement a strategy to address security challenges, in order to raise awareness among security personnel and train them to use new devices and technology for investigations and collecting evidence. Al-Sisi reportedly told the minister to take all measures to secure the safety of the officers on duty, lift their spirits and direct them to treat citizens well. “He also instructed security forces to abide by human rights and consider humanitarian aspects when dealing with citizens,” Badawi added.

Further evidence of negligence occurred late last month when there was an attempt by defendants in the second Rafah massacre case — where 25 Central Security Forces soldiers were killed on Arish-Rafah road — including Adel Habara, the main defendant, to escape while being transferred from court to Tora Prison. According to the ministry, the defendants started rioting in the prison transport van, but security forces gained control over them and they were returned to prison.

Al-Ahram Weekly found out, however, that Habara had successfully escaped on 28 June for about an hour when his van was intercepted on the Ring Road and he was caught again. Ministry of Interior investigations report that the officer suspected of colluding in Adel Habara’s failed escape attempt had ordered the officers not to put handcuffs on the defendant and to use a dilapidated Central Security van and use a weak lock on the door of the vehicle instead of a properly locked armoured vehicle, which is normal procedure. While being transferred from court to Tora Prison, the driver slowed down to take a U-turn and Habara seized the chance to remove the lock, which had been intentionally left open. Habara and the four other defendants then jumped out the vehicle without the driver noticing but Maadi residents witnessed the escape and began to cry out, “The prisoners have fled.” Security forces, accompanied by Special Operations Forces, cordoned off the ring road and intensified security for almost an hour and half until Habara was caught.

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