Category - Egypt

Egypt vs. ISIS: Is Sinai now an official battlefield?

Al Arabiya, By Sonia Farid, July 11

The July 1 Sinai attacks were not the first, but they were the most shocking. They followed the assassination of the prosecutor general, which made linking the two incidents inevitable, especially since they both took place around the second anniversary of the June 30 protests that toppled former President Mohamed Mursi.

Confusion ensued due to contradictory reports on the number of deaths, with an official figure of 21 but local sources saying 70-100. The media described the battle, between Islamist militants and the army, as the fiercest since the 1973 war between Egypt and Israel. Meanwhile, officials are trying to alleviate fears over the growing power the militant group Sinai Province, which is affiliated to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“This specific attack is by far the worst we’ve ever seen,” said Daniel Nisman, CEO of the Levantine Group Risk Consultancy, adding that the danger lies mainly in a plan to take over Sinai. “It’s not a hit and run – this is what [ISIS] used in places like Syria and Iraq to capture and hold territory.” Nisman said the operation underlined the shortcomings of the “scorched land” strategy of the Egyptian army, as it makes it harder for the state to garner local support.

Sinai security expert Zack Gold described the attack as “new and worrying,” and said militants either aimed to take over the city of Sheikh Zuwaid, where the attacks took place, or wanted to drag the army into an actual battle. “Either one is unprecedented.” However, he said comparing Sinai to Iraq and Syria was unrealistic, and the success of militants in the peninsula was extremely unlikely.

“Egypt isn’t Iraq; this isn’t Anbar. The [Egyptian] military is more cohesive, has more firepower, and has the capability to get them out,” Gold said, adding that the main obstacle is the number of civilians that could be killed in the process.

Middle East Briefing: The Unseen Significance of ISIL North Sinai Attack

ISIS claims Italian consulate car bomb in Cairo

Al Arabiya News, July 11

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group said it exploded a deadly car bomb Saturday outside the Italian consulate in Cairo, warning Muslims to stay away from such places, SITE Intelligence Group reported.

“Soldiers of the Islamic State in Cairo were able to detonate a parked booby-trapped vehicle laden with 450 kg (990 pounds) of explosives at the headquarters of the Italian consulate,” the U.S.-based security monitor quoted an ISIS tweet as saying.

“We advise Muslims to stay away from these security dens, because they are legitimate targets for strikes of the mujahedeen,” the statement added.

AP’s Timeline: The Latest: Egypt to repair Italian Consulate after bombing

Egypt extends state of emergency in northern Sinai by three months

Reuters, April 25

Cairo – Egypt said on Saturday it had extended by three months a state of emergency imposed on parts of northern Sinai in October after Islamist militants stepped up attacks in the peninsula bordering Israel, Gaza and the Suez Canal.

Insurgents have killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen in Sinai since mid-2013, lashing out after then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi following protests. Sisi went on to be elected president last year.

The decision, announced in a statement from the presidency, will be implemented in Rafah, al-Arish, Sheikh Zuweid and surrounding areas starting on Sunday. It also extends a night-time curfew in place in the same areas.

Simultaneous Attacks in Egypt’s Sinai Kill 26

AP, By Ashraf Sweilam, January 29

El-Arish, Egypt – Militants struck more than a dozen army and police targets in the restive Sinai Peninsula with simultaneous attacks involving a car bomb and mortar rounds on Thursday, killing at least 26 security officers.

An Army spokesman immediately blamed former Islamist President Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood of orchestrating the attack, which killed 25 Army soldiers and one policeman.

The wide-ranging attacks late Thursday required a previously unseen level of coordination. At least one car bomb was set off outside a military base, while mortars were simultaneously fired at the base, toppling some buildings and leaving soldiers buried under the debris, official said.

Other attacks included mortar rounds fired at a hotel, a police club and more than a dozen checkpoints, officials said.

BBC: Egypt’s Sisi cuts short visit over Sinai attacks
Al Arabiya: Sisi cuts short overseas trip after Sinai attacks

Egypt acquits 26 men accused of debauchery in Cairo bathhouse

Associated Press, By Maggie Michael, January 12

Cairo — An Egyptian court on Monday acquitted 26 men arrested in a televised raid last month by police looking for gays at a Cairo public bathhouse, a ruling that set off deafening cheers and jubilation inside the courtroom as some of the defendants uncovered their faces and cried with relief.

The trial, which had caused an uproar among activists and rights groups, captured public attention after a pro-government TV network aired scenes of half-naked men being pulled from the bathhouse by police.

Same-sex relations are not explicitly prohibited in Egyptian law but homosexuality is a social taboo in the conservative, Muslim-majority country. Same-sex marriage is unheard of. Only in recent years have movies and fiction included gay characters.


The courtroom erupted into a frenzy after the word “acquittal” was heard from the judge and women ululated. Scott Long, an American researcher who had followed the case said he was both “shocked and delighted.”

“I hope this is a sign that these raids will come to an end,” Long told The Associated Press amid the cheering. “Finally there was a judge who listened to the evidence.”

US warns of ‘widespread conflict’ in Libya

State Department calls for draft of new constitution to take place unhindered amid increasing volatility.

Al Jazeera, July 13

The United States has warned that the conflict in Libya could become “widespread,” urging that a new parliament be quickly seated after contested elections.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki also called for work on drafting Libya’s new constitution to take place unhindered, amid increasing lawlessness and unrest in the country.

“The United States is deeply concerned by the ongoing violence in Libya and dangerous posturing that could lead to widespread conflict there,” Psaki said in a statement.

“We affirm our support for Libya’s democratic transition and urge the seating of the new Council of Representatives as soon as possible.”

International Polls open in Egypt’s presidential election

More than 53 million people are eligible to vote, amid opposition calls for nationwide boycott.

Al Jazeera, By Dahlia Kholaif, May 26

Millions of Egyptians have begun voting for the country’s third president in as many years, in a race largely expected to be won by the country’s former army chief.

The two-day vote, which began on Monday, pits retired field marshal Abdel Fattah El Sisi — who led a coup that removed Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, and enjoys widespread popularity — against the left-wing candidate Hamdeen Sabahi a former legislator who came in third in the 2012 election. Sabahi’s office complained early on Monday that police and soldiers were refusing his representatives access to polling stations.

In a report issued on May 16, the U.S.-based Carter Center expressed concerns about “the restrictive political and legal context surrounding Egypt’s electoral process, the lack of a genuinely competitive campaign environment and the deep political polarization that threatens the country’s transition.” Carter Center representatives will be among a number of international observers monitoring the polls, including the EU.

Egypt to hold presidential elections May 26-27

CNN, By Mohammed Tawfeeq, March 30

Egypt’s presidential elections will take place on May 26 and 27, Egyptian media reported Sunday, citing an announcement by the country’s Presidential Elections Commission.

Army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi announced Wednesday that he would resign and declared his candidacy in the national polls. El-Sisi, 59, Egypt’s defense minister, had to leave the army in order to run for president.

El-Sisi deposed President Mohamed Morsy of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s first freely elected leader, last year following mass protests against the latter’s rule.

The officer is popular among Egyptians who supported the army’s decision to remove Morsy from power a year into his term — seeing el-Sisi as the kind of strong man needed to end the turmoil dogging Egypt since a popular uprising in 2011 ended Hosni Mubarak’s three decades of one-man rule.

But el-Sisi is reviled by the Islamist opposition, which sees him as the mastermind of a coup against an elected leader and the author of a fierce crackdown on dissent.

Tuesday Tensions bedevil Arab summit

Kuwait is hosting the Heads of Arab states for their annual summit for the first time since joining Arab League.

Qatar is being pressured to stop supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical movements through the region. Along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Mirates, Egypt is trying to isolate Qatar. Yet it is unlikely that attempts to reconcile Qatar will be on the agenda. With Syrian/Iraqi ties running deep, it is to be expected that the latest Qatar/Iran relationship will be scrutinised.

Syria, however is center stage, a year ago their seat was given to the opposition. But the Government is winning the fight. Yet Ahmadn Jarba head of the main opposition bloc will address leaders at the opening session. Iraq, Algeria and Lebanon continue to support Assad’s Alawite minority. Even whilst Lebanon shoots down a stray Syrian jet.

Israel considers that on the Palestinian issue, Arab leaders are expected to call for $100 million in monthly aid for the Palestinian Authority and to reject recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas, fresh from talks with US President Barack Obama in Washington last week, is to brief his Arab counterparts.

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Egypt govt resigns ahead of presidential poll

The government of Egypt’s Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi submitted its resignation to interim president Adly Mansour on Monday, the cabinet said, in a move just weeks before a presidential poll.

Cairo – The military-installed government of Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi said on Monday it has resigned, ahead of a presidential poll which will likely bring army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to power.

Sisi, by far the country’s most popular political figure, has not yet announced his candidacy for this spring’s presidential election, but aides say he has already decided to run and will make the announcement soon.

The field marshal, who is the defence minister and first deputy prime minister in the outgoing cabinet, has to resign from the government and the army before he can officially announce his candidacy.

Beblawi’s government was appointed in July after Sisi ousted Islamist Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first elected and civilian president.

A limited reshuffle to allow Sisi to step aside had been planned for weeks, but the resignation of the entire cabinet appeared to come as a surprise even for some government officials.

Reuters: Egypt government resigns, paving way for Sisi to seek presidency

Jerusalem Post: Egypt elects first woman to head political party

History was made in Egypt over the weekend when Hala Shukrallah beacame the first woman and the first Coptic Christian to be elected the head of a political party in Egypt.

According to Egyptian daily Al Ahram, Shukrallah was elected Friday to head the Constitution Party, founded by opposition figure and former International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei in 2012. It was founded as a non-ideological party for all Egyptians.

Al Ahram described Shukrallah as “a leftist sociologist, political activist and mother who runs a development consultancy and is largely unknown to the media.”