In August, security was on very high alert in Egypt . Two events were particularly important: the inauguration of the Suez Canal on August 6, and the second anniversary of the forced dispersal of the sit-ins at Rabaa al-Adaweya and Nahda Square on August 14. Fortunately, both events were peaceful. The inauguration of the Suez Canal was full of hyper nationalism, but was uneventful from the security perspective. Moreover, on Rabaa’s anniversary, there were reports of a few small marches in Cairo, Giza, and Alexandria, but no large protests or associated security crackdowns took place. Does this mean Egypt has “succeeded” in fighting terrorism, as some local commentators have suggested? The answer is definitely no. Egypt may still face significant violence and terror attacks in the near future.
Despite the fact that the major events of the past two weeks took place without any major security threats, there were still sporadic incidents involving small-scale bombing and attacks against policemen around Egypt. I have covered these all in my weekly summary of news from Egypt here and from last week. The drop in the incidence of violence may be related to other factors – including the weather. Some Egyptians jokingly attributed the relative calm to the scorching heat, which “put everyone off, even the terrorists. The most alarming sign, in my opinion, was last week, when the Islamic State’s affiliate in Egypt’s Sinai province has circulated an image online that purports to show the beheaded body of a Croatian man abducted in the desert hinterland of Cairo in July. Without delving into this incident in detail, the idea of targeting foreigners in Egypt is scary.
On August 13, a military aircraft crashed near the border with Libya because of a technical failure while on a counter-terrorism mission. The spokesman of Egypt’s armed forces has later added that the Egyptian military has been carrying out more operations near the Libyan border. Today, Egyptian forces near the border with Libya issued a high-level alert after Libyan security forces based at the Musaid border crossing disappeared a few days ago
Moreover, an online statement attributed to a group calling itself the Tahrir Brigade, whose members are said to be defected officers, has claimed responsibility for the assassination of Hisham Barakat last month. However, as researcher Mokhtar Awad has stated on Twitter, this kind of statement is unconfirmed and there is no solid evidence that this “Tahrir Brigade” exists.
Furthermore, BBC Arabic reported on Sunday, August 16, that a military court in Egypt has sent 26 military officers and four retired colonels to prison for planning a coup. Some Egyptians on Twitter have suggested the case is not new, but happened in 2013. BuzzFeed News has published a detailed English report about the case. Interestingly,Al Bawabah News quotes military source denying the case.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s President Sisi has passed an anti-terrorism law, which imposes hefty fines of between LE200,000 to LE500,000 (approximately $26,000 to $66,000) for “false” reporting on terrorism or counter terrorism. In future, we may not see reports, like the mentioned above, after the implementation of the new law.
To sum up, the “coup against the coup,” as some Islamists like to put it, may or may not be true, but even if it happened, the small “rebellion” was squashed at it’s early stage and had no impact on the unity of the Egyptian army. Nonetheless, Egyptians should remember that the Islamic State’s affiliates, and Al-Murabitoon group are alarming reality that cannot be ignored. The new anti-terrorism law, may deter reporters, but will not deter those who are firmly focused on sowing death and destruction.