Over the past three months, Egypt has witnessed an “escalation wave” in “an attempt to shift the global opinion by presenting Egypt as an unsafe place for investments”. This comes in the wake of the Economic Summit and the Arab League Summit both of which take place in March, according to Security experts.
Militant activity, which has been on the rise since the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, has targeted mainly security facilities and personnel. Militants, however, have expanded their reach to telecommunication branches, banks, electricity and gas supply units and shopping centres as well.
Sharqeya, Mahalla, Menufiya, Alexandria and Greater Cairo have all endured many of these attacks in the past two weeks, where the material losses were almost equal to the human losses.
Security Expert Khaled Okasha said militants have now shifted their targets to public facilities and commercial areas with the Economic Summit approaching. They had previously only tended towards targeting security personnel and facilities.
The main aim is “to target investments” as the Economic Summit opens doors for increased investments in Egypt.
On 9 March, two banks in Alexandria were attacked and another attack on a telecommunication branch took place, damaging a large part of its premises. The acts were preceded by an explosion the day before in front of Carrefour shopping centre that left one person dead and five others injured.
Mahalla witnessed the death of three policemen and 14 injuries, civilians among them, on 6 March as a bomb went off in front of a bank. Four days earlier, Downtown Cairo endured 2 deaths and 11 injuries following an explosion in front of Egypt’s High Court.
Military Expert Sameh Abu Hashima said that explosions are increasing and referred to Muslim Brotherhood members’ involvement. Many members and supporters work for private institutions and give information on where and when to hit a specific target.
The Brotherhood had much aspiration materially and politically and did not reach any of them so they are currently avenging the current regime, he said.
Politics is a network where anything that happens affects the whole network, Abu Hashima said.
Security Expert General Mahmoud Zaher believes, however, that explosions are not increasing as well as their implications, though he noted the phenomenon is generally “worrying” for the public.
Zaher noted though that militant groups are attempting to give the impression explosions are happening on a large scale targeting the Economic Summit, the postponed Parliamentary elections and the upcoming Arab League Summit.
He added: “When we discuss bombs and their implications we have to refer to the amount of victims involved; currently they are far less than before.”
Investors will not be affected by them as a range of laws and decisions have been issued on behalf of the government with the aim of protecting investments, Zaher said.
He referred to the newly appointed Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar, who formally headed the ministry’s intelligence agency as a recent decision to counter the frequent bombings and militancy.
Abu Hashima agreed that, with Abdel Ghaffar’s appointment, the “network of information” is complete as “he has experience and information about the suspects involved in the bombings”.
Among the laws issued to counterinsurgency, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi approved the “terrorist entities law” in February. The law deems any group or organisation a “terrorist entity” if it“practices or intends to advocate by any means to disturb public order or endanger the safety of the community and its interests or risk its security or harm national unity”.
“Terrorist entities” would be banned, their assets and properties seized and their funds or the funds of their members frozen. Its members will also be banned from travelling, their passports withdrawn or “cancelled” and they are prevented from issuing a new one, and their funds frozen.
The 6 April movement, a participant in changes Egypt has witnessed throughout the past four years, will be prosecuted under this law as a lawsuit was filed recently to designate the movement “terrorist”.
Another decree was issued by Al-Sisi on 27 October that refers those accused of crimes against the state’s “vital” facilities to military prosecution. The vital facilities include “stations, power networks and towers, gas and oil fields, rail lines, road networks, bridges”.
Attacks in Egypt have mostly been claimed by militant groups, some of which have recently emerged, including the Popular Resistance and Revolutionary Punishment. Some, including Ajnad Misr and Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, now referred to as “State of Sinai”, have been operating in Egypt for over a year now.
“State of Sinai” has claimed a wide range of attacks including the largest witnessed in the restive Sinai peninsula including the 24 October attack that left at least 30 security personnel dead. Another attack occurred on 29 January, with the group carrying out a series of attacks on the army’s Battalion 101 and a security complex of the North Sinai Security Directorate, Homeland Security Apparatus, Military Intelligence headquarters and an army hotel, in addition to attacks on checkpoints in Al-Aris, Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid.
However, Abu Hashima noted that militants groups are close to “diminishing” as the State’s crackdown on them is increasing. He referred to armed forces operations in North Sinai and Egypt’s response to Islamic State in Libya by airstrikes following the release of video featuring the beheading of 20 Egyptians.
He said militants are increasing these explosions as “the noose is tightened” on them, so they are using all their power to avenge the current regime.
Following the Sinai attacks, the government has taken a number of security measures, including the creation of a buffer zone along the Egypt-Gaza border. A six-month state of emergency in certain areas in North Sinai has also been put into effect, to counter the insurgency as Al-Sisi referred to the involvement of “foreign elements” in both attacks.
Despite the existing militancy, Deputy Head of South Sinai Security Directorate Mahmoud Samy noted on 9 March that South Sinai’s entrances and exits and that security campaigns have been launched to secure the province.
He noted that coordination between police and the armed forces to secure the delegations participating in the conference.
The ministry’s spokesman Hany Abdellatif noted that there is “a comprehensive security plan” for the whole state, not only the Economic Summit, which has been set by Abdel Ghaffar.
Abdel Latif said earlier this month that escalatory attacks are expected though.