Investigations over sources of funding and supporting terrorist organisations should take place, as such organisations cannot obtain weapons, modern communication equipment, or use social networking sites without being supported by certain networks, Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry said on Wednesday.
The minister’s statements on terrorism came during his meeting with the Arab Affairs Committee in parliament, as a comment on the attack that had occurred on Palm Sunday at churches in Tanta and Alexandria, which had killed at least 40 and injured over 100. The so-called Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for these attacks.
The minister claimed that terror organisations are being funded by countries that seek to achieve political goals with their attacks on Egypt.
Following the attacks, speeches made by Egypt’s top government officials asserted that the country is facing a huge terrorism threat, which led them to take exceptional measures—beginning with the state of emergency, amendments to the Criminal Procedures Law, and the formation of a supreme council to combat terrorism.
In a short speech on Tuesday, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi announced the tasks of the new supreme council to combat terrorism. The formation of which he had announced only shortly after a meeting of the National Defence Council that convened a few hours after the church bombings.
The president explained that the council will work on formulating a comprehensive national strategy to counter terrorism and extremism in all aspects, issuing the decisions and undertaking the actions required to implement the counterterrorism strategy, developing security plans to address terrorism threats, as well as increasing community awareness of ways to deal with extremism.
Tasks will also include correcting misconceptions spread by terrorist organisations in order to attract new recruits, along with promoting the participation of all sectors of society in dealing with the phenomenon of terrorism.
However, there is already the Egyptian National Defence Council, which is responsible for developing plans for maintaining security and guaranteeing the safety of the country, which raised questions on how the newly formed supreme council would differ from that.
Fouad Allam, a former official of the national security apparatus, told Daily News Egypt in this regard that there is no relationship between the new council and the current National Defence Council, explaining that the new one will work on eliminating roots of terrorism, while the current one is responsible for establishing security measures in coordination with the armed forces.
“I have been calling for the formation of such a council for three years and I recommended it to be labelled a national council, not a supreme [council],” Allam said.
The new council will work along six different axes that include economic, social, cultural, religious, political, and educational issues, as those are the main fields in which terrorism could be prevented at an early stage.
As for how the council will operate, the president has clarified that parliament is assigned to issue a law and guidelines for the council along which it will work. Allam said that he rejects the establishment of the council according to a law developed by parliament, stating that he would prefer it to work according to a presidential decree.
Allam noted that if the council works in accordance with laws developed by parliament, it would be harder to amend its responsibilities and powers, as this would have to be approved by parliament and possibly taking a long time, while a presidential decree could be altered much faster.
Contradictory to Allam’s views on the council, member of parliament (MP) and former military intelligence official Tamer El-Shahawy stressed that parliamentary involvement will not hinder the council’s work, as the law that the council has to obey will be initially prepared by the government.
However, parliament discusses and approves anything forwarded to it by the government, he added.
His statement implied that whether the parliament will take part in the formation of the council or not does not really matter, as the government would determine the details of the council’s powers while the parliament would only be responsible for the approval.
El-Shahawy furthermore suggested that Al-Sisi should lead the council, so it can work more effectively and be quicker in its decision-making.
Regarding the council’s members, Allam said that he would object to the membership of ministers in the council, saying that this would lead to ministers neglecting their own work. He instead suggested that representatives from relevant ministries with expertise on the issue of combating terrorism should participate.
El-Shahawy, on the other hand, said that ministers, such as the ministers of education, higher education, culture, and youth and sports, should be included in this council, as these ministers work in the education and integration of the youth, possibly being able to offer ideas on how to keep people from adopting extremist ideology.
Al-Sisi’s speech mentioned ministers, heads of institutions, and prominent figures as possible members. However, both experts agreed on the importance of including members from the civil society, stating that this would add new views on mechanisms and ways of fighting terrorism.
The experts also focused on fighting terrorism through ways of correcting misconceptions, ways of developing people to stay away from extremist ideologies, solving economic problems, and developing education. However, how these ideas should be implemented remains unclear.