Tuesday, December 24, 2013

24-Dec-13: Violent chaos in Egypt escalates to more chaotic and considerably more violent

From CNN's coverage
We keep hearing about how Israeli actions are what keep the Middle East turmoil going. But the hour-by-hour Syrian carnage and the ongoing pan-Arab repression of minorities are among a host of factors reminding us how untrue and self-serving that simplistic view of a complex situation is.

An Associated Press report yesterday (Monday) pointed to the steady rise of terrorist rhetoric and violence in Egypt, and in particular at threats made by a group with Palestinian Arab ties against Egypt's post-Moslem Brotherhood government.
Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, or the Champions of Jerusalem, said it considers Egyptian troops to be infidels because they answer to the secular-leaning military-backed government. The group and others based in the Sinai have been blamed for a surge of attacks against the security forces since a July coup toppled the country's former Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi. In reaction, Egypt's armed forces launched a military offensive in the Northern Sinai province in August, going after suspected militants in the region. Speaking at a public forum Monday, the military spokesman Ahmed Mohammed Ali said so far the operations have resulted in the killing of 184 militants and the arrest of 803 others. He said about 25 percent of those killed and arrested are foreign fighters, but didn't provide further details. The group is believed to have ties with Palestinian militants in the neighboring Gaza Strip and officials have said other foreign militants have found refuge in Sinai during the ongoing turmoil. [AP]
The terrorists of Ansar Beit al-Maqdis have mostly been in the news owing to the wave of terror attacks they have instigated in Egypt's volatile Sinai Peninsula. AP quotes Egypt's army saying that since August it has killed 184 terrorists in North Sinai, where near-daily attacks have been carried out against security forces. We have been writing regularly in this blog about the spiral downwards into murderous chaos that has infected the Sinai in the past two years.

Now those jihadists have raised the stakes, calling in a statement yesterday (Monday) on the country's army and police to desert. Otherwise, it said, security officials will face death at the hands of the terrorists.

Early today (Tuesday), they delivered on the threat. Egypt is in a state of shock as it sees the Islamist terrorists strike viciously beyond the confines of the troubled Sinai. From AFP in the early hours of this morning:
A powerful blast at a police headquarters in the Egyptian city of Mansoura early Tuesday killed at least eight people and wounded 90 others, officials said. Egyptian security sources said the explosion in the city, north of Cairo, was massive and a part of the building had caved in... The impact of the explosion was felt around 20 kilometres (12 miles) away and shattered windows of nearby buildings, the security sources said. [AFP]
Al Ahram says the police headquarters bombing, around 1:00 am today, has risen to at least 14 lives and injured 130. Some reports [for instance, Telegraph UK] say that the Egyptian prime minister
"has declared the Muslim Brotherhood movement a "terrorist" group, after a car bomb ripped through a police building and killed at least 14 people. Prime Minister Hazem Beblawi's condemnation of the group comes just weeks ahead of a referendum on a new constitution that is billed as the first major step toward democracy since the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi in July... An Egyptian court has already banned the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood, to which Morsi belongs, while the interim military-installed authorities have often accused the group of funding and training militants in the restive Sinai Peninsula."
At Aljazeera, they say there will be an Egyptian cabinet meeting later this morning to consider formalizing the Moslem Brotherhood ban.

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