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Islamists claim responsibility
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 11 - 09 - 2013

The Islamist militant group Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis (Supporters of Jerusalem) claimed responsibility on Monday for the failed assassination attempt on Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim last week, threatening more attacks in revenge for a crackdown on Egypt's Islamists.
Ibrahim survived the assassination attempt when a car bomb detonated early on Thursday targeted his motorcade in Nasr City after he had left home for the ministry's headquarters in the downtown area. The attack killed a civilian bystander and wounded 21 others, including several policemen.
Ibrahim, who escaped the explosion unscathed, said that four vehicles among his motorcade had been damaged, as well as a number of other cars parked at the side of the street.
“It was a heinous assassination attempt,” he later told reporters at the Interior Ministry premises. The explosion, which happened near his home on Mustafa Al-Nahas Street, was likely to have been detonated by remote control.
The injured individuals had sustained severe injuries, including leg amputations, Ibrahim added. Some shops were also damaged in the blast. Initial investigations showed that at least 200kg of TNT had been used.
Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, a Sinai-based extremist group, released a statement five days later explaining that it had been able to break Ibrahim's security barricade by using a suicide bomber who had performed a “martyrdom operation”.
The group also announced that it “will avenge all those who contributed to the killings of protesters. [Abdel-Fattah] Al-Sisi and Ibrahim are top of the list,” while calling on all “Muslims to unite with their mujahideen brothers.”
The self-described jihadist group declared it was “part of the Muslim nation in Egypt which denounces the massacres” committed against the pro-Morsi protesters in the Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Nahda Square sit-ins.
The group decried the security forces for “assaulting women while throwing people in prison in a way that has not occurred in Egypt in a long time. The security forces are walking in the footsteps of [Syrian President Bashar] Al-Assad, attacking everything and everyone related to Islam,” the statement said.
The statement addressed the media by stating that the group would continue until it obtained “retribution against the corrupt media which circulates fake news and incites killing”. The group advised all “Muslims in Egypt” to stay away from military establishments and ministry institutions in order to “protect their lives and property.”
In the first official reaction to the claim by the militant group, the ministry of interior's media bureau said that “we have yet to confirm whether Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis committed the car bombing.”
Speaking to Al-Ahram Weekly, Major-General Fouad Allam, a security expert and former deputy head of the National Security Apparatus (NSA), said that it was not the first time that the group had carried out a terrorist attack in Egypt, since it had previously attacked several police stations in Sinai.
“The explosive material used in the assassination attempt was smuggled in either from Libya or Gaza,” Allam said, noting that the scene was under investigation. He stressed the work the security services were doing to eliminate such militant groups and in dealing with any operations carried out by them, alluding to the successful work of the Armed Forces in the Sinai Peninsula.
Last week's attack was the first carried out by the group outside Sinai. Last year, it claimed responsibility for rocket attacks launched on Israel from Sinai, issuing a statement in August to the effect that it had sparked “a bright new page of jihad against the Jewish criminals.”
It has also claimed responsibility for at least 10 attacks over the past two years on the gas pipeline linking Egypt, Israel and Jordan.
“Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood are behind the unsuccessful assassination attempt on the interior minister, as Hamas is the military wing of the Muslim Brotherhood and Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis is affiliated to Hamas,” said Abdel-Rahim Ali, director of the Arab Centre for Research and Studies and an expert on the Islamist movements.
“Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis cannot carry out such a large operation, and its name has been used to cover up the activity of Hamas and Al-Qaeda in Egypt. The method of implementation and the quality of the bomb, as well as the successful penetration of Cairo, are beyond the ability of such a small group,” Ali added.
The assassination attempt is the first attack on a senior government official since the toppling of the country's Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July. It has also reminded commentators of previous terrorist attacks perpetrated by the Islamists in the 1980s and 1990s against the rule of ousted former president Hosni Mubarak, when senior officials, including the parliamentary speaker and interior minister, were targeted.
At that time, Egypt was rocked by recurrent bomb attacks by jihadist fighters and Islamist militants at tourist sites across the country, which seriously affected tourism and threatened security in the country. “Such terrorist operations will be repeated to pressure the government to negotiate with the state and the Muslim Brotherhood,” Ali said.
Following Morsi's overthrow on 3 July, police and security personnel were subject to recurrent attacks by suspected Islamists incensed at his removal. In July, at least two police stations outside Cairo were bombed.
Numerous police stations were also attacked across the country in the aftermath of the crackdown on the pro-Morsi sit-ins. Video footage that went viral on the social media networks showed an attack on a police station in Giza's Kerdasa district that left at least nine policemen dead.
Mustafa Hegazi, the interim president's political adviser, told TV satellite channel Al-Hayat that under Morsi's rule the number of militants in Sinai had jumped from 1,000 to more than 7,000. “The situation is graver than we thought,” he said in an interview late on Sunday.
Hegazi said that last week's assassination attempt did not signal a broader deterioration in Egypt's security, which was being restored across the country, and he added that the bombing was probably designed to hinder the implementation of the roadmap and delay amendments to the constitution.
The army has been battling an upsurge in militant activity in the Sinai bordering Israel and the Gaza Strip over recent months, and at least 25 policemen were killed in an ambush in the Peninsula last month.
Dozens of soldiers and police have also been killed in drive-by shootings and rocket attacks in the province. The army has killed around 100 militants, including foreigners, in recent operations.

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