Terrorism in Egypt
Terrorism in Egypt refers to terrorist attacks in Egypt, many of them linked to Islamic extremism. Targets have included government officials, police, tourists and the Christian minority. Terrorism increased in the 1990s when the Islamist movement al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya targeted high level political leaders and killed hundreds in its pursuit of implementing traditional Sharia law in Egypt.
Ayman Al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian doctor and leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad group, is believed to be the mastermind behind the operations of al Qaeda. Four out of 30 people on the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation "most wanted" terrorist list are Egyptian.
- 1 Pre-republic terrorism
- 2 Lavon affair
- 3 Influence of Sayyid Qutb
- 4 Military Technical College attack
- 5 Takfir wal-Hijra
- 6 Salvation from Hell
- 7 Tanzim al-Jihad movement
- 8 Attacks on Israelis
- 9 Attacks during the 1990s
- 10 Attacks during 2000-2010
- 11 Attacks from 2010-present
- 12 See also
- 13 References
In 1943 the Islamist group Muslim Brotherhood is thought to have established "a `secret apparatus`" i.e. "a separate organization for paramilitary activity under the direct authority" the Brethren's head, Sheikh Hassan al-Banna." The Brotherhood were a very large and active organization at that time. In 1948 the group is thought to have assassinated appellate judge Ahmad Khazendar in retaliation for his passing a "severe sentence" against another member of the Brotherhood.
After the 1948 victory of the Jewish state of Israel over Muslim Arab armies the group is believed to have set fire to homes of Jews in Cairo in June 1948 in retaliation. In July two large department stores in Cairo owned by Jews were also burned. A couple of months later police captured documents and plans of the `secret apparatus. 32 of its leaders were arrested and its offices were raided. and shortly thereafter Prime Minister Mahmud Fami Naqrashi ordered the dissolution of the Brotherhood.
On 28 December 1948, Prime Minister Mahmoud an-Nukrashi Pasha was shot and assassinated by Abdel Meguid Ahmed Hassan, a veterinary student and member of the Brotherhood. The country was shocked and traditionalist clergy condemned the act. The Grand Mufti, Imam of Azhar mosque and the Council of Ulema all condemned the perpetrators as kuffar.
After a nationalist military coup led by Gamal Abdel Nasser overthrew the Egyptian monarchy, the Brotherhood were very disappointed to find the officers were secular in orientation and the Brotherhood did not gain influence. On 26 October 1954 a member of the brotherhood attempted to assassinate President Nasser and a general suppression of the Brotherhood followed, including imprisonment of thousands of members and the execution of six of its most prominent leaders.
A covert operation under the direction of Israeli military intelligence with the intent to destabilize the Nasser government in the summer of 1954 through terrorist bombings of Egyptian, American and British government facilities was unsuccessful and the Israeli trained Egyptian Jewish operatives who planted the bombs were all captured, although all of their Israeli handlers escaped. The Lavon Affair, so named because Israeli Defense Minister Pinhas Lavon was later implicated and forced to resign, was a false flag operation with evidence planted at the bomb sites implicating the Muslim Brotherhood.
Influence of Sayyid Qutb
In 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, terrorist attacks in Egypt became more numerous and severe, and began to target Christian Copts and foreign tourists as well as government officials. This trend surprised some foreigners who thought of Egypt as a country that "embraced" foreigners "with suffocating affection" and preferred a "tolerant brand of Islam". Some scholars and authors have credited Islamist writer Sayyid Qutb as the inspiration for the new wave of attacks.
Qutb, who had been executed in 1967 after another purported plot to assassinate of Abdel Nasser, was author of Ma'alim fi al-Tariq (Milestones), a manifesto for armed jihad in the advance of Islam to bring about "the kingdom of God on earth" and to eliminate "the kingdom of man", sometimes referred to as Qutbism. His book has been called "one of the most influential works in Arabic of the last half century". It became a best seller, went through many editions and strongly influenced Islamists in prison in Egypt.
Military Technical College attack
On 18 April 1974, 100 members of the Islamic Liberation Organization stormed the armory of the Military Technical College in Cairo, seizing weapons and vehicles. Led by Salih Sirriya they hoped to kill President Anwar El Sadat and other top Egyptian officials — who were attending an official event nearby in the Arab Socialist Building — seize radio and television buildings (also nearby) and announce the birth of the Islamic Republic of Egypt. 11 were killed and 27 wounded in the attempt as security forces were able to intercept conspirators before they left the academy. 95 ILO members are arrested and tried. 32 were convicted. Two were executed.
On 3 July 1977, a group known to the public as Takfir wal-Hijra (excommunication and exile), kidnapped former Egyptian government minister Muhammad al-Dhahabi. The group was led by a self-taught Islamic preacher Shukri Mustafa, and called themselves Jama'at al-Muslimin. Among their demands in exchange for al-Dhahabi's release were the release of 60 of Takfir wal-Hijra members from jail, public apologies from the press for negative stories about the group, the publication of a book by Mustafa, and 200,000 Egyptian pounds in cash. Instead of complying, the press began publicized "a long list of offenses and crimes attributed to the group." Four days after the kidnapping, al-Dhahabi's body was found. The murder provokes indignation among the Egyptian public and extensive police raids led to the arrests of 410 of the group's members - i.e. most of its membership.
Salvation from Hell
Salvation from Hell sought to establish an Islamic state using force. The Egyptian government broke off ties with Iran following allegations that Iran funded the group. Yasser Al Borhamy was detained for a month in 1987 due to his alleged connection with the assassination attempt against interior minister Hassan Abu Basha. The group was also responsible for an assassination attempt on former interior minister Nabawi Ismail.
Tanzim al-Jihad movement
In spring of 1981, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman agreed to become the mufti of the shura (council) of underground Egyptian group Tanzim al-Jihad, the forerunner of Egyptian Islamic Jihad and al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya. He issued a fatwa sanctioning "the robbery and killing of Copts in furtherance of the jihad".
Sadat assassination and uprising
By 1981 President Anwar Sadat had become unpopular among Egyptians and enraged Islamists by signing a peace treaty with Israel. On 6 October 1981, Sadat and six diplomats were assassinated while observing a military parade commemorating the eighth anniversary of the October 1973 War. Lieutenant Colonel Khalid Islambouli and two other members of the Tanzim al-Jihad movement fired machine guns and threw grenades into the reviewing stand.
In conjunction with the assassination of Sadat, Tanzim al-Jihad began an insurrection in Asyut in Upper Egypt. Rebels took control of the city for a few days on 8 October 1981 before paratroopers from Cairo restored government control. 68 policemen and soldiers were killed in the fighting, but sentences of arrested militants were relatively light, with most of them serving only three years in prison.
Attacks on Israelis
The Ras Burqa massacre was a shooting attack in October 1985 on Israeli vacationers in Ras Burqa, a beach resort area in the Sinai peninsula, in which seven Israelis were killed, including four children. Egypt refused to allow the victims to be treated by Israeli doctors or transferred to hospitals in Israel.
On 4 February 1990, a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Egypt was attacked. Nine Israelis were killed and 16 wounded. This was the fourth attack on Israeli tourists in Egypt since the signing of the peace treaty. The attack, claimed by members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, left 11 people, including nine Israelis, dead and 17 others injured.
On November 1990 an Egyptian border guard crossed the border into Israel and opened fire with his AK-47 on vehicles on the Eilat-Kadesh Barnea road killing four people.
Twelve of the people killed in the 2004 Sinai bombings were Israeli.
The Sinai bus crash in August 2006, in which 11 Arab Israelis were killed, may have been premeditated. Families of the victims allege that evidence collected, including the driver's derogatory and threatening remarks attacking them for being Arabs and Israeli, indicate they were targeted by a cell.
Attacks during the 1990s
The violent Islamic insurgency during the 1990s targeted police and government officials but also civilians including tourists. Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya was the primary perpetrator of the attacks, but Egyptian Islamic Jihad also was involved.
Rifaat el-Mahgoub assassination
1993 was a particularly severe year for terrorist attacks in Egypt. 1106 persons were killed or wounded. More police (120) than terrorists (111) were killed that year and "several senior police officials and their bodyguards were shot dead in daylight ambushes."
The Luxor Massacre took place on 17 November 1997, at Deir el-Bahri, an archaeological site located across the River Nile from Luxor in Egypt. In the mid-morning attack, Islamic terrorists from Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya ("The Islamic Group") and Talaa'al al-Fateh (Vanguards of Conquest), both of which are suspected of having ties to al-Qaeda massacred 62 tourists at the attraction. The six assailants, armed with automatic firearms and knives, were disguised as members of the security forces. They descended on the Temple of Hatshepsut at around 08:45 and massacred 62 people, their modus operandi including beheadings and disembowellings. The attackers then hijacked a bus, but armed Egyptian tourist police and military forces arrived soon afterwards and engaged in a gun battle with the six terrorists, who were later killed or committed suicide.
Attacks during 2000-2010
2004 Sinai bombing
The 2004 Sinai bombings were three bomb attacks targeting tourist hotels in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt, on October 7, 2004. The attacks killed 34 people and injured 171. The explosions occurred in the Hilton Taba in Taba and campsites used by Israelis in Ras al-Shitan. In the Taba attack, a truck drove into the lobby of the Taba Hilton and exploded, killing 31 people and wounding some 159 others. Ten floors of the hotel collapsed following the blast. Some 50 kilometers (31 mi) south, at campsites at Ras al-Shitan, near Nuweiba, two more bombings happened. A car parked in front of a restaurant at the Moon Island resort exploded, killing three Israelis and a Bedouin. Twelve were wounded. Another blast happened moments later, targeting the Baddiyah camp, but did not harm anyone because the bomber had apparently been scared off from entering the campground by a guard.
Of the dead, many were foreigners: 12 were from Israel, two from Italy, one from Russia, and one was an Israeli-American. The rest of the dead were believed to be Egyptian. According to the Egyptian government, the bombers were Palestinians who had tried to enter Israel to carry out attacks there but were unsuccessful. The mastermind, Iyad Saleh, recruited Egyptians and Bedouins to gain explosives to be used in the attacks.
April 2005 attacks
The April 2005 attacks in Cairo were three related incidents that took place in Cairo on 7 April and 30 April 2005. Two incidents caused no loss of life other than those of the perpetrators and appear not to have been planned in advance; in the first attack, however, three bystanders were killed. Two groups claimed responsibility - the Mujahedeen of Egypt and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades. In its statement, the latter group said the attacks were in retaliation for the government's clampdown on dissidents in the wake of the Sinai Peninsula bombings. In the early hours of 1 May, security forces arrested some 225 individuals for questioning, mostly from the dead three's home villages and from the area where they lived in Shubra. Particularly keenly sought was Muhammad Yassin, the teenage brother of Ehab Yousri Yassin, whom the police described as the only remaining suspect in the bazaar bomb attack and a material witness to the shooting. Over the course of the weekend, it also emerged that all the attackers were relatives of Ashraf Said, a suspect in the 7 April bombing who was taken in for questioning and died in police custody on 29 April.
2005 Sharm el-Sheikh attacks
The 2005 Sharm el-Sheikh attacks were a series of bomb attacks on July 23, 2005, targeting the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh, located on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula. Eighty-eight people were killed and over 150 were wounded by the blasts, making the attack the deadliest terrorist action in the country's history. The bombing coincided with Egypt's Revolution Day, which commemorates Nasser's 1952 overthrow of King Farouk.
The attacks took place in the early morning hours, at a time when many tourists and locals were still out at restaurants, cafés and bars. The first bomb blast, at 01:15 local time (22:15 UTC), was reported in a market in downtown Sharm; shortly after, another was reported to have hit the Ghazala Gardens hotel in the Naama Bay area, a strip of beachfront hotels some 6 km from the town centre.
While the official government toll a few days after the blast was 64, hospitals reported that 88 people had been killed in the bombings. The majority of dead and wounded casualties were Egyptians. Among those killed were 11 Britons, two Germans, one Czech, six Italians, one Israeli, and one American. Other casualties, dead and wounded, included foreign visitors from France, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Qatar, Russia, and Spain.
A group calling itself the Abdullah Azzam Brigades (a reference to militant Islamist ideologue Abdullah Yusuf Azzam) was the first to claim responsibility for the attacks. On a website the group stated that "holy warriors targeted the Ghazala Gardens hotel and the Old Market in Sharm el-Sheikh" and claimed it has ties to Al-Qaeda. Additional claims were later made by two other groups calling themselves the "Tawhid and Jihad Group in Egypt" and "Holy Warriors of Egypt".
2006 Dahab bombings
At about 19:15 local time on 24 April 2006 — a public holiday in celebration of Sham Al-Nasseim (Spring festival or Easter) — a series of bombs exploded in tourist areas of Dahab, a resort located on the Gulf of Aqaba coast of the Sinai Peninsula. One blast occurred in or near the Nelson restaurant, one near the Aladdin café (both being on both sides of the bridge), and one near the Ghazala market. At least 23 people were killed, mostly Egyptians, but including a German, Lebanese, Russian, Swiss, and a Hungarian. Around 80 people were wounded, including tourists from Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, South Korea, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, United Kingdom, and the United States.
The governor of South Sinai reported that the blasts might have been suicide attacks, but later Habib Adly, the interior minister of Egypt said that the devices were nail bombs set off by timers, and Egyptian TV also reported that the bombs were detonated remotely. Later investigations revealed the blasts were suicide attacks, set off by Bedouins, as in earlier attacks in the Sinai.
2008 Sudan kidnapping
In September 2008, a group of eleven European tourists and eight Egyptians were kidnapped during an adventure safari to one of the remotest sites in Egypt deep in the Sahara desert and taken to Sudan. They were subsequently released unharmed.
2009 Khan el-Khalili bombing
In February 2009, the Khan el-Khalili bombing killed a French schoolgirl on a class trip.
2009 Hezbollah plot
In April 2009, Egypt said it had uncovered a Hezbollah plot to attack tourist sites in the Sinai, causing tension with the Shia group from Lebanon.
Attacks from 2010-present
al-Qidiseen church bombing
A car bomb explosion outside a church in the north Egyptian city of Alexandria killed at least 21 people and injured 43 following the evening service held at the church causing clashes between Coptic church members at the scene and the surrounding policemen. The attack saw governments around the world warn international travellers of the dangers of visiting the country, highlighting a likelihood of further terrorist attacks and possibility of kidnappings in Sinai.
On 23 January 2011, the Egyptian minister of interior Habib El Adli stated that Ahmed Lotfi Ibrahim Mohammed confessed to monitoring Christian and Jewish places of worship and sending pictures of the Qideseen church in Alexandria to the Army of Islam. He had confessed visited Gaza several times and was involved in planning the attack. British intelligence revealed that Muhammad Abd al-Hadi, leader of Jundullah, recruited Abdul Rahman Ahmed Ali who was told to park the car, which would be exploded by remote control.
On 5 August 2012, a group of armed men ambushed an Egyptian military base in the Sinai Peninsula, killing 16 Egyptian soldiers and stealing two Egyptian armored cars, and then infiltrated into Israel. The attackers rammed through the Kerem Shalom border crossing in Israel, while one of the vehicles exploded. The attackers then engaged in a firefight with soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces, and six attackers were killed during the firefight. No Israelis were injured. The attackers were dressed as Bedouins and attacked with guns and rocket-propelled grenades. 35 attackers took part in this attack on the Egyptian base.
This attacked triggered an Egyptian operation in Sinai, led by the Egyptian army, police, special forces, and air force reactivating Operation Eagle, which was first launched in August 2011, sweeping Sinai from jihadist terrorist militants. Ansar Bait al-Maqdis is considered the primary group behind the militant activity in the Sinai peninsula. The Al Furqan Brigades are also active throughout Egypt.
Four beheaded corpses were found by residents of a town in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on August 20, 2014, security sources said, blaming Islamist militants waging an insurgency against Cairo.
2014 Border Attack
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