Egypt Raises Security Levels to MaximumMay 18, 2015 in Egypt, Terrorism
Egypt has raised its alert level to maximum across all security headquarters in the country.
The decision came on Saturday after former President Mohamed Morsi was issued a preliminary death sentence on charges of orchestrating a prison break in 2011. It is expected that Morsi’s sentencing will lead to a rise of unrest in the country in coming weeks. Security presence at all vital facilities, and on major squares and streets, has been intensified across the country. Alert levels have also been raised at all stations belonging to the Egyptian Radio and Television Union.
An immediate spate of attacks followed Morsi’s sentencing. Hours after the death sentence was issued, unidentified gunmen opened fire on a bus in al-Arish, North Sinai, killing three prosecutors and a driver. Two judges were reportedly wounded in the attack. Later in the day, an IED targeted the main courthouse in Assiut, injuring a police officer. In Giza, a policeman was killed in a drive-by shooting. In Fayoum, a bomb exploded outside a church, damaging the building’s façade.
On Sunday, a bomb detonated near a courthouse in Port Said, injuring a small girl. In addition, unknown assailants attacked a security patrol on the Fayoum ring road. No injuries were reported.
Egyptian President Abdul Fatah al-Sisi issued an order providing greater security for judges, particularly those operating in areas dealing with “violence and terrorism,” according to a statement from his office.
Government opposition groups have already called for rallies. A statement from the Anti-Coup Pro-Legitimacy National Alliance has called on Egyptians to “to continue and escalate their non-violent struggle and actively participate in the revolutionary wave extending until July 3 under the slogan ‘Victory and Retribution.’” Protestors commonly gather after Friday afternoon prayers. It is likely that demonstrators will clash with security forces, resulting in an escalation of tensions and the possibility of violence. Major governorates likely to be affected are Cairo, Alexandria, Fayoum, Sharqia and Minya. In addition, militant groups have previously issued statements of support for Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, and are likely to conduct actions and issue statements of threat based on the verdict.
In addition to anger generated from Morsi’s sentencing, Egyptians have spoken out against another ruling. On Saturday, the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters designated all organized groups of dedicated football fans – known as Ultras – as terrorists.
The decision comes after a lawsuit from Mortada Mansour, chairman of Zamalek Football Club. Mansour claims that members of Zamalek’s hard-core supporter group, the Ultras White Knights (UWK), threw acid in his face and plotted to murder him and a former sports minister. Mansour also alleges that UWK is responsible for burnings buildings belonging to the national football association in 2013. UWK has a large following and is deeply politicised. In 2011, many of the Ultras participated in the uprising that forced out autocrat Hosni Mubarak. The group says they are now being persecuted for daring to stand up to the government of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Protests from hard-core football fans are likely to be scattered throughout the country, with the heaviest protests likely to occur in Cairo.
On Sunday, Egyptian authorities executed six men by hanging on charges of killing soldiers. The men were said to be members of Sinai Peninsula-based Ansar Beit al Maqdis, which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in November 2014. Human rights groups appealed for a stay of execution; Amnesty International said the men underwent a “grossly unfair” trial and that the only witness during the hearings was a secret police officer. If the men were in fact members of the terrorists group, it is likely that retaliatory attacks will take place in north Sinai, Cairo, and in major cities throughout Egypt.
Since 2013, Egyptian security officials have reported near daily shootings at security forces, as well as an increase in the discovery of IEDs. In recent months, IEDs have been increasingly placed near power stations or electricity pylons, causing blackouts in affected regions. On Saturday, seven bombs were found near electricity pylons in Fayoum. The bombs were safely dismantled.
While the current government has taken a harsh stance against terrorism in the country, many fear that the regime has created conditions which could induce further violence. The 2013 designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation has resulted in the arrest and detainment of thousands of individuals, and several trials (derided as unfair by rights groups) resulting in mass death sentences. Further, many believe that the government is utilising the terrorist designation in an effort to shut down anti-government dissent of any nature. It is likely that the court decisions made over the weekend will degrade the security of the nation in the immediate to short term.