Egypt’s Minister of Defence Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has told Egyptian state media that that he cannot “ignore the demands of the majority” for him to run as a candidate in the upcoming presidential election. The statement is not an official declaration; however it is the clearest indication made by Sisi, who has consciously avoided answering questions regarding his intention to run for president.
Last week, speculation on Sisi’s decision wavered following his decision to remain in the Egyptian Cabinet after the Prime Minister and other cabinet members unexpectedly resigned from office. His decision to remain as Defence Minister suggested that he would not run for office, despite gaining blessings from the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) in January. However, Sisi told the media that “official procedures” for his candidacy could be expected in the coming days. Sources close to Sisi have said that he will step down from his dual roles as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and Defence Minister before his official announcement. The new laws regulating the presidential election are to be approved by Interim President Adly Mansour within the next two weeks
Within Egypt, Sisi’s popularity has sky-rocketed since he famously removed former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi’s from office. In Cairo and across Egypt, posters of the Commander-in-Chief are prominent and growing. Several members of media, politicians, and businessmen have their support for Sisi’s candidacy, believing him to be able to restore the nation’s security and revive the economy. However, members of the Muslim Brotherhood, who remain loyal to former president Morsi, oppose the candidacy. Similarly, a portion of the Egyptian population feels strongly that the military is too heavily involved in politics, and putting Sisi into office will negate the revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Mubarak was the third in a succession of dictators hailing from a military background.
Internationally, Sisi has been equally divisive. His popularity has gained momentum among some governments, but is met with caution by others. Since the removal of Morsi, Egypt has appeared to distance itself from its once close relationship with the United States, and has moved back toward the relationship it had with Russia prior to 1979. In February, Sisi visited Moscow to sign a new cooperation and arms deal with the Kremlin. During the two-day session, Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly told Sisi, “I know that you have taken the decision to run for President. It’s a very responsible decision. I wish you luck, both from myself personally and from the Russian people.” This statement was met with unease in Washington. Marie Harf, spokeswoman for the US State Department, said, “Of course we don’t endorse a candidate and don’t think it’s, quite frankly, up to the United States or to Mr Putin to decide who should govern Egypt. It’s up to the Egyptian people to decide.” Once again, Egypt finds itself in a position between two major nations, a critical situation in awakening of the previously dormant Cold War.
When Sisi makes his announcement, he will be the third to announce his candidacy. Hamdeen Sabbahi, the founder of the Popular Current Party, threw his hat into the ring in February, claiming to run in order to “protect the revolution.” His decision caused a split amongst the Tamarod movement, which was the group that organised the mass protests resulting in Morsi’s departure. Membership has been divided between those supporting Sisi, and those supporting Sabbahi, who came in third during the 2012 elections.
In October 2013, Lieutenant General Sami Anan declared his intentions to run for office. In the Mubarak era, Anan was the Deputy Chairman of SCAF, and the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces. Until his announcement, he had remained out of the public spotlight. The move baffled Egyptians, including members of the Egyptian military. Some military analysts believe that Anan’s announcement served to test Egyptians’ reaction to the possibility of a military figure as president. Others believe Anan is expressing his own desires. Many political and military figures have reacted negatively to Anan’s intentions. The Egyptian armed forces went as far as to issue a statement warning Egyptians to not be confused by Anan’s efforts. The military spokesman urged the media not to publish Anan’s statements.
Sisi therefore faces two comparatively weaker opponents, and emerges as a tide of support swells around his candidacy. It is expected that the elections, which are expected before the end of Aprile, will see Sisi win by a large margin.
In a move that shocked the nation, this morning Egypt’s military-backed government tendered its resignation to the republic.
In a televised address, Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi confirmed that the government has resigned. He gave no definitive reason for the decision. An unnamed source has revealed that the decision came after a 15-minute cabinet meeting, which included Defence Minister and Army Chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Sisi is widely expected to run for president in the upcoming elections. One official source said, “This was done as a step that was needed ahead of Sisi’s announcement that he will run for president.”
Sisi has skyrocketed in the political sphere since his role in removing former president Mohamed Morsi from office. Shortly after the removal, he unveiled a political roadmap which included a transition from an interim government to a new administration comprised of elected officials. Sisi has been a popular but divisive figure as supporters of the Morsi government have actively protested against the interim government and the army, leading to weekly (sometimes daily) clashes with pro-government citizens and security forces.
The decision also came as a series of strikes continue across several industries, including public transport workers and garbage collectors. Further, the nation has been suffering a great shortage of cooking gas. Prime minister El-Beblawi has been perceived by Egyptian media as indecisive and unable to provide a remedy for the Egypt’s failing economy. Beblawi has also been criticised for his inability to prevent or control escalating terror attacks within Egypt, attacks which have been blamed on the Muslim Brotherhood and extremist supporters of Morsi. Beblawi has acknowledged these poor conditions, but maintains that Egypt is in a better place now than during the Morsi regime.
While it remains unofficial, it is expected that Housing Minister Ibrahim Mehleb will succeed Beblawi.
Tour Bus Attack in the Sinai
On Sunday, a tour bus was struck by an explosion, killing at least three people and wounding dozens. The busload of tourists was heading back from the famous St. Catherin’s Monastery and was in the border town of Taba, preparing to cross into Israel. At least two South Korean tourists and the Egyptian bus driver were killed. Nearly all 33 passengers were wounded, 12 suffered serious injuries. The attack has gone unclaimed. The border crossing at Taba between Egypt and Israel has since been closed.
Egyptian officials have varied on the cause of the explosion, with some reports indicating a car or bomb detonation, and others claiming that the explosive device was inside the bus. However, reports this morning indicate a suicide attack. According to Interior Ministry spokesman Hani Abdel-Latif, the driver and two South Koreans stepped out of the parked bus and went to the cargo hold. As they reboarded, the bomber pushed in through the open bus door and detonated his explosives.
Since July 2013, over 300 attacks have occurred in the Sinai Peninsula; however they have predominantly targeted security forces or gas pipelines in North Sinai. The bus attack is the first to target foreign tourists since the 2009 bombing in the famous Khan el-Khalili market which killed one and wounded 20. An attack against tourists in South Sinai has not taken place since 2006.
Some analysts believe that the attacks may have been carried out by militant Islamist group Ansar Jerusalem (Ansar Beit al Maqdis). A large portion of the attacks both in the Sinai Peninsula and in other areas of Egypt have been claimed by the group. On 13 February, Ansar Jerusalem released a video claiming responsibility for the 29 December bombing of a military intelligence building in the Sharqiya governorate. The bombing wounded at least 4 people, and came five days after a similar attack in Mansoura killed over a dozen people and injured more than 130. The video includes scenes of security forces attacking protestors, and points out assaults on female protesters, echoing previous complaints made by the group. Weeks earlier, Ansar Jerusalem released video of their members using a surface-to-air missile to take down an Egyptian helicopter operating in North Sinai, killing five soldiers.
Ansar Jerusalem has commonly targeted security forces and gas pipelines, but the group has warned in jihadist forums that it will target economic interests in response to military operations to eradicate terrorism in the Sinai. While it is possible that the attack on the bus was a one-time incident, there is heightened awareness that the bombing marks the beginning of a new angle of attack.
Tunnels Destroyed on Gaza Border
On Saturday, the Egyptian army destroyed ten tunnels on the border with the Gaza Strip in the Sinai Peninsula. In addition, seven homes that the tunnels led to were also destroyed. The destruction of the tunnels is part of Egypt’s continuing plan to create a buffer zone along the Gaza border. The zone is to extend 300 meters in populated areas and 500 meters in open areas.
Also on Saturday, three explosive devices were safely detonated by the Egyptian army. The devices were placed in military vehicles and armoured cars in Sheikh Zuwaid. The army has raided militant strongholds in the area.
Morsi Trial Postponed
Selim el-Awa, the lawyer representing former president Mohamed Morsi and 35 other Muslim Brotherhood figures, has withdrawn his defence team in objection to the soundproof glass box that the defendants are forced to remain in during court proceedings. The court has postponed the trial until 23 February.
The glass boxes were installed prevent Morsi and other Brotherhood figures from disrupting the trials in the manner they have since the courtroom procedures began last year. On Sunday, Morsi and other defendants chanted the Egyptian national anthem, and slogans against military rule.
Members of the defence team were invited into the glass boxes to ensure the defendants were able to hear the proceedings. However, the defence claimed that the trial was nearly inaudible in Morsi’s box, and completely inaudible in boxes used for other defendants. El Awa decided that his team will not attend future hearings until the boxes are removed. While the court announced it will appoint 10 new lawyers to the case, el Awa’s decision could invalidate the trial because he is the only lawyer authorised by Morsi and the other defendants.
Morsi and the other defendants are accused of working with foreign groups to commit acts of terrorism in Egypt, revealing defence secrets to a foreign country, funding terrorists and organising military training “to achieve the purposes of the international organisation of the Brotherhood.” Specifically, prosecution believes the defendants were collaborating with Hamas, Hezbollah, and other groups within and outside of Egypt to smuggle arms and train combatants in an attempt to threaten Egypt’s national security. The charges span from 2005 to 2013.
Sabbahi invites el Sisi to debate
On Saturday, Hamadeen Sabbahi, a leading leftist figure and the only person to announce candidacy Egypt’s presidential elections, invited army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi to engage in a live debate should el-Sisi decide to run. Sabbahi did add that he does not believe the army chief should run, but should rather opt to maintain his stature.
El-Sisi was appointed by Morsi and relatively unknown before his role in the removal of Morsi. Since July, he has grown exponentially popular and is widely expected, if he runs, to win the presidential elections by a landslide. However, Sabbahi has rejected this assertion: “It’s not a done deal as many think […] the people are capable of choosing [a candidate] based on their knowledge of history.”
He adds, “I am sure that the right decision after the revolution is to establish a state that serves the people, and not a state that is served by people.” Cautiously, Sabbahi highlighted that he would not allow competition with El Sisi over the presidency to turn into a face-off between revolutionary groups and the army.
Sabbahi, a former member of parliament, ran for president in 2012, finishing third behind Mohamed Morsi and ex-Mubarak premier Ahmed Shafiq. He is considered a leader in the revolution and an outspoken opponent of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Meanwhile, although el Sisi was empowered by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to run for president, he not publicly stated his plans. Last week during a visit to Moscow to discuss a $2 billion arms deal, Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated el Sisi on his undeclared intentions to run, escalating suspicions of his intentions.
Sabbahi called el Sisi’s visit to Moscow a positive step, saying “reconfigures Egypt’s foreign relations, and stops it leaning to the West.” Sabbahi further praised el Sisi, reminiscing on a long conversation about social just during their only meeting together.
Kidnapping targets Christian Children
In the past two weeks, at least 9 cases of Christians being kidnapped have been reported in the Minya province of Upper Egypt. The trend compared to last year, however, shows that younger people are being targeted for kidnapping.
Minya, with a 50% Christian population, has the highest percentage of Christians in Egypt. Christians make up approximately 10% of the Egyptian population. Kidnappers have a perception of wealth associated with the Christian population. This perception, coupled with weak security infrastructure in the region, makes residents in the region susceptible to kidnapping. In 2013, 69 kidnappings were documented from the Minya province alone. In 61 cases, kidnappers have received a ransom. Demands have ranged from $7,000 to $500,000. It is possible that kidnappers believe that families and communities will pay more, and more quickly, to see the release a younger child who has been kidnapped.
Of the 69 reported cases, police became involved in only four, and in one of those, a kidnapping victim was killed. The culprits behind the kidnappings are unknown. Some suspect illegal gangs, other suspect backlash from extremist members of the Muslim Brotherhood, who believe that the Christian population is responsible for the removal and imprisonment of former President Mohamed Morsi. However, the exorbitant demands for ransom indicate that the kidnappings are conducted for financial gain, rather than for principle.
Creator of Pro-Brotherhood Facebook Page Arrested in Tanta
In a statement on their social media page, the Egyptian Ministry of Interior announced the arrest of a man who created the “Tanta Anti-Coup Movement” Facebook page. The page, which was created in August 2013, places blame on the interim government for the overthrow Mohammad Morsi in July. It has over 10,400 likes.
The statement labels the man, who was only identified by his initials and birth year, a “Muslim Brotherhood terrorist,” and announced that he was charged with “spreading false news, inciting violence against security forces,” and “spreading personal information of security officers.” Egyptian forces seized computers and flash-drives from the suspect’s home and an investigation is being conducted.
The Ministry of Interior has been attempting to identify supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood since their designation as a terrorist organization in November 2013. Opposition parties have cited an uneven reaction to pro-Brotherhood supporters, and an increase in the monitoring, and sometimes arrest and detention of civilians who oppose the current interim government or the military, regardless of whether they support the Muslim Brotherhood. Despite attempts to monitor online messaging, particularly on social media sites, Egyptian security forces do not have the personnel or capability to necessary consistently conduct cyber-surveillance on activists and their many forums.
Textile Workers Strike Enters Second Week
Around 20,000 workers at the state-owned Holding Company for Cotton Spinning and Weaving in Mahalla continued their strike to demand demanding late wages, the resignation of company Chairman Abdel-Alim Hassan, and the replacement of the company’s commissioner, Abdel Fattah Al-Zoghby. The company has already lost between 15 and 20 million Egyptian pounds (EGP).
The workers are demanding late wages for two months, totalling 155 million EGP. Despite the new legislation setting the minimum monthly income for public employees at 1,200 EGP, there are thousands of workers that earn only 500 EGP a month. On Saturday, management promised workers that they would receive their bonuses by the evening, but the workers did not receive the wages, and so continued strike action.
Thousands of employees from textiles company Kafr Al-Dawar have protested in solidarity with the Mahalla workers. Employees from Kafr Al-Dawar are also demanding the new government-sanctioned minimum wage for public workers.
Algerian National Police deployed in Territorial Clashes
(29 January) Algerian authorities have arrested 60 people after a month of territorial clashes between Arabs and Berbers in Ghardaia. Ghardaia is oasis town on the edge of the Sahara desert, and has seen repeated clashes which have left two people dead, dozens injured and many shops burned. Last week, Algerian national police were sent to the town to restore calm. Berbers, who were the original inhabitants of North Africa, have accused local police of encouraging the Arabs. Three officers have been suspended after a video surfaced showing their alleged involvement. Thus far, 20 people have been charged with arson, theft and assault; 10 others are under house arrest and another 30 are in custody awaiting questioning.
Algeria to Regulate Mosques
(28 January) The Algerian government is calling on imams to become fully engaged in the fight against extremism. Religious Affairs Minister Bouabdellah Ghlamallah said, “Mosques also have a part to play in preserving society and protecting it against division and hatred.” The government has trained 800 imams were trained between 2010 and 2012, and recruited 1,500 imam-lecturers and 240 principal imams.
The Algerian government wants to take back control of mosques used by extremist groups to spread messages of hatred and violence. Earlier this month, the government published a decree to regulate the 20,000 mosques in the nation. This law, the first of its kind, aims to enable mosques to conduct their role independently of political or other influences. The law explains that religious institutions must “help strengthen religious and national unity, protect society from fanatical, extremist and excessive ideas, foster and consolidate the values of tolerance and solidarity in society, combat violence and hatred, and counter anything that could harm the country.” The law also strictly forbids use of mosques for illicit, personal or collective goals, or for purely material ends, and prohibits use of mosques to harm people or groups. The law also covers the role of mosques in cultural, educational and social spheres, and subjects monetary collections to administrative authorisation. The decree has been positively received by the public.
Bahraini court shuts down Shi’ite clerical group
(29 January) A Bahraini court has ordered the dissolution of a group of Shiite Muslim clerics, declaring the group illegal. The decision comes after the revival of stalled reconciliation talks between the Sunni ruling family and Shiite opposition, and could harm reconciliation efforts to end political unrest that has occurred since 2011.
The court’s decision says that the Islamic Scholars’ Council, which has close ties to Shiite opposition group al-Wefaq, was not officially registered in Bahrain. Further, the group is believed to have adopted “a dangerous political and sectarian role.” Information Minister Sameera Rajab said, “The group that makes up the council includes political clerics who use the religious pulpit for political and sectarian incitement.” Rajab believes that the ruling should not stop dialogue with the opposition; however, members of the opposition have said that the ruling would have a negative effect on any attempts to move forward with the reconciliation process.
IED detonated in front of Security Forces Barracks
(31 January) Two improvised explosive devices were detonated in front of a Giza Central Security Forces barracks on the Cairo-Alexandria Desert Road, injuring a police officer. The explosions severely damaged a central security vehicle parked in front of the camp. A wave of attacks by Islamic militants has swept across Egypt in the weeks since the mid-January constitutional referendum. Last Friday, four bombs exploded in different areas of Cairo, killing 6.
Twenty Journalists face charges in Egypt
(29 January) Twenty journalists are facing charges in Egypt. Sixteen of the journalists are Egyptians accused of belonging to a terrorist group, harming national unity and social peace, and using terrorism as a means to their goals. Four are foreigners accused of assisting the organisation by providing them with information, equipment, and money, and broadcasting false information and rumours to convince the international community that Egypt was undergoing a civil war. The defendants include two Britons, a Dutch national and an Australian. No names are mentioned, but warrants state that four foreigners were correspondents for al-Jazeera news network.
Eight of the defendants are in detention; 12 are on the run with arrest warrants issued against them. International news organisations have issued a joint call for the immediate release of all journalists held in Egypt.
Armed men storm government building in Iraq
(30 January) Eight armed men assaulted an office of Iraq’s transportation ministry in northeast Baghdad, killing at least 20 people and briefly taking a number of civil servants hostage. Four of the eight men are believed to have been killed in clashes with security forces. Security forces sealed off the surrounding area, which houses other government offices including the headquarters of the transport ministry and a human rights ministry building. No group has claimed yet responsibility, but fighters affiliated with the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have mounted similar armed attacks on Iraqi government buildings.
On Thursday, bombings took place near a market and a restaurant in the Shia-majority neighbourhoods of Kasra and Talbiyah killed six people. On Wednesday, several car bombs detonated in predominantly Shia cities of Baghdad Jadidah, Shuala and Talbiyah, leaving nine people dead. Attacks on Wednesday also hit the outskirts of the capital, as well as the northern cities of Mosul and Tuz Khurmatu, killing seven others.
The death toll from Iraqi violence in January has gone past 900. With upcoming elections in three months, security forces have been grappling with intensifying violence and an extended standoff with anti-government fighters in western Anbar province. The fighters hold all of Fallujah, right next to Baghdad. ISIL has been involved in the fighting. The standoff has forced more than 140,000 people to flee their homes, the worst displacement in Iraq since the 2006-2008 sectarian conflict.
Man admits transporting bombs
(31 January) Omar Ibrahim Al Atrash, who was arrested last week, has confessed to transporting suicide bombers and car bombs between Syria and Lebanon, including to Beirut. Atrash has admitted ties to three wanted individuals, as well as to AQ-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades, ISIL and Al Nusra Front. Atrash has “admitted to transporting car bombs to Beirut” after receiving them from a Syrian, and “transporting suicide bombers of different Arab nationalities into Syria and handing them over to the Nusra Front.” The army said two of the car bombs transported by Atrash had blown up, but it did not specify where.
Many bomb attacks have targeted strongholds of Hezbollah, which has drawn the ire of Sunni extremist groups in part because of its role fighting alongside the regime in Syria. Though Hezbollah is thought to be the target of the attacks, those killed in the bombings have largely been civilians.
Clashes erupt after kidnapping official’s son in Benghazi
(31 January) Clashes erupted Benghazi after the son of a commander in the army’s Special Forces was kidnapped. The clashes left at least one soldier dead and wounded two other army personnel.
The unknown kidnappers demanded that Libya’s special forces’ commander, Brigadier-General Wanis Bu Khamada, pull his forces from the city, especially the districts of al-Hawari and Gwarsha, in exchange of releasing his abducted son. While several military facilities are located in the listed districts, they are controlled by militias of former rebels
The heaviest clashes were reportedly seen at a base operated by the Brigade of the February 17 Martyrs, a group of former Islamist rebels; however the group denied kidnapping the general’s son on its Facebook page.
Ali Bu Khamada was taken outside Benghazi University, where he is a student. He tried resisting his kidnappers and appeared to have been injured by a gunshot. Last week, Special Forces announced the arrest of four suspects in possession of a hit list of officers that were to be targeted, or were already killed. A military source said the abduction was carried out to pressure the Special Forces to release prisoners held by the army.
Libya minister survives assassination attempt
(29 January) Libya’s acting interior minister, Al-Sidik Abdul-Karim, has escaped an assassination attempt in Tripoli. Karim was on his way to a meeting when his car came under fire from unknown gunmen. After the attack, Al-Sidik Abdul-Karim said in a statement: “Libya’s men will not be intimidated by bullets, bombs or rockets.” Earlier in January, deputy industry minister Hassan al-Droui was shot dead; the first killing of a member of the interim government. No group has claimed responsibility.
The transitional government has been struggling to assert itself over up to 1,700 different armed militias, each with their own goals. Local officials in various regions of Libya have also been killed. Most cases remain unsolved and only few arrests have so far been made. Last week, the political instability in Libya worsened when the Justice and Construction Party, the second largest party in the interim administration, said it was quitting the government. The group made the announcement after it failed to win sufficient support for a motion to censure Prime Minister Ali Zeidan. The move could deepen the deadlock in the interim parliament, and increase political infighting.
Syrian peace talks draw to a close
(31 January) The Syrian government and opposition traded insults after a week-long peace conference in Geneva. The conference ended with no firm agreement. Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said the opposition were immature, while the opposition’s Louay Safi said the regime had no desire to stop the bloodshed.
More talks are scheduled for 10 February. The opposition has agreed to take part, but Mr Muallem refused to commit, stating, “We represent the concerns and interests of our people. If we find that [another meeting] is their demand, then we will come back.” Opposition representative Safi said the opposition would not sit in talks “endlessly”, and urged the government to “talk seriously about transferring power”.
The two sides discussed humanitarian issues and possible ways to end the violence and made some agreements on access for humanitarian aid in some parts of the country. Both sides agreed to use a 2012 document known as the Geneva Communiqué, which includes proposals for a transitional government and democratic elections, as a basis for discussions. The opposition has insisted on addressing the transitional government issue, but the government has been stressing that the first step is to discuss “terrorism”. Diplomats have said that a top priority is to keep the talks process going, in the hope that hard-line positions can be modified over time.
Tunisia Signs New Constitution, Appoints Government
(January 30) Tunisia has a new constitution has been signed, and control of the government has passed from former Prime Minister Ali Laarayedh to Mehdi Jomaa. Citizens are hopeful for major change in the country. The country’s president is Moncef Marzouki, told reporters that the newly-signed constitution guarantees equal rights for men and women, requires that the government protect the environment and work to stop corruption, and puts power into two men’s hands. Power over the country is split between Marzouki and Jomaa. Marzouki will have important roles in defensc and foreign affairs; Jomaa will have the dominant role in the government.The caretaker government will run the country until elections, which will be held on an unspecified date this year.
Activists and media have criticized the new constitution, noting that it doesn’t do enough to reflect what the citizens want and that the committee drafting the document did not have the power to change constitutional sections on the right to strike and freedom of expression. There is also concern that the document doesn’t do enough to protect men from violence. The document does not ban the death penalty, but makes accusing people of being nonbelievers an illegal act. Attacks on religion are also restricted. The creation of this document presumably brings the Arab Spring to a close in Tunisia.
Suspected militants kill 15 soldiers in Yemen
(31 January) Fifteen soldiers were killed and four wounded by suspected al Qaeda militants in an attack on an army checkpoint in south-eastern Yemen on Friday. The soldiers were ambushed as they were having lunch in a desert area near the city of Shibam, in the eastern province of Hadramout. The gunmen were likely to be al Qaeda militants. Hadramout, a center of Yemen’s modest oil production, has been hit by sporadic fighting between government forces and a big tribal confederation, after a senior tribesman was killed in a shootout at an army checkpoint in December.
The US and UK embassies have updated travel advice for Egypt. Citizens have been urged to limit their movements. The announcement comes after a tumultuous series of events. Over the weekend, thousands celebrated in the streets of Cairo and across Egypt to mark the 3rd anniversary of the Egyptian uprising. Amidst the attacks, a series of protests among divided groups led to heavy conflicts across the nation. Clashes between demonstrators and security forces left at least 49 people dead and 247 injured. The Egyptian Interior ministry reportedly arrested over 1,000 demonstrators.
Further darkening the celebrations, a series of bombings took place across Cairo. Radical Sinai-based group Ansar Beit al Maqdis has taken responsibility for the bombings, as well as the shooting down of an army helicopter in the Sinai Peninsula on 25 January. The group released a video of one of its members using a surface to air missile to attack the helicopter.
On 28 January, members of Ansar Beit al Maqdis shot and killed an aide to Egypt’s interior minister. Two assailants on motorcycle targeted General Mohamed Said, head of the minister’s technical office, as he was leaving his home near the governorate building and Talbia police station.
The surrounding area has been cordoned off while investigations continue. Egypt’s Interior Minister, Mohamed Ibrahim, escaped an assassination attempt conducted by the same group in September.
Within hours of the assassination, security forces also found a box containing Molotov cocktails and a homemade bomb near Egypt’s High Court in downtown Cairo. The box was removed and dismantled, and the area was forcibly cleared of protesters demonstrating against the renewed trial of Mohamed Morsi.
During Morsi’s trial, he and 21 defendants were enclosed in a sound-proof glass cage in order to prevent a repeat of the interruptions they made in their first court appearance last year. The defendants, along with at least a hundred others who are being tried in absentia, are charged in the escape of more than 20,000 inmates from three Egyptian prisons during the early days of the 2011 uprising. Additionally, they have been charged with damaging and setting fire to prison buildings, murder, attempted murder, looting prison weapons depots, and allowing prisoners from the “Hamas movement, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Jihadists, Brotherhood [members] and other criminals” to break out of jails. Morsi insisted to the court that he is a political prisoner, not a detainee. “I am the legitimate president of the country […] and this trial is not legal.” The detainees chanted “Down with military rule,” and “null, null, null.” The judges postponed the trial until February 22 to allow the lawyers enough time to review the case files.
The US embassy has updated their advice to ask US citizens to elevate their level of awareness and limit their movements to the near vicinity of their neighbourhoods. Likewise, they advise overland travel outside metropolitan areas.
Similarly, the UK FCO has urged foreign nationals to be aware of nearby protests and leave the area immediately. Further citizens are urged take particular care in areas with a history of regular protests. On 24 and 25 January, some westerners “were singled out and attacked by some protestors.”