Egyptian president rallies foreign allies as violence increases
Outlawed Muslim Brotherhood goes on attack ahead of March elections
Egyptian relatives of the members of security forces killed in North Sinai province during an attack arrive at Cairo military airport in Egypt. Photograph: Mohamed El-Shahed/AFP/Getty Images
The highways between town and Cairo’s international airport were yesterday flanked with posters welcoming Russian president Vladimir Putin, visiting at the invitation of Egyptian president Abdel- Fattah El-Sisi. Policemen in uniform and plain clothes were deployed every few metres along the traffic-clogged roadways. Sisi cannot afford any incident threatening his friend from the frozen north.
Sisi has been reassured in telephone conversations with Saudi, Bahraini, Kuwaiti and Emirati rulers that the Gulf states will continue providing financial, energy and moral support for cash-strapped and fuel-poor Egypt while it battles Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, now the Sinai province of the Islamic State (IS), as well as other jihadi groups supporting the Muslim Brotherhood’s campaign to destabilise Egypt.
Across the country, policemen have been shot dead and explosives have targeted rail tracks and electricity pylons.
The most serious incident was the February 5th attack at the coastal town of al-Arish in restive northern Sinai, in which 24 soldiers, 14 civilians and six policemen were killed. This well-planned operation by the local IS branch was only one in a series of high-profile strikes.
Commentators fear an increase in violence against civilians as well as attacks on troops and police as Egypt enters its parliamentary election campaign ahead of the March 21st-22nd vote.
Following the ousting of President Mohamed Morsi, a Brotherhood stalwart, and the outlawing of the movement, one Egyptian analyst said that its members would organise underground, shun politics, or join other groups.
He said the underground would divide into two or more factions. Some would try to maintain the Brotherhood’s traditional constituencies, while others would wreak vengeance.
Since virtually the whole Brotherhood leadership has been arrested over the past 18 months, these factions and some individuals appear to be operating without central direction. Consequently, the violent factions do not seem to reflect a common policy.
They appear to be motivated by local pro-Brotherhood preachers and political figures who constantly raise the call to battle, as well as broadcasts from outside Egypt.
Egypt has managed to close down local radio and television stations broadcasting incitement, though not those based outside the country.
Cairo has issued an arrest warrant for the most popular tele-preacher, Qatar-based Youssef al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian said to be the Brotherhood’s current ideologue.
“Embassies and diplomats must leave Egypt by February 28th and tourists must cancel their trips,” the statement said. “They are not welcome in the land of Egypt.”
Violent factions or individuals could take this as a call to arms ahead of a mid-March investors conference as well as the March election.