Egypt: opposition crackdown continues

From the Egyptian NGO, Civil Monitors for Human Rights, in Cairo, May 11:

Egyptian Authorities Continue Crackdown on Opposition Today
Continuing in their policy of oppression, the Egyptian authorities are trying to prevent protests which the Egyptian opposition is organizing to support the judges Hisham Bistowissi and Mahmoud Mekki and to condemn the oppressive policies of the Egyptian government.

Security forces surrounded an area in downtown Cairo to the extent that it resembled a military barracks, and so that it appeared there were nearly two hundred vehicles from Central Security present. Security forces prevented citizens from passing through the area, Cairo entrances were closed and all cars appearing to carry protesters were stopped. In addition, a number of activists were arrested immediately upon their arrival in Cairo. The troops struck judges and protesters with sticks to prevent them from reaching the courthouse. Also, the oppressive practices extended to foreign journalists, preventing them from covering the demonstration and the violent practices which the police systematically used against the protestors. Police violence led to the arrests of average citizens who were passing through the neighborhood. Police likewise surrounded demonstrators who had sought protection inside the Fath Mosque in Ramses Square.

News sources reported that the police tried to arrest a foreign reporter and that a security car crashed into another reporter from a foreign agency. Also, a Reuters photographer was beaten and his camera was confiscated, a reporter from the Abu Dhabi was wounded. Eyewitnesses added that they witnessed Security forces take the camera from the Al Jazeera channel and beat the cameraman.

And in Assyut during the protest in front of the courthouse there, which was organized by the Tagammua’ Party, after ten minutes from the beginning of the protest, the security forces attacked and arrested five activists from the party; Assam Shabaan Hassan, Memdouh Magram, Walid Moustafa, Mahmoud Abbas, Halal Abd el Hamid (a reporter from Al Ahaly newspaper).

Up to now, the number of activists arrested is unknown, but sources told the Civil Monitor that a large number have been detained, about 500 were arrested today, including six reporters. It is possible, though, that the number will increase as the Security forces are still combing the streets of downtown Cairo searching for activists.

Civil Monitors for Human Rights Contacts in Cairo:

Office: 202 5317268

Mobile: 20107697540


Some other recent reports on Egypt:

May 5 from Human Rights Watch:

April 28 from Amnesty International:

(via e-mail)

See our last post on Egypt and the Sinai crackdown.

  1. Counter-insurgency in the Sinai
    From the May 11-17 edition of Egypt’s Al-Ahram Weekly:

    Operation mastermind
    On Tuesday police shot dead the man they claim is the mastermind of the group behind Sinai’s suicide bombings and captured his aide, reports Jailan Halawi

    As the manhunt continues for suspects connected with the 24 April triple bombings in the Red Sea resort of Dahab and the two suicide attacks in Al-Arish, security forces shot dead the alleged leader of the group they believe to be behind the wave of terrorist attacks that have rocked the peninsula since October 2004.

    Security sources said Nasser Khamis El-Mallahi was killed in the shootout at Gabal Al-Arish in northern Sinai. Forces cordoned off the mountainous area and captured El-Mallahi’s aide Mohamed Abdallah Elian.

    Both El-Mallahi and Elian appear on the list of 25 suspects issued earlier by Sinai police and believed to be linked to the Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad (Unification and Jihad) group that police say is behind the spate of suicide attacks. According to police reports El-Mallahi, a father of two, took over the leadership of the group from Khaled Mosaad, shot dead by the police last year in Gabal Halal near Al-Arish.

    In October 2004 a triple bombing at the Red Sea resort of Taba killed 34. At the time security forces said the attack was the work of amateurs with no affiliations to any major radical militant groups. It believed that all the attack’s perpetrators had perished in the bombings.

    Less than a year later the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh was hit, leaving 65 dead and scores injured. Once again there were three bombs. While security forces conceded the culprits were linked with the perpetrators of the Taba bombings, they subsequently claimed that all the group members had been killed in confrontations with the police. Such assurances were shown to be hollow when last month three other bombs exploded in the Red Sea resort of Dahab, leaving 19 dead. Then, on 26 April two more suicide bombers attacked a Multinational Forces and Observer (MFO) base in northern Sinai. Investigators subsequently announced that the attacks were carried out by the same group, Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad, and began a painstaking search of the rugged mountains of the peninsula in search of other members.

    Three suspected terrorists and an Egyptian police officer, Major Abdel-Khaleq Nabil Abu Zeid, were killed in clashes between security forces and fugitives on 1 May in the Maghara Mountain area. Two policemen were also wounded, one critically, in the confrontation 60km south of Al-Arish city.

    Three other suspects were shot dead on 30 April in a gun battle in north Sinai. Police said it had identified one of the bodies as Selim Attallah Hussein El-Deuot, a Bedouin from northern Sinai wanted by the police in connection with the October 2004 Taba and July 2005 Sharm El-Sheikh bombings.

    On 6 May security forces announced the identities of four alleged suspects, three killed in confrontations with the police and one who blew himself up close to an MFO vehicle on 26 April.

    The three suspects killed on 1 May were named as Eid Salama El-Tirawi, alias Salah, an Al-Azhar student who allegedly led the Sharm El-Sheikh attacks and stole the vehicles used in the bombings, Mounir Mohamed Moharib, alias Hassan, from Al-Sheikh Zuweid village, suspected of helping plan the Sharm El-Sheikh attacks, and Suleiman Salma El-Hamdin, wanted in connection with drug trafficking, and allegedly one of the group’s key figures. El-Hamdin is thought to have been instrumental in setting up the group and was among those taking part in last year’s gun battle in Gabal Halal that left the group’s then leader, Mosaad, dead. The man involved in the Al-Arish attacks was identified as Ahmed Hamadi Abu Geel, also from Al-Sheikh Zuweid village.

    While family members of the suspects have identified the corpses, police are waiting for forensic confirmation.

    Sources close to the investigations say the Dahab attackers — new recruits with no security record — used explosive belts and intended to maximise casualties by targeting the beachfront promenade.

    On Tuesday Israel issued a security warning urging all its nationals to leave the Sinai Peninsula “immediately”. General Mohamed Hani Metwali, governor of South Sinai, denied Israel had notified Egypt of the possibility of the attacks prior to the incidents, describing Israeli travel warnings as “routine” measures issued prior to all Egyptian national holidays.

    In the wake of the 24 April attacks an undisclosed number of suspects have been detained for questioning though no charges have yet been pressed. Among those detained in Dahab are three Egyptian computer engineers reportedly carrying forged papers. They arrived in the resort a day before the bombings and attempted to leave an hour after the attacks.

    The Dahab bombings came a day before Sinai Liberation Day, the national holiday marking Israel’s 1982 withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula, and a day after Saudi dissident Osama Bin Laden had issued a call to Muslims to support Al-Qaeda in fighting what he described as “a war against Islam”.

    Many political analysts argue the security apparatus’s zero tolerance of any form of dissent is partly responsible for the continuing attacks since it closes any avenues towards legitimate political action, leaving the young and frustrated vulnerable to recruitment by extremist groups.

    Yeah, no kidding.