Cairo Shootout Exploits COVID-19 Crisis

North Africa

The gunfire exchange between Egyptian police and a suspected terrorist cell in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, raises concerns that terrorism in the country is rising.

CAIRO: A shootout in El-Amireya neighborhood east of Cairo on Tuesday between police forces and a terrorist cell ended with the death of seven terrorists and one police officer.

The gunfight seems to be part of growing signs that terrorism is on the rise in Egypt.

The first indication of such an increase, according to security expert Hisham Belal, is the timing of the attacks. The Interior Ministry said in a statement that the terrorists were planning to attack during the Christian Coptic holiday celebrations in Egypt, adding that they had procured the necessary weapons. The ministry added that the terrorist cell used several places to hide in east and south Cairo where these venues were used as a launching pad to carry out their operations, coinciding with the Christian holiday.

“The terrorists were planning to exploit the coronavirus crisis, thus signifying that they are mean and vile people who hide behind the veil of religion while they know nothing about religion,” Belal said.

However, Belal added that Egyptian police are on high alert “despite the pandemic we are passing through.” Quick action by national security officers contributed to squashing the operations, he said.

The ministry statement said that the national security sector detected elements of the cell and dealt with them decisively, which resulted in the killing of seven terrorists who were found possessing six rifles, four cartridge guns, and huge amounts of explosives and various types of ammunition.

The statement added that “at a time when the state with all its institutions is battling the coronavirus, it continues to fight terrorism and terrorists who thought that this crisis could help them carry out their criminal acts.”

Egyptian Coptic activist and intellectual, Rober El-Fares, points to other indications that terrorism has recently re-emerged in the country, saying terrorists had returned to target Copts, “something they had stopped in recent years after the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood was toppled in Egypt.”

“They started planning following the dispersal of the Rabaa El-Adaweya sit-in in 2013, when they began attacking churches and monasteries,” El-Fares said. “That same year, they attacked Copts during a wedding in Al-Athraa Church in Cairo’s El-Warraq neighborhood.” Four people, including two girls aged eight and 12 were shot dead, and at least another 18 were injured.

“They continued their attacks by killing priests in northern Sinai, when Daesh slaughtered 21 Copts in Libya (in 2017), in addition to the terrorist attack in December 2016 on St. Peter’s Church in which 29 worshippers were killed.”

Article: Arab News

Image: AFP