Egypt’s Bombings
Egypt’s Bombings
Thursday, March 5,2009 01:11
By Amr Taha*

The recent blast in Khan Al-Khalili next to the historic Al-Hussein Mosque, which killed a French student and injured roughly 20 tourists, seemed to conceal more than it revealed when it comes to Egypt"s internal political and social dimensions.

With many specialists, as well as Egypt"s security agencies, rushed into imputing the explosion to "Islamic groups" or small-scale terrorist cells importing trans-national "extremist ideologies", the explosion was too simple and unsophisticated to claim that a wide resurgence of militant "Islamic" groups could be expected— a claim so mush resonated in state-owned media.

Three years after Sharm El Sheikh blast in 2005 and Dahab blast in 2006, Egypt has yet to face another type of blasts carried out by individuals unrelated to organized groups or organizations with unknown objectives.

Although the blast should not been over-framed and over-focused as its scale and scope was very minimal compared to previous ones, it should not be either downsized as the blast itself signifies another ticking bomb of Egypt"s social and political unrest that could explode at any time with much more destruction."s Politics in Depth has interviewed Major General, Dr. Zakariya Hussein, professor of strategic sciences at Alexandria University and the former president of the Egyptian Institution of Military Research to shed some light on the political and social undertones of Khan Al-Khalili blast. (IOL): Regarding the availability of making bombs, to what extent are such techniques available to individuals and do you think that there was a certain organized group behind the recent explosion in Al-Hussein?

Dr. Zakariya Hussein: There was no organization, and I do not want to over focus or over-politicize the issue, because the bomb and the operation were very primitive as anyone who surfs the internet can easily get information on how to make explosives and bombs. These bombs, like those used in Al-Hussein, were made of some components of TNT with some nails in a copper-made box or can. It was very primitive and needed no effort, planning, coordination, technology, or financial costs.

IOL: What is the difference between Khan Al-Khalili blast and Sharm El Sheikh bombings in 2005?

Dr. Zakariya Hussein: The recent explosion in Al-Hussein was too simple and primitive to be compared to other operations that happened in Taba or Sharm El Sheikh three years ago. Taba and Sharm El Sheikh explosions were highly planned and organized.

The perpetrators of Taba and Sharm El Sheikh bombings had well-defined objectives and really knew the best circumstances for them to hit. They carried out the explosions with highly-advanced explosive devices.

The recent explosion in Al-Hussein, quite the contrary, was just an unorganized outcry that aimed to deliver a massege against governmental oppressive policies, new traffic law, rising prices, the proposed law of Thanwiya-Amma (Egypt"s high school degree), and the like.

Unfortunately, even the opposition in the People"s Assembly, which is spearheaded by 100 deputies, is to no avail, so the government passes laws without listening to the opposition.

IOL: Does the type of the explosive device (bomb, detonator, grenade, and the like) tells something about the ability and the strength of the perpetrators?

Dr. Zakariya Hussein: Sure, the size of the bomb (explosive device), the way it is made, its design, its destructive ability, and the planning of the explosion tell much about the group, or the individual that made such a bomb. The bomb used in the recent explosion was very primitive, very cheap, and made by an individual or individuals.

IOL: Recently, Egypt has been trapped in a political and social quagmire with rising social unrests, internal political turbulences, corruption, and Egypt"s much-questioned regional foreign policy. How far could this political and social turmoil produce individuals who are adopting such destructive and terrorist methods? And, how do you think their ability to carry out further destructive actions?

Dr. Zakariya Hussein: There is a rising disappointment among the Egyptian people because of the governmental policies of continuously imposing increasing taxes on people, using law to deter the government"s opponents, and using oppressive measures, like strengthening punishments for simple demeanors.

The government ignores the Egyptian people"s demands, strikes, and voices. In statistics released in 2008, there were 280 strikes and sit-ins carried out by roughly all segments of the Egyptian society without any serious response from the government, except in rare cases.

In coordination with the People"s Assembly, which presumably represents the people at least in theory, yet is dominated by the ruling National Democratic Party, the government is continuing its policy of sidelining and ignoring people"s demands.

Both are making and fabricating laws with no concern for the social dimension of the Egyptian society. This is a kind of a continuing policy of deterring people.

Perhaps, the recent explosion in Al-Hussein could be a direct consequence of such governmental policies. It could be a method to deliver people"s calls and needs relentlessly ignored by the government.

IOL: Some experts and commentators have pointed their fingers at certain regional forces that are at odds with Egypt"s foreign policy in the Middle East, especially during the Israeli war against Gaza. Do you agree with them about such accusations that external forces (like Iran, Hamas, Syria, or even Israel) are behind such kind of attacks?

Dr. Zakariya Hussein: If we assume that Iran, Hamas, or any of those big organizations want to inflict destruction on Egypt, they would by no means sink to the level of using primitive explosives that just destroy within a range of 30 cm cyclic diameter.

So, it is far from reality that these countries are standing behind the recent operation in Al-Hussein: This is an over-politicization of the explosion which was not more than a kind of desperate people"s outcry who found no means to express their voices except by violence, which we all denounce as innocent people should not be targeted at all.

Most of Egypt"s intellectuals affirmed the fact that this explosion in Al-Hussein was a popular outcry. If a certain country is behind such an explosion, it will infiltrate the Egyptian national security apparatus and then strike deep the country.

IOL: As it was the case before, the government and state-owned media always announce that Egypt"s security apparatus is able to track suspects and control the situation. However, we see the reoccurrence of such operations. Do you think that the government tries to cover up its failure of putting an end to such explosions?

Dr. Zakariya Hussein: There is no government on earth, even the United States, the United Kingdom, or France, that can prevent a citizen or a group of individuals from carrying out such operations. Even, Israel— with its high-technology security capacities— failed to stop Palestinians and Hizbollah"s fighters from infiltrating Israel, carrying out operations, and taking Israeli hostages.

Whatever are the capabilities of any advanced security apparatus, it is impossible to prevent such actions or even deter people.

IOL: Do you think that such kind of popular resentment will be in a wider scale in case the government fails to meet people"s needs?

Dr. Zakariya Hussein: Most of those who truly love Egypt recognize the fact that the ongoing governmental policies of impoverishing people will not bode well for the nation.

Using crackdown to deter people, marginalizing wide segments of the Egyptian society, and raising prices without considering social justice, equality, and people"s mediocre income will inevitably— in case the government does not rethink its policies— lead to a social explosion.

One of the most-respected intellectuals who really loves and cares about Egypt commented that "they (the government officials) are speeding up fueling the fire". Naturally, all these social and political pressures will end up with social explosions at some time in the future.

IOL: So, Do you think that these disgruntled people will someday absorb a revolutionary ideological or political ideas?

Dr. Zakariya Hussein: All scenarios are possible as long as oppression, marginalization of people, absence of just laws, and the existence of what is called the marriage of the government with wealthy businessmen remain the main features of Egypt"s life, which spawns amounting political and social tensions.

And, had not these tensions been absorbed by the government through rethinking its policies and stopping marginalizing the Egyptian people, the current tension would lead to unthinkable, dangerous repercussions.

I reiterate again that out of their deep concern about this nation, many intellectuals warned that these governmental policies will lead to grave repercussions, even an uncontrollable social and political outburst.

The Egyptian people currently face unprecedented problems unparalleled to any in the past, even during Egypt"s wars, because today an Egyptian citizen is not able to even buy a loaf of bread.

Actually, this is a clear proof that these current governmental policies are against Egypt"s national security. So, there must be a wide social dialogue inclusive of all segments of the Egyptian people, and all of those who love Egypt— among them are those who plan Egypt"s policies— shall rethink how to absorb people"s needs.

Finally, I want to streets upon the point that we shall resort to objective analysis and not rush into accusing "Islamist groups" whenever there is an attack. We shall direct our attention towards solving the problem facing the Egyptian people. If not, then again "they are speeding up fueling the fire".

*Amr Taha is a staff writer for the Politics in Depth section of A graduate of the American University in Cairo, he holds a BA in political science with a specialization in international law and international relations.