Terrorism in Minya, Manchester.. avoidable or inevitable?



Fri, 26 May 2017 - 04:32 GMT


Fri, 26 May 2017 - 04:32 GMT

Manchester and Minya attacks - File photo

Manchester and Minya attacks - File photo

CAIRO – 26 May 2017: Dozens have been killed in Upper Egypt’s Minya as well as Manchester in the U.K. in an active week for terrorist groups. In hopes that possible “dereliction” can be avoided in the future, questions on whether the attack could have been foiled are posed in the aftermath of every atrocity. However, innocent people keep getting killed again and again in a seemingly active year for militants.

A total of 28 people were massacred in a shooting attack on a bus carrying Copts on a Friday trip to the ancient monastery of Coptic Bishop Samuel, and 22 were killed in a suicide bombing in the Manchester arena on Monday.

Questions on possible shortcomings

The anonymous leader of the so-called “Soldiers of the Caliphate in Egypt” said in an interview on May 4 with the Islamic State (IS) group's Al-Naba newspaper on Telegram “we are warning you to stay away from Christian gatherings, as well as the gatherings of the army and the police, and the areas that have political government facilities.”

The group is affiliated with IS, but works outside Sinai, where Wilayat Sinai is active, according to the interview.

On Feb 19, IS released a video saying that Egypt’s Christians are a legitimate and their preferable target. Since then, several extremist online forums, such as the Jihadi Media Platform, Shumukh al-Islam Forum, and Amaq New Agency, have released statements justifying the murder of Egyptian Christians, especially in the past few days. The latest issue of Rumiya magazine, which is released in six languages, including English, also legitimized massacring Christians.

The anti-Copts propaganda, as well as actual attacks on churches not long ago, should not make Friday's attack surprising or a separate incident. On April 9, at least 47 people were killed in IS suicide attacks that struck two Coptic churches in Egypt’s Alexandria and Tanta, and 23 others at a Cairo church in December 2016.

On Friday, the Coptic Church prudently requested “necessary measures to avoid the danger of such incidents that distort the image of Egypt and cause pain among many Egyptians.”

Meanwhile in the U.K., Manchester-born suicide bomber Salman Abedi was known to the British police, albeit as a peripheral figure; hence questions whether they and the domestic security agency MI5 failed to anticipate the attack despite clues. Two months ago, four people were killed in an attack claimed by IS on Westminster Bridge after a car ploughed into pedestrians and policemen.

The British police and MI5 emphasized they have a database of about 3,000 potential people of concern, and only a small number of these can be put under 24-hour physical surveillance and only for a limited number of days or weeks, the Guardian said in a Thursday report.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said she will “lead a discussion on counter-terrorism and on how we will work together to prevent the plotting of terrorist attacks online and to stop the spread of hateful extremist ideology on social media.” Meanwhile, raids are still ongoing to arrest more suspects.

Similarly, Egypt already banned 21 mainly Islamist websites on Wednesday because they “incite violence, hate and spread lies,” but it also launched airstrikes on Derna, Libya, hours after the Minya shooting. President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi said the strikes targeted training camps that train militants on terrorist attacks on Egyptian soil.

Leaked info on Manchester bombing reminiscent of terror in Egypt

Images published by the New York Times show that Abedi had carried a metal box containing “well packed” explosives in a backpack. The explosive device detonated by Abedi had been made with “forethought and care,” leaving investigators trying to find out how and who made the sophisticated bomb.

Remnants of the backpack used in Manchester arena – Photo leaked by New York Times

The explosion was so powerful that the shrapnel of screws and metal nuts penetrated metal doors and left their marks on brick walls, while the bomber’s torso was ripped from the rest of his body and found outside the circle in which most of his victims were killed, according to New York Times.

Metal nut and screw used as shrapnel – Photo leaked by New York Times

Egyptian investigators have dealt with similar bombings earlier, as the description of the bombings and their impact resemble three suicide bombings at Egyptian churches in 2016 and 2017, where Egyptian suicide bombers used explosive devices to be able to enter the churches without raising suspicion.

Only the head and feet of 22-year old suicide bomber Mahmoud Shafiq remained of his entire body after he detonated his explosives at St Mark's Orthodox Cathedral in the Abbassiya area of Cairo Dec. 11, 2016.

It seems, however, that Alexandria’s suicide bomber resorted to plan B, after security ordered Mahmoud Hassan Mubarak to walk through metal detectors outside St Marks Cathedral as he tried to avoid it and enter from the main gate.

CCTV footage from inside the Alexandria church shows Mahmoud Mubarak sent away by the guard

He detonated his explosive belt outside, killing 17 people, including the guard of the church, three female policemen and three male ones, as well as pedestrians. In Tanta, 27 were killed after the bomber managed to enter St George's church.

CCTV footage from outside the Alexandria church shows the suicide bomber detonating his explosive belt next to policewomen

Strong reaction from U.K. over leaks

The valuable information leaked to the New York Times was met with British fury. Indeed, the U.K. has banned sharing information with the U.S. on the Manchester attack.

Possible switch used to detonate the explosive device - Photo leaked by New York Times
The police in the U.K. are angry that the U.S. leaks "sensitive information" as British officers launch dangerous raids in pursuit of terror cells, the Guardian said.

Volt battery that was possible power source - Photo leaked by New York Times

Manchester’s mayor, Andy Burnham, said the leaks were “arrogant and disrespectful.”

A national counter-terrorism policing spokesperson said that when the trust with which London shared the information with the U.S. is breached, it “undermines our investigations and the confidence of victims, witnesses and their families. This damage is even greater when it involves unauthorized disclosure of potential evidence in the middle of a major counter-terrorism investigation,” as quoted by the Guardian.

The Guardian reported Lord Carlile, the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, as saying the “photos of the backpack after the event could be of utility to future bombmakers, for obvious reasons.”

The ban is not only unprecedented, but is a major measure, given it may undermine American efforts to prevent similar attacks directed on U.S. soil, the British newspaper continued.

Egypt voiced very similar concerns when both the U.K. and the U.S. told the media of intelligence shortly after the downing of a Russian plane that had taken off from Sharm el-Sheikh Oct. 31, 2015.

On Nov. 4, 2015, Britain's then-Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said: "We have concluded that there is a significant possibility that the crash was caused by an explosive device on board the aircraft.”

An unnamed U.S. official told AP they reached the "tentative conclusion" after intercepting communications that IS militants had planted bomb on the plane.

"A bomb is a highly possible scenario," another U.S. official told AFP. Back in Egypt, the authorities condemned releasing such information while investigations were still ongoing. Eventually, however, Cairo acknowledged the plane was downed by a bomb.



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