Egypt Extends State of Emergency for Three Months

Cairo– Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has issued an order extending the state of emergency for another three months, starting Friday.

The decision, which was published in the Official Gazette on Thursday, stated: “The armed and police forces shall take the necessary measures to confront the dangers of terrorism and its financing, to maintain security throughout the country, to preserve public and private property and to protect the lives of citizens.”

Egypt first imposed the state of emergency in April after two church bombings killed at least 45 people. It was then extended in July for a further three months.

Constitutional Jurist Rajai Attieh, member of the National Council for Combating Terrorism and Extremism, told Asharq al-Awsat that Thursday’s decision was a new announcement of the state of emergency, not an extension of the previous one, in compliance with a constitutional provision that prevents the extension of an emergency state more than once, but allows the President to re-declare emergency state after the expiry of the extension period.

According to the Egyptian Constitution, the declaration of a state of emergency for a specified period shall not exceed three months, and shall be extended only one time for a similar period, after the approval of two-thirds of the members of Parliament.

Attieh stressed that Egypt was facing a real war and was fighting foreign and local terrorist elements not only in the Sinai but also in Cairo, the Delta and all Egyptian governorates.

He noted in this regard that the war on terrorism was a strong reason to declare a state of emergency, which is “indisputably necessary to secure Egyptian national security.”

Egypt has been witnessing sporadic terrorist acts, especially in northern Sinai. Those have increased over the past four years, following the ousting of former president Mohammed Morsi in 2013, who belongs to the “banned” Muslim Brotherhood organization.

Three Arab Candidates in the Race for UNESCO Chief Selection

A view shows the headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris

Cairo- Three Arab candidates sit for the selection of UNESCO’s top post holder. Egyptian human rights activist Moushira Khattab, Lebanese lecturer in International Law at the Sorbonne School of Law Vera El Khoury Lacoeuilhe, and Qatari diplomat Hamad Bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari, next to four other candidates are being reviewed for the position of UNESCO’s new chief.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s executive board is choosing a new leader to replace departing director Irina Bokova.

Affiliated sources revealed on Sunday that Egypt’s Khattab, who also served as the Minister of Family & Population of Egypt, receives wide-reaching support from African, Arab, and Mediterranean Sea countries.

A career US-educated diplomat, Khattab’s biggest achievement was campaigning in the 1990s for women’s rights as a top aide to the country’s first lady at the time, Suzanne Mubarak. She also served as chairwoman of the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood and was one of the main architects of legislation prohibiting the marriage of underage girls and female genital circumcision.

She also served as family and housing minister under President Hosni Mubarak, ousted in a 2011 popular uprising.

However, there are fears that Arab votes will be broken in favor of other candidates, notably former French nominee and former culture minister Audrey Azoulay.

Azoulay is the first French nominee seeking UNESCO’s position for chief, mixing up the cards a little.

On the other hand, no Arab candidate has ever secured this high position throughout the organization’s history.

Egypt has hinted at efforts to buy the votes of members in the elections.

“Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, who is in Paris to follow up on the elections, confirmed his confidence that UNESCO will choose its new director in a fair manner … and that it is difficult to buy them as other elections were bought,” foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said.
Zeid’s remarks were in reference to Qatar’s victory in winning the hosting job for the 2022 World Cup.

Voting by UNESCO’s executive board starts Monday and continues through the week. Among the leading candidates is Qian Tang of China.

It is worth noting that the US has also paused funding for the organization along with Israel, once former UNESCO Director-General Bokova allowed for the 2011 members’ vote to make Palestine a member of the organization.

Egypt’s Interior Minister: ‘Our Forces Lead the Fight against Terrorism’

Cairo- Egyptian Interior Minister Lieutenant-General Majdi Abdul Ghaffar said his country is engaged in a fierce and unprecedented fight with terrorism, stressing “the police have taken the lead and succeeded in the past in carrying out pre-emptive attacks.”

Meanwhile, an Egyptian court has sentenced two members of the Muslim Brotherhood to five and 10 years in prison after being convicted of acts of violence south of Cairo.

Since the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, Egypt has witnessed a wave of violence and bombings, usually targeting military and police elements, particularly in the northern Sinai province.

Egyptian authorities hold the Muslim Brotherhood, which is officially classified as a terrorist group, responsible for violent acts in the country, in addition to other extremist organizations that the authorities say are linked to the Brotherhood, most notably Ansar Beit al-Maqdis in Sinai and the Hasm movement, which has recently claimed responsibility for armed operations in Cairo and the Nile Delta.

During his meeting Sunday at the police academy with a number of new officers, Abdul Ghaffar said “Egypt is engaged in a fierce and unprecedented battle with terrorism, which seeks in various ways to undermine the stability of the state.”

The minister reviewed with the officers the current security situation.

He pointed out that police had a national duty to eliminate terrorism along with members of the armed forces.

The minister stressed the need to preserve the efforts aimed at enhancing stability and developing measures to confront the dangers of terrorism and crime in all their forms.

He warned of “the spread of extremism and terrorism, especially with the modern means of communication, and exploiting them in the falsification of youth awareness.”

He also urged the necessity to understand security plans put forth to avoid terrorist threats, especially in light of the current challenges and the increasing dangers that threaten the stability of the region, and the attempt by terrorist elements to exploit the status quo to commit acts of violence with the aim of destabilizing not only the region but the whole world.

Egypt Sentences Morsi to 25 Years in Jail


Cairo – An Egyptian court sentenced ousted President of Muslim Brotherhood Mohammed Morsi to 25 years in prison on Saturday in a final ruling over a case accusing him of espionage for Qatar.

Originally, Morsi was sentenced to 40 years, but Egypt’s Court of Cassation reduced the sentence to 25 years in its final ruling.

Morsi was overthrown following mass public protests in July 2013 against his one-year rule.

The defendants in the case include Morsi’s head of office Ahmed Abdul Ati and his secretary Amin al-Sherafy and 11 others. Four were tried in absentia.

The defendants were charged with endangering national security by leaking state secrets and sensitive documents to Qatar. Many of them worked with the Qatari al-Jazeera channel.

Morsi is already serving a 20-year sentence after being convicted for the killing of protesters during demonstrations in 2012.

The court also upheld death sentences for documentary producer Ahmed Ali Abdo, Egypt Air cabin crew member Mohamed Adel Kilani and university teaching assistant Ahmed Ismail Thabet, as well as a life term and 15 years for two others.

Six defendants previously received death sentences after the Grand Mufti argued that the “crimes of the defendants are similar to that of treason” in which punishment should be death.

Morsi faced three other sentences and is still standing trial in a case where he and others are charged of insulting the judiciary. He received both a death sentence and a life imprisonment sentence in two other trials.

Seven of the defendants were staffers of al-Jazeera, Egypt 25 and Rased channel. They are charged with espionage and directly cooperating with Qatari intelligence services as well as providing Qatar authorities with confidential documents. The court also ruled that these documents had been released from the president’s office with the knowledge of his secretary and other officials.

In other news, an Egyptian court sentenced seven people to death for being members of the ISIS terrorist group. They are charged for the beheading of 21 Christians in Libya.

Of the seven defendants, three were sentenced to death in absentia, while an unspecified number of those condemned were accused of taking part in the beheadings.

Egypt’s Mufti will review the death sentences although his verdict is not legally binding.

Prosecutors accused the seven suspects of forming an ISIS cell in Marsa Matruh, northwest Egypt, and of planning attacks after having received military training at militant camps in Libya and Syria.

Rulings are to be issued on November 25 against 13 others on trial in the same case.

Egypt: Committee to Determine Responsible Party for Alexandria Trains Collision

Cairo- Public prosecutor Nabil Sadek formed a committee on Saturday that encompasses specialists from the army and the administrative authority to determine the responsible party for the terrible collision of Alexandria trains, which caused casualties.

Security and technical sources said that a human fault is likely to have made trains change tracks.

Two trains collided in Egypt’s coastal city of Alexandria on Friday, killing 41 people and injuring more than 132 others, a Health Ministry spokesman said.

Following the accident, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi promised to hold accountable those responsible for the disaster and that the state will deploy all its potentials to provide full care for the injured.

A statement by the Egyptian Public Prosecution – issued on Saturday – mentioned that a committee was formed following the order of Nabil Sadek to prepare a full report on the disaster. The committee will inspect the incident site to evaluate the condition of the railways and semaphores based on the agreed-upon conditions and standards as well as check the trains’ themselves.

Alexandria Public Prosecution commenced DNA tests for the corpses found in the site and reviewed medical reports of the injured in hospitals — it also listened to testimonies.

Health ministry spokesman Khaled Moujahed announced that most of the patients checked out the hospitals while 53 others are still receiving treatment.

66 on Trial on Charges of Forming ISIS Branch in Upper Egypt


Cairo – The trial of 66 suspects on charges of forming an armed group in Egypt kicked off at a criminal court on Tuesday.

The suspects, who are affiliated with the ISIS terrorist organization, were seeking to form a branch of the group in Upper Egypt.

They were plotting to stage attacks against Christians and security forces, said the prosecution.

ISIS had formally announced its presence in Egypt with the formation of the Ansar Beit al-Maqdis group that swore allegiance to the terrorist organization in November 2014. It has announced its responsibility for several terror attacks, the majority of which were carried out in northern Sinai.

Tuesday’s case involved 43 suspects held in custody, while the rest are still at large. They include two women, who are suspected of funding the group.

The charges against the suspects include forming, leading and joining an organization that was established in violation of the law for the purpose of obstructing the constitution and state institutions and hindering public authorities from carrying our their duties.

They are accused of violating the personal freedom of citizens and harming national unity and social peace.

The suspects permitted the shedding of Christian blood and targeting of public establishments in order to topple the state and destabilize public order.

They knowingly resorted to terrorism to achieve their goals, said the prosecution.

In addition, they are charged with the possession of arms, manufacturing of explosives and preparation to commit terrorist acts.

One of the suspects, Mustafa Abdul Aal, is charged with forming eight cluster cells linked to the terrorist group. The cells were located in the districts of Cairo, Giza, Kafr al-Sheikh, Bani Sweif, al-Minya and Aswan.

The prosecution added that all members of the cell had pledged their allegiance to ISIS and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

A number of the detainees had confessed that leaders of the organization had provided them with the necessary financial support to set up training camps on the use of weapons and explosives.

Any ruling against the suspects can be appealed.

40 Takfirists Killed in North Sinai in One Week

A protester runs after setting fire to a car during clashes with police in front of the Security Administrative building in Alexandria.

Cairo- Cairo Criminal Court has sentenced one of the Egyptians returning from Syria to 25 years in prison on Tuesday after being convicted of joining ISIS and fighting in its ranks.

Meanwhile, the same court also sentenced 43 activists to life in prison in a retrial of anti-government protesters who clashed with authorities in January 2011 in the case that was dubbed by local media “Cabinet clashes,” a reference to the Cabinet building where the unrest occurred.

Sherif El Sayyed El Shishtawy, known as “Abou Soheib” was sentenced to life in prison for joining the terrorist organization “ISIS” in Syria from April 2013 to May 2015, received military training and participated in attacks that did not target Egypt.

Dozens of extremist Egyptians headed to Syria during the rule of former President Mohamed Morsi in 2012 to fight with extremist organizations against Bashar al-Assad ruling.

Based on its own investigation, The Soufan Group, which is directed by a former FBI agent, has calculated that between 27,000 and 31,000 people have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS and other violent extremist groups from at least 86 countries; 850 of them were from Egypt.

As the fighting in Syria continued, with little achievement, many of these fighters returned to their countries of origin, posing a security threat to Egypt, which feared they would carry out terrorist acts inside the country.

In another case, the Egyptian criminal court sentenced 43 activists to life in prison (25 years). The 43 defendants had been charged with rioting, vandalism and attacking security forces during clashes with police and the army in Cairo in December 2011, in which at least 17 people were killed and almost 2,000 were wounded.

The defendants were also fined more than 17 million Egyptian pounds ($948,661) combined for vandalizing public property during the clashes.

Nine others were sentenced to 10 years in prison and one to five years, while 92 were acquitted.

The same court previously sentenced 230 people to life in prison in the same case in February 2015, with 39 minors sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.

All defendants were sentenced in absentia, with the exception of activist Ahmed Douma, who was present during the trial as he was serving another sentence at the time.

In this context, spokesman of the Egyptian army Colonel Tamer Rifai announced Tuesday the results of the confrontations between the armed forces and the extremist groups in northern Sinai over the past week.

He said that armed forces managed to “kill 40 Takfiri elements and arrested five others in addition to destroying 52 terrorist hotbeds through successful air raids in al-Arish and Rafah cities in Northern Sinai over the past 7 days.”

“They also destroyed 20 vehicles of different types and four motorcycles used by Takfiri elements,” Rifai added.

El-Sisi: No Tolerance with those Funding Terrorists


Cairo- In an assertion that no lenience will be shown in the crisis with Qatar and the list of Arab demands delivered by the Quartet States to Doha, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said on Saturday that his country would show no tolerance with those funding terrorism.

“Terrorism will not be eliminated unless countries that finance it are held accountable. It is impossible to tolerate those countries financing terrorism with billions of dollars, leading to the killing of our citizens, while boasting about the rights of brothers and neighbors,” el-Sisi said.

The Egyptian president was speaking Saturday at al-Hammam City during the inauguration of Mohamed Naguib military base, which is located at the western border with Libya.

The ceremony was attended by an array of prominent Gulf and Arab figures, including Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Emir of the Holy Mecca Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, Crown Prince of Bahrain Salman Bin Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifah and Commander of the Libyan National Army General Haftar Khalifa.

El-Sisi said in his speech that patience has long-drawn-out regarding the role of some countries and parties in sponsoring and financing terrorism.

“To those countries we say that the blood of innocent people is expensive, and what you are doing will not go unpunished,” the president said, adding: “You will not be able to undermine Egypt or our brothers in the region.”

Last month, the Arab Quartet including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE, cut their diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism and building closer ties with Iran.

El-Sisi said the new Mohamed Naguib military base embodies the advanced level reached by the Egyptian Armed Forces that could now compete with the most modern military bases in the world.

Participants later attended an aerial show of the French-made Rafale aircraft, followed by a presentation of two separate American-made F-16 models.

Egypt Raises Security Alert following Terrorist Attacks


Cairo – Egyptian security forces increased its security measures during the last few hours in an attempt to end the series of terrorist attacks inflicting the country over the past couple of weeks.

Egyptian army killed on Sunday nine militants which it described as “extremely dangerous” in central Sinai and destroyed a number of ammunition storehouses belonging to them.

In response, Minister of Interior Magdy Abdul Ghaffar ordered his aides to increase their security measures especially around churches and public facilities and areas.

Dozens of soldiers, police officers and foreigners were killed and injured during the past few days during terrorist attacks at resorts in the north of Sinai, al-Giza and al-Ghardaqah. The attacks occurred as Egypt has a declared state of emergency since last April.

A highly informed security commander told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the increase in terrorist attacks in the country recently is due to Egypt’s boycott of relations with Qatar.

He added that terrorist groups increased their attacks after Qatar and its relations with these groups have been exposed. Recent investigations with terrorists apprehended revealed they have contact with Doha.

Earlier last month, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, and Bahrain cut their ties with Doha for supporting and financing extremists organizations in the region, primarily the “banned” Muslim Brotherhood.

Dozens of people had been enrolled on the list of terrorists for their relations with Qatar.

Armed Forces Spokesman Tamer al-Rifai said that the forces killed three militants and arrested another, in addition to destroying a vehicle and five depots containing ammunition and explosives, in central Sinai.

He added that the troops of field army forces managed to destroy a vehicle loaded with large amounts of explosives and killed six armed extremists at a mountainous area in central Sinai.

On Egypt’s western border with Libya, warplanes attacked and destroyed 15 four-wheel-drive vehicles carrying weapons, ammunition, and contraband.

The Egyptian air forces destroyed on Sunday the 15 vehicles before they infiltrated into Egypt, raising the number of such destroyed vehicles since May to 42. The air strikes took place following intelligence revealed that criminal subjects were gathering to sneak into Egypt.

Cairo Security Chief Khaled Abdel Aal made on Sunday surprise inspection visits to several churches in the Egyptian capital, included the tour of Cathedral in Abassia, ordering maximum security to prevent possible terror attacks.

Aal inspected the security measures taken to protect the churches and deployed security forces around Cairo.

Aal mandated bomb disposal experts to continuously comb the areas around churches across Cairo to achieve the highest level of security. He also ordered the Rapid Deployment Forces to go on patrols around the capital, and mandated the criminal investigation services to increase surveillance by using the cameras in churches.

In related news, Chief of Staff of the Egyptian Armed Forces Lt-Gen Mahmoud Hijazi emphasized Sunday the importance of boosting coordination between his country and the US to support security and stability in the Middle East, and counter terrorism.

Egypt’s Chief of Staff Mahmoud Hegazy made the remarks during a meeting with the Commanding General of US Army Central Michael Garrett, in which they discussed further military cooperation between the two countries.

Garett expressed his aspirations towards boosting joint work with Egypt at all levels to better serve the mutual interests of both nations.

Both sides also tackled cooperation including joint exercises, exchanging expertise and enhancing combat and technical capabilities of the armed forces.

Egyptian President Calls for Confronting Terrorism-Sponsoring States


Cairo – Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi stated that Egypt is exerting all efforts to provide for refugees in the country, stressing the need to put an end to conflicts that are displacing millions in the region, especially in Libya and Syria.

Sisi, who arrived in the Hungarian capital Budapest on Monday to attend a summit by the Visegrad Group, said during a meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Orban that Cairo’s ongoing fight against terrorism guarantees Europe’s security and stability. He stated the importance of confronting terrorism-sponsoring states to stop their support.

The two leaders held a press conference following their meeting during which Orban expressed his country’s respect and appreciation for Egypt’s war on terrorism. He said Europe should help preserve the political and economic stability of Egypt in return for its counter terrorism efforts.

Sisi meanwhile stressed that Egypt does not discriminate based on religion and that maintaining the safety of all citizens is one of the key duties of the state.

The president reiterated the importance of reaching a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which should play a pivotal role in resolving crises in the region.

The Visegrad Group summit is a cultural and political alliance of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. It was formed in 2011 with the goal of increasing cooperation between those countries.

Earlier, a court in Egypt sentenced 80 people to life in prison and 34 to 15 years in jail. One minor was sentenced to 10 years and 21 people were acquitted.

The defendants are accused of the “Kerdasa incident” which saw gunmen fire rocket-propelled grenades at a police station on August 14, 2013, and slit a policeman’s throat before burning the building down.

The incident occurred hours after security forces forcibly dispersed a supporters of ousted President Mohemmed Morsi in Cairo and Giza, killing hundreds of protesters and security forces.

Egypt’s highest criminal and civil court, ordered a retrial of the 156 who are in custody. Egypt’s legal system allows the defendants a second and final appeal following Sunday’s verdict.