London, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Egyptian government approved a new anti-terrorism law late Thursday, in the wake of a terrorist attack outside Cairo University on Wednesday.
A government statement confirmed that the counter-terrorism law had been amended as it went through the house, and that it had been referred to interim president Adly Mansour for ratification. No specific details about the amendments were released.
The cabinet issued a statement saying that “terrorist operations, which have escalated recently in an attempt to derail the [post-June 30 transitional] roadmap, will not succeed in achieving their malicious objectives. The heroes of the armed forces and police, and behind them the great Egyptian people, are standing ready to deter any terrorist acts.”
The law increases the punishment for terrorism-related crimes and expands the scope of crimes that fall into this category.
By early Friday, local media were circulating unconfirmed reports that the amendments called for the death penalty for any person convicted of terrorism-related crimes, in addition to expanding the powers of security officers to enforce counter-terrorism laws. The law also reportedly also mandates harsher prison sentences for those found guilty of the crime of promoting terrorist organizations, including on the Internet.
Cairo University, the scene of Wednesday’s terror attack, has since approved the deployment of police on campus for the first time in four years. The university’s Board of Governors issued a statement pledging the university administration’s complete support for the increased security measures, imploring students and staff members to recognize the “exceptional” circumstances.
A new group calling itself “Agnad Misr” (Soldiers of Egypt) has claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attacks. The group said it was targeting police “criminals” who had carried out a “massacre,” an apparent reference to the government crackdown on Islamists following the ouster of President Mohamed Mursi last July.