Abu Ishaq al-Masri and Abu al Bar’a al Masri. These are the code names of the two jihadist suicide bombers responsible for the massacre of 44 Coptic Egyptians on Sunday in two churches in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria.
They had fought in Syria in the name of the caliph of the Islamic State, al Baghdadi. The Al Arabiya network presented their description as educated and middle aged. Abu Ishaq, the attacker near the Church of St. Mark in Alexandria, Egypt, was a native of Manyat al Kamh, a town north of Cairo, where he graduated in economics and business. The other suicide bomber, Abu al Bar’a, responsible for the massacre in the Mar Girgis church in Tanta, was a native of the village of Abu Tabl, also in northern Egypt, and had a degree in crafts. He was married and the father of three children.
They did not hesitate to kill 44 fellow countrymen just because they were Christians.
The recent massacres have deeply affected the Coptic minority, already the target of a serious attack last December at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo that left 29 dead. On Monday, many shouted their anger during the preparations for the funeral of the victims. “We are helpless,”protesting friends and relatives of the dead and wounded declared to newspapers and local TV stations. “No one protects us. The authorities do not implement serious security measures.”
The fear is having the upper hand. Not even the larger cities like Cairo and the main Egyptian cities seem to offer a safe haven anymore. In recent months, hundreds of Christian families from Sinai moved there, escaping the threat of the local ISIS branch — formerly Ansar Beit el Maqdes — which in fact took control of northern Sinai in spite of the proclamations of “battles won against terrorists” issued by general Mustafa al Razaz, head of the local military command.
Last month, the Caliphate circulated a 20-minute video referring to the attack in December. It threatens all Copts. A masked man says to the camera: “You, crusaders of Egypt, this operation that has hit in your temple is only the first, and will be followed by other operations, if God allows. You are our first goal and our favorite fishing.” Between January and February, seven Christian Copts were killed in El Arish, the capital of the Sinai, and the government has not taken any concrete steps to protect the Christian community in the peninsula.
Sunday evening, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi declared a state of emergency for three months, to “protect” and “preserve” the country. The announcement also aimed to report to the Vatican that the regime is able to ensure the security conditions necessary for the visit of Pope Francis to Egypt, which is expected later this month. The Pope confirmed his trip to Egypt, earning the approval of the highest Christian and Muslim religious representatives.
Immediately after el-Sisi’s announcement, the Ministry of Defense deployed thousands of troops and armored vehicles to defend the “vital facilities and infrastructure” of all sensitive targets. The exceptional measures expand further the powers of the dictator. He will be able to assign civilian cases to security courts and block the verdicts of the courts themselves, order the monitoring of communications and correspondence, impose censorship on the press and allow the seizure of private property.
Already on Monday the government confiscated al Bawaba newspaper. Even though the daily openly supports the regime, in an editorial about the attacks, the director had accused Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar of negligence. The president will also order the closure of factories and impose a curfew for an undetermined period of time.
El-Sisi explained the state of emergency as an urgent and necessary measure to combat terrorism, but it offers to the regime new weapons to gag opponents and dissidents. “It is clear that these measures are not meant to stop terrorism,” Gamal Eid, human rights activist and director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, told il manifesto. The organization has defended numerous opponents of the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak and the current regime.
“A terrorist determined to carry out a suicide attack cannot be stopped by these emergency laws, which, however, appear to have been designed especially for hitting opponents,” added Eid, stressing that in Egypt, human rights violations are “systematic” and increasing. ”This is the country where a president [Mubarak] responsible for crimes against his people was set free, and where an ordinary citizen can be jailed for years just for taking part in a demonstration. The current system is a continuation of Mubarak’s.”
Eid commented on the unsatisfactory investigation into the brutal murder of Giulio Regeni, which most observers believe was carried out by the Egyptian security services. “Unfortunately, things are going as we expected. We had no hope that they would proceed differently,” he said, adding, “I still want to reassure Giulio Regeni’s family that the centers on human rights in Egypt have not given up and will keep seeking the truth to the best of their ability. We are sure that one day, hopefully soon, Giulio Regeni can have justice.”
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