Bomb unlikely to signal militancy resurgence

A bombing that killed a French teenager near a tourist bazaar in Cairo was an unsophisticated attack that is unlikely to signal a wide resurgence of Islamist militancy in Egypt. No group has taken responsibility for Sunday’s bombing, which also wounded 24 people and was the first deadly attack on tourists in Egypt since 2006.But political analysts say they suspect the attack was the work of Egyptians with Islamist sentiments and not a militant group with global reach such as al Qaeda.

“This is the kind of freelance jihad type of operation where people have been radicalised but not necessarily directly through membership in a group,” said Issandr El-Amrani, Egypt and North Africa analyst at the International Crisis Group think tank.

The attack lacked the sophistication of bomb blasts which killed more than 100 people at tourist resorts in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula between 2004 and 2006. The government blamed those on bedouin with Islamist beliefs.

Cabinet spokesman Magdy Rady said the bomb was “very primitive”, and a second device failed to explode. It was too early to cast blame, he said.

Bomb and gun attacks that have hit Cairo sporadically over the years have often been linked to Nile Valley militants. But the largest two such Islamist militant groups in Egypt halted attacks after the killing of dozens of foreign tourists at a pharaonic temple in Luxor in 1997 caused a public outcry.

“I think they are Islamists, Islamist beginners,” said Egyptian political analyst Diaa Rashwan. “We are not facing a kind of organised terrorism… We have instead something inspired, perhaps, from the Internet.”

A suicide attack killed three foreign tourists in the same area in 2005, and Rashwan said that attack could have been a precursor to Sunday’s bombing.

Egypt’s Al-Ahram newspaper said the bombing was probably committed by three or four people.



Political analysts say there is no shortage of issues to motivate people hostile to the Egyptian government, from Cairo’s tight relationship with Washington to tough economic times and Egypt’s enforcement of an Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Al Qaeda often condemns Egypt’s government as a corrupt U.S. puppet and calls for its overthrow. Its Egyptian deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, said last year the Egyptian government was among those imposed by a “Crusader-Zionist campaign”.

Egypt’s Gaza policy has caused public outrage over its unwillingness to open the closed Gaza border for ordinary Palestinians during or after an Israeli offensive that ended on Jan. 18.

“I think the political environment is one dominated by the recent events in Gaza and the stand of the Egyptian government during that time,” said Walid Kazziha, a political science professor at the American University in Cairo.

He said Islamists were not the only possible culprits, and some leftists were also furious over Gaza.

“I would imagine if such a small group is not eliminated very quickly, it could act again,” he said.

The response of Egypt’s security forces is often heavy handed after such attacks. At least 11 people have been detained for questioning.

But experts say even the most effective security could not fully prevent attacks, and that Egypt is not immune to the kind of militant violence seen elsewhere in the region.

“There is no serious political opening. At the same time, also certain aspects of the foreign policy of the regime are not very popular,” said Mustapha al-Sayyed, a Cairo University political science professor.

He said the harsh economic climate did not help.

“I would not be surprised if this kind of act continues. I think it will continue as sporadic acts,” he said.

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