Problems on hold
The recent Muslim Brotherhood (MB) bombing at the gate of Cairo University, which killed a police officer and injured five policemen, has had the Egyptian street teeming with outrage. Only this time the outrage is not only directed against the terrorists but is largely against the failure of the security apparatus to abort terrorism before it got out of hand.
This is not the first time I write against the disastrously inadequate security policy, scandalously exposed by the relentless terrorist operations. When Daqahliya security headquarters was bombed last December, we thought the security apparatus had learnt a hard lesson on defending their premises. It took a mere month later, however, for the terrorists to bomb the Cairo security headquarters. A vehicle carrying a half-ton of explosives was parked next to the building; the driver disembarked, rode another that had parked alongside it, and escaped before detonating the first vehicle. Four men lost their lives, 76 were injured, the security headquarters was wrecked, and the nearby Museum of Islamic Art and National Library suffered irreparable damage. The terrorists executed their assault on the topmost ‘security fortress’ in Egypt unresisted, not a single policeman appeared on the scene or was even aware of what had been taking place.
The terrorist attack ruined the reputation of the Egyptian security apparatus and dealt a fatal blow to its mindset and the terrorism confrontation tactics it employs. It became self-evident that radical changes were needed in the leadership of that apparatus and the mentality according to which its policies are set. But nothing of the sort came by. Is it any surprise then that Egypt continues to live through successive terrorist attacks confronted with increasingly depressive security ineptitude?
I hope the Interior Ministry does not assume that the high price it pays in the lives of its police force can dampen the public wrath against its consistent failure to bring an end to terrorist violence. The police officers and soldiers are first and foremost Egyptian, our brothers and children; we suffer agonising pain when any of them is killed or injured in action. The Interior Ministry is not to exploit the situation to cover up its ineptness or failed policies; it shares with the terrorists the blame of the lost lives since it unnecessarily places its officers and men in the line of fire.
The shabby security performance—frequently described as sloppy, lax, delivered with quivering hands or totally inept—is a luxury the ministry can ill-afford, its price being no less than the lives of our children. This price tag carries with it the spread of an ever-vicious terrorist ‘cancer’ which gravely threatens the lives and quality of life of Egyptians. To say nothing of the collapse of State prestige and dignity with every terrorist who runs free.
Are the political and security leaders unaware of the seriousness of the persistent daily terrorist violence in our universities? Can any of them claim surprise at what goes on inside and in the vicinity of universities ever since the start of the academic year last October, or can they say they never expected it?
We might excuse partially, if not fully, the police for being caught off-guard when masked terrorists on motorbike speed by and shoot at a police patrol or truck, or at Copts gathered in front of a church. But how can we excuse the utter inadequacy that allows crowds of terrorist students to gather in places known to the police and march on the universities unhindered by any kind of security check or action? They proceed in barbarian hordes towards the lecture halls, attacking whoever or whatever stands in their way; be that individuals, furniture, equipment, tools or cars; terrorise students, faculty, and workers and halt the lectures. They smash everything in their way, then burn tyres on the roads outside and block traffic. This gruesome scenario has become a constant living hell Egyptians go through every day. Yet the police insist on ‘applying the utmost self-restraint’, and claim they have everything under control. All the while a disgraceful tug-of-war takes place between the security chiefs and the heads of universities who exercise the utmost indecision on whether or not to allow the police on campus.
Where is the rigour and firmness required to wipe out terrorism? Why is the protest law not enforced? Did the violent MB crowds notify the authorities of their intention to demonstrate, threaten, and defy? Why do the police fail to deal with them as their terrorist actions warrant, according to the law? Failure to do so reflects feebleness on the part of the authorities, and serves only to encourage terrorism.
The recent scandal, however, beats everything. That the terrorists should succeed in planting bombs to kill police officers in a spot close to their checkpoint in front of Cairo University defies reason. And how did the terrorists achieve this feat? They did it at 4.00am, in absence of any security presence; the policemen on patrol were asleep. Poor policemen, indeed!
13 April 2014