Friday 24 January was a day when black terror hit Egypt. At 6:30am a car bomb exploded in front of the police headquarters in central Cairo,
killing four and injuring 76. Investigations by the prosecution revealed that it was the work of three men; one drove the car carrying the explosives, left it in front of the Cairo Security Authority and jumped into another car that had been behind his. The car drove away with three men inside; a minute later the first car was detonated by a remote control device.
Four floors of the police headquarters building caved in, and the explosion caused a crater 6 metres in diameter and 6m in depth. It caused damages to nearby buildings, ruining facades and windows.
Worse hit was the Museum of Islamic Art where the losses were not only restricted to the magnificent Islamic-style building but also hit a large part of the 2,500 piece collection—out of the complete 96,000 piece museum collection—displayed there. The museum had undergone recent restoration and boasted state-of-the-art modern display.
The nearby Dar al-Kutub, Egypt’s national library, was also hit. According to Culture Minister Saber Arab, a large number of documents and manuscripts including four old papyri were damaged since the explosion shattered the display glass cases and burst the water pipes.
Later in the day another bomb exploded outside an underground metro station in the district of Doqqi, killing one man and injuring 15. An explosive device was also set off in front of a police station in Giza but there were no casualties; and another outside a movie theatre, also in Giza, where one man lost his life.
The Jihadi group Ansaar Beit al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for the police headquarters bombing and threatened Egyptians who would dare go down to celebrate the third anniversary of the 25 January 2011 Revolution.
Despite the heavy losses and pain, Egyptians were defiant. A few demonstrations roamed the streets in Cairo cheering against the Muslim Brothers (MB). The Ansaar Beit al-Maqdis is a Sinai-based Jihadi group; the Sinai Jihadi groups are affiliated to Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the MB.
Other Egyptian towns witnessed violent clashes between MB supporters and opponents; the death toll according to the Health Ministry was 14 men. In the town of Mallawi in Minya, Upper Egypt, a Coptic shop owner named Emad Sadeq was killed by MB demonstrators who clashed with the shop owners on the street where his shop lies after the Muslim Friday prayers.
The bombings were widely condemned by officials, politicians, media persons, and public figures.
The Egypt’s Council of Churches issued a statement in which it denounced the bombings and offered heartfelt condolences to the families of victims. The Churches promised they would go on praying for peace in Egypt.
Punishing the Egyptian people
The political researcher Soliman Shafiq told Watani that the terrorist bombings came in response to the overwhelming endorsement of new Constitution by the Egyptian public. “A quick glance at the terrorist acts,” Mr Shafiq says, “reveals that they were conducted by a few individuals, meaning the MB are isolated; and that they targeted not only the police but also civilians. Such attacks will only serve to make Egyptians more defiant.
“Egypt has lived through Islamist terror before,” Mr Shafiq reminds. “During the span between 1986 to 1996 the country witnessed 811 terrorist attacks in which 563 Egyptians lost their lives and more than 5000 were wounded. Among these were children, intellectuals, writers and liberals.”
Mr Shafiq insists that Egyptians will again defeat terrorism, and should resolutely go ahead with the planned presidential and parliamentary elections to found a modern, democratic State whatever the cost.
On the street in Cairo, Watani found that the resolve sounded by Mr Shafiq was echoed by many. Laila Mansour, a working woman in her forties said that: “We knew the terrorists would deal a heavy blow to us when we voted ‘Yes’ for the Constitution. Those criminals should be brought to justice.”
In front of the metro station in Doqqi where a bomb exploded, the street vendor Hamed Abdel-Hafeez thanked God he had escaped unscathed. “Sisi should run for president, and this should be soon,” he said. “Egypt needs him.” A young university student standing close by, Umm-Hashem Murtada, said she had been out to buy some fresh vegetables when the explosion occurred. “That was a cowardly terrorist act,” she said. “But I’m not afraid. The Egyptian people will triumph. Egypt is mahroussa [literally, protected by God] and will not succumb.”
“We are at war,” the lawyer Mona Maurice from the upscale Cairo suburb of Zamalek said. “The terrorists should be promptly caught and brought to justice.” In total agreement with her was the businessman Hany Naguib who insisted that the terrorists were after breaking the morale of the Egyptians. “This will never happen,” he said. “We firmly believe in our cause and will go ahead to build a modern Egypt.”
From the heavily populated district of Imbaba, the trader Ahmed Abdel-Wahab told Watani that, despite the horror of the terrorist attacks which have been regularly waged by the MB against Egyptians since Mursi was overthrown last July, “we won’t be broken.” The challenge now is to not to succumb to fear or to the Islamists’ threats. “Egyptians should thank Allah,” Abdel-Wahab said, “that the MB are sufficiently stupid to fight us all. This has only steeled our determination to never let them hold the reins of this country any more. Just imagine what would have happened had they been smart enough to apologise to Egyptians for all the errors committed by Mursi and pledge to correct them if a new Islamist president or parliament came in. We’d probably have been taken in again.”
Also from Imbaba, the thirty-something public servant Fouad Thabet criticised the government. “Why is it lenient with the terrorists?” he asked. “What are our officials afraid of? In Egypt, we all realise that the MB are terrorists. Outside Egypt, we only need look at Iraq and what the US has done there to know that this is what they want to do with us. So why should we try to appease them?”
Sheikh Ali Gaber was just leaving his mosque after afternoon prayers when Watani asked him how he saw the Friday bombings. “I can’t imagine they were the work of Egyptians,” Sheikh Gaber said, his voice heavy with sadness. “What man can intentionally kill his own people in cold blood?” He said he believed foreign hands were involved in the bombings since it is now obvious the entire region is in turmoil. “Just look at Libya, Iraq, Syria, Tunisia, and Sudan! I think the terrorist attacks are connected to the possibility of Sisi running for president; some foreign powers do not like that. But everyone realises Sisi loves Egypt and its people and will serve the interests of no one but them. This obviously is not to the liking of some foreign powers.”
A construction labourer who sat cross-legged on the sidewalk by the mosque was lamenting the situation. “We build and they demolish,” he said. “Apart from the pain for the innocent people who lost their lives for no reason other than that they were Egyptians who did not want Islamist rule, who knows of the excruciating pain we in the construction business feel when a building is ruined? Every building is erected by the sweat of honest men. May Allah deal with the criminals according to His justice!”
“The terrorists won’t break us”
Mina Samy, a university student, said that it was just these terrorist operations which drove Egyptians to look up to Sisi more and more as the deliverer form Islamist terrorism and the pressure of foreign powers. “But we won’t give in to such terror,” he said. “We’ll go on with our daily activities. Life won’t stop; we’ll prove to the terrorists that they can’t break us.”
The same resilience and determination was echoed by Haifaa’ Ahmed, a secondary school teacher, who vowed she’ll be back on the street the following day to celebrate the revolution and rally for Sisi to run for president.
Reported by Georgette Sadeq, Robeir al-Faris, Mervat Ayoub, Michael Victor, Mary Thabet
24 January 2014