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Egypt since the mosque attack

Published Tuesday, December 12, 2017

In November 2017 a Sufi mosque in Northern Sinai was the scene of a very violent attack, killing over 300 people, including many children. It was the worst ever terrorist incident in Egypt.

The group did not claim it, but most analysts thought it was the work of ‘Wilayat Sinai’, the Sinai ‘province’ of ISIS/Daesh. A little-noticed military campaign has been going on in Northern Sinai for some time, where Egyptian armed forces have been carrying out air strikes against the ISIS affiliate’s alleged strongholds.

The Sinai ISIS group is not the only problem, however. Al-Qaeda is also trying to boost its operation in Egypt; there have been several attacks in western Egypt, and the instability in neighbouring Libya is a threat to Egypt.

The 2018 election is likely to see Abdel Fattah el-Sisi stand again, and observers think he will probably win.

There has been, though, a very widespread campaign to repress political dissent. The Muslim Brotherhood was declared a terrorist organisation and hundreds of its supporters have been sentenced at mass trials that rights groups have deemed unfair.  According to Amnesty International, the police and other security forces regularly torture detainees.  

Journalists and non-governmental organisations critical of the government have been targeted.

Christians are vulnerable in Egypt and despite constitutional protections, the authorities have been accused of failing to enforce them. Some activists complain of a campaign by the security forces against LGBT people.

Egypt’s international relations are in flux. Cairo moved away from Washington after the US did not support its ally, Hosni Mubarak, and closer to Moscow, whose regional profile has risen, partly due to the Syria intervention. The contradictions in the Trump Administration’s attempts to move closer to traditional allies were shown up when Cairo denounced the decision to recognise Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital.

Relations with the Gulf States and particularly Saudi Arabia were strained for a while, but Abdel Fatah el-Sisi seems to have regained Riyadh’s confidence.

One relationship that is going well is that with Israel. Egypt and Israel collaborate on security in the Sinai and share a mistrust of Iran.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-8178

Author: Ben Smith

Topics: Africa, Middle East

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