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The era of assassinations in Egypt

CAIRO, EGYPT - DECEMBER 29 : Egyptian security officials inspect the scene following a bomb blast in Cairo, Egypt, 29 September 2016. The car bomb in Cairo targeted a vehicle of a passing convoy transporting the country's top prosecutor's assistant, Zakaria Abd El-Aziz, Egypt's interior ministry announced in a statement. ( Mostafa Elshemy - Anadolu Agency )


The assassination of Adel Ragai, commander of the Egyptian army's Ninth Armoured Division, in front of his house last week, has opened the door to a number of questions regarding the issue of political assassinations in the country, the circumstances and the parties involved, as the number of such assassinations has increased. Despite the enormity of what has happened, either in terms of the method and place of execution or in terms of the nature of the targeted individual, no official statement has been made so far to explain and clarify the truth behind what happened, or to hold any party responsible, as would be expected in such cases.

The mystery of General Ragai's assassination opened the door to a number of speculations and possibilities circulating within the Egyptian public, none of them are in the interest of the current government. On one hand, an armed group that calls itself the "Lewaa Al-Thawra" (Revolution Brigade) released a brief statement on Twitter announcing its responsibility for the assassination. This was right before it deactivated its account and deleted it. On the other hand, many have spread video footage of an individual sitting in a car and talking about the assassination operation of General Ragai being executed by other officers backed by some Syrian officials, but this an incomprehensible scenario. However, this narrative increased the suspicions surrounding such operations occurring within the centres of power in the current government.

This is especially true in light of the talk of deep divisions and conflicts within the sovereign institutions, which would provide an important cover for any assassination or political assassination that may occur. Some believe that there has been an infiltration of some small armed groups and networks allowing specific parties to directly use them to carry out assassination operations.

If this last belief is true, then we are facing a terrifying scenario linked to the nature of the conflicts within the most important institution in Egypt, i.e. the military, which have reached an unprecedented level of tension and violence. No one concerned with their country and the unity of its institutions would want this. This narrative is in line with the rumours regarding the killing of military officials in Sinai. This is what happened to Lieutenant-Colonel Ramy Hassanein, commander of the 103rd shock battalion, who was assassinated by an explosive device in the northern Sinai region. This has also happened to a number of other soldiers and officers. They seem to have fallen victim to the internal conflicts.

To be honest, we cannot disregard any of the aforementioned scenarios, especially given the state of total failure experienced by the current government. It does not seem to be in control of any of its institutions or security agencies, which is an indication that they are not at a high level of understanding and harmony. There is much evidence supporting this claim, not least of which are the leaks that were exposed a few days ago of senior military officials' conversations that raise much suspicion regarding who is behind the leaks and their interest in doing so.

The number of political assassinations, whether successful or unsuccessful, have reached an alarming level during the past few months, including the operation in which former Attorney General of Egypt Hisham Barakat was killed, the true perpetrators behind it still haven't been found, the assassination attempt of Assistant Prosecutor General, Zakaria Abdel Aziz, a few weeks ago, and the recent assassination of General Ragai. There have been other operations most notably that against Lieutenant Colonel Muhammad Mabrouk Abu Khattab, who was assassinated by being shot while driving his car in front of El Serag City Mall in Nasr City. There was also the assassination of Mohamed Mabrouk, an Egyptian officer working in the NSA anti-terrorism department in Northern Sinai, who was killed after being shot by gunman while driving his car down one of the main streets in El Arish in June 2013.

The current government doesn't seem able to stop the assassinations occurring from time to time, assuming that they are far from them and are not involved in them, as some claim. This reveals the utter failure of this government, not only in combatting armed organisations and groups, assuming they are involved in the assassinations, but also in protecting its senior officials from murder and assassination.

Perhaps what is concerning about the issue of these assassinations is the government's silence, as if it were something normal. This is clear in the government's reaction to the assassinations, as it seems not to care and did not give any attention to the fact that General Ragai was killed in front of his house in the city of Obour, close to Cairo, in broad daylight. We do not know if the government opened a serious investigation into this or if it ignored it in order not to open a door to many questions.

The worst part of all of this is General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi's exploitation of the issue of assassinations, using it as a pretext to justify his repressive policies and his continued iron fist against all political opponents. The man uses every terrorist act to promote his phrases, which are based on the principle of  "either me or chaos" without realising that he is the main reason for this chaos and that the failure of his policies are what put the country in the position it is in today.

Translated from Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, 31 October 2016

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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