What is the role of Libya, particularly the city of Derna, in the terrorist operations that are currently taking place in Egypt? Why does the Egyptian army want to strike Libyan sites rather than Daesh bases in the Sinai dessert? Why is the response not a desire to target Daesh bases in Syria and Iraq or in Raqqa? This was the response taken by Britain, for instance, after the Manchester attack despite the Daesh bomber’s Libyan origin. Libya, after all, is closer to Europe, making it a far easier target.
Egyptian planes struck sites in the city of Derna in Libya, which is more than 1,500 kilometres away from Daesh strongholds in Egypt. The Egyptian media has been invested in fostering the belief that terrorist strongholds in Egypt are concentrated in the Sinai Peninsula and that the Egyptian government is allegedly working to combat terrorism on a daily basis. In addition, the Egyptian attack on Libya came hours after a terrorist attack that targeted Egyptian Copts in Minya, which means that the investigations for the attacks have not yet begun. It is impossible to confirm such suspicions a mere few hours after a terrorist attack. The nature of terrorist attacks in Egypt, and the reaction that they illicit, lead us to ask numerous questions. If the Egyptian regime was truly aware of who was carrying out these attacks before they happen and if they are able to retaliate a mere few hours after they take place, then they would presumably have the intelligence that is required to prevent these attacks before they happen. Egypt would be able to protect its citizens.
If the regime is unaware of who is carrying out these terrorist attacks before they happen, the outcome would require an investigation rather than a series of airstrikes in Libya or even in Sinai. These types of attacks do little other than anger the people, making them believe that they are facing a vicious and barbaric external enemy. The people will then begin to believe that the (ruling) military is the sole entity capable of countering this enemy with sophisticated weapons, jets and the like.
The terrorist operations in Egypt raise many questions and are the cause for much speculation. What does it truly imply that Egyptian Christians are being targeted in Egypt on their way to worship? Do such acts imply that Egyptian churches are not yet secure? This has brought about at true humanitarian disaster. How were ten armed men able to commit a massacre in broad daylight without the security forces monitoring them? How were the security forces not able to respond to them or reach them in time? Where did they come from and how were they able to move?
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As for the reactions, how can the Egyptian government justify attacking Libya before any real investigation into the crime had begun? Why were Daesh strongholds in Libya targeted in lieu of the group’s bases in Egypt? This is assuming, of course, that the targeting of Libyan sites had any real correlation to Daesh as opposed to another faction. The terrorist attacks that are taking place in Egypt require a serious investigation and proper action, in order to prevent it from happening again. The fight against terror in Egypt cannot be done in isolation from the rest of the region. Therefore, airstrikes against sites that are known in advance (such as what happened in Libya) can do little other than to exacerbate the current situation. The regime in Egypt must stop investing in terrorist attacks by worrying Egyptians. It must stop promoting the notion that there is an external danger posing as a threat to them. The current terrorist attack against civilians should be investigated immediately. Its results should be made public and a proper anti-terrorist campaign should be launched.
Translated from Al-Quds Al-Arabi, 30 May 2017.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.