Daesh has claimed responsibility for killing 29 Egyptian Copts on Friday while they were on their way to Dier Anba Samwail (Monastery of St. Samuel), west of Minya in Upper Egypt. This is the third time Daesh targets Copts and kills them based on their religious identity. This was after the bombing of the Botroseya Church on 12 December and the Palm Sunday bombings of the Mar Girgis Church in Tanta and the St Marks Coptic Orthodox church in Alexandria on 9 April killing 46 people and injuring dozens.
The latest Daesh attack on two buses and a truck transporting citizens, including children, is the most painful indicator of the magnitude of the security and political crisis experienced by the country. It has reached the point of killing people in broad daylight, without security surveillance or protection from the state, while the political system claims, day and night, to be successful in preserving the security of the country. The attack occurred in a manner lacking any ingenuity and it carried much criminality and inhumanity.
According to the testimonies of those who witnessed the crime, broadcasted by news agencies:
The gunmen got out of their 4×4 vehicles and stopped the two buses and truck on an unpaved road leading to the monastery. They had the passengers exit the vehicles and they opened fire on them. The incident was recorded on video and then they left the scene of the crime.
The execution of the crime in a rugged area with no security bases or means of communication reflects the level of planning, preparation and research done by the attackers regarding the area and its topography.
Sectarian violence against Egypt's Copts is not something new, and Daesh's targeting of them is no secret matter. They have openly said, in a statement issued a few months ago, that they are targeting their faith and not just their political positions, although Daesh is exploiting the current political crisis in the country to justify its actions.
The organisation is also trying to invest the political positions of the church, which supports the current government, despite its oppression and brutality, in order to dehumanise the Copts in preparation for their liquidation and elimination. This is exactly what the government did with its opponents, especially supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.
However, what is new in the equation now is the repeated attacks on the Copts and the magnitude of the losses in their ranks caused by the organisation, which only increase with each act committed by Daesh and its supporters. Since last December, the number of attacks on the Copts, either inside the churches, at their doors, or in the streets, has increased. It seems that every Copt is a target for Daesh. We may witness future acts of slaying Copts in the streets, as the organisation has actually done this in Libya's Sirte about two years ago.
Although it is logical not to hold innocent citizens, most of whom are ordinary Egyptian people, responsible for the church's political positions that have been and still are biased in favour of the oppressive political government, we cannot lift political and security responsibility off the shoulders of this government which uses the Christians as pawns in a fierce political battle for its survival in power.
Politically, the current government is completely responsible for the current situation in Egypt, which downplays the crisis that has plagued the country since the summer of 2013. This government is still living in a state of denial of the existence of this crisis, which it, to a large extent, contributed to. This includes the deepening of the state of polarisation and division, not only politically but also socially and factionally.
It is with this crisis that the political conflict turned into a gateway to oppression, murder and liquidation. It also indirectly provides a political cover for radical movements to seek revenge against the government and its supporters, especially the Copts. It is true that their targeting is not primarily politically motivated, as I have mentioned before, but it survives on the basis of the political crisis remaining as it is, without resolution.
A government that claims to fight terrorism and extremism cannot contribute, with its current policies and positions, to the decrease of extremism and brutality. Egypt has not witnessed rates of political and sectarian violence, throughout its modern history, such as the ones we have been witnessing for the past four years. It cannot claim to do so while the most prominent variable now is the oppression and authoritarianism of the government, which fuels extremists to justify its crimes, i.e. we are in a vicious cycle of violence and counter-violence.
In terms of security, the cases in which the Copts were subject to killings, bombings and displacement expose the major failure of the government to protect them in their capacity as citizens of the country. This failure is manifested on all levels, including the lack of protection provided to them, especially after Daesh explicitly stated it was targeting them, the failure to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators, and the failure to holding those responsible for the security negligence accountable and dismissing them.
The first minister of the interior, who is theoretically the official responsible for providing protection for the Egyptian citizens, is still in his position and has not been held accountable. This is despite the overwhelming security failure that the Egyptian citizens paid their blood and life for.
At a time when the government appears to be busy pursuing, arresting and prosecuting dissidents and political opponents, it has failed miserably to protect against attacks by extremists and terrorists. The government's clamouring regarding "hitting the camps of the terrorists abroad" comes off as nothing more than an attempt to blow off some steam and show strength.
The source of the crisis is at home, and the outside remains a secondary factor in fuelling it.
Translated from the New Khalij, 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.