The assassination of Egyptian state prosecutor Hisham Barakat on June 29 indicates an increased risk of terrorist attacks in Egypt. Experts’ explanations range from simply poor planning to the possibility that terrorist and extremist organizations — including the Muslim Brotherhood — have cracked the Interior Ministry’s security services.
Maj. Gen. Abdul-Latif al-Bidiny, security expert and former assistant minister of interior, said in press statements the bombing of Barakat’s convoy confirms terrorist organizations have circumvented the security imposed by the Interior Ministry. However, he did not accuse the security services of negligence.
Security expert Maj. Gen. Ashraf Amin told Al-Monitor the assassination of Barakat may reflect that some information regarding Barakat’s security plan may have been leaked, but that does not mean there is a systemic infiltration of security services. “Security services face a major challenge in thwarting terrorist operations and plans, since international intelligence services support terrorist organizations,” said Amin. He did not describe the security services’ performance as negligent.
Another expert, Maj. Gen. Khaled Okasha, told Al-Monitor, “The Ministry of Interior cannot be exempted from its liability for the assassination of the attorney general.” He accused the security services of failing to protect Barakat and having poor security planning. “This is confirmed by the fact that the guard staff did not take another [travel route] to confuse terrorist organizations, especially in light of the attacks targeting judges in Egypt.”
In a June 30 phone interview on the CBC Extra television show “Lazim Nefham” (“We Must Know”), Maj. Gen. Abu Bakr Abdel Karim, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said the attorney general’s convoy route was changed daily, but all roads lead to the street where the explosion and assassination occurred. Barakat was heading to the High Court building in central Cairo.
Abdel Karim’s statement contradicts information obtained by Al-Monitor by visiting the site. It appeared the convoy could have avoided the intersection where the bombing took place by taking any of several other side streets.
Okasha also criticized the lack of a bomb jammer in the attorney general’s convoy — which Amin said might have been forgone because of the cost.
“The allocation of a vehicle fitted with a bomb jammer for each official or leader in the state is very expensive and may not be afforded by the national security budget in Egypt,” Amin said.
The Bomb Jammer website states that prices for bomb jammers start at 25,000 British pounds ($38,928), while Spy World’s website indicates Matrix jamming equipment for military acts range from $290,000 to $470,000. This means that the allocation of 100 jammers to the convoys of 100 Egyptian leaders would cost at most 368 million Egyptian pounds ($47 million) — less than 1% of Egypt’s national security budget, amounting to 39.3 billion Egyptian pounds for the 2014-15 budget, according to a Dec. 7, 2014, press statement by the Ministry of Finance.
Al-Monitor tried to get in touch with Abdel Karim for comments on the criticism directed at the Interior Ministry, but he did not answer his phone.
Barakat’s assassination was not the first event to prompt fears that terrorist organizations — including the Muslim Brotherhood — surpassed the ministry’s security system. Retired Maj. Gen. Abdul Hamid Khairat, former vice president of the state security operation, raised the issue regarding two December 2013 assassinations.
In an interview televised on “Cairo 360,” Khairat described the Egyptian Ministry of Interior as infiltrated by the Brotherhood following the bombing of the Dakahlia Security Directorate and the assassination of Ministry of Interior leaders at the Ministry of Interior. He also cited slayings in January and February of 2014, notably that of Assistant Interior Minister Mohammed Saad Eddin.
In February of this year, Ministry of Interior investigations revealed an unsuccessful plan in which a policeman accepted a bribe from the Brotherhood to kill a defected cell member to keep that person from exposing other members.
The defected Muslim Brotherhood member, Tharwat Kherbawi, stated in two of his columns published in the Egyptian El-Tahrir newspaper April 6 and April 7 that there is a strong relationship between Habib al-Adly, interior minister during the reign of former President Hosni Mubarak, and the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. He cited familial ties between Adly and Abdullah, the son of prominent Muslim Brotherhood leader Amin al-Agha.
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