A late-night burst of fire from gunmen killed a captain and a conscript in Cairo on Saturday. According to the Interior Ministry, the armed men ran from the scene after shooting Badeer el-Qazaz, a captain of the Egyptian intelligence agency and an accompanying police conscript. The two men were assaulted as they patrolled an isolated desert road that connects the capital city of Cairo to the city of Suez. While on duty, the two security men attempted to stop a car that appeared suspicious. As they approached the automobile, the occupants opened fire on the two men and killed them on the spot. A government spokesman said that this was the second attack on security personnel in the past three days.
The previous attack came in the shape of a bomb that targeted a traffic post in a busy Cairo square. That blast killed another policeman and injured people standing nearby. Ajnad Misr, or “Egypt’s Soldiers”, took credit for that assault and claimed that they were waging a war against the police because of their part in the government’s suppression of protestors.
Such murders have become an integral part of Islamist militant groups, which have substantially increased attacks on security forces, ever since the army toppled Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, in July. In the following months, more than 1,300 Morsi supporters were killed by Egyptian security forces, according to Amnesty International. The government has also detained over 16,000 others in a blanket crackdown on Islamists. The overthrown president is also under arrest.
According to the interim government, there have been plenty of retaliatory attacks from Morsi’s supporters, with hundred of soldiers and policemen being targeted and killed. Most of the attacks have been limited to the Sinai Peninsula, where more than 500 people have died. Most of these attacks against policemen and soldiers have been claimed by Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, a group inspired by al-Qaeda. But the group appears to be moving out of the Sinai and launching attacks in the Nile Delta and Cairo.
This continuing violence, with bombs being detonated in Cairo and gunmen indiscriminately killing police captains on desert roads, is seen as being a major threat to the country’s security. The threat is higher as the beleaguered people of Egypt prepare for a presidential election in May. Additionally, the local populations also fear the impact of such brutality on the tourism industry, which brings in substantial amount of foreign income to the country and employs a significant number of its people. But there seems little hope of respite in the near future.
In the wake of resistance by Morsi’s supporters, the Egyptian government has outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood. Additionally, Egyptian courts are handing down long sentences to his supporters for charges that include attacking security persons and attempting “thuggery.” In a recent judgment, 23 people were sent to prison for extended periods of time.
In another case that garnered a lot of attention, El-Beltagy, a senior leader of the Brotherhood was handed a yearlong sentence for insulting the judicial system. The ousted Morsi is also facing a long list of charges such as treason and conspiracy against Egypt. If he were to be found guilty of any of these charges, he could be sentenced to death.
As the Brotherhood continues to resist what it deems a military coup, the people of Egypt are living in a brutal cycle of violence. Whether it is the killing of a police captain by gunmen or explosions in crowded parts of Cairo, the death toll in the country continues to rise.
By Monalisa Gangopadhyay