U.S. Department of State Country Reports on Terrorism 2004 - Egypt

The Egyptian and US Governments maintained close cooperation on a broad range of counterterrorism and law enforcement issues in 2004. A high-level Egyptian judicial delegation visited the United States in June and met with representatives of the US Departments of Justice, State, and the FBI to discuss cooperation in the areas of counterterrorism, law enforcement, and the mutual legal assistance treaty. In September, 20 generals from Egyptian security services attended a crisis management seminar in Washington funded by the Department of State's Antiterrorism Assistance Program.

The Egyptian and US Governments also exchanged information on a variety of terrorism, security, and law enforcement matters during the course of the year. In the past two years, Egypt has tightened its assets-freezing regime in keeping with relevant UN Security Council Resolutions. Egypt passed strong anti-money laundering legislation in 2002 and established a financial intelligence unit in 2003. Egypt maintained its strengthened airport security measures and security for the Suez Canal, and continued to institute more stringent port security measures.

Egypt was a victim of terrorism in 2004. On October 7, terrorists attacked tourist targets in Taba and Nuweiba on the Sinai peninsula in three separate but coordinated actions. Thirty-four people were killed, including Egyptians, Israelis, Italians, a Russian, and an American-Israeli dual national, and over 140 were injured. On October 25, the Minister of Interior announced that the Government had identified nine individuals responsible for the attack. According to the Egyptian Government, a Palestinian resident in North Sinai was the group's ringleader. The Government reported that the Palestinian and an accomplice were killed in the course of the attack in Taba, and that five others had been taken into custody. At year's end, two of the nine named by the Government remained at large. The Government asserted that the nine perpetrators were not part of a wider conspiracy and did not receive assistance from international terrorist organizations.

The Egyptian judicial system does not allow plea bargaining in most cases, and terrorists have historically been prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Defendants are tried in military tribunals or emergency courts. In March, an emergency court pronounced its verdict in the trial of 26 persons accused of attempting to reconstitute the Islamic Liberation Party (Hizb al-Tahrir al-Islami), which was banned in Egypt in 1974 for its efforts to overthrow the Egyptian Government. The court sentenced 12 of the defendants (including three UK citizens) to prison. In April, Ahmad Hussein Agiza, an Islamist militant returned to Egypt by Sweden in 2001, was sentenced by a military court to 25 years in prison for membership in a banned organization, although his sentence was subsequently commuted to 15 years.

Egypt continued to release from prison members of the terrorist Islamic Group (IG) who recanted their past actions and renounced the use of violence. Approximately 700 people were released over the course of the year, of which the majority were reportedly IG members. The Government characterized the releases as the result of a transformation in the ideological and theological positions of the imprisoned IG leadership, reflected in a number of books, pamphlets, and interviews in which they espoused a new non-violent philosophy. Some IG members in Egypt and abroad rejected the leadership's move to adopt nonviolence.

Egypt continued to work with Israel to crack down on long-established smuggling tunnels through the Sinai to Gaza. Egypt has destroyed more than 40 tunnel openings since 2003 and long ago cleared sensitive portions of the border area spanning the tunneling area. Egypt has actively engaged Palestinian leaders on the question of reorganizing the Palestinian Authority's security services to better police the border area.


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