U.S. Department of State Country Reports on Terrorism 2006 - Egypt

Egypt was a victim of domestic terrorism in 2006. On April 24, three suicide bombers detonated explosive charges in rapid succession at three popular tourist locations in the southern Sinai resort town of Dahab. The bombers killed at least 24 people, including six foreigners. At least 87 were injured, among them four Americans and 25 other foreigners. As with the 2005 triple bombing in Sharm el-Sheikh, the attacks seemed to target the Egyptian tourism industry, not Americans or foreigners specifically.

On April 26, two suicide bombers attacked a vehicle belonging to the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) in northern Sinai and the Egyptian police, but the bombers were the only casualties. In the first attack, a suicide bomber wearing a belt bomb threw himself on the hood of an unarmored MFO vehicle, shattering the windshield. In the second attack, several kilometers away, another man with a belt bomb rode a bicycle to an Egyptian police vehicle and blew himself up. The police vehicle was responding to the first attack on the MFO vehicle.

Following these attacks, Egyptian police conducted major security sweeps of the Sinai. According to police, al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad ("Unity and Holy War"), an indigenous group comprised mostly of radicalized Bedouin extremists was responsible for the Sinai bombings. Although the group espouses a pro al-Qaida, Salafist ideology, there were no indications the group was specifically targeting Americans. Egyptian authorities believed they have arrested or killed most of its leadership and operational planners, but members are very likely still at large in the Sinai.

Although al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad was the only terrorist group to successfully commit attacks in Egypt this year, the Egyptian government broke up two other alleged terrorist groups before the groups could conduct operations. One group was reportedly planning attacks; the other was reportedly planning to send foreign fighters to Iraq. There was no further evidence of operational domestic or foreign terrorist groups in the country.

The Egyptian government's well-known opposition to Islamist terrorism and its effective intelligence and security services have made it less likely that terror groups will seek safe haven there. However, Egypt's rugged northern Sinai region remained a haven for smuggling arms and explosives into Gaza and a transit point for Gazan Palestinians trying to infiltrate Israel. In addition, Palestinian HAMAS officials have allegedly carried millions of U.S. dollars in cash across the Gaza-Egypt border. Criminal networks that smuggle weapons and other contraband through the Sinai into Israel and the Gaza Strip may be associated with or used by terrorist groups in the region. The apparent radicalization of some Sinai Bedouin might be linked in part to these smuggling networks, to heavy-handed Egyptian efforts to dismantle them, and to the Bedouin's long-standing distrust of the central government.

In the past three years, Egypt has tightened its terror finance regulations. Egypt maintained its strengthened security measures for airports, seaports, and the Suez Canal.

The Egyptian judicial system does not allow plea bargaining, and terrorists have historically been prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Terrorism defendants may be tried in military tribunals or emergency courts. Under the framework of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, the Egyptian regime provided evidence for counterterrorism cases in the United States

Many of the Egyptian President's far-reaching counterterrorism authorities are derived from a decades-old Emergency Law that was renewed by Parliament in 2006 for two years. President Mubarak called for new counterterrorism legislation to replace the Emergency Law. Such legislation is reportedly being drafted by a governmental interagency committee, although pursuit of the legislation will likely follow passage and public approval of constitutional amendments which maintain wide latitude for government action against terrorist suspects.


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