Overview: In 2014, the Egyptian government continued to confront active terrorist groups, which conducted deadly attacks on government and military targets throughout the country. The two primary terrorist groups operating in Egypt are Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis (ABM) and Ajnad Misr. ABM, a Sinai-based group, swore allegiance to Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on November 3. While ABM is most active in the Sinai, it has demonstrated a capability to conduct attacks throughout Egypt, including in Cairo. Ajnad Misr is a Cairo-based terrorist group that has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks in downtown Cairo and focuses primarily on government and security targets.

In June, former head of the Egyptian Armed Forces 'Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi was elected president, replacing an interim government that had taken over following the removal of former President Mohamed Morsi from office in July 2013. President al-Sisi has focused intently on counterterrorism in Egypt, and he made counterterrorism issues one of the pillars of his first speech at the UN General Assembly in September 2014. Under President al-Sisi's authority, the Egyptian military and security forces continued to aggressively pursue counterterrorism initiatives, particularly in the Sinai. Some political opposition groups claim that the Egyptian government's counterterrorism initiatives, while intended to target terrorist groups, have also had the effect of constraining their activities.

The Muslim Brotherhood (MB), the MB-affiliated Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), and NGOs affiliated with the MB were outlawed in 2014. The Egyptian government designated the MB as a terrorist organization in December 2013 and the High Administrative Court dissolved the FJP on August 9, 2014. On October 30, the government also declared illegal the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, which is an informal political advocacy coalition led primarily by MB supporters. These designations have enabled widespread crackdown on MB and its affiliated organizations, including mass arrests by the government and often severe sentences from the judiciary in mass trials.

Egypt joined the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, provided it with logistical and political support, and backed its line-of-effort to "expose ISIL's true nature." Egypt acknowledges the threat of foreign terrorist fighters traveling to fight with ISIL in Syria and returning to Egypt. Throughout the year, authorities required citizens between the ages of 18 and 40 to obtain permission to travel to Iraq, Jordan, and Syria. Additionally, on December 6, authorities began requiring official permission for travel to Qatar and Turkey. The government stated that these regulations are intended to make it more difficult for citizens to join terrorist groups, such as ISIL, in Iraq and Syria.

The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and prominent Egyptian religious leaders, such as al-Azhar Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb and Grand Mufti of Egypt Shawki Allam, have repeatedly publicly condemned ISIL and its actions, while also making unhelpful remarks about the origins of ISIL. In early December, as part of Egypt's contribution to counter-ISIL messaging, al-Tayyeb hosted a two-day conference with dozens of Egyptian and international religious scholars, aiming to discredit the theological basis of ISIL's use of "jihad," "caliphate," and "kufr (infidelity to Islam)," and to promote coexistence between Muslims and Christians.

2014 Terrorist Incidents: Noteworthy incidents included:

  • On January 24, a Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) detonated at the Cairo Security Directorate building in Cairo, killing five people and injuring dozens of others. The VBIED ripped the façade off of the building, and partially destroyed the nearby Islamic Museum. ABM issued a statement claiming responsibility for the attack.

  • On January 25, assailants shot down an Egyptian military helicopter near Shaykh Zuwayd, killing all five soldiers on board. ABM released a video on YouTube several days later showing the attack.

  • On February 16, a suicide bomber detonated a suicide belt on a tourist bus in Taba, killing three South Korean tourists and the Egyptian bus driver, and wounding several others. ABM issued a statement claiming responsibility for the attack.

  • On April 2, two improvised explosive devices concealed in a tree detonated near Cairo University in Giza, killing a police brigadier general and wounding five other police officers. Ajnad Misr released a statement claiming responsibility for the attack.

  • On July 14, assailants on Egyptian territory fired a salvo of rockets at Eilat, Israel; which wounded multiple Israelis. ABM publicly claimed responsibility for the attack.

  • On July 19, assailants used rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and machine guns to attack an Egyptian military checkpoint near the al-Farafra Oasis in Egypt's Western Desert. The attack killed 22 Egyptian border guard personnel and wounded several others.

  • On August 6, assailants carjacked and killed a U.S. citizen oil worker on the road to the al-Karama Petroleum Field in the Western Desert. On November 30, ABM claimed responsibility for the attack via a statement on Twitter.

  • On August 18, assailants kidnapped and beheaded four civilians in Shaykh Zuwayd. ABM released a video showing the four hostages allegedly confessing to spying for Israel.

  • On October 24, assailants attacked a military checkpoint near Shaykh Zuwayd in a two-phased attack involving a suicide VBIED followed by RPGs and small arms fire. The assailants killed 30 Egyptian troops and wounded dozens more. ABM released a video of the attack and claimed responsibility for it.

  • On November 12, assailants hijacked an Egyptian Navy guided missile craft in Damietta. Egyptian military aircraft engaged the attackers, destroying the boat and killing the crew.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The new Egyptian Constitution passed following a public referendum in January 2014. Article 237 specifically addresses terrorism, stating that Egypt "commits to fighting all types and forms of terrorism and tracking its sources of funding within a specific time frame..." Egypt's penal code includes an extensive counterterrorism legal framework, primarily under Part 2, Section 1, Article 86, which defines terrorism in expansive terms that include peaceful protests. Additionally, subsequent sections define a variety of offenses and penalties for those who engage in terrorist activities and provide incentives for cooperation in the investigation and prosecution of terrorist organizations. Despite having counterterrorism as its stated primary purpose, Egyptian counterterrorism legislation has had an intimidating effect on NGO operations.

The November 2014 draft of the Terrorist Entities Law also defines a "terrorist entity" in broad terms that human rights groups are concerned could be applied to civil society. However, it does give designated groups the right to appeal their designation through judicial review. The draft law also gives Egyptian authorities the power to freeze a designated group's assets and to arrest its members.

The Ministry of Interior's National Security Sector (NSS) is primarily responsible for counterterrorism functions in Egypt, but it also works with other elements of the Ministry of Interior (MOI), the Egyptian General Intelligence Service, and the Egyptian armed forces. There is adequate interagency cooperation and information sharing among the various counterterrorism elements within the Egyptian government.

Egypt continues to take actions to improve its border security measures. At border crossings and airports, Egyptian authorities check for the presence of known security features within travel documents, such as micro-printing, UV features, and digit schemes. They also scan and cross reference documents with criminal databases that alert them when there is derogatory information present. Egypt maintains a terrorist watch list with a simple listing provided to Egyptian immigration officials at the ports of entry and detailed information maintained within the NSS.

Egypt's primary physical border security concerns are along the borders with Gaza and Libya. Following a series of terrorist attacks in northern Sinai, Egypt destroyed underground tunnels that connected Gaza and Sinai and is in the process of building an up-to-five kilometer buffer zone along the border with Gaza. Egypt also increased its military presence along the Libya border, but continues to face challenges with policing the 715 miles.

Egyptian law enforcement and security personnel achieved some limited successes in battling terrorists in its territory in 2014. In April, Egyptian authorities arrested Thirwat Salah Shihata, one of al-Qa'ida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri's top deputies, in a Cairo suburb. In September, the MOI killed seven ABM terrorists in Ain Sukhna, who were accused of assassinating 44 civilian, security, and armed forces personnel, including an American citizen. On December 21, government entities raided a farm located in Husainiya Sharqiia, killing one security official and five ABM members. In this operation, security officials confiscated weapons, explosives, and explosive materials, including a VBIED, which was later control-detonated by security forces. Additionally, the MOI killed the alleged leader of ABM's Cairo Branch, Mohamed Rabie Mohamed Younis.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Egypt is a member of the Middle East North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. On May 15, the Government of Egypt issued an amendment (Presidential Decree Law no. 36) to Law no. 80 of 2002, which modernized Egypt's Anti-Money Laundering-Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML-CFT) Law and provided the necessary legal framework for Egypt to implement key FATF standards. Among other improvements, the law criminalizes the willful collection and provision of funds for terrorist purposes and addresses previous deficiencies with regard to the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1267 and 1373. To reflect Egypt's increased emphasis on CFT, this law changed the name of Egypt's Financial Intelligence Unit from the Money Laundering Combating Unit to the Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing Combating Unit. Additionally, a statute proposed in November 2014 gives the government clear legal authority to designate groups as terrorist organizations, and allows the government to freeze their assets and money. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.

Regional and International Cooperation: Within the UN, Egypt participated in a Sixth Committee (Legal) session in October that sought to draft a comprehensive convention on international terrorism. Speaking on behalf of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Egypt representative denounced terrorist atrocities, condemned attempts to link terrorism with Islam, and advocated a coordinated approach by the international community to combat terrorism. Egypt is also an active participant in the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), co-chairing (along with the U.S.) the Criminal Justice and Rule of Law Working Group. In June, Egypt was re-instated into the AU, following an almost one-year suspension after the removal of former President Mohamed Morsi. In his speech at the AU's Heads of State meeting in June, President Sisi reinforced the need for cooperation among AU members to combat terrorism.

Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: The Ministry of Islamic Endowments (Awqaf) is legally responsible for issuing guidance to which all imams throughout Egypt are required to adhere, including weekly instructions on a provided theme that aims to prevent extremist language in sermons. Al-Azhar University cooperated with international programs to help train imams to promote tolerance and non-violence, interfaith cooperation, and human rights. The Ministry of Islamic Endowments is also required to license all mosques in Egypt; however, many continued to operate without licenses. The government has the authority to appoint and monitor the imams who lead prayers in licensed mosques, and the government pays their salaries.


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