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9 Jan, 2016 12:54

‘Terror attacks on Egyptian soft targets will continue’

A militant group affiliated with Islamic State could have been responsible for an attack on foreigners at an Egyptian resort in Hurghada. Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire told RT attacks will continue unless Cairo steps up its security.

Two men armed with knives entered a hotel in the Red Sea city of Hurghada, one of Egypt’s most popular tourist resorts, and injured three foreign tourists. Egyptian authorities reported that two Austrians and one Swede were stabbed in the attack, Ahram Online reported.

The assault took place at the Bella Vista Hotel, and security sources told Reuters the assailants arrived by sea to carry out the attack.

RT:  Do you think this attack has the hallmarks of Islamic State?

Abayomi Azikiwe: It has the same character as the attacks yesterday that took place near the Giza pyramids [On Thursday, a gunman sprayed the Three Pyramids Hotel and a tour bus with buckshot; no injuries were reported]. But there have been many calls by Daesh – the Islamic State – for such attacks. You do not know if it was exactly directed by someone within the hierarchy of these organizations, or whether or not they are just responding to the general call that has been made in these various countries throughout North Africa and the Middle East. It is very difficult to determine, and I'm sure over the next several days we will probably see further attempts to carry out such attacks on soft targets.

RT:  In Egypt what is the goal for the Islamic State?

AA: It is not very clear. They have been raging a war in the north Sinai, a group by the name of Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, for at least the last two to three years. It was initially thought that the organization was connected with Al-Qaeda. In recent months, it has been claimed that they have allegiance to Islamic State. Irrespective of that, they are in fact opposed, it appears, to the natural gas extraction and export between north Sinai and the state of Israel. However they seem at the same time to have a political opposition to the government in Egypt, the military turned civilian government of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who came to power in 2014 through an election in which the main Islamist party, the Muslim Brotherhood was excluded.

RT:  What can Egypt do to protect itself, given it shares a massive border with Libya? Or is it doing everything it can?

AA: I'm sure that the government is doing everything that it can. It is a very difficult situation that they are faced with. The country is heavily dependent upon tourism for the generation of foreign exchange earnings. And with these attacks that have escalated over the last several months - particularly with the downing of the Russian tourist chartered airliner in the north Sinai that was coming from the Red Sea resort of Sharm-El-Sheikh - it has had a devastating impact on the number of people that are interested in traveling to Egypt for the purpose of tourism. They are in fact escalating their presence in Libya itself through Special Forces, and also through their own air force. However, its resources are limited considering the fact that most of the actual fighting and the deaths on the part of the Egyptian security forces have taken place in the north Sinai.

RT:  What impact is this going to have on the Egyptian economy? If the nation's economy is going to take a massive hit from this, is Islamic State going to find it much easier to recruit from that region?

AA: Yes there is an extreme amount of poverty in Egypt. The income has dropped precipitously particularly in the last five years with the removal of Hosni Mubarak. They have gone to the IMF and have been awarded some assistance and advice. But it is still inadequate. They also still receive over $2 billion in direct aid from the United States, particularly for military purposes. Also the national debt of Egypt has accelerated precipitously as well over the last five years. So they are in a very, very difficult situation and I think that until they can get a handle on the security situation inside the country, the economy will continue to deteriorate.


The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.