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April 08, 2005

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Stacey

After the Taba attack (which may not have "devastated the Islamist insurgency's reputation" quite as much as an attack in front of al-Azhar may prove to do, but was nevertheless horrible and much more recent than 1997), the government imprisioned more than 2,500 people and essentially declared war in the Sinai, far from the eyes (but not the ears) of Cairenes.

This is a dark day for Egypt, no just because of the people who died and were injured, but the people who will suffer for it in the coming weeks/months/years. That, at least, seems pretty clear.

the aardvark

I shouldn't have minimized the Taba tragedy... how Cairo centric of me. But I do think that things which happen in the heart of Cairo matter politically very differently. Especially in the current political climate.

Josh

I am with AA here (and not to imply I am against Stacey). The location (Cairo vs. not Cairo) of this particular attack matters. While it was horrible to see Israeli tourists targeted in Taba, the focus was on Israelis presumably because the attackers were pissed at Israeli-US-Western policies in the Arab world. That attack was all very al-Q`aida-like - ideology not group.

Yesterday's attack - in a tourist area (al-Moski is not that far from the heart of the Khan) and against tourists - seems to be more directed at the Egyptian government rather than mindless anti-Westernism. Helpless to communicate with the government, be absorbed into its structures, or participate legally - the only preceived recourse for more radical agents is to target something that props the place up. Tourism in Egypt is like a pipeline in Saudi. But unlike a pipeline - if it is a newly emerging group's strategy - a one-off won't do.

Yesterday's attack is much different than Taba in size, design, sophistication, and result. The Egyptian government knows this and will undoubtly exploit the situation for its own de-liberalizing agenda. But repression will only sharpen the existing social discontent.

With a semi-pressurized but controllabe situation already in place with the Kifaya movement, the MB, Ayman Nor's trial (scheduled for Sept so I hear) and the ongoing labor strikes, the government is already agitating a wide array of its citizens from different classes. If the regime responds with its habitual heavy hand, it could up the ante quite a bit.

Mohamed

The more I think of this, the more I see how the only people who could possibly reap any benefit out of this is the regime! I won't go as far as the people who believe the regime actually did it. I think that is really too far fetched.

But now, they can shun off any calls for reform or democracy. Claim that they were right all along by repressing the people and especially the Islamists. Detain and torture more Islamists and no one will dare to open their mouth, not the U.S., and not even HRW. Maintain the emergency law, and call Kifaya people traitors for serving the interests of the terrorists by wanting to end the emergency laws. Do all that in the few months before the elections and have a secure, safe and smooth "free" elections.

Two reasons I think the regime cannot have done it though (other than my wishes that they are not that conspirative and bloody). 1) If it turns out to be a suicide bomber, I think it is impossible that they find someone to kill himself for the regime (however dumb he maybe). 2) It would be the dumbest thing of them to hurt tourism that bad, one of their life streams, which allows them to spend as lavishly as they do, and keep on surviving.

Stacey

Josh - I'm with you (not to imply that I'm against me...) I think attacks in Cairo have an entirely different texture, and different set of implications, as they would in any capital.

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