16 Egyptian police officers killed in shootout with militants

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

16 Egyptian police officers killed in shootout with militants

Mourners in Cairo pray during a funeral Saturday for a police captain killed in the desert shootout.

Story highlights

  • Police trying to raid “terrorist elements’ hideout” in Western Desert, ministry says
  • At least 16 police officers were killed and 13 injured, it says

(CNN)At least 16 Egyptian police officers were killed and 13 injured in a shootout with militants in Egypt’s Western Desert, Egypt’s Interior Ministry said Saturday.

The firefight occurred Friday as police were attempting to raid “a terrorist elements’ hideout” in the desert’s Bahariya Oasis about 370 kilometers (more than 220 miles) southwest of Cairo. The shootout lasted several hours, according to an Interior Ministry statement.
The statement said national security forces had received information that “terrorists” were in the desert to “hide, train, equip, and carry out terrorist operations, taking advantage of the rugged desert and ease of movement.”
Fifteen “terrorists” were killed or injured in the attack, state-run media outlet Ahram Online reported Saturday, citing the Interior Ministry.

Newly unearthed ancient tomb with mummies unveiled in Egypt

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Newly unearthed ancient tomb with mummies unveiled in Egypt

Researchers examine the tomb on Saturday.

Luxor, Egypt (CNN)Egyptian authorities unveiled a previously undiscovered ancient tomb belonging to a goldsmith and his wife near Luxor in southern Egypt on Saturday.

The tomb, at the Draa Abul Nagaa necropolis, contains “mummies, sarcophagi, statuettes, pots and other artifacts,” according to Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities.
It belonged to Amenemhat — which means the god “Amen Is In the Forefront” — and his wife Amenhotep, said Mostafa Al-Waziri, who led the Egyptian team which unearthed the 3,500-year-old tomb.
While Amenhotep is usually a man’s name, Waziri said, the team found references inside the tomb that indicated she was the lady of the house.
CNN was the first media outlet to be given access to the tomb on the day of the announcement.

Researchers discovered a number of skulls inside the tomb.

An entrance, uncovered in the courtyard of another tomb, leads to a squared chamber where, in a niche, Amenemhat is pictured with his wife in a partly damaged duo sandstone statue, Waziri said.
Between their legs is seen a little figure of their son. “The daughter, or as they used to refer (to daughters) ‘the precious,’ is usually the one pictured in this place. If the family have no daughters, they would take their daughter-in-law. It is unusual to see the son,” said Waziri.
The owners belong to the 18th dynasty of Egypt. The tomb appears to have been reused, as sarcophagi from the 22nd and 21st dynasties were found as well, said Minister of Antiquities Khaled el-Enany.

Statues discovered in the tomb, whose owners belong to the 18th dynasty.

It had two burial shafts, one of them probably dug for the mummies of Amenemhat and Amenhotep. Archaeologists found mummies, sarcophagi and funerary masks carved in wood, along with statuettes of the goldsmith and his wife.
Archaeologists also found the mummies of a woman and her two adult children in another burial shaft in the courtyard. Experts said initial analysis of the mummies shed light on the diseases from which the deceased were suffering, as well other aspects of how they lived.
The tomb also holds clues to new tombs, in the form of funerary masks belonging to four officials whose burial spots have not yet been found.
“This is not the end. This will lead to more discoveries in the future,” Waziri said.

Archaeologists also found funerary masks carved in wood and statuettes of the couple.

The clue that led to the tomb unveiled Saturday was in fact uncovered in another 3,500-year-old tomb unearthed in April in the same area, he said.
In that discovery, officials announced that they had found 10 colorful sarcophagi and numerous figurines.
The main T-shaped tomb in the April find belonged to a city judge named Userhat and is typical of New Kingdom noblemen’s tombs, the ministry said in a statement at the time.
Egyptian archeologists have also found several other tombs and statues in other areas of Egypt this year.
Parts of a 3,000-year-old colossal statue, believed to have stood about 30 feet tall, were found in Cairo in March. Archeologists unearthed the statue in a pit in an area of low-income housing in the eastern neighborhood of Matareya.
This story has been updated to clarify the translation of Amenemhat’s name made by Egyptian officials during Saturday’s news conference.

Researchers examine the tomb on Saturday.

Luxor, Egypt (CNN)Egyptian authorities unveiled a previously undiscovered ancient tomb belonging to a goldsmith and his wife near Luxor in southern Egypt on Saturday.

The tomb, at the Draa Abul Nagaa necropolis, contains “mummies, sarcophagi, statuettes, pots and other artifacts,” according to Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities.
It belonged to Amenemhat — which means the god “Amen Is In the Forefront” — and his wife Amenhotep, said Mostafa Al-Waziri, who led the Egyptian team which unearthed the 3,500-year-old tomb.
While Amenhotep is usually a man’s name, Waziri said, the team found references inside the tomb that indicated she was the lady of the house.
CNN was the first media outlet to be given access to the tomb on the day of the announcement.

Researchers discovered a number of skulls inside the tomb.

An entrance, uncovered in the courtyard of another tomb, leads to a squared chamber where, in a niche, Amenemhat is pictured with his wife in a partly damaged duo sandstone statue, Waziri said.
Between their legs is seen a little figure of their son. “The daughter, or as they used to refer (to daughters) ‘the precious,’ is usually the one pictured in this place. If the family have no daughters, they would take their daughter-in-law. It is unusual to see the son,” said Waziri.
The owners belong to the 18th dynasty of Egypt. The tomb appears to have been reused, as sarcophagi from the 22nd and 21st dynasties were found as well, said Minister of Antiquities Khaled el-Enany.

Statues discovered in the tomb, whose owners belong to the 18th dynasty.

It had two burial shafts, one of them probably dug for the mummies of Amenemhat and Amenhotep. Archaeologists found mummies, sarcophagi and funerary masks carved in wood, along with statuettes of the goldsmith and his wife.
Archaeologists also found the mummies of a woman and her two adult children in another burial shaft in the courtyard. Experts said initial analysis of the mummies shed light on the diseases from which the deceased were suffering, as well other aspects of how they lived.
The tomb also holds clues to new tombs, in the form of funerary masks belonging to four officials whose burial spots have not yet been found.
“This is not the end. This will lead to more discoveries in the future,” Waziri said.

Archaeologists also found funerary masks carved in wood and statuettes of the couple.

The clue that led to the tomb unveiled Saturday was in fact uncovered in another 3,500-year-old tomb unearthed in April in the same area, he said.
In that discovery, officials announced that they had found 10 colorful sarcophagi and numerous figurines.
The main T-shaped tomb in the April find belonged to a city judge named Userhat and is typical of New Kingdom noblemen’s tombs, the ministry said in a statement at the time.
Egyptian archeologists have also found several other tombs and statues in other areas of Egypt this year.
Parts of a 3,000-year-old colossal statue, believed to have stood about 30 feet tall, were found in Cairo in March. Archeologists unearthed the statue in a pit in an area of low-income housing in the eastern neighborhood of Matareya.
This story has been updated to clarify the translation of Amenemhat’s name made by Egyptian officials during Saturday’s news conference.

A China Eastern Airlines jet suffered a major engine failure; Australia To Singapore

THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN

A China Eastern Airlines jet suffered a major engine failure shortly after taking off out of Sydney for Shanghai on Sunday.

After the airplane landed safely back in Sydney, emergency crews found a gaping hole in the front part of the engine nacelle’s structural casing, known as the nose cowl.
The incident with the jetliner’s engines is the second of its kind in as many months.
No passengers or crew aboard the twin-aisle Airbus A330-200 were injured during the incident, according to Xinhua news. The jet typically seats around 265 passengers.
After hearing a “really, really loud” unexpected noise after takeoff, “nobody really panicked, but I was a little bit nervous and it kind of smelled like burning,” one passenger told CNN affiliate Seven Network.
Airbus said it is “aware of the incident and will support the investigation of this engine issue.”

Nobody was injured on the Airbus A330.

A spokesman for Rolls-Royce, which manufactures the engine, said in a statement, “We are aware of the incident and will be working closely with relevant partners to understand the cause of the issue.”
The engine failure in Sydney resembles another recent incident. An Egypt Air flight from Cairo to Beijing in May aborted its takeoff after reporting a failed engine. The nose cowl on that Trent 700 engine also had torn away and had reportedly been ingested by the engine. No one was hurt during that incident.
Rolls-Royce, which powered both planes with the Trent 700 engine, said it was too soon to consider the incidents linked.
A 2011 directive by the European Aviation Safety Agency warned of two operators who “found extensive damage to engine air intake cowls” after the sound dampening panels around the front fan of the engine collapsed. An Emirates flight arriving in Dubai in 2006 sustained similar damage to its Trent 700 engine after a flight from Birmingham, England.
EASA at the time gave airlines 24 months or the accumulation of 5,000 takeoffs and landings or 20,000 hours, whichever came first, to conduct the inspections.
Airlines have a choice of three types of engines on the Airbus A330 workhorse. Rolls-Royce is the most popular choice on the fleet of more than 1,300 jets flying today.

ISIS Video Threatens To Attack More Christians

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

Video had threatened Christians with more attacks

THE Islamic State group claimed responsibility for bombing two Egyptian churches as worshippers gathered to mark Palm Sunday, killing at least 43 people and injuring more than 100 in the deadliest attacks on the Coptic Christian minority in recent memory.

The attacks followed a Cairo church bombing in December and came weeks ahead of a planned visit by Catholic Pope Francis intended to show support for the country’s Christian minority.

The first bombing struck the Mar Girgis church in the city of Tanta north of Cairo, killing 27 people, the health ministry said.

Emergency services had scrambled to the scene when another bombing rocked the Saint Mark’s church in Alexandria where Coptic Pope Tawadros II had been leading a Palm Sunday service.

Sixteen people were killed in that attack, which the interior ministry said was caused by a suicide bomber. A church official said that Tawadros had left before the bombing.

At least 78 people were wounded in Tanta and another 41 wounded in Alexandria, the health ministry said.

Egyptian officials denounced the violence as an attempt to sow divisions in the country, while Francis sent his “deep condolences” to Tawadros.

Islamic State claimed that its “squads” carried out both attacks, in a statement by its self-styled Amaq news agency.

Images broadcast by private television stations showed bloodstains smearing the whitewashed walls of the church in Tanta next to shredded wooden benches.

“The explosion took place in the front rows, near the altar, during the mass,” General Tarek Atiya, the deputy to Egypt’s interior minister in charge of relations with the media, told reporters.

“I heard the blast and came running. I found people torn up … some people, only half of their bodies remained,” said Nabil Nader, whose resident is in front of the Tanta church.

The worshippers had been celebrating Palm Sunday, one of the holiest days of the Christian calendar, marking the triumphant entrance of Jesus to Jerusalem.

Pope Francis, who is due to visit Cairo on April 28-29, offered prayers for the victims.

“Let us pray for the victims of the attack unfortunately carried out today,” he said in an Angelus prayer.

“May the Lord convert the heart of those who sow terror, violence and death and also the heart of those who make weapons and trade in them.”

Copts, who make up about a 10th of Egypt’s population of more than 92 million and who celebrate Easter next weekend, have been targeted by several attacks in recent months.

Jihadists and Islamists accuse Copts of supporting the military overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in 2013, which ushered in a deadly crackdown on his supporters.

In December, a suicide bombing claimed by Islamic State killed 29 worshippers during Sunday mass in Cairo.

The group later released a video threatening Egypt’s Christians with more attacks.

The bombing of the church within a compound that also holds the seat of the Coptic papacy was the deadliest attack against the minority in recent memory.

A spate of jihadist-linked attacks in Egypt’s restive Sinai Peninsula, including the murder of a Copt in the city of El Arish whose house was also burned, have led some Coptic families to flee their homes.

About 250 Christians took refuge in the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya after Islamic State released a video in February calling for attacks on the religious minority.

Reacting before the second bombing in Alexandria, Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid called the attack in Tanta “a failed attempt against our unity.”

“Terrorism hits Egypt again, this time on Palm Sunday,” he tweeted. Prime Minister Sherif Ismail also condemned the attack, stressing Egypt’s determination to “eliminate terrorism.”

The Cairo-based Al-Azhar, an influential Sunni Muslim authority, said it aimed to “destabilize security and … the unity of Egyptians.”

Egypt’s Copts have endured successive attacks since Morsi was ousted in July 2013.

More than 40 churches were attacked nationwide in the two weeks after the deadly dispersal by security forces of two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo on August 14, 2013, Human Rights Watch said.

Amnesty International later said more than 200 Christian-owned properties were attacked and 43 churches seriously damaged, adding that at least four people were killed.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who as then army chief helped remove Morsi, has defended his security forces and accused jihadists of attacking Copts in order to divide the country.

Egypt, Jordan Agree On Importance Of Resuming Negotiations For A Palestinian State

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT AND REUTERS NEWS)

Middle East

Egypt, Jordan Agree on Importance of Resuming Negotiations for a Palestinian State

Ayman al-Safadi, Reuters

Cairo- Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shokry and his Jordanian counterpart Ayman al-Safadi met for three hours in Cairo on Thursday to discuss crises and recent challenges facing the Arab region.

“It’s time to clear up the Arab atmosphere and provide a minimum of consensus on resolutions issued by the Amman summit, to deal with all crises, conflict, war and terrorism tearing the region apart,” said Safadi.

He also pointed to the possibility of reaching Arab unanimity, despite existing differences in a desire “to spare the region further devastation threatening security and stability of Arab states.”

The two FMs held a press conference following talks in Cairo to discuss the latest developments in the region, including the Palestinian peace process and Egyptian-Jordanian relations.

Safadi, who arrived in Cairo early Thursday, hoped the upcoming Arab League summit to be held in March in Amman would enhance joint Arab action in a way that improves capability of addressing crises affecting the Arab world.

Safadi replied to a Syria question with “Jordan is taking part in Astana’s Syria peace talks as an observer and supports any effort that aims at reaching a ceasefire across Syria, especially in the southern region closer to Jordan’s northern border.”

The Astana talks are not an alternative to the Geneva efforts that form the main framework of reaching a political solution to the Syrian conflict, the minister highlighted.

He also said that discussions with Shokry addressed the major challenges facing the Arab world and ways to address them, underlining Cairo’s important role in enhancing the regional stability and security.

Jordanian-Egyptian consultation and coordination not only aim at serving bilateral relations, but also seek to serve the interests of the Arab nation and its peoples to enhance joint Arab action and maintain pan-Arab security, Safadi stressed.

The minister also highlighted the significance of increasing the level of coordination among Arab countries to find solutions to regional crises, especially the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, the Syrian war and the developments in the Libyan arena.

For his part, Shokry expressed hope that the Arab summit will boost joint Arab action and serve Arab national security, voicing Cairo’s readiness to help Amman in organizing the summit.

Egypt Pharaoh Statue ‘Not Ramses II But Different Ruler

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

Egypt Pharaoh statue ‘not Ramses II but different ruler’

Denmark's Prince Henrik (left) looks at the statue belonging to King Psamtik I, outside the Egyptian museum in Cairo on 16 March 2017Image copyright REUTERS
Image caption The massive statue – pictured with Denmark’s Prince Henrik, left – was at first thought to be Ramses II, also known as Ramses the Great

An ancient statue which was pulled from the mud in Cairo is not the Pharaoh Ramses II, but could be another king, Egypt’s antiquities minister has said.

Khaled el-Anani told a news conference the statue was almost certainly Psamtek I, who ruled between 664 and 610BC.

Experts had thought the statue was Ramses, who ruled 600 years earlier, because it was close to a temple dedicated to the ruler.

But one of Psamtek’s five names was found engraved on the huge statue.

Even so, the find is still significant, Mr Anani said.

“If it belongs to this king, then it is the largest statue of the Late Period that was ever discovered in Egypt,” Ahram Online reported him as saying.

Egyptian Minister of Antiquities Khaled Al-Anani stands beside the colossus explaining new evidence pointing to it depicting Psamtek I in CairoImage copyright REUTERS
Image caption Egyptian Minister of Antiquities Khaled Al-Anani explains new evidence pointing to it depicting Psamtek I in Cairo
Egyptians look on as a crane lifts parts of a statue for restoration after it was unearthed at Souq al-Khamis district, at al-Matareya area, Cairo, Egypt, 13 March 2017Image copyrightEPA
Image captionPart of the torso was hauled from deep muddy groundwater using a crane on Monday

The discovery was made after they moved the statue – which was nine metres (29ft) tall originally – from a wasteland in between apartment blocks on the site of the ancient capital, Heliopolis, to the Egyptian museum in central Cairo.

It was found by an Egyptian-German archaeological team, and was partially submerged in water, and had split into a number of parts. Its torso alone weighed three tonnes.

The Ministry of Antiquities said it hoped the two parts could be put back together again.

Media caption Egyptian Antiquities Minister Khaled Al-Anani described “the big discovery of a colossus of a king”

Trying To Restore Religious Harmony In The Islamic World

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Opinion

Restoring the Religious Discourse

Muftis, religious authorities, scholars, professors and politicians from China to the Americas all met in al-Azhar in Cairo, Egypt, to discuss the international crisis facing Muslims and Islam as a religion. They all agreed that extremism and fundamentalism are dangerous threats that must be tackled.

At the conference of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Saudi deputy Minister for Islamic Affairs, Endowment, Dawa and Guidance Tawfiq al-Sudairi made the best and most direct speech. He called for restoring the religious discourse from the extremists and so-called educated people, who as he described had “harmed the religion’s tolerant teachings and who have been manipulated by opportunists.”

Sudairi called for “unifying efforts on the political, intellectual, security and religious fronts to confront deviant ideologies.”

It is unanimous that everyone is agreed against terrorism. This may also no longer need reiteration and reminders, because by far the most important matter which requires consensus and a plan of action is fighting the widespread extremism and fundamentalism.

No one can claim that terrorism can exist without extremism embracing and encouraging it.

It is impossible for a terrorist to grow up in and emerge from a moderate environment.

Even terrorists who have come out of liberal or tolerant societies are always victims of extremist ideologies in their societies in the virtual world, like chat rooms and social networks.

Tens of thousands have joined terrorist groups and all of them without exception are products of extremist rhetoric.

The truth is that terrorists, despite the threat they pose to the world, are less harmful than extremists.

The damage caused by extremists is far more harmful on Muslim societies and other communities. What extremists and fanatics do is worse than the deeds of organizations like ISIS and al-Nusra Front whose members are few among a sea of extremists.

Terrorism is the final step in the ladder of extremism. We cannot neutralize terrorism without fighting extremism. This is a truth that should always be in the mind of those involved in the matter.

Extremism must not be confused with extremist tendencies of some individual Muslims.

Muslim conservatives have the right to their beliefs and to practice their rituals as they deem appropriate. This is their right, as it is the case in all religions. However, this turns into extremism when they try to impose their views on everyone.

The most dangerous form of extremism is the mobile kind. It is usually based on exploiting religious activities that initially had no political purpose in the past, such as education, media, charity and collecting funds, and expanding operations to include students, women and foreigners.

These organized operations travelled to poor and regions and developed countries all over the world where they exploit wars, famine and injustice against some Muslims to plant seeds of extremism. Those seeds remain for a long time and eventually become a local culture.

If you can imagine this, then you can understand how extremism began and how terrorism emerged. You will also realize that combatting extremism is more important than fighting terrorism.

Sudairi’s statement at the conference in Cairo and his calls for the reestablishment of the religious discourse are at the core of this crisis. His suggestions should be the conference’s plan of action and agenda that require collective efforts to be achieved.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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Egypt: ISIS Terrorizes Coptic Christians In Sinai

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI ARABIAN NEWSPAPER ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Middle East

Egypt: ISIS Terrorizes Coptic Christians in Sinai

ISIS

Cairo- Ismailia Militants taking part in the Egypt-based offshoot of ISIS, located in the Sinai Peninsula, have taken their brutality to the streets of civilian neighborhoods in the city of al Arish, eye witnesses told Asharq Al-Awsat.

ISIS hardliners destroyed monitoring cameras and carried out vandalism against commercial shops, handing down leaflets reading that a local minority of Christian Coptic people will be facing exile soon.

Christian families fled most of Arish areas as violence attacks increasingly targeted the Coptic minority. Neighboring city of Ismailia, west of Arish, welcomed escapees fleeing ISIS brutality.

Over the course of three weeks at least eight Christians were killed in Egyptian city with their homes burnet to the ground, an act that forced dozens to flee the area.

Reuters reporter saw 25 families gathered with their belongings in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia’s Evangelical Church and church officials said 100 families, out of around 160 in North Sinai, were fleeing. More than 200 students studying in Arish, the province’s capital, have also left.

Seven Christians have been killed in Arish between Jan. 30 and Thursday. ISIS, which is waging an insurgency there, claimed responsibility for the killings, five of which were shootings. One man was beheaded and another set on fire.

Sectarian attacks occur often in Egypt but are usually confined to home burning, crop razing, attacks on churches, and forced displacement.

Arish residents said militants circulated death lists online and on the streets, warning Christians to leave or die.

The Coptic Orthodox Church denounced “the recurring terrorist incidents in North Sinai targeting Christian citizens” in a statement on Friday.

Blast at Egyptian Coptic cathedral kills at least 25

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Blast at Egyptian Coptic cathedral kills at least 25

December 11 at 4:04 PM
A bomb ripped through Cairo’s Coptic cathedral complex during Sunday Mass, killing at least 25 people and injuring 49, and delivering the bloodiest attack on Egypt’s Christian minority in recent years, according to Egyptian officials and Christian community leaders.The explosion unfolded inside St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral at the 100-year-old Botrosiya Church, also known as the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, shortly after the 200 or so worshipers had stopped reading Bible verses and the priest was getting to ready to start his sermon, witnesses said.About 9:45 a.m., “everything turned black suddenly,” Qelliny Farag said.

As of Sunday evening, there had been no claims of responsibility. But suspicion immediately fell on Islamist extremists, including Egypt’s Islamic State branch, who have staged numerous attacks across the country this year targeting soldiers, police and government officials. Sunday’s carnage came less than 48 hours after a bomb killed six police officers and injured an additional three on a road leading to Egypt’s famed Great Pyramids complex.

The bombing came on a public holiday here, commemorating the birthday of the prophet Muhammad.

Coptic Christians gather at site of blast that killed 25 in Cairo

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Voicing anger toward the police and Egyptian government, Coptic Christians demonstrate outside the Coptic cathedral complex in Cairo where an explosion killed at least 25 and injured 49 on Dec. 11. (Heba Mahfouz / The Washington Post)

Although that is a Muslim celebration, the church was filled with more than the usual number of congregants taking advantage of the day off.

When the bomb detonated, Farag, 80, was seated on the left side of the church. His wife, Samiha Tawfik, was on the right side, along with the other female congregants.

“I could not see anything,” Farag said. “We were all in shock, covered in dust, running through corpses that got thrown by the intensity of the blast.”

Unable to breathe from the dust, his head pounding, he stumbled around the pews. Soon, he began to see, and understand, what had happened.

“A minute passed by and I started to see flesh scattered everywhere around us,” he said. “Even the ceiling had collapsed.”

He couldn’t find his wife.

Pattern of violence

Egypt’s Orthodox Coptic Christian community, which makes up 10 percent of the population, has long felt discrimination at the hands of the country’s Muslims, as well as successive secular but authoritarian regimes. Attacks on Christians have intensified since the 2011 populist revolt that ousted President Hosni Mubarak. At least 26 sectarian assaults have targeted the community this year alone, according to human rights activists.

Sunday’s bombing was the gravest sectarian attack on Christians in recent years. The cathedral complex houses the headquarters of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt, as well as the home of its leader, Pope Tawadros II.

Over the past six years, numerous attacks on Christians have left scores dead. On Jan. 1, 2011, the Church of Saints Mark and Peter in the northern city of Alexandria was bombed, killing 23 people as they left the New Year’s Day service. Ten months later, Egypt’s security forces killed 28 Christians protesting the demolition of a church, claiming the protesters first attacked them.

In 2013, Christians were targeted in a spate of attacks after Egypt’s elected Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, was ousted in a military coup.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the former general who led the coup, condemned Sunday’s attack and declared three days of mourning.

“Vicious terrorism is being waged against the country’s Copts and Muslims,” he was quoted as saying on local television networks. “Egypt will emerge stronger and more united from this situation.”

In Washington, the State Department said that the “United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the terrorist attack today on Christian worshipers outside St. Mark’s Cathedral.” In New York, the U.N. Security Council likewise condemned “the heinous and cowardly terrorist attack.”

Analysts focusing on Egypt’s religious divides said the government has made previous promises to apprehend the perpetrators of hate crimes. But it has shown few results.

“Sectarian tensions in Egypt is ongoing and this attack, although shocking in its scope, is not an aberration,” said Amira Mikhail, a fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy. “Despite the shift in public rhetoric by President Sisi in which he has called for religious reform and has visited the cathedral on several occasions, little has been done to actually change the institutionalized sectarianism in the government and the continued violence perpetrated by nonstate actors.”

Some reports on local television networks suggested that a bomb was concealed inside a handbag in a section of the church designated for female worshipers. A large proportion of the victims were women, according to local reports.

Senior Egyptian officials, including the prime minister and interior minister, arrived at the church shortly after the attack. They were greeted by a small group of angry protesters who railed against the continual attacks on Christians, as well as security forces’ failure to stop the attacks.

“The police are thugs,” some in the crowd chanted.

“The people demand the removal of the regime,” others shouted.

Farag and other witnesses said they noticed no police or guards at the entrance to the church, although there is typically a heavy security presence at the cathedral to provide protection for the pope.

A frantic search

At El-Demerdash Hospital, where most of the victims were taken, doctors said the bulk of the casualties were women and children, most suffering from lacerations.

Farag, too, was there. He was searching for his wife.

“I asked everywhere, there is no trace of her,” he said, his face masked with anguish. “I think she was blown away to pieces and they cannot even find her corpse.”

Eyes filling with tears, he recalled how he had told his wife that he was tired and asked her if they could skip the service.

“But she told me not to give in to my weakness, and insisted we go to the mass today,” he said Farag, as he sat with other family members.

Nearby, Muslims and Christians gathered, some to donate blood, others to comfort their loved ones and check on the injured.

In a wheelchair near the hospital entrance, 65-year-old Tahany Gobraiel was one of the fortunate ones. She had attended the Mass with her daughter and a cousin, Suad Atta.

“Only two benches separated me from my cousin Suad,” ­Gobraiel said. “She was in the front bench near the altar, and I was seated two benches behind her. She died, while my daughter and I were only injured.”

Atta, also 65, had insisted on attending the Mass to commemorate her late husband. Sunday marked one year since his death.

As darkness enveloped the city, nearly eight hours after the bombing, Farag finally found his wife. She was in the intensive care unit of the hospital, battling for her life.

Carol Morello in Washington contributed to this report.

Egypt Is The Safest Country For Tourists In The Middle-East: U.S. Government Reports

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE EGYPT INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER OF CAIRO)

Egypt safest country in Middle East: US government report
Wed, 23/11/2016 – 16:38

Giza pyramids and Sphinx

Egypt has topped a list of Middle East (ME) countries that are safe for tourism and vacations, according to the US government. Other ME countries deemed safe include Jordan, Oman, UAE and Qatar.

In a supplement issued by the Independent ‘Indy 100’, the US government has advised citizens to review the information on the levels of safety for countries around the world, available through US embassies and consulates.
Currently, the regions of lowest safety due to terrorism by the “Islamic State” (IS) group are located in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Whereas the US government urges citizens to be cautious while traveling anywhere in Europe due to fears of suicide attacks by the IS group.
The report comes just in time, as Egypt seeks to attract tourists from Russia and Western Europe in December, one year after the Russian airplane crash that took place in central Sinai in October 2015.
Starting last November, Russia suspended all incoming flights to Egypt. England then suspended flights going to Sharm El-Sheikh.
Russian and British flights represent around 40 percent of inbound tourism to Egypt annually.
The Egyptian government expects improvement in the tourism sector starting the new year, which will positively reflect on providing much-needed foreign currency in the wake of a decision by the Central Bank of Egypt to float the Egyptian pound against the US dollar earlier this month.
While the total capacity of hotels in Egypt is upwards of 225,000 hotel rooms, 65 percent of those are located in the Red Sea and South Sinai regions, attracting seaside tourism from around the world.
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Les méditations du marcheur solitaire

Où allons-nous par cette route où nous marchons depuis des temps si longs sans demander à personne où elle mène ?

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