The attack in Mansoura blasted the incompetence of Egyptian Security Agencies wide open. The fact that a group can acquire, store, transport then use a ton and a half of explosives within one of Egypt’s most densely populated areas speaks volumes of this incompetence. Here are some of the reasons behind this shameful failure:
- The lethargy that inflicted security agencies since February 2011. In their attempt to exact revenge on society, law enforcement agencies decided it was not inappropriate to stand idle before the deteriorating security situation in the country. Their inaction in 2011, 2012 and leading up to June 30th 2013 was a systematic retaliation against the liberals and members of the middle class who fomented the revolution, as well as against the Islamists who were instantly transformed from subjects of persecution by the police-state, to key officials within a state where law enforcement agents no longer held social privileges. This inaction paid dividends when policemen were apologetically exalted by the masses that took to the streets on June 30th. Unfortunately this same inaction over a period of two and a half years led to the gradual transformation of Egypt into a safe-haven for radical elements.
- Law enforcement agencies have not forgone their old habits of pursuing political dissidents while paying far less attention to elements that pose real threat on society. There is a stark contrast between the court-evidence compiled against Abu Doma, Maher and Adel (including video footage and recorded phone conversations) and the complete lack of information on perpetrators of the Mansoura attack.
- Perpetuating the convenient myth that the Muslim Brotherhood is behind all the terrorist activities occurring in Egypt. This will only hinder serious police work to uproot radical elements. The complexity of the attacks and their widespread locations is reminiscent of a Pakistan-like mosaic of multiple terrorist cells which do not necessarily share sources of funding or command structures. To claim that the Brotherhood is behind it all paints a simplistic picture that will lead to wrong policies; apprehending MB members and sympathizers and cracking down on any political opposition which criticizes state-brutality or demands that human-rights be upheld. Such policies will lead to more frustration and they would not bear on the continuation of terrorist activity across the country.
There are two main threats aiming to undermine the current political process in Egypt, one political, the other militant. So far, the state has been using militant tactics to deal with the political threat, and it has not been able to deal with the militant threat at all.
Demanding that foreign states label the MB as a terrorist organization and blaming “external” elements for the resurgence of terrorism will not fix all the inherent weaknesses that led to the current spate of violence. Egypt needs to look within and take serious steps to strengthen its own border controls, reform its security agencies, address the socio-economic conditions behind some of the violence (especially in Sinai), and cut down on draconian measures that only lead to protracting the cycle of violence.