Egypt insurgency grows as Islamists demonstrate ability to attack despite crackdown

6 Egyptian soldiers killed near Ismailia day after 53 killed, 271 wounded in three major attacks across Egypt.

Tahrir Square on Yom Kippur anniversary 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)
Tahrir Square on Yom Kippur anniversary 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)
Three major attacks took place Monday across Egypt, a day after clashes between the supporters of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi left 53 dead and 271 wounded, according to the state media.
Suspected guerrillas killed six Egyptian soldiers on patrol near the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, according to security officials, who said gunmen opened fire on the soldiers while they were sitting in a car at a checkpoint near the city on the Canal, a vital global trade route.
Soon afterwards, in the southern Sinai town of Al-Tor, three people were killed and 48 injured in a massive car bomb targeting security headquarters.
The Egyptian daily Al-Masry al-Youm reported that it was a suicide attack.
And in southern Cairo, assailants fired rocket-propelled grenades at a state satellite station.
After the attacks, security was raised at the Cairo airport.
The Islamist insurgency is gathering pace three months after an army takeover.
Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood were killed in clashes with security forces and political opponents on Sunday, one of the bloodiest days since the military deposed Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July.
The Brotherhood denies the military’s charges that it incites violence and says it has nothing to do with militant activity, but further confrontations may shake Egypt this week, with Morsi’s supporters calling for further protests this week.
Eric Trager, an expert on Egypt and a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview Monday evening that, for the most part, he sees the protests and the insurgency as two separate phenomena.
“The Muslim Brotherhood has been decapitated, so it means it is unable to change its strategy... [and is] doing the same thing it was doing when Morsi was removed, which is mass protests,” said Trager, adding that the protests are “further alienating the broader Egyptian public.”
Asked if the protests demonstrate that the Brotherhood remains organized despite the crackdown on its leadership and members, Trager responded that the protests are more similar to flash mobs than to coordinated marches.
“The Insurgency is a completely separate phenomenon. There is no evidence at the moment that the Brotherhood is behind the insurgency,” he said.
He sees the attacks as being the result of the security breakdown in Sinai plus the flourishing of jihadis next door in Libya.
“These two events are creating a perfect storm that is taking advantage of Islamist anger and using it as a pretext for violence,” he said.
Morsi’s supporters are likely to be angered by the publication of an interview with Egypt’s army chief on Monday in which he said he told Morsi as far back as February that he had failed as president.
Also on Monday, Egypt’s State Commissioners Authority, which advises the government on legal issues, recommended that the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice political party be dissolved, according to the Egyptian website Ahram Online.
A statement on Ikhwanweb, a Muslim Brotherhood official website, sought to rally pro-Morsi forces, calling on all Egyptians “to rally in massive non-violent marches.”
In a sign that the Brotherhood has no wish to compromise, the statement read: “The Revolution marches on, gathering along the way all spectra of Egyptian people. It certainly is not, as the putschists claim, a revolution of a single solitary faction. It is a revolution of the entire Egyptian people, on an honorable path that shall only end with victory by the grace of God.”
The statement went on: The “anti-coup” and “pro-democracy national alliance” calls for a continuation of the revolution, going “from strength to strength, fuelled by the precious blood and souls of the noble martyrs. The Alliance salutes all those who gave their lives for the homeland, generously, selflessly.”
Army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who has promised a political roadmap that would lead Egypt to free and fair elections, said in the interview published on Monday that Egypt’s interests differed from those of the Brotherhood.
“I told Morsi in February you failed and your project is finished,” Al-Masry al-Youm quoted Sisi as saying.
Sunday’s clashes took place on the anniversary of the 1973 war with Israel – meant to have been a day of national celebration. The countries signed a peace agreement in 1979.
Authorities had warned that anyone protesting against the army during the anniversary would be regarded as an agent of foreign powers, not as an activist – a hardening of language that suggested authorities would take a tougher line.
The Muslim Brotherhood accused the army of staging a coup and working with security forces to eliminate the group through violence and arrests, allegations the military denies.
Meanwhile, Interim President Adly Mansour was to travel Monday to Saudi Arabia on his first official trip abroad. The Egyptian State Information Service reported that he would hold talks with King Abdullah and other top officials in order to expand relations in all fields.
One of the goals was to increase Saudi investment in Egypt. Saudi Arabia was the first country to recognize the June 30 army takeover.
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have pledged to provide Egypt with $12 billion in aid after the army ousted Morsi on July 3, and have been sending diesel, gasoline and fuel oil, according to Oil Minister Sherif Ismail.
On Tuesday, Mansour is to travel to Amman for talks with King Abdullah II to promote economic relations. The leader of Jordan already visited Egypt in July.
In an interview with the London based Asharq Alawsat on Saturday, Mansour said that some European countries, which “do not understand the significance of the Egyptian revolution,” are attempting to impose conditions on its aid.
“The Egyptian people will not accept, under any circumstance, conditions on aid packages,” he bluntly stated pointing out that the country recently rejected aid from Qatar.
Qatar was a strong supporter of Morsi’s government.
Reuters contributed to this report.