Top News: One killed, Ten Injured in Car Bomb Blast at Italian Consulate in Cairo

A powerful blast left at least one dead in front of the Italian Consulate in downtown Cairo Saturday, the second car bomb attack in the Egyptian capital in less than a fortnight. The blast heavily damaged the consulate, shook other buildings downtown, and could be heard in several surrounding neighborhoods. A water pipe on Galaa and July 26 Street was also damaged, causing leaks. The windows of the nearby Egyptian Museum from the eastern side were smashed by the explosion, however, the artifacts and the display windows inside the museum remained intact, according to Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. The area is usually busier during working days so the timing of the explosion, on early Saturday morning, may have limited the number of casualties. The consulate has suspended services as a result of the attack. In an announcement on Twitter, the Sinai State, Egypt’s Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) affiliate, claimed responsibility for the blast. The head of Boulaq Abu al-Ela municipality in central Cairo, Ibrahim Abdel-Hadi, said the government would provide alternative housing to residents in the area whose homes were damaged by the bomb. Residents, however, said the security measures taken after the explosion were weak, with only two security vehicles deployed to guard the area. The Italian School Street, on which the blast took place, was closed with concrete barriers, and only one of the three water pipelines that were damaged had been repaired. Following the attack, in a phone call with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry, Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni pledged his country’s support for Egypt’s “war on terrorism,” a statement by the Egyptian foreign ministry read. Gentiloni commented on Twitter that Italy “would not be intimidated” by the attack. Gentiloni is expected to arrive in Egypt on Monday to meet with Shoukry, with a press conference to take place after their meeting. Sisi will also meet with Gentiloni during his visit. The attack prompted Mahlab to urge the world to unite against terrorism, a state-run newspaper reported. “The time has come for the world to unite in facing terrorism, which now threatens the entire world.”  In a telegram to Sisi, Pope Francis joined the call against terrorism, saying, “Political and religious players at all levels to unite their efforts to combat with ever more determination the plague of terrorism and to promote harmony and solidarity.” [Ahram OnlineDNEAFPAswat MasriyaAPReutersSIS, Cairo PostEgypt Independent, 7/13/2015]


Sisi issues law authorizing Egypt ministries of defense, interior to found security firms
Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued a law on Sunday authorizing the ministry of defense, interior ministry, and the General Intelligence Agency to found security companies which provide services of protection of facilities and/or money transport. The new law stipulates that the Minister of Interior is the only authority which can issue or revoke licenses for private security companies.  The law imposes a maximum of one-year-jail sentence jail and/or a monetary fine of 30-50,000 Egyptian pounds on individuals who operate security businesses without prior licensing, or use army or police fatigues to carry out their operation. Sisi also issued a law Saturday granting him the right to depose the heads of four state financial and regulatory bodies: the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE), the Administrative Control Authority (ACA), the Accountability State Authority – the country’s central auditing agency (ASA) and the Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority (EFSA). The head of Egypt’s Central Auditing Organization (CAO) said the law does not apply to him. He said based on the CAO’s law, which was not affected by the recent decree, the organization’s head cannot be removed without his consent or without an official letter of resignation. The president set four conditions for using the right to dismiss the officials including the existence of solid evidence that they compromised national security, evidence that they breached their duties by harming the country’s interests or other public figures, and if they were proven morally compromised. The decree has been met with mixed reactions, with some saying it is in violation of the constitution, while others believe it fulfils it.  [Ahram Online, DNE, Cairo Post, Egypt Independent, 7/13/2015]

Minister: Article 33 of anti-terror law aimed at social media, not press
Transitional Justice Minister Ibrahim al-Heneidy claimed that the highly controversial Article 33 of the new terrorism law was meant for “social media that agitates public opinion and not the press,” privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper reported. The draft law already also has a special focus on social media, stipulating five-year prison terms for anyone found guilty of propagation or intended propagation of “ideas and beliefs calling for the use of violence” through social media or other tools. In his statement on Thursday, Heneidy said that the Journalists Syndicate and a number of chief editors of newspapers filed three suggestions to amend the article during their meeting with Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab on Wednesday. The suggestions included removing the article all together, including it in another law or substituting prison sentences for monetary fines. Heneidy explained that the government will give its official response to the aforementioned suggestions following a meeting between Heneidy, the Minister of Justice and Prime Minister. [Mada Masr, 7/10/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Wafd party calls for renewal of mandate to fight terrorism | DNE
  • Dostour Party to set elections date after Eid al-Fitr | DNE
  • SPAP head: Next parliament to be loyal to executive authority | Egypt Independent

Police officer shoots lawyer in court
The Head of Egypt’s Lawyers Syndicate Sameh Ashour said Sunday that the union suspended work in two Cairo courts for one day after a police officer reportedly shot and injured a lawyer in a Cairo court on Saturday while he was “doing his job.” A police officer shot lawyer Mohamed al-Gamal inside a Nasr City Court on Saturday according to news reports. What sparked the shooting remains unclear. A security official, speaking Sunday on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to journalists, said the shooting came after Gamal was seen arguing with prosecutors and police officers. According to Youm7, the argument began when Gamal allegedly attempted to give a cell phone to his client, while the defendant was held inside the court’s detention room. Gamal then ran to the lawyers syndicate room at the courthouse, the official said, prompting an officer to run after him “to calm him down.” Another officer mistook this for a chase and shot the lawyer, the official said. A conscript was reportedly injured as well. The official said Gamal is hospitalized in intensive care, while the officer who shot him has been detained pending the outcome of an investigation. [Ahram Online, DNE, AP, 7/12/2015]

Ministry of defense releases video of disappeared individuals
A number of individuals who were part of a wave of disappearances in recent months have appeared in a video published online by the Ministry of Defense. The video, released Friday, claims to show the individuals confessing to membership of a terrorist network and claiming responsibility for attacks on state facilities and personnel. The eleven minute video claims the individuals were trained abroad on Muslim Brotherhood instruction. It also claims they have attacked state facilities, including police cars and electricity pylons in Egypt. The release says the cell is run from Turkey by the “terrorist Muslim Brotherhood and organizations loyal to it, and members received training in Syria” on assassinations, kidnappings, and the manufacture of explosive charges. The video names the leader abroad as a twenty-three year old man called Abdullah Nour Eddin Ibrahim Moussa. Revolutionary and pro-democracy activist Mona Seif reported on Facebook that six of the men featured in the video, including Ghazali, were abducted in a wave of disappearances in recent months. [DNE, 7/11/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Shawkan completes 700 days behind bars in longest journalist pre-trial detention | DNE
  • Detention for ‘torture t-shirt’ student to reach 580 days | DNE
  • Jailed Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah acquitted of ‘insulting police’ | Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, Cairo Post   
  • Two Egyptians handed three years in prison in “Shura Council” trial | Aswat Masriya, Cairo Post  
  • Members of Brotherhood-linked terrorist cell arrested: Egyptian military | Ahram Online
  • Egypt’s Sisi to pardon prisoners for Eid and ’52 revolution anniversary | Ahram Online, DNE, Cairo Post   
  • State-run Misr Travel to operate Abou-Treika’s travel agency | Ahram Online
  • Government affirms farmers’ ownership of disputed land | DNE

Egyptian pound steady at auction, stronger on parallel market
Egypt’s central bank held the Egyptian pound steady at 7.73 per dollar for the third straight foreign exchange auction on Sunday after a depreciation earlier this month. The currency strengthened on the parallel market. The central bank said it had offered $40 million and sold $37.5 million at a cut-off price of 7.7301 pounds per dollar. The central bank had held the pound at 7.5301 for the past five months until earlier this month, when it allowed it to weaken. Analysts say letting the pound weaken in a controlled way could boost exports and attract further investment, but also raises Egypt’s large bill for imported fuel and food staples. [Reuters, 7/12/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Concern over European warnings against travel to Egypt: Investors | DNE, Egypt Independent
  • Egyptian stock market inches up after fierce setback last week | Aswat Masriya
  • Egyptian government borrows 6.75B EGP in T-bonds Monday | Cairo Post

Egypt launches monitor to scrutinize foreign media reports
The government of Egypt has launched a monitoring office run by its State Information Service (SIS) to verify information included in foreign media reports about the country, days after handing out a style guide for foreign reporters operating on its soil. According to the Huffington Post, the FactCheckEgypt office will seek to verify foreign reports and sources they rely on. It said the office’s staff was trained by the US “media ethics” news site iMediaEthics and works in tandem with the Egyptian government’s SIS. The US online newspaper states that many reporters who covered the terrorist attacks in North Sinai earlier this month had been contacted by FactCheckEgypt via e-mail in order for them to adapt their reports to the government’s statements, setting a deadline for the request to be met. [Egypt Independent, 7/12/2015]

Also of Interest

  • ‘Secret’ anti-sexual harassment force formed in South Sinai | DNE
  • Egypt to organize tourism week in Addis Ababa in July: Ministry official | DNE
  • Supplies ministry: Egypt to begin food imports via direct order | Reuters
  • The Cairo streets where girls pretend to be boys | The Guardian
  • Egypt has twenty-six Gaucher patients: Ministry | Cairo Post

Egypt army kills 252 militants in eleven days: Spokesman
Egypt’s army spokesperson Brigadier General Mohamed Samir announced on Sunday that the army had killed 252 alleged militants in raids in North Sinai between July 1 and 11. In a Facebook statement, Samir said that the army had detained sixty-three suspects during the last eleven days, thirteen of whom were already wanted by the authorities. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab issued on Sunday a decree banning 4X4 vehicles in army-operations zones in Sinai, reported the state news agency MENA.
According to a statement issued by the cabinet, the ban covers all types of 4X4 vehicles in the areas designated by the Egyptian armed forces as stages of military operations in North and South Sinai governorates. Islamist militants have reportedly used 4X4 vehicles in their repeated attacks on security forces. Finally, the implementation of the third phase of the Egypt-Gaza border buffer zone is still being surveyed, and has yet to take place, according to North Sinai Governor Brigadier Mohamed Abdel Moneim’s office. The first and second phases, each covering 500 meters, have now been completed. [Ahram Online, 7/12/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Displaced from Sheikh Zuweid | Egypt Independent
  • More security patrols to secure public facilities says Mahlab | DNE
  • Al-Alamein road closed in both directions for one month | Egypt Independent

Egypt, Yemen sign anti-terrorism memorandum
Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab and Yemen’s Prime Minister and Vice President Khaled Bahah signed on Sunday a number of memorandums, including one against terrorism. Bahah arrived at Cairo International Airport on Sunday morning, where he was welcomed by Mahlab and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Transitional Justice Ibrahim al-Heneidy. Minister of International Cooperation Naglaa al-Ahawani and her Yemeni counterpart also signed a number of agreements, including agreements on educational, health, and media programs for 2015 to 2017. Meanwhile, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met in Cairo on Sunday with Bahah to discuss the latest developments in the Yemeni crisis. In statements to the media, the Egyptian presidency’s spokesperson Alaa Youssef said that the Yemeni VP expressed to Sisi the appreciation of Yemen’s President Mansour al-Hadi for Egypt’s support to Yemen. Sisi stressed to Bahah that a political solution through dialogue under the auspices of the UN is necessary to achieve national reconciliation. [Ahram Online, Cairo Post,SIS, 7/13/2015]  

US navy chief visits Alexandria for security cooperation
United States Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Jonathan Greenert concluded Monday his trip to Egypt, aimed at strengthening naval cooperation between the two countries, according to a statement from the US embassy in Cairo. Greenert met with the Commander in Chief of Egyptian Naval Forces, Rear Admiral Osama Monier Rabie, to discuss cooperation with the Egyptian Navy, security issues, and interoperability.  While visiting Abu Qir Naval Base, he toured the Fast Missile Craft that the United States finished delivering to the Egyptian military June 17. The four state of the art vessels, representing a $1.1 billion investment by the United States in the bilateral strategic partnership, will provide an enhanced capability to patrol and protect Egyptian and international maritime interests. “I’m in Egypt to build a stronger relationship with my counterpart Rear Admiral Ossama,” said Greenert. “I was honored to meet him and his staff today and visit several Egyptian Navy ships in Alexandria.” [DNE, Cairo Post, 7/13/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt backs peace treaty in Libya says foreign ministry | Ahram Online, Cairo Post  
  • Egypt stresses importance of embargo lift on Libya | DNE
  • Sixteen Israel-bound Sudanese apprehended in North Sinai | Egypt Independent
  • Foreign Minister meets Saudi King, Crown Prince | SIS
  • Sisi calls for reclaiming 100,000 acres in Sudan within year | Cairo Post
  • Egypt’s Foreign Minister meets UN envoy to Syria | Cairo Post