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Monday, 27 November 2017

International press occupied with magnitude of Al Rawda mosque attack

Friday’s attack on Al Rawda mosque in North Sinai was the entire conversation on Egypt in the foreign press overnight, with most pieces pointing to the significance of the attack.

The Financial Times’ Heba Saleh writes that the attack puts more pressure on President Abdel Fattah El Sisi “as his government seeks to attract investors and bring back tourists scared away by earlier attacks. … The scale of the violence is likely to signal the potential for more instability making the authorities’ task more difficult. In addition, the unprecedented carnage in a mosque against fellow Sunni Muslims is a worrying departure for the jihadis who seem to have expanded the list of targets they view as legitimate."

The rest of the press is happy to regurgitate criticism of Egypt’s Sinai strategy. “Critics have called for a counterterrorism strategy in Sinai rather than the reliance on a conventional deployment of overwhelming force,” says The Associated Press. “One suggestion has been for the military to arm local Sinai tribesmen hostile to the [terrorists]” in the same way that the US military armed militias in Iraq that had been “a key part of defeating Al-Qaida in the 2000s.” Ynet’s Alex Fisher also says the situation is hopeless “without recruiting the Sinai population for the fight.”

While the AP and Ynet take a constructive approach, the Guardian simply falls back on crass insults. Taking note of El Sisi’s remarks that Egypt will respond with an “iron fist,” Simon Tisdall accuses the government’s retaliatory attacks of impacting innocent civilians. “It is probable the targets were chosen randomly and yet more innocent lives may now have been lost,” he says before essentially calling the government’s strategy in Sinai intentionally bloodthirsty. The Guardian’s editorial staff doubled down on the accusation and their disdain for the government’s anti-terrorism strategy on Sunday. It is perhaps not surprising that Tisdall’s piece was publically called out by Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zaid, who called it “a blatant example of double standards,” Ahram Online reports.

Move over to the BBC for a fresh view from analyst HA Hellyer, who notes that the attack may spell the demise of Daesh. Hellyer says the attack will specifically will hinder terrorist groups’ ability to recruit more followers in Egypt. “If anything, this will only intensify local opposition to any group that claims the slightest bit of sympathy for attacks of this nature. Indeed, that may be why no group has claimed responsibility for it because even for supporters of [Daesh], this attack was grotesque.”

The Jerusalem Post’s Adam Hoffman calls the attack “Egypt’s 9/11.” He explains that Daesh attempts to remain relevant by carrying out operations of this magnitude, particularly after it lost ground in both Iraq and Syria. Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy fellow Timothy Kaldas thought along the same lines, saying that if Daesh are behind the attack, it would reflect “their willingness to continue to do large operations that have large civilian casualties.”

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