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Terrorism in Egypt refers to terrorist attacks in Egypt, many of them linked to Islamic extremism. Targets have included government officials, police, tourists and the Christian minority. Terrorism increased in the 1990s when the Islamist movement al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya targeted high level political leaders and killed hundreds in its pursuit of implementing traditional Sharia law in Egypt.[1]

Ayman Al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian doctor and leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad group, is believed to be the mastermind behind the operations of al Qaeda. Four out of 30 people on the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation "most wanted" terrorist list are Egyptian.[2]

Pre-republic terrorism

In 1943 the Islamist group Muslim Brotherhood is thought to have established "a `secret apparatus`" i.e. "a separate organization for paramilitary activity under the direct authority" the Brethren's head, Sheikh Hassan al-Banna."[3] The Brotherhood were a very large and active organization at that time. In 1948 the group is thought to have assassinated appellate judge Ahmad Khazendar in retaliation for his passing a "severe sentence" against another member of the Brotherhood.[4]

After the 1948 victory of the Jewish state of Israel over Muslim Arab armies the group is believed to have set fire to homes of Jews in Cairo in June 1948 in retaliation. In July two large department stores in Cairo owned by Jews were also burned.[3] A couple of months later police captured documents and plans of the `secret apparatus. 32 of its leaders were arrested and its offices were raided.[3] and shortly thereafter Prime Minister Mahmud Fami Naqrashi ordered the dissolution of the Brotherhood.[5]

On 28 December 1948, Prime Minister Mahmoud an-Nukrashi Pasha was shot and assassinated by Abdel Meguid Ahmed Hassan, a veterinary student and member of the Brotherhood. The country was shocked and traditionalist clergy condemned the act. The Grand Mufti, Imam of Azhar mosque and the Council of Ulema all condemned the perpetrators as kuffar.[3] Less than two months later the head of the Brethren (Hasan al-Banna) was himself victim of an assassination, the perpetrators thought to be supporters of the murdered premier.[3]

After a nationalist military coup led by Gamal Abdel Nasser overthrew the Egyptian monarchy, the Brotherhood were very disappointed to find the officers were secular in orientation and the Brotherhood did not gain influence. On 26 October 1954 a member of the brotherhood attempted to assassinate President Nasser[6] and a general suppression of the Brotherhood followed, including imprisonment of thousands of members and the execution of six of its most prominent leaders.[7]

Lavon affair

A covert operation under the direction of Israeli military intelligence with the intent to destabilize the Nasser government in the summer of 1954 through terrorist bombings of Egyptian, American and British government facilities was unsuccessful and the Israeli trained Egyptian Jewish operatives who planted the bombs were all captured, although all of their Israeli handlers escaped. The Lavon Affair, so named because Israeli Defense Minister Pinhas Lavon was later implicated and forced to resign, was a false flag operation with evidence planted at the bomb sites implicating the Muslim Brotherhood.[8]

Influence of Sayyid Qutb

In 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, terrorist attacks in Egypt became more numerous and severe, and began to target Christian Copts and foreign tourists as well as government officials.[1] This trend surprised some foreigners who thought of Egypt as a country that "embraced" foreigners "with suffocating affection" and preferred a "tolerant brand of Islam".[1] Some scholars and authors have credited Islamist writer Sayyid Qutb[9][10] as the inspiration for the new wave of attacks. Qutb, who had been executed in 1967 after another purported plot to assassinate of Abdel Nasser, was author of Ma'alim fi al-Tariq (Milestones), a manifesto for armed jihad in the advance of Islam to bring about "the kingdom of God on earth" and to eliminate "the kingdom of man",[9][11] sometimes referred to as Qutbism. His book has been called "one of the most influential works in Arabic of the last half century".[12] It became a best seller, went through many editions and strongly influenced Islamists in prison in Egypt.

Military Technical College attack

On 18 April 1974, 100 members of the Islamic Liberation Organization stormed the armory of the Military Technical College in Cairo, seizing weapons and vehicles. Led by Salih Sirriya[13] they hoped to kill President Anwar El Sadat and other top Egyptian officials — who were attending an official event nearby in the Arab Socialist Building — seize radio and television buildings (also nearby) and announce the birth of the Islamic Republic of Egypt. 11 were killed and 27 wounded in the attempt as security forces were able to intercept conspirators before they left the academy. 95 ILO members are arrested and tried. 32 were convicted. Two were executed.[14]

Takfir wal-Hijra

On 3 July 1977, a group known to the public as Takfir wal-Hijra (excommunication and exile), kidnapped former Egyptian government minister Muhammad al-Dhahabi. The group was led by a self-taught Islamic preacher Shukri Mustafa, and called themselves Jama'at al-Muslimin. Among their demands in exchange for al-Dhahabi's release were the release of 60 of Takfir wal-Hijra members from jail, public apologies from the press for negative stories about the group, the publication of a book by Mustafa, and 200,000 Egyptian pounds in cash.[15] Instead of complying, the press began publicized "a long list of offenses and crimes attributed to the group."[16] Four days after the kidnapping, al-Dhahabi's body was found.[15] The murder provokes indignation among the Egyptian public[17] and extensive police raids led to the arrests of 410 of the group's members - i.e. most of its membership.[7]

Salvation from Hell

Salvation from Hell sought to establish an Islamic state using force.[18] The Egyptian government broke off ties with Iran following allegations that Iran funded the group.[19] Yasser Al Borhamy was detained for a month in 1987 due to his alleged connection with the assassination attempt against interior minister Hassan Abu Basha.[20] The group was also responsible for an assassination attempt on former interior minister Nabawi Ismail.[18]

Tanzim al-Jihad movement

Targeting Christians

In spring of 1981, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman agreed to become the mufti of the shura (council) of underground Egyptian group Tanzim al-Jihad, the forerunner of Egyptian Islamic Jihad and al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya. He issued a fatwa sanctioning "the robbery and killing of Copts in furtherance of the jihad".[21]

Sadat assassination and uprising

By 1981 President Anwar Sadat had become unpopular among Egyptians and enraged Islamists by signing a peace treaty with Israel. On 6 October 1981, Sadat and six diplomats were assassinated while observing a military parade commemorating the eighth anniversary of the October 1973 War. Lieutenant Colonel Khalid Islambouli and two other members of the Tanzim al-Jihad movement fired machine guns and threw grenades into the reviewing stand.[22]

In conjunction with the assassination of Sadat, Tanzim al-Jihad began an insurrection in Asyut in Upper Egypt. Rebels took control of the city for a few days on 8 October 1981 before paratroopers from Cairo restored government control. 68 policemen and soldiers were killed in the fighting, but sentences of arrested militants were relatively light, with most of them serving only three years in prison.[23]

Attacks on Israelis

The Ras Burqa massacre was a shooting attack in October 1985 on Israeli vacationers in Ras Burqa, a beach resort area in the Sinai peninsula, in which seven Israelis were killed, including four children. Egypt refused to allow the victims to be treated by Israeli doctors or transferred to hospitals in Israel.[24]

On 4 February 1990, a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Egypt was attacked. Nine Israelis were killed and 16 wounded. This was the fourth attack on Israeli tourists in Egypt since the signing of the peace treaty. The attack, claimed by members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, left 11 people, including nine Israelis, dead and 17 others injured.[25]

On November 1990 An Egyptian border guard crossed the border into Israel and opened fire with his AK-47 on vehicles on the Eilat-Kadesh Barnea road killing four people.[26]

Twelve of the people killed in the 2004 Sinai bombings were Israeli.

The Sinai bus crash in August 2006, in which 11 Arab Israelis were killed, may have been premeditated. Families of the victims allege that evidence collected, including the driver's derogatory and threatening remarks attacking them for being Arabs and Israeli, indicate they were targeted by a cell.

Attacks during the 1990s

The violent Islamic insurgency during the 1990s targeted police and government officials but also civilians including tourists. Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya was the primary perpetrator of the attacks, but Egyptian Islamic Jihad also was involved.

Rifaat el-Mahgoub assassination

In October 1990, Egyptian Islamic Jihad attempted to assassinate Egyptian Interior Minister Abdel Halim Moussa, but ended up killing parliamentary Speaker Rifaat el-Mahgoub.[27]

Daylight ambushes

1993 was a particularly severe year for terrorist attacks in Egypt. 1106 persons were killed or wounded. More police (120) than terrorists (111) were killed that year and "several senior police officials and their bodyguards were shot dead in daylight ambushes."[28]

Luxor massacre


The Luxor Massacre took place on 17 November 1997, at Deir el-Bahri, an archaeological site located across the River Nile from Luxor in Egypt. In the mid-morning attack, Islamic terrorists from Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya ("The Islamic Group") and Talaa'al al-Fateh (Vanguards of Conquest), both of which are suspected of having ties to al-Qaeda massacred 62 tourists at the attraction. The six assailants, armed with automatic firearms and knives, were disguised as members of the security forces. They descended on the Temple of Hatshepsut at around 08:45 and massacred 62 people, their modus operandi including beheadings and disembowellings. The attackers then hijacked a bus, but armed Egyptian tourist police and military forces arrived soon afterwards and engaged in a gun battle with the six terrorists, who were later killed or committed suicide.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak partly blamed Great Britain for the attacks after that country had granted political asylum to Egyptian terrorist leaders.

Attacks during 2000-2010

2004 Sinai bombing

The 2004 Sinai bombings were three bomb attacks targeting tourist hotels in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt, on October 7, 2004. The attacks killed 34 people and injured 171. The explosions occurred in the Hilton Taba in Taba and campsites used by Israelis in Ras al-Shitan. In the Taba attack, a truck drove into the lobby of the Taba Hilton and exploded, killing 31 people and wounding some 159 others. Ten floors of the hotel collapsed following the blast. Some 50 kilometers (31 mi) south, at campsites at Ras al-Shitan, near Nuweiba, two more bombings happened. A car parked in front of a restaurant at the Moon Island resort exploded, killing three Israelis and a Bedouin. Twelve were wounded. Another blast happened moments later, targeting the Baddiyah camp, but did not harm anyone because the bomber had apparently been scared off from entering the campground by a guard.

Of the dead, many were foreigners: 12 were from Israel, two from Italy, one from Russia, and one was an Israeli-American. The rest of the dead were believed to be Egyptian. According to the Egyptian government, the bombers were Palestinians who had tried to enter Israel to carry out attacks there but were unsuccessful. The mastermind, Iyad Saleh, recruited Egyptians and Bedouins to gain explosives to be used in the attacks.

April 2005 attacks

The April 2005 attacks in Cairo were three related incidents that took place in Cairo on 7 April and 30 April 2005. Two incidents caused no loss of life other than those of the perpetrators and appear not to have been planned in advance; in the first attack, however, three bystanders were killed. Two groups claimed responsibility - the Mujahedeen of Egypt and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades. In its statement, the latter group said the attacks were in retaliation for the government's clampdown on dissidents in the wake of the Sinai Peninsula bombings. In the early hours of 1 May, security forces arrested some 225 individuals for questioning, mostly from the dead three's home villages and from the area where they lived in Shubra. Particularly keenly sought was Muhammad Yassin, the teenage brother of Ehab Yousri Yassin, whom the police described as the only remaining suspect in the bazaar bomb attack and a material witness to the shooting. Over the course of the weekend, it also emerged that all the attackers were relatives of Ashraf Said, a suspect in the 7 April bombing who was taken in for questioning and died in police custody on 29 April.

2005 Sharm el-Sheikh attacks

Sharm el-Sheikh is located on the coast of the Red Sea, at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula.

The 2005 Sharm el-Sheikh attacks were a series of bomb attacks on July 23, 2005, targeting the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh, located on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula. Eighty-eight people were killed and over 150 were wounded by the blasts, making the attack the deadliest terrorist action in the country's history. The bombing coincided with Egypt's Revolution Day, which commemorates Nasser's 1952 overthrow of King Farouk.

The attacks took place in the early morning hours, at a time when many tourists and locals were still out at restaurants, cafés and bars. The first bomb blast, at 01:15 local time (22:15 UTC), was reported in a market in downtown Sharm; shortly after, another was reported to have hit the Ghazala Gardens hotel in the Naama Bay area, a strip of beachfront hotels some 6 km from the town centre.

While the official government toll a few days after the blast was 64, hospitals reported that 88 people had been killed in the bombings. The majority of dead and wounded casualties were Egyptians. Among those killed were 11 Britons, two Germans, one Czech, six Italians, one Israeli, and one American. Other casualties, dead and wounded, included foreign visitors from France, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Qatar, Russia, and Spain.

A group calling itself the Abdullah Azzam Brigades (a reference to militant Islamist ideologue Abdullah Yusuf Azzam) was the first to claim responsibility for the attacks. On a website the group stated that "holy warriors targeted the Ghazala Gardens hotel and the Old Market in Sharm el-Sheikh" and claimed it has ties to Al-Qaeda. Additional claims were later made by two other groups calling themselves the "Tawhid and Jihad Group in Egypt" and "Holy Warriors of Egypt".

2006 Dahab bombings

The seaside town of Dahab is located on the Gulf of Aqaba

The Dahab bombings of 24 April 2006 were three bomb attacks on the Egyptian resort city of Dahab. The resorts are popular with Western tourists and Egyptians alike during the holiday season.

At about 19:15 local time on 24 April 2006 — a public holiday in celebration of Sham Al-Nasseim (Spring festival or Easter) — a series of bombs exploded in tourist areas of Dahab, a resort located on the Gulf of Aqaba coast of the Sinai Peninsula. One blast occurred in or near the Nelson restaurant, one near the Aladdin café (both being on both sides of the bridge), and one near the Ghazala market. At least 23 people were killed, mostly Egyptians, but including a German, Lebanese, Russian, Swiss, and a Hungarian.[29] Around 80 people were wounded, including tourists from Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, South Korea, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, United Kingdom, and the United States.[30]

The governor of South Sinai reported that the blasts might have been suicide attacks, but later Habib Adly, the interior minister of Egypt said that the devices were nail bombs set off by timers, and Egyptian TV also reported that the bombs were detonated remotely. Later investigations revealed the blasts were suicide attacks, set off by Bedouins, as in earlier attacks in the Sinai.[31]

These explosions followed other bombings elsewhere in the Sinai Peninsula in previous years: in Sharm el-Sheikh on 23 July 2005 and in Taba on 6 October 2004. Egyptian security officials have stated that the attacks were the work of an Islamic terror organisation called Jama'at al-Tawhīd wal-Jihad (Monotheism and Jihad).[32]

2008 Sudan kidnapping

In September 2008, a group of eleven European tourists and eight Egyptians were kidnapped during an adventure safari to one of the remotest sites in Egypt deep in the Sahara desert and taken to Sudan. They were subsequently released unharmed.[33]

2009 Khan el-Khalili bombing

In February 2009, the Khan el-Khalili bombing killed a French schoolgirl on a class trip.

2009 Hezbollah plot

In April 2009, Egypt said it had uncovered a Hezbollah plot to attack tourist sites in the Sinai, causing tension with the Shia group from Lebanon.

Attacks from 2010-present

al-Qidiseen church bombing

A car bomb explosion outside a church in the north Egyptian city of Alexandria killed at least 21 people and injured 43 following the evening service held at the church causing clashes between Coptic church members at the scene and the surrounding policemen.[34] The attack saw governments around the world warn international travellers of the dangers of visiting the country, highlighting a likelihood of further terrorist attacks and possibility of kidnappings in Sinai.

On 23 January 2011, the Egyptian minister of interior Habib El Adli stated that Ahmed Lotfi Ibrahim Mohammed confessed to monitoring Christian and Jewish places of worship and sending pictures of the Qideseen church in Alexandria to the Army of Islam. He had confessed visited Gaza several times and was involved in planning the attack.[35] British intelligence revealed that Muhammad Abd al-Hadi, leader of Jundullah, recruited Abdul Rahman Ahmed Ali who was told to park the car, which would be exploded by remote control.[36]

Sinai insurgency

On 5 August 2012, a group of armed men ambushed an Egyptian military base in the Sinai Peninsula, killing 16 Egyptian soldiers and stealing two Egyptian armored cars, and then infiltrated into Israel. The attackers rammed through the Kerem Shalom border crossing in Israel, while one of the vehicles exploded. The attackers then engaged in a firefight with soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces, and six attackers were killed during the firefight. No Israelis were injured.[37][38] The attackers were dressed as Bedouins and attacked with guns and rocket-propelled grenades.[39] 35 attackers took part in this attack on the Egyptian base.[40][41]

This attacked triggered an Egyptian operation in Sinai, led by the Egyptian army, police, special forces, and air force reactivating Operation Eagle, which was first launched in August 2011, sweeping Sinai from jihadist terrorist militants.[42] Ansar Bait al-Maqdis is considered the primary group behind the militant activity in the Sinai peninsula.[43] The Al Furqan Brigades are also active throughout Egypt.[44]

Four beheaded corpses were found by residents of a town in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on August 20, 2014,[45] security sources said, blaming Islamist militants waging an insurgency against Cairo.

2014 Border Attack

On 20 July 2014, at least 21 Egyptian soldiers were killed, and 4 injured in the Al-Wadi Al-Gedid attack when armed gunmen attacked a border checkpoint in the New Valley Governorate .[46]

See also

  • Tal'at Fu'ad Qasim


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Murphy, Caryle Passion for Islam : Shaping the Modern Middle East: the Egyptian Experience, Scribner, 2002, p.4
  2. [1] FBI's Most Wanted Terrorist List, 9 May 2011.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Chamieh, Jebran, Traditionalists, Militants and Liberal in Present Islam, Research and Publishing House, [1994?] , p.140
  4. Palestine in the Egyptian Press By Ghada Hashem Talhami
  5. Ruthven, Malise, Islam in the World, Penguin Books, 1984 , p. 312
  6. Chamieh, Jebran, Traditionalists, Militants and Liberal in Present Islam, Research and Publishing House, [1994?], p.141
  7. 7.0 7.1 Ruthven, Malise, Islam in the World, Penguin Books, 1984, p.314
  8. S. Teveth, Ben-Gurion's spy: the story of the political scandal that shaped modern Israel. Columbia University Press, 1996, ISBN 0-231-10464-2
  9. 9.0 9.1 Murphy, Caryle Passion for Islam : Shaping the Modern Middle East: the Egyptian Experience, Scribner, 2002, p.57
  10. Kepel, Gilles, Muslim Extremism in Egypt by Gilles Kepel, English translation published by University of California Press, 1986, p. 74
  11. Qutbism: An Ideology of Islamic-Fascism by Dale C. Eikmeier. From Parameters, Spring 2007, pp. 85-98.
  12. The Age of Sacred Terror by Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, New York: Random House, c2002, p. 63
  13. Kepel, Gilles, Muslim Extremism in Egypt by Gilles Kepel, English translation published by University of California Press, 1986 , p. 93
  14. Sageman, Marc, Understanding Terror Networks by Marc Sageman, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004 , p. 28
  15. 15.0 15.1 Sageman, Marc, Understanding Terror Networks by Marc Sageman, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004 , p.29
  16. Kepel, Gilles, Muslim Extremism in Egypt by Gilles Kepel, English translation published by University of California Press, 1986, p. 70, 96
  17. Kepel, Gilles, Muslim Extremism in Egypt by Gilles Kepel, English translation published by University of California Press, 1986, p. 97
  18. 18.0 18.1 "Muslim Fundamentalists Sentenced in Egypt". Associated Press. 3 September 1989. Retrieved 30 April 2014. 
  19. Kifner (15 May 1987). "Egypt Breaks All Diplomatic Ties With Iran". The New York Times. p. 7. Retrieved 30 April 2014. 
  20. "Yasser Borhami". Ahram Online. 19 November 2011. Retrieved 30 April 2014. 
  21. Sageman, Marc, Understanding Terror Networks, Marc Sageman, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004 , p. 31
  22. Assassination of Sadat: Egypt 1981
  23. Sageman, Marc, Understanding Terror Networks by Marc Sageman, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004 , pp. 33,4
  24. The Middle East: Ten years after Camp David, William B. Quandt
  25. Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1990 Middle East Overview
  27. Sageman, Marc, Understanding Terror Networks by Marc Sageman, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004 , p. 33
  28. Murphy, Caryle Passion for Islam : Shaping the Modern Middle East: the Egyptian Experience, Scribner, 2002, pp. 82-3
  29. Egypt ties Dahab blasts to other attacks CNN
  30. Dahab blasts pinned on suicide bombers Mail & Guardian
  31. Dahab bombers were Sinai Bedouin,
  32. Dahab Bombers Inspired by Al-Qaeda, Asharq Al Awsat, 29 April 2006
  33. "19 kidnapped Western and Egyptian nationals released unharmed". Direct Tracel. 29 September 2008. Retrieved 20 January 2013. 
  34. Yolande Knell (1 January 2011). "Egypt bomb kills 21 at Alexandria Coptic church". BBC. Retrieved 20 January 2013. 
  35. Awad, Marwa (23 January 2011). "Egypt blames Gaza militants for church bomb". Reuters. Retrieved 20 January 2013. 
  37. No byline."Egyptian Who Shot 7 is Dead". The New York Times. 8 January 1986. Retrieved 31 December 2006.
  38. Yaakov Katz (6 August 2012). "The Sinai attack: Blow by blow". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 6 August 2012. 
  39. "Egypt vows strong response to Sinai attack". Al Jazeera. 6 August 2012. Retrieved 6 August 2012. 
  40. Yoav Zitun (6 August 2012). "Watch: IAF strikes Sinai terror cell". Yedioth Ahronot.,7340,L-4265265,00.html. Retrieved 6 August 2012. 
  41. Yaakov Katz and Herb Keinon (6 August 2012). "Israel considers request for more Egyptian troops in Sinai". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 7 August 2012. 
  42. "Egyptian troops strike hard in North Sinai after multiple attacks". Ahram Online. Retrieved 20 January 2013. 
  43. "Single terror group responsible for most attacks in Sinai, intelligence sources say". Times of Israel. 3 October 2012. Retrieved 2 December 2013. 
  44. "Egyptian jihadist group claims shooting attacks on 'apostates' and 'criminals'". Long War Journal. 30 September 2013. Retrieved 2 December 2013. 
  45. Reuters, Cairo, 8/20/2014
  46. "Gunmen kill 21 Egyptian soldiers near Al- Farafra Oasis". IANS. Retrieved 20 July 2014. 

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