A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The 1990s Revisited: Today's Attack on Egypt's Interior Minister

Today's bomb attack on Egypt's Interior Minister Muhammad Ibrahim left 21 or more wounded, but the Interior Minister unharmed and no one killed. His motorcade was attacked near his home, though some reports spoke of a bomb dropped from a nearby building and other reports suggested a possible suicide bombing. Unsurprisingly, some Egyptians were reminded of the 1990s. In the late 1980s and especially during the "war" between the government and Al-Gama‘a al-Islamiyya in the early 1990s, similar attacks on government figures were all too frequent.

And at times in those days it seemed as if it was open season on current and former Interior Ministers.  In May 1987, former Interior Minister Hasan Abu Basha was seriously injured in an assassination attempt near his home by a group of Islamist radicals calling themselves Survivors of Hell, (including a brother of Ayman al-Zawahiri).  In August of the same year, the same group tried to assassinate Abu Basha's predecessor, former Interior Minister Nabawi Isma‘il (who had been Interior Minister at the time of the Sadat assassination in 1981). He survived. During the coming years the radical group Al-Gama‘a al-Islamiyya was blamed for subsequent attacks. In December 1989, Interior Minister Zaki Badr was the target of a failed assassination attempt. In October 1990, Badr's successor ‘Abd al-Halim Moussa was the target of an assassination attempt, but Parliament Speaker Rif‘at Mahgoub died instead. Moussa's successor Hasan al-Alfi was wounded in an assassination attempt on August 18, 1993, at least four died. No Interior Ministers died but two were wounded and several others died in the attacks, including the Parliament Speaker.

Since the not-a-coup in July, some have worried that even if fears of a "civil war" are exaggerated, a return to the violent politics of the early nineties is a real possibility.  Today's attack suggests they could be right, though it should be noted that the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups have strongly condemned today's attacks.(UPDATE: But now some of their allies are suggesting the bombing was "fabricated.")


David Mack said...

Whether or not this marks a return to the violence of the 1990s, it appears that the prominent role being played by Muhammad Ibrahim marks a return to the deep state power of the Mubarak years.

Anonymous said...

Sic semper tyrannus.