On a cold night in January, two young Cairene men stormed the Bella Vista hotel in the resort town of Hurghada, in Egypt. They were looking for Russians to kill or kidnap in the name of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS). One attacker drew out a knife and put it to the throat of the first tourist he encountered, wounding him just before the police arrived, guns blazing. The second assailant, carrying the ISIS banner, cried out that he had a suicide belt and was ready to blow. But the police swiftly shot at his knees. It turned out that the belt was nothing more than a string of deodorant bottles wrapped together with black duct tape.
The assailants, Ali and Muhammad, were in their twenties. They became friends through Egypt’s hard-core soccer fan group, known as the Ultras, which played a role in protesting during the 2011 revolution and have participated in other demonstrations since. As the case of Ali and Muhammad reveals, some of the Islamists in Egypt have succeeded in channeling some of these youths’ anger and energy to their cause by imitating their popular style of protest, for example.
A few days after the attack, an Egyptian ISIS fighter, Abu Dujana al-Mohajer, revealed online how the two had reached out to him. He posted their story and a photo of the two young men posing in front of a makeshift ISIS banner. Ali and Muhammad had even adopted the noms de guerre Abu Musab and Abu Yassin as part of their transformation into “soldiers of the Caliphate.” After months of failed attempts to join ISIS in Syria because of stricter government controls on travel to Turkey, the duo decided to carry out their own operation. There is no evidence so far that ISIS command played a role in orchestrating the failed attack. The group did not claim responsibility, and in fact appears to be doing what it can to distance itself from the flop. Soon
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