Crying Wolf

How Sisi Plays Politics With Terrorism

A supporter of Egypt's army and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi holds a placard with Sisi's picture during the anniversary of Sinai Liberation Day celebrations in Cairo, Egypt, April 25, 2016. Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters

On March 7, 2016, Egypt's Ministry of the Interior announced the names of the groups responsible for the assassination of Egyptian Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat. The news came nine months after he died in what was one of the highest-profile attacks in recent memory. In a video of the purported assassins’ confessions, the culprits detailed a Muslim Brotherhood plot that included a training stint with Hamas in Gaza, all in order to carry out the June 2015 car bombing. As far as the ministry was concerned, the case was closed. 

The allegations against the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas do not actually point to any new information about these entities’ involvement in the assassination. Egyptian officials had already pointed to the Brotherhood and training trips in Gaza shortly after the attack took place. Rather, they indicate Egypt’s attempts to drum up regime support by diverting attention from mounting domestic criticism to other problems or parties. But by adopting this approach, the Egyptian security apparatus fails to address the real threats it faces.


Egypt’s latest wave of unrest began in mid-2013, following the ouster of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. Terrorist attacks have rocked the country ever since, particularly in the restive North Sinai. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has accused the Muslim Brotherhood of masterminding the violence and has arrested over 12,000 of its members on terrorism charges since July 2013. Some Brotherhood members have been jailed for minor crimes, such as the possession of pro-Morsi material or for organizing anti-election protests during the 2014 presidential election (which Sisi won by a landslide). 

To be sure, there is some evidence to suggest that the Brotherhood’s hands are not clean in all this violence. An internal power struggle between the party’s pacifist veterans and its younger members, who are more open to using force, has created fissures in the organization. Groups such as Revolutionary Punishment and the Popular Resistance Movement, which have carried out attacks on police, the judiciary, and other targets, have attributed their emergence

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