The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Second bombing in three weeks

UPDATE: Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera reporting now that there were two bombings that killed three and injured eight. The second bombing was near Sayida Aisha, a working class Egyptian neighborhood about 15 minutes by car from the site of the first bombing. Al Jazeera is interviewing somebody now saying that it was carried out by two veiled women wearing the niqab and that they fired on a tour bus. Nothing about the second attack (bombing or shooting) is really clear yet.

Also, watch to see whether these two still wanted from the Khan al-Khalili bombing are implicated in this latest attack (attacks).


The second bombing in three weeks in Cairo, this time into a bus station under the Abd al-Monem Riad Bridge near the Egyptian Museum, perhaps 100 meters from the entrance to the museum and Cairo's central Midan Tahrir. The AP has the most info so far. Four injured and one killed. The four injured were two Israelis, a Russian, and an Italian. There are conflicting reports about whether the one fatality was the bomber himself or whether the bomb was thrown from the bridge above. Al Jazeera reports that the bomb was similar to the one used in the Khan al-Khalili bombing, a crude device packed with nails.

The immediate Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya coverage has focused on the fact that this bombing indicates the return of organized violence to the country. Al Jazeera spoke of "a new generation of fundamentalists with no connections to the groups of the past like al Gamaa al Islamiya and Islamic Jihad." Hassan Nafaa, the political science professor from Caior University called this "a new wave of violence." Following the Taba bombings and the Khan al-Khalili bombing the concensus had been that these were isolated acts. Here's a Reuters timeline that says what we all know, but nicely illustrates how different the past six months have been when compared with the past six years:

Sept. 18, 1997 -- Gunmen kill nine German tourists and their Egyptian bus driver in a shooting and firebomb attack outside the Egyptian Museum in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Six Germans wounded.

Nov. 17 -- Attackers with guns and swords kill 58 tourists and four Egyptians at an ancient temple near the southern tourist town of Luxor. Six gunmen and three police also die in the violence.

Oct. 7, 2004 - A series of bombings at the Taba Hilton hotel on Egypt's border with Israel, and two beaches further south, kill 34 people.

April 7, 2005 - A probable suicide bomb attack in a bazaar in medieval Cairo, popular with tourists, kills an American man, a French man and woman and the suspected bomber.

April 30, 2005 - Suicide bomber injures foreign tourists near Cairo's landmark Egyptian Museum, home to national treasures dating from the time of the pharoahs.

Interesting side note: Egyptian television appears to have registered the harsh criticisms leveled at it following the Taba bombings and the Khan al-Khalili bombing. This time around they were quick to get on the story. Al Arabiya had the Egyptian Museum bomb story first, a little before 4 p.m. Al Jazeera, whose Cairo office is 25 meters from the site of the bombing, was minutes later at about 4:05 p.m. Egyptian state television followed within minutes, interrupting its regularly scheduled programming and broadcasting a continuous live feed from the site of the bombing. As far as the pictures were concerned, Egyptian television actually has the best so far.

Remember that after the Khan al-Khalili bombing state television was slammed for reporting the story nearly two hours later, and then when it finally did report it, it only scrolled a one-line blurb across the screen. When they finally ran pictures nearly four hours after the incident, they simply rebroadcasted MBC's coverage. Al Misry Al Yom reported that the reason for the embarassing delay was that the station's authoritarian news manager, Tharwat Mekki, had his mobile phone turned off and thus couldn't authorize coverage.

The debacle prompted Osama al-Ghazali Harb, editor in chief of Al Siyasa Al Dowlia, to write in the Al Ahram Weekly that, "The real cause for alarm is that the official media, be it the press, radio or television, has shown itself largely incapable of absorbing these new developments [more free debate in Egyptian society] and continues to address its audience in an outdated language fundamentally at odds with the logic of political development."