Sunday, May 8, 2016

ISIS takes credit for ambush that kills 8 police officers in Cairo, Egypt.

All eight officers were ridding in the minibus when it was attacked. New York Times/AP

ISIS has taken credit for an ambush that has killed 8 Egyptian police officers in Cairo. New York Times. The 8 officers were plainclothes units and were killed when gunmen opened up on their minibus. The attack has not been confirmed as an ISIS attack, but the release is consistent with ISIS's other claims of responsibility. The ISIS statement claiming responsibility for the attack claimed it was in response to women being held in Egyptian prisons. The four gunmen in the attack have not yet been apprehended. The attack comes after high tensions between Egyptians and the police force due to concerns about a security crackdown and mistreatment of civilians by the police. 

My Comment:
Yet another attack by ISIS's affiliate in Egypt, the Sinai Province. As you probably remember, they were the ones responsible for destroying a Russian jetliner, killing everyone aboard. Though this terror attack isn't anywhere near the scale, it is still rather shocking that ISIS would be so brazen. This happened in the capital after all and it makes me wonder how safe Cairo is.

I wonder how ISIS was able to identify these police officers. They were in plainclothes and in a non-standard police vehicle. At least I am assuming it isn't, admittedly, I don't know what they drive in Egypt. Still it seems there was little way for these gunmen to know that these men were cops. 

That leaves a few options. The first is that they followed them from the police station. If that is the case then the Egyptians need to step up security at police station to look for people casing the area. Doing so would be incredibly difficult in a city like Cairo. 10 million people live in the city alone, with another 10 living in the metro area. That is a huge number of potential attackers, and if Cairo is anything like any big city I have been too, there will be huge crowds practically everywhere. That makes it almost impossible to spot a tail, especially if these cops weren't trained to do so. 

The second possibility is that someone tipped off these gunmen. It could be someone in the police department, or just a random sympathizer. If that is the case then Egypt has an even bigger problem as they would need to root out these sympathizers as quickly as possible. 

I also wonder if this couldn't have been an attack of opportunity. Perhaps the gunmen just happened to be in the area at the time and noticed a bunch of cops that they could attack. After all, police are high priority targets for ISIS, so it's not like they needed much encouragement to do so. It is even possible that these police were involved in an anti-terror operation and got spotted and wiped out. This could have been nothing but very bad luck for the police officers.

ISIS is fairly smart to hit police forces. Right now, Egypt is facing quite a bit of instability. This is for many reason, not the least of which is they just gave away a couple of Red Sea Islands to the Saudis. The Egyptian people did not like that so there have been many protests, which have been broken up with harsh measures. That alone would make the police less popular then they would be in good times since they are the ones cracking down.

Egypt also has a problem with corrupt and brutal cops. The corruption is just an inevitability, but the brutality is something that Egypt needs to work on. I understand that the cops aren't used to holding back but by being brutal, they are causing instability. ISIS is going to contribute to this brutality. If Egyptian police feel like they are going to be targeted, they will be less likely to take chances. The classic example is shooting someone for reaching for a cellphone.

As we have seen in the United States, even justified shootings and other incidents of police taking a tough line can cause unrest. The Egyptian cops are thus placed in an impossible situation. If they crack down too hard they risk angering an already unsteady populace. If they hesitate, then they end up like these 8 officers... It seems like the police are already prioritizing their safety over the safety and comfort of the population, and honestly I can't blame them that much.

I also want to say that it is very concerning that ISIS is so active in Egypt. Admittedly, most of their attacks have been in the Sinai peninsula, but the fact that this attack occurred in Cairo shows me that the threat is worse then we thought. And the threat was already high. If ISIS could gun down 8 cops in the capital city of Egypt and manage to get away for at least a little while, it means that they could attack tourists and foreign nationals. 

I am honestly surprised that they have not done so already. I am guessing the major attractions, like the Pyramids and such, have heavy security. But Islamic terrorists have proven many times in the past that they can hit softer targets like beaches and hotels. It would be trivial for the men that conducted this attack to just take their rifles and other weapons to a place where tourists are gathered and pull off a mass casualty attack. My guess is that their plans are more ambitious then that, which, as always, works to their disadvantage. Thankfully, most terrorists are stupid... 

Another possible target is the small number of US soldiers posted in the Sinai. I posted before how I thought it was stupid that we were pulling out just due to the threat of ISIS. Even so, it's clear that ISIS would love to target any US or foreign soldiers assigned to the Sinai. The problem is that trained soldiers are about the hardest targets you can hit. But then again, so are 8 cops in Cairo... 

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