Egypt parliament set to approve state of emergency Tuesday amid calls for dismissing interior minister

Gamal Essam El-Din , Monday 10 Apr 2017

Coptic MPs called for minister Magdi Abdel-Ghaffar to be relieved of his position, saying Sunday's terrorist attacks reveal a grave security lapse on the part of the ministry

Egyptian parliament (Reuters)
Egyptian parliament (Reuters)

Terrorist attacks on two Egyptian churches Sunday have led Coptic MPs to voice sharp criticism of the performance of Interior Minister Magdi Abdel-Ghaffar. Meanwhile, a state of emergency is expected to be approved by parliament on Tuesday. 

In a meeting of parliament's human rights committee Monday morning, Coptic MPs said they were surprised that President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi had so far refrained from dismissing Abdel-Ghaffar from his position.

"It is clear that the terrorist attacks on Coptic churches in Tanta and Alexandria on Sunday were the result of a grave security lapse and poor performance on the part of the interior ministry," said Coptic MP Margaret Azer.

Azer said that a deadly terrorist attack on a Coptic cathedral in Cairo in December also showed that interior ministry was not taking necessary security measures.

The MP said the government has also failed to issue a new amended law on criminal procedures. “All they did instead was issue statements of condemnation,” said Azer.

“The recent attacks also show that state authorities prefer burying their heads into the sand rather than developing an effective strategy to foil terrorist attacks and fight terrorist organisations,” she said, adding that tough penalties on terrorist crimes will not be enough to stem the tide of militant attacks on Egyptian churches.

“Those who blow themselves up do so because they believe that this serves Islam,” said Azer.

Head of the human rights committee Alaa Abed agreed that the attacks on Coptic churches in Tanta and Alexandria were “disastrous," but said he did “not agree that interior minister should be dismissed.”

“The interior minister’s decision to relieve the security chief of Gharbiya governorate – of which Tanta is the capital - was a very good step even if it came a little bit late," Abed said.

“It would not be logical if we decided that the interior minister be dismissed whenever a terrorist attack hits the nation,” he added.

Abed, however, sharply attacked the government for taking too long to refer a new criminal procedures law to parliament.

“After an attack on the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo last December, the government promised that it would send an amended criminal procedures law within ten days,” said Abed.

Abed said that instead of blaming interior minister, MPs should direct their attacks against the Muslim Brotherhood.

“This group’s leaders, who are in jail, are the ones who issue orders to militants in North Sinai to attack Christian churches,” he said.

Meanwhile, parliament’s general committee -- headed by parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal and composed of the heads of 18 parliamentary committees -- postponed a meeting with the ministers of interior and justice to discuss the imposition of a state of emergency. The committee said a new date for the meeting will be set very soon.

Egypt's parliament is expected on Tuesday to approve a three-month state of emergency, declared Sunday night by the president and approved Monday by the cabinet.

The decision followed terrorist attacks on two Coptic churches Sunday morning in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria, leaving 45 dead and around one hundred injured.

Egyptian authorities are currently investigating the bombings. 

Meanwhile, Sinai-based Beit Al-Maqdis organisation -- an affiliate of the Islamic State militant group -- has claimed responsibility for the attacks.  

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