Egypt hangs 15 over attacks on security forces

People stand outside Al Rawdah mosque, where a bomb exploded, in Bir Al-Abed, Egypt on Nov.25, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 26 December 2017
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Egypt hangs 15 over attacks on security forces

CAIRO: Egypt hanged 15 men convicted of attacks that killed security forces in the restive Sinai Peninsula, security sources said on Tuesday.
It was the largest mass execution carried out in the North African country since six convicted militants were hanged in 2015.
The men were hanged in two jails in the north of the country where they had been held since military courts sentenced them for the attacks in the Sinai, where militants are waging an insurgency, the officials said.
They were executed early on Tuesday, the sources said.
A military court issued the sentences and Interior Ministry officials carried out the executions simultaneously at Borj Al-Arab and Wadi Al-Natroun prisons, the sources said.
The hangings come a week after Daesh attacked a helicopter with an anti-tank missile at a North Sinai airport as the country’s defense and interior ministers were visiting.
The ministers were unhurt in the attack but an aide to the defense minister was killed along with a pilot.
Most of the militants executed were from Sinai region and were accused of “joining militant groups and taking part in carrying out, planning and assisting in killing a number of army and police personnel in Sinai,” the sources said.
Daesh’s Sinai branch has waged attacks against security forces in a years-long insurgency in North Sinai, and in the past year expanded targets to include Christians and other civilians.
An attack on a mosque last month which killed more than 300 people, the deadliest in Egypt’s modern history, was widely attributed to Daesh, but the group did not claim responsibility for it.
In 2015, six people were executed for killing two soldiers during a raid in Qalyubiah province, north of Cairo.
Daesh’s Egypt affiliate has killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers in attacks in the Sinai and also targeted civilians in the mainland. Egypt has struggled to defeat the militants in the region.
Egyptian courts have sentenced hundreds to death over unrest since the military ousted President Muhammad Mursi in 2013. But most defendants have appealed and won retrials.
While their attacks have become less frequent, they have increasingly targeted civilians over the past year.
In November, suspected Daesh gunmen massacred more than 300 Muslim worshippers at a mosque in Sinai.
The militants have killed more than 100 Christians in church bombings and shootings since December last year.
After the mosque massacre, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi instructed his military chief of staff to quell the attacks in three months using “brutal force.”
The executions of so many on a single day appears to be a reflection of the government’s recently declared resolve to crush the insurgency following the massacre in the Sinai mosque.


‘Hypocrite’ Rouhani rejects war as Iran’s drones target Saudi civilians

Updated 19 June 2019
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‘Hypocrite’ Rouhani rejects war as Iran’s drones target Saudi civilians

  • Tehran regime has fanned sectarian flames in region for four decades, analyst tells Arab News
  • IRGC chief says Iranian missiles capable of hitting "carriers in the sea" with great precision

JEDDAH: Iran “will not wage war against any nation,” President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday — hours after two drones launched by Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen targeted civilians in southern Saudi Arabia.

Rouhani's statement sounded a note of restraint after the United States announced more troop deployments to the Middle East.

“Iran will not wage war against any nation,” he said in a speech broadcast live on state TV. “Despite all of the Americans’ efforts in the region and their desire to cut off our ties with all of the world and their desire to keep Iran secluded, they have been unsuccessful.”

But he was also contradicted by the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Gen. Hossein Salami, who said Iran’s ballistic missile technology had changed the balance of power in the Middle East.

“These missiles can hit, with great precision, carriers in the sea ... they are domestically produced and are difficult to intercept and hit with other missiles,” Salami said.

He said Iran's ballistic missile technology had changed the balance of power in the Middle East.

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Before both men spoke, Saudi air defenses intercepted and shot down two Houthi drones packed with explosives. One targeted a civilian area in the southern city of Abha, and the second was shot down in Yemeni air space. There were no casualties, the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen said.

Rouhani’s offer to avoid war was “the height of hypocrisy,” the Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News.

“Rouhani is the biggest hypocrite in the world,” he said. “On the one hand, he is saying that Iran does not seek a conflict with anybody, and on the other it is launching attacks through its militias on oil tankers, oil pipelines, civilian airports and holy cities.

“This is nothing but the height of hypocrisy. Who does he think he is fooling with those words? Why are they enriching uranium? Why are they seeking nuclear bombs? What have they done over the past four decades? They have only caused trouble. They have only fanned sectarian flames in the region.”

The Saudi Cabinet, meeting in Jeddah, also condemned the Houthi attacks on Saudi civilians, and last week’s terrorist attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, widely blamed on Iran. 

 

Confrontation fears

Fears of a confrontation between Iran and its long-time foe the United States have mounted since Thursday when two oil tankers were attacked near the strategic Strait of Hormuz shipping lane, which Washington blamed on Tehran.

Iran denied involvement in the attacks and said on Monday it would soon breach limits on how much enriched uranium it can stockpile under a 2015 nuclear deal, which had sought to limit its nuclear capabilities.

Exceeding the uranium cap at the heart of the accord would prompt a diplomatic crisis, forcing the other signatories, which include China, Russia and European powers, to confront Iran.

The standoff drew a call for caution from China. Its top diplomat warned that the world should not open a “Pandora’s Box” in the Middle East, as he denounced US pressure on Iran and called on it not to drop out of the landmark nuclear deal.

Russia urged restraint on all sides.

On Monday, Iranian officials made several assertive comments about security, including the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, who said Tehran was responsible for security in the Gulf and urged US forces to leave the region.

Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Monday announced the deployment of about 1,000 more troops to the Middle East for what he said were defensive purposes, citing concerns about a threat from Iran.

The new US deployment is in addition to a 1,500-troop increase announced last month in response to tanker attacks in May. Washington previously tightened sanctions, ordering all countries and companies to halt imports of Iranian oil or be banished from the global financial system.


'Nuclear blackmail'

Iran’s announcement on Monday that it would soon breach limits on how much enriched uranium it can stockpile under the deal was denounced by a White House National Security Council spokesman as “nuclear blackmail.”

The move further undermines the nuclear pact, but Rouhani said on Monday the collapse of the deal would not be in the interests of the region or the world.

The nuclear deal seeks to head off any pathway to an Iranian nuclear bomb in return for the removal of most international sanctions.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi said the United States should not use “extreme pressure” to resolve issues with Iran.

Wang told reporters China, a close energy partner of Iran, was “of course, very concerned” about the situation in the Gulf and with Iran, and called on all sides to ease tension.

“We call on all sides to remain rational and exercise restraint, and not take any escalatory actions that irritate regional tensions, and not open a Pandora’s box,” Wang said.

“In particular, the US side should alter its extreme pressure methods,” Wang said. “Any unilateral behavior has no basis in international law. Not only will it not resolve the problem, it will only create an even greater crisis.”

Wang also said the Iran nuclear deal was the only feasible way to resolve its nuclear issue, and urged Iran to be prudent.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the EU would only react to any breach if the International Atomic Energy Agency formally identified one.

The Trump administration says the deal, negotiated by Democratic President Barack Obama, was flawed as it is not permanent, does not address Iran’s missile program and does not punish it for waging proxy wars in other Middle East countries.