CAIRO: The Egyptian government’s active opposition to terrorism and its effective intelligence and security services made Egypt an unattractive locale for terrorist groups, according to a recent US report.
Released on Thursday, the US Department of State’s Country Report on Terrorism 2009 covers events from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and the world.
The report includes country-by-country discussions of foreign government counterterrorism cooperation as well as chapters on Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), terrorism, state sponsors of terrorism, terrorist safe havens and designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
Most governments in MENA, the report said, cooperated with the United States in counterterrorism activities and undertook efforts to strengthen their counterterrorism capabilities.
These efforts included participating in US-sponsored Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) programs and taking steps to bolster banking and legal regimes to combat terrorist financing.
In the past six years, Egypt has tightened its finance regulations to limit terrorism funding in keeping with relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, the report said.
“The report objectively analyzed some aspects [about Egypt], while it failed to maintain objectivity in others,” said Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies researcher Nabil Abdel-Fatah.
“[Among] the objective sides [of the report] is that [how] the Egyptian security bodies … [managed to deal] with Islamist groups that conducted terrorist activities,” he added.
According to Abdel-Fatah, Egyptian security has a long history of dealing with Islamist groups, which enabled it to penetrate and eradicate them.
In 2008, Egypt strengthened its anti-money laundering legislation by specifically adding terrorism financing to the list of punishable crimes, the report added. Egypt regularly informed its own financial institutions of any individuals or entities that are designated by any of the UN sanctions committees.
According to the report, Egypt maintained and strengthened security measures in the Suez Canal and continued to institute more stringent port security.
The report further highlighted the Egyptian judicial system not allowing plea bargaining as terrorists have historically been prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Terrorism defendants may be tried in military tribunals or emergency courts.
Egypt’s judicial system cooperated within the framework of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, the report said.
Many of the Egyptian president’s far-reaching counterterrorism powers come from the country’s Emergency Law, which has been in force since 1981.
“The continuity of the use of the emergency law is based on a bureaucratic security system that is afraid of … responsibility. The security [authorities adhere to it] as a tool at hand so that nobody can question them,” Abdel-Fatah argued.
“I am quite surprised that the report highlighted this issue as being in Egypt’s favor … while the US government does not apply such laws in the States,” he added.
The report referred to a number of negativities, though.
Egypt’s Northern Sinai region was a base for the smuggling of arms and explosives into Gaza, and a transit point for Gazan Palestinians, the report argued.
The smuggling of humans, weapons, and other contraband through Sinai into Israel and the Gaza Strip has created criminal networks that may be associated with terrorist groups in the region, the report added.
Palestinian officials from the Hamas faction have also carried large amounts of cash across the border.
“The problem with the [rivalry Palestinian factions of Hamas and Fatah] is that they do not understand the nature of Egypt as a nation state and its different historical experience,” Abdel-Fatah explained.
“Tribal principles prevail in the [Palestinian territories] where they do not realize the [concept of] a state,” he added.