Egypt Feature Story Safety and the Dahab Incident
by Jimmy Dunn
There is not much we can say at this point about Monday's bomb attack in Dahab. Our hearts, of course, go out to the victims of this tragic event. It now appears that some 23 people have been killed in the attack, including 20 Egyptians and three foreigners (These figures may have very recently been lowered to 18 deaths total). Many others were injured, including as many as four Americans, three Danes, three Britons, two Italians, two Germans and a number of others. Exact numbers on the injured remain unclear. The attack has been universally condemned by world and Middle East countries.
As Bruce Hoffman, a RAND terrorism expert pointed out to MSNBC, Egypt has been one of the most proficient Middle Eastern countries in dealing with terrorist groups. There is good reason for that. Egypt, and indeed many individual Egyptians, rely heavily on tourism economically. The government of Egypt works very diligently to keep its tourists safe, though over the last several years, they have experienced problems.
I might say that Egypt will now take the usual steps to correct security issues. Initially, they will track down the those responsible for the Dahab event. They are very good at this, and there are likely to be many arrests very shortly. Safety measures will be beefed up around Dahab, as they have been at Sharm el-Sheikh and Taba after similar events in those areas. But I suspect that the government will go much further this time. Not that they have been lax on the earlier terrorist events. There were massive crackdowns on militants after those incidents in Taba and Sharm, and Sharm has largely been remade as far as security efforts are concerned. Though security is actually very tight in Egypt, this time we suspect that the government of Egypt will inaugurate a very widespread, very intense crackdown that will far outreach those of prior efforts during this millennium. Indeed they must, and they must make a strong showing of doing so, for any future such events in the Sinai might very well spell the end of tourism trade in the region. That would be a tragic loss to the Egyptian economy.
Furthermore, these events in the Sinai are much more of a slap in the face to the current Egyptian government than many might realize. The fact that all three attacks, at Taba, Sharm and Dahab, occurred on Egyptian holidays, and killed far more Egyptians than anyone else, including Muslims, signals a direct challenge to the government of Egypt. Indeed, the Dahab attack did not seem to target Israelis at all, who were much more prevalent in the area a week earlier during the long Passover weekend, nor does it seem that other western tourists were necessarily the focus, since the resort was mostly full of Egyptian vacationers. Rather, these attacks are looking more and more like the work of those who are trying to undermine the current government of Egypt by destabilizing Egyptian tourism and making the country's leaders appear inept in their security efforts.
But the government of Egypt is not inept, and the vast majority of Egyptian people are fed up with this sort of violence, as well they should be. It is they who have suffered the largest loss of loved ones, as well as their means of making a living. That is why we have now seen marches, mostly made up of Egyptians, protesting terrorism, first in Sharm and now in Dahab. No one is more horrified by these events than the Egyptians themselves. After the Sharm bombing, not only did many Egyptians lose friends and family, many also lost their good jobs in the tourist facilities as foreign visitors declined.
In the end, just like at Sharm, many tourists in Dahab or electing to continue their holidays in the resort community because, as some have pointed out, terrorist events can and have happened in many different countries, including sophisticated European and North American ones. Furthermore, if history repeats itself, it is unlikely that there will be any more attempted attacks in Egypt for at least some period of time to come.
It is too soon to say what sort of security policies will change in Egypt, but one may expect such changes to be extensive, probably far outreaching those made after the previous two attacks. The bad news is that this latest attack may spell a virtual end to the more free spirited camps along the Eastern coast of the Sinai, and few are more free spirited than Dahab, in favor of more structured resort compounds. Egypt simply cannot allow another such attack, and the government is very well aware of that fact. While it is too early to predict what changes will be made, we will keep our readers informed as the new measures are announced.
Last Updated: June 9th, 2011