Following the attack on St. Peter and St. Paul Church in St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Abbasiya on Sunday, several protesters staged demonstrations in front of the cathedral. One of their main demands was the dismissal of Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar.
However, over the course of the day the cabinet and sources from the Ministry of Interior repeatedly refuted the resignation or dismissal of Abdel Ghaffar, despite the shortcomings in security at the seat of the Coptic Orthodox pope located in the main cathedral.
Upon his arrival to the cathedral following the blast on Sunday, the protestors barred Abdel Ghaffar from entering and demanded that the state hold him accountable for being neglectful in his duty, a witness told Daily News Egypt on Sunday.
Member of parliament Mohamed Anwar Al-Sadat filed a request to the parliament, demanding Abdel Ghaffar be summoned for clarification regarding the measures and policies undertaken by the Interior Ministry to fight terrorism. The MP also wants to know any legislation that should be issued or amended by the parliament following the attack.
MP Haytham Al-Hariri told Daily News Egypt that he offers his condolences to Egyptians for the chain of terrorist attacks that have been occurring over the past three days. He added that the police presence must be increased because there is a lack of personnel, and hence a lack of security measures in place.
Al-Hariri added that the police apparatus should be provided with sufficient technology and tools to help them easily monitor and examine vital places.
When asked about whether Abdel Ghaffar should be held accountable for the recent attacks, Al-Hariri said there is no one else who could be held accountable, not only for the recent terrorist attacks but also for all the attacks that have been taking place over the past few months.
Unlike previous attacks on churches, Sunday’s explosion happened from inside the church.
In 2013, there was an attack on a wedding at the Virgin Mary church in the Giza neighbourhood of Warraq. The attack, which was a shooting that took place in front of the church, resulted in four deaths.
Following Sunday’s blast, Abdel Ghaffar called the pope, promising him the prompt arrest of the terrorists who were responsible for the attack. The pope appreciated the role and efforts of the Interior Ministry in fighting terrorism.
The state has been previously accused by NGOs of “slacking” when it comes to protecting Christians. This accusation came after the Warraq church shooting and the 2011 attack on Al-Qiddissin Church, or Saints Church, in Alexandria.
Continuous security failures and shortcomings
Abdel Ghaffar was appointed as the interior minister in March 2015. He worked his entire career in the State Security Agency (SSA), holding several positions there. When the agency dissolved following the revolution in 2011 and a new one was established in March 2011 called the National Security Agency, Abdel Ghaffar was appointed as the head of the new agency.
Abdel Ghaffar’s predecessor Mohamed Ibrahim was dismissed amid his own set of security failures; however, the attacks continued under the era of Abdel Ghaffar. The attacks were not only limited to civilians. Police officers and security personnel have also been the victims of repeated attacks on security checkpoints.
Sunday’s attack on the church came two days after an attack on two security checkpoints in Al-Haram street in Giza. The explosion caused the death of six security personnel. Another explosion on Friday followed in Kafr Al-Sheikh and led to death of one civilian and the injury of two police personnel. Hasm, a little-known militant group that has executed several terrorist attacks over the past few months, claimed responsibility for the attack.
The list of security shortcomings continues: in October, a jailbreak incident occurred in Ismailia Future prison. Six inmates fled the prison and killed an officer and a civilian during clashes. Three out of the six escapees were terrorist suspects who were arrested by National Security while smuggling weapons.
From May to September, a chain of sectarian strife-related incidents swept over Minya governorate and violent clashes occurred between Muslims and Christians, causing dozens of injuries and a few deaths. The Ministry of Interior failed to immediately contain the incidents.
In May, eight police officers were killed in an armed attack on their checkpoint near Helwan. Both the “Popular Resistance” movement and the Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the attack.
In July 2015, an explosion took place in front of the Italian consulate, leaving one dead and nine others injured. Sinai-based militant group “Sinai Province” claimed responsibility for the attack.
In June 2015, former general prosecutor Hesham Barakat was assassinated in an attack targeting his motorcade. Following the assassination, Abdel Ghaffar said the assassinators belong to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and were trained by the Gaza-based Hamas organisation.
In April 2015, bombs detonated in front of Egyptian Media Production City (EMPC), targeting two electricity pylons providing power to the EMPC. This explosion caused temporary power cuts to several TV channels.
The aforementioned incidents are not the only attacks that indicate the inadequacy of Abdel Ghaffar’s ministry, but they are some of the most significant to have occurred since he was appointed.