Egypt accuses UK on exiled militants




By Mark Huband in Cairo

Financial Times, 1 December 1997

Egypt’s government yester-day published the identities of 14 leading exiled militants and accused countries – notably the UK – which allowed them residency of condoning acts of violence which it says are planned from safe havens abroad.

The list, which includes photographs of 13 militants, marks the first obvious step in a new government strategy aimed at both highlighting the global connections of the militant organisations and overhauling Egypt’s own strategy intended to combat the groups.

The strategy, full details of which have yet to emerge, is intended to rescue Egypt’s tourist industry following an attack at a popular site near the southern city of Luxor last week. The slaughter left 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians dead, and Egypt’s $3.2bn a year tourist industry facing ruin.

The “wanted” list issued yesterday includes Yasser  al-Sirri and Adel Abdel Megeed Abdel-Bary, both based in London. Both face death sentences in Egypt  following attacks during the early 1990s. Two others are identified as Mustapha Hamza and Mohammed el-Islambouli, both believed to be in Afghanistan. Mr Hamza was alleged last week to have been a probable architect of the Luxor attack.

The location of 10 other militants is not given, though the government list identifies five as having procured foreign passports, from either France, Switzerland, Algeria, Sudan, the Netherlands, Qatar or Ethiopia. Egypt has accused Britain of providing a safe-haven for militants and allowing them to plan violent activities from bases in the UK. The list issued yesterday stated that “giving safe refuge, under any pretext whatsoever, is tantamount to condoning their heinous acts and activities”.

The British government is expected to revise current legislation, by making it an offence to be in the UK while planning violent acts to be carried out abroad.

President Hosni Mubarak reacted to the Luxor attack with the assertion that such violence was a worldwide phenomenon.  Even so, it is Egypt’s vulnerability which has been dramatically exposed by the catastrophic lapse which allowed the gunmen more than 45 minutes to carry out the slaughter before the security forces arrived.

Occupancy rates at hotels in Luxor are at around 5 per cent, with hundreds of staff either being laid-off or taking enforced holidays while hoteliers assess whether the current high season can be rescued before the end of the year.

Many foreign tour companies have cancelled Egyptian holidays altogether, causing a dramatic collapse of business at Red Sea and Sinai destinations.

© Financial Times