US embassy cable - 93ALEXANDRIA190

UPTURN IN FUNDAMENTALIST ACTIVITY IN THE DELTA

Identifier: 93ALEXANDRIA190
Wikileaks: View 93ALEXANDRIA190 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Consulate Alexandria
Created: 1993-03-18 11:24:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PGOV KISL EG
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
R 181124Z MAR 93
FM AMCONSUL ALEXANDRIA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 0398
INFO SECDEF WASHDC
DIA WASHDC
AMEMBASSY CAIRO
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ALEXANDRIA 000190 
 
 
E.O. 12356:  DECL:OADR 
TAGS:  PGOV, KISL, EG 
SUBJECT:  UPTURN IN FUNDAMENTALIST 
ACTIVITY IN THE DELTA 
 
REF:  (A) CAIRO 4357, (B) ALEXANDRIA 150 
 
1.  CONFIDENTIAL - ENTIRE TEXT. 
 
2.  SUMMARY/COMMENT:  COMMENT:  ALEXANDRIA AND THE 
DELTA HAVE, SO FAR, TRAILED UPPER EGYPT AND CAIRO IN 
TERMS OF VIOLENT FUNDAMENTALIST ACTIVITY.  WE DO NOT 
BELIEVE NORTHERN EGYPT IS IMMUNE TO THIS KIND OF 
ACTIVITY AND ARE SEEING AN INCREASE IN RELIGIOSITY 
AND SIGNS THAT VIOLENCE MAY NOT BE FAR OFF.  END 
COMMENT.  FORTY EIGHT PERSONS WERE ARRESTED MARCH 8; 
EIGHT JIHAD MEMBERS WERE ARRESTED MARCH 15 FOR 
BREAKING INTO A MOSQUE IN THE GHARBIA GOVERNORATE 
TOWN OF ZEFTRA AND TRYING TO TAKE IT OVER, AND WE ARE 
HEARING OUR FIRST REPORTS OF EGYPTIANS OBJECTING TO 
AMERICANS GOING ABOUT WITHOUT THEIR HEADS COVERED. 
END SUMMARY. 
 
----------------------------- 
THE ALEXANDRIA ARRESTS 
----------------------------- 
 
3.  FORTY EIGHT PEOPLE WERE ARRESTED IN ALEXANDRIA ON 
MARCH 8.  ALTHOUGH SOME WEAPONS WERE FOUND THERE WERE 
NONE OF THE CLASHES THAT WERE ASSOCIATED WITH SIMILAR 
MEASURES ELSEWHERE IN EGYPT.  BY CONTRAST, A 
SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF ISLAMIST ANTI-GOVERNMENT 
PRINTED MATERIAL WAS SEIZED. 
 
THERE ARE CONFLICTING STORIES ABOUT WHO AND WHAT 
THOSE ARRESTED ARE.  ONE POLICE OFFICER TOLD US ALL 
THOSE ARRESTED WERE FROM UPPER EGYPT AND THAT SOME 
WERE INVOLVED IN THE KILLING OF THE BRITISH TOURIST 
LAST OCTOBER AND OTHER ATTACKS ON TOURISTS.  OTHER 
POLICE SOURCES INDICATED THAT THOSE ARRESTED WERE 
ACTIVISTS (PLANNERS, ORGANIZERS) AS OPPOSED TO 
TERRORISTS.  THE PRESS REPORTS THAT 11 OF THE 48 
ARRESTED HAVE ALREADY BEEN RELEASED. 
 
4.  THE PRESS CLAIMS THAT AT LEAST SOME OF THOSE 
ARRESTED BELONG TO "HEZBOLLAH", BUT THERE IS 
CONFUSION ON THAT SCORE AS WELL.  ONE POLICE SOURCE 
DENIED THAT HEZBOLLAH WAS PRESENT IN ALEXANDRIA AT 
ALL.  ANOTHER SOURCE SAID THE NAME HEZBOLLAH WAS 
ADOPTED BY A SMALL GROUP OF EXTREMISTS WHO HAD 
BROKEN AWAY FROM THEIR MAIN GROUP BECAUSE OF A 
DISPUTE OVER CONTROL AND HAD CHOSEN WHAT THEY 
THOUGHT WAS A CATCHY NAME. 
 
------------------------------- 
MOSQUE TAKE OVER 
------------------------------- 
 
5.  EIGHT MEMBERS OF JIHAD WERE ARRESTED FOR 
BREAKING INTO A MOSQUE, USING CHAINS TO ATTACK THOSE 
SAYING PRAYERS AND ATTEMPTING TO TAKE OVER THE 
MOSQUE FOR THEIR OWN PURPOSES.  THE INCIDENT 
OCCURRED IN THE VILLAGE OF SHOUBRA MALAS IN ZEFTA IN 
THE DELTA GOVERNORATE OF GHARBIA.  THERE WAS A CLASH 
BETWEEN THE INTRUDERS AND THE "CONGREGATION", BEFORE 
INTRUDERS WERE ARRESTED.  THIS INCIDENT CLOSELY 
RESEMBLES ANOTHER ATTEMPTED TAKE OVER OF A MOSQUE IN 
KAFR EL ZAYAT, ALSO IN GHARBIA, IN AUGUST 1992.  THE 
AUGUST INCIDENT WAS REPORTEDLY PERPETRATED BY 
ACTIVISTS FROM UPPER EGYPT ATTEMPTING TO FORM JIHAD 
CELLS IN THE DELTA. 
- 
6.  THE PRESS ALSO REPORTS A MARCH 17 INCIDENT IN 
TANTA, THE CAPITAL OF GHARBIA GOVERNORATE.  TWENTY 
EIGHT FUNDAMENTALISTS ARE ACCUSED OF ATTACKING A 
SHRINE AND ATTEMPTING TO DIG UP THE COFFIN OF THE 
SAINT TO WHICH IT IS DEDICATED.  ACCORDING TO THE 
FUNDAMENTALISTS, REVERENCE OF SAINTS IS AN 
ABERRATION. 
 
------------------------- 
HEJAB FOR AMERICANS? 
------------------------- 
 
7.  TWO AMERICAN WOMEN RESIDENT IN ALEXANDRIA WERE 
WAVED OUT OF AN ANTIQUE SHOP IN TOWN THIS WEEK 
BECAUSE THEY DID NOT HAVE THEIR HEADS COVERED.  AT 
LEAST ONE OF THE WOMEN IS A GRANDMOTHER AND BOTH 
WERE CONSERVATIVELY DRESSED.  BOTH HAVE SHOPPED IN 
THE AREA BEFORE AND NEVER ENCOUNTERED A PROBLEM. 
- 
------------------------- 
COMMENT 
------------------------- 
 
8.  TO DATE ALEXANDRIA HAS BEEN SPARED THE VIOLENCE 
ASSOCIATED WITH INCIDENTS IN UPPER EGYPT AND EVEN 
CAIRO.  THERE IS, HOWEVER, A DEFINITE INCREASE IN 
FUNDAMENTALIST ACTIVITY AND, FOR SOME LONGTIME 
RESIDENTS, AN ALMOST PALPABLE CHANGE IN THE ATMOSPHERE. 
AS NOTED, THERE IS SOME CONFUSION AS TO 
WHO IS DOING WHAT IN THE ALEXANDRIA AREA.  GOE 
OFFICIALS JUMP AT ANY CHANCE TO ATTRIBUTE PROBLEMS 
TO FOREIGN INFLUENCES, WHILE ALEXANDRIA OFFICIALS 
JUMP AT ANY CHANCE TO CLAIM THE TROUBLEMAKERS COME 
FROM UPPER EGYPT.  THERE PROBABLY IS SOME EXTERNAL 
INFLUENCE AND THERE MAY BE UPPER EGYPTIANS WHO HAVE 
COME TO ALEXANDRIA TO ESCAPE POLICE ATTENTION AND/OR 
TO ORGANIZE; THEY HAVE BEEN FOUND HERE BEFORE.  BUT, 
EVEN WITHOUT THEM, ECONOMIC DISSATISFACTION AND A 
TREND TOWARD FUNDAMENTALISM HAVE EXISTED FOR SOME 
TIME PRIMARILY AMONG THE POORER ELEMENTS OF 
ALEXANDRIAS POPULATION, EVEN IF THIS HAS NOT YET 
SPURRED THE LEVEL OF VIOLENCE SEEN IN UPPER EGYPT 
AND, MOST RECENTLY, IN CAIRO. 
 
 
SCHELL 

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