Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi granted new powers to the military over the weekend, declaring a state of emergency and enhancing the army’s ability to prosecute civilians in military court. The armed forces’ new authority comes after 33 members of the Egyptian security forces were killed in two attacks on Friday. During the first incident, a suicide car bomber killed 30 troops manning a checkpoint outside of Arish, North Sinai’s provincial capital. Hours later a drive by shooting nearby killed another three people.
Sisi’s decree designates that state buildings and other vital civilian infrastructure fall under military law, increasing the consequences for anyone who attacks such targets. The army can now try civilians for disrupting power stations, gas lines, roads, and bridges under the military’s jurisdiction.
President al-Sisi at a press conference on October 25, 2014. (Photo: AFP)
Analysts criticized the new laws for being too broad and vague, allowing the security forces to crack down on political demonstrations as well. “The decree has nothing to do with security,” said Mohamed el-Dahshan, a fellow at the Atlantic Council quoted in the Financial Times. “Their perspective of governing entails full control of information, but also of potential dissent.” Previously, military tribunals were mostly reserved for perpetrators who attacked soldiers or army bases.
While no group claimed responsibility for the deadly attacks, the terrorist group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (ABM) has taken credit for similar violence in the past. ABM shot down a military helicopter, took part in the bombing of the police headquarters in Cairo, and beheaded local “Israeli informants” earlier this year. The terrorists are also suspected of having ties to Hamas in Gaza, using the enclave as a safe haven and training ground, according to a recently released government report.