Egypt on high alert ahead of Sisi’s inauguration

The tight security comes amid assassination ‘threats’ recently reported by Egyptian media

Eman El-Shenawi
Eman El-Shenawi - Al Arabiya News
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Egypt’s President-elect Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi is to be sworn in on Sunday at the constitutional court in southern Cairo, amid bolstered security that will see thousands of security forces deployed in and around the area.

Unlike previous inaugurations in the country, the President-elect may not initially be seen arriving at the venue in a motorcade waving to his supporters, but instead in an army helicopter, as elite Republican Guards will be guarding the court.

However, he may later leave the court in a motorcade on a highly-secured route to further ceremonies.

The tight security comes amid assassination “threats” recently reported by Egyptian media, warning that former army chief Sisi - who won a landslide victory in last month’s elections - could be a target of planned attacks.

Interior Minister Mohammad Ibrahim told state news agency MENA on Saturday that security authorities, in coordination with the army, are set to implement a high-level protection plan.

An army officer speaking on condition of anonymity to Al Arabiya News late Saturday said the armed forces were prepared to the “highest degree.”

egypt security reuters
egypt security reuters

“We are fearless. Egyptian citizens have been waiting for this day for many months,” he said, in reference to the violent political upheaval Egypt has witnessed since former Islamist President Mohammad Mursi’s ouster in July last year.

“God willing, no one will be harmed on this day, the armed forces are prepared to the highest degree and for any possibilities,” the officer added.

Sisi, who led the ouster of Mursi following mass protests against his year in power, has been viewed by many as a national hero for cracking down on Muslim Brotherhood rule and supporters of the group.

“In the past 10 months, many Egyptians have felt the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood and rising terrorist activity, with attacks in Sinai and Cairo attempting to undermine Egypt’s stability,” Dr. Saeed Sadeq, a political analyst and a university professor of political sociology in Cairo, told Al Arabiya News.

“This fear ultimately pushed Egyptians to vote for Sisi,” Sadeq added.

egypt sisi reuters
egypt sisi reuters

But how real are any assassination threats made against Sisi? On Friday, Egyptian security forces arrested six who had planned to attack his entourage after his swearing-in ceremony, according to Egyptian newspaper al-Watan.

“These are credible threats as Sisi himself confirmed that there have already been two assassination attempts against him since Mursi’s ouster,” Justin Dargin, a geopolitical expert on the Middle East told Al Arabiya News.

“Also, already one Egyptian president, former Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat, had been assassinated by militants, so these are not empty threats. Furthermore, Sisi and his security detail think that there could be additional attempts and that was one of the causes behind Sisi limiting his street appearances during the presidential campaign.

“We must remember that since the time of former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, militant groups have been attempting to assassinate Egypt’s leaders. However, the Egyptian security apparatuses have, especially since the assassination of Sadat, improved their monitoring of militant groups and would be able to head off most if not all threats to the president,” Dargin added.

egypt riot police reuters
egypt riot police reuters

Palace reception

The inauguration ceremony will be followed by a reception at Cairo’s Ittihadiya Palace which heads of state, ministers and diplomats are set to attend. A second reception will be held in Cairo’s Quba Palace with guests from several political groups, according to MENA.

Among the top Gulf officials attending the Ittihadiya celebrations are Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah, Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan.

Since Mursi’s ouster, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait have pledged billions of dollars in assistance to Egypt in the form of deposits, grants and petroleum-related products.

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