Egypt’s security under scrutiny after ISIS hostage killing

The latest beheading seems to undermine recent attempts by Egypt’s government to project an aura of security after years of unrest

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The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has once again committed atrocities after publishing Wednesday a photograph reportedly showing the beheading of a Croatian hostage it abducted last month in Egypt.

See also: ISIS claims Croatian hostage beheaded in Egypt

The group posted the image showing Tomislav Salopek’s severed head placed on his body along with the caption: "Croatia confirms its support for Egypt in efforts to fight terrorism and extremism" and "Croatia affirms its continued support for the Kurdistan region."

The latest beheading seems to undermine recent attempts by Egypt’s government to project an aura of security after years of unrest, according to analysts.

“The beheading of the Croatian worker underlines an ongoing security issue in Egypt and a persistent threat from ISIS,” Mohammed Abu Roman, an expert on militant groups told Al Arabiya News.

“Despite the campaign of the Egyptian army against the militant group, the security situation remains fragile and the group has made notable moves in the past few months,” he said.

“ISIS has spread in various parts of the country including Cairo and has conducted violent attacks against the army in Sinai,” he added.

In July, ISIS claimed responsibility for a series of assaults on military checkpoints in the Sinai Peninsula that killed 26 security officers.

The militant group has also claimed responsibility for a fatal car-bomb attack outside the Italian Consulate in Cairo, where one person was killed and eight others were injured.

But is it possible to completely stop the attacks from happening? Is it possible for Egypt’s security forces to do more?

Mohammed Khalaf, a Cairo-based military analyst told Al Arabiya News that “100 percent security is impossible in any country and security challenges are everywhere in the world.”

“Egypt will gradually overcome its security issues through the army’s tenacious efforts,” Khalaf added: “It is impossible to totally terminate the presence of ISIS in Egypt as the army can’t fight inactive cells.”

Meanwhile, other analysts said the beheading of the Croatian hostage showed ISIS was using “soft targets” to regain “its lost confidence” after being weakened by the Egyptian army.

“Through the beheading of the Croatian hostage, the militant group is trying to show that it is still powerful but in reality it is not. It has been enfeebled by the Egyptian army,” Ahmed Ban, a researcher specializing in political Islam told Al Arabiya News.

“The group, who has been weakened by a number of remarkable offensives by the Egyptian armed forces, started targeting soft targets just to regain its lost confidence,” Ban said referring to a recent attack on the Italian consulate.

Ban said the execution of the hostage was “expected” given “Egypt’s security services were not willing to negotiate with the militants especially after the experience of Moaz al Qassasbi.”

In February, ISIS burnt Jordanian pilot Lieutenant Moaz al-Kasasbeh alive, despite negotiations between the government of Jordan and the militant group to swap the pilot for al-Qaeda-linked would-be suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi.

Abu Raman seemed to agree with Ban and said the execution was predictable as “the Egyptian government considers ISIS a terror group, and negotiating with it would mean that they are giving it recognition.”

He said the Egyptian government “just like any other government, cannot prevent abductions.” But “it could’ve increased the security measures for foreign employees working in sensitive areas.”

He added the government is likely “to step up its campaign against ISIS and feature more restrictive measures” in response to the beheading.

Salopek was working with France's CGG Ardiseis and was abducted on July 22 in Egypt.

He appeared last week on an ISIS video as a hostage demanding Egyptian authorities to free “Muslim women,” a term referring to female Islamist prisoners detained in a sweeping government crackdown following the 2013 military ouster of the country's Islamist president Mohammed Mursi.

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