Analysis: Cairo Fears an Organized Hand

Was the double attack in Cairo an isolated incident, or is there a large terror network operating in Egypt?

Cairo's streets are crowded with policemen, soldiers and intelligence agents just now. They are charged with blocking the spread of opposition demonstrations and forming chains to confine protests to restricted areas.

But on Saturday, terrorists managed to carry out two attacks in broad daylight in the very heart of Cairo, near the museum and hotels, where security forces abound and guests are examined.

Interior Minister Habib Ibrahim el-Adli, who is also in charge of public security, promised that the attack three weeks ago in the Khan al-Khalili bazaar, Cairo's major tourist attraction, was an isolated incident, carried out by a lone terrorist or an isolated cell. There are no terrorist networks in Egypt, he said soothingly.

The connection between the bombing in Khan al-Khalili and Saturday's incidents has apparently been proven. The former was perpetrated by a man who was arrested and released after a brief interrogation, while his sister and fiancee carried out yesterday's attacks.

According to one report, the attack Saturday was revenge for the death during police interrogation of one of the people detained for the Khan al-Khalili bombing. But a question nags Egypt's security branches: Is there a connection between Saturday's incidents and the bombing in Taba last October - is a large terror network operating in Egypt?

One possibility is that a splinter group of the Muslim Brotherhood has decided to resort to violence.

After the Taba bombing the Egyptians arrested dozens of suspects, and some of them are still in custody or have been tried. Their families have been demonstrating outside Cairo's courts and are rumored to be plotting the release of their sons.

The editor of the influential weekly Al-Mussawar, Makram Mohammed Ahmed, wrote a week ago that "in the absence of ways to conduct a constructive dialogue for national understanding ...the organizations and forces of darkness, which do not share the national interest, have increasing opportunities to take advantage of these circumstances and push things into greater chaos."

Liberal activists told Haaretz on Saturday that they fear the government would now prohibit demonstrations and harshly restrict freedom of expression.

"Some believe this is a government plot to protect itself from criticism. The abolition of the emergency laws now seems to be farther away than ever," one activist said.

In contrast, some attributed Saturday's attack to various organizations' desire to stop the renewed rapprochement between Israel and Egypt.