Monday’s papers: Alex bombing perpetrator announced, and Day of Loyalty vs Day of Anger

All newspapers on Monday, whether local or regional, state or privately-owned, highlight an announcement by Egypt’s Interior Minister Habib Al-Adly accusing the Palestinian “Army of Islam” of perpetrating last month’s bombing of a Coptic church in Alexandria. While delivering a speech to commemorate Egypt's Police Day yesterday, Al-Adly put the blame on the Hamas offshoot for the bombing that targeted Copts leaving the New Year’s Eve mass, killing 24 people. The blast provoked dozens of demonstrations in which Copts accused the government of discriminating against them and not protecting churches well enough.

According to state-owned Al-Ahram, the police arrested one of the masterminds of the attacks, named Ahmed Lotfi Ibrahim Mohamed. The 26-year-old suspect confessed that he went to Gaza in 2008 to meet up with Army of Islam militants, who are believed to be inspired by Al-Qaeda. According to the paper, Army of Islam militants convinced Mohamed that targeting churches and Jewish temples is part of Jihad. In 2010, the Alexandrian young man was asked to determine certain Christian and Jewish houses of worship that could be targeted. In October 2010, the suspect contacted Palestinian militants via the internet, informing them of three possible targets in Alexandria, including two churches and one temple, adds Al-Ahram. While Palestinian militants asked Mohamed to prepare a bomb-laden car to be used in the attack, Mohamed recommended that a suicide bomber blow up himself instead, says Al-Ahram, quoting police sources. 

President Hosni Mubarak congratulated the police apparatus for “succeeding” in discovering the details of the crime, according to Al-Ahram, expressing pride in the police while delivering a speech on the occasion of Police Day. The speech is headlined on Al-Ahram's front page, and the paper leads with an excerpt: “The era of guardianship has gone for good.” Mubarak's commentary comes in response to statements made by foreign countries and organizations urging Egypt to provide more security for Christians following the Alexandria bombing. “Egypt is being targeted and we reject interference from anyone,” Al-Ahram quotes the president as saying.

While Al-Ahram highlights the accusations against the radical Palestinian group, there is no mention of a response from the Army of Islam, which is highlighted in the privately-owned Al-Shorouk daily. The paper quotes a group spokesperson as denying the accusation and holding Israelis responsible for the bombing. A similar response came from the Gaza-based Hamas group, according to the pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat. "Despite the bloody confrontations it has had with this organization [Army of Islam] that seeks to establish an Islamic dynasty in Gaza, Hamas denied the accusation leveled against the Army of Islam, contending that there is no presence of Al-Qaeda militants in Gaza and that the pistols of all Palestinian factions are only pointed toward the Zionist enemy,” says Al-Hayat. The Hamas source goes on to say: “The Zionist intelligence body stands behind all these crimes,” according to Al-Hayat.

It's not only Palestinian Islamists who have to defend themselves in today’s papers, but also the western-backed secular Palestinian Authority. On its front page, Al-Shorouk highlights the response of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the release of 1600 secret documents on Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. Last night, the Doha-based Al Jazeera satellite channel unveiled secret records of Palestinian-Israeli talks which show that the Palestinian Authority allegedly made substantial land concessions to the Israelis in East Jerusalem. Al-Shorouk quotes Abbas as saying: “We have no secrets or documents to hide.”

Away from terror updates and regional politics, Al-Shorouk’s front page announces that the ruling National Democratic Party seek to mobilize half a million of its young members under the slogan of “Day of Loyalty to President Mubarak.” This mobilization comes in response to the “Day of Anger” protests that opposition groups are planning for tomorrow. Inspired by the Tunisian uprising, cyber activists called on Egyptians to take to the streets tomorrow to call for the abolition of the state of emergency, the dismissal of the interior minister and the enforcement of a minimum wage. It is still to be seen whether Egyptians will emulate the Tunisian model tomorrow.

Egypt's papers:

Al-Ahram: Daily, state-run, largest distribution in Egypt

Al-Akhbar: Daily, state-run, second to Al-Ahram in institutional size

Al-Gomhorriya: Daily, state-run

Rose al-Youssef: Daily, state-run, close to the National Democratic Party's Policies Secretariat

Al-Dostour: Daily, privately owned

Al-Shorouk: Daily, privately owned

Al-Wafd: Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party

Al-Arabi: Weekly, published by the Arab Nasserist party

Youm7: Weekly, privately owned

Sawt al-Umma: Weekly, privately owned

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