Tuesday’s papers: Tensions escalate in Sudan, incompetence mars church investigation

In Tuesday’s news, state-owned Al-Ahram leads with an update on the Sudanese referendum, which, according to the paper’s headline, seems to be the cause of “escalating tension” in the potentially soon-to-be-divided country. Despite the fact that voting on the referendum has only been going on for two days, “mutual accusations” have been exchanged between the north and south, with Edward Leno, a leading member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, claiming that the northern government’s armed forces were directly responsible for the “confrontations” that left 23 dead in the Abyei region on Monday. Al-Ahram mentions that Leno has already stated on several occasions that the northern government is only interested in the southern region for its vast oil reserves.

Independent daily Al-Wafd also leads with news on the Sudanese referendum, reporting on the ruling government’s “skepticism” regarding the southern intentions. This skepticism stems from alleged reports received by the northern government which claim that groups of “influential members of the southern parliament” have been persuading, and in some cases intimidating, southern constituents residing in the north into voting in favor of an independent southern state. Such threats include the “withholding and denial of salaries and pensions to any southerner voting in favor of a single, united nation,” as well as potential legal action to be taken against such supporters. Meanwhile, US senator John Kerry, currently visiting Sudan as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, commented on the upcoming referendum, stating that a non-violent solution would set “an example for the rest of the African continent to follow,” according to Al-Wafd, which adds another ten to Al-Ahram’s bodycount, raising Abyei’s death toll to 33.

Echoes of the New Year’s church bombing continue dominating most of the nation’s front-pages, and beyond the Sudanese referendum, updates on the ongoing investigation appear in state-owned and independent papers alike. “Forensic evidence and coroner reports provide no new leads in Alexandria massacre,” grumbles independent daily Al-Shorouk, with a report detailing ways in which the investigation has proven to be a disappointment so far. According to the paper, forensic detectives and coroners have reached contradicting conclusions, and in the absence of any promising leads, officials from the Ministry of Interior have been forced to “expand their search.”

One printed example of the numerous discrepancies between reports saw forensic detectives state that the explosive device “weighed no less than ten kilograms,” despite homicide officers’ assertions that the weight of the bomb “did not exceed one-and-a-half kilograms.” Similar disputes have also arisen concerning the location of the bomber’s body at the scene of the crime, with Al-Shorouk reporting confusion as to how “half of his head ended up on the roof of the church.”

Updates on the bombing investigation are also featured on Al-Dostour’s front-page, with the independent daily detailing the most recent measurements taken by forensics teams, including the height of bloodstains and bodily remains found not only at the church, but also at the neighboring mosque, which the paper claims should help indicate the force of the blast. Authorities have also ordered an investigation of several local cement factories and chemical plants, in the hopes of uncovering some leads concerning where the attacker obtained the materials required to build the bomb.

Meanwhile, parliament members have denounced any form of foreign involvement or criticism of the attack, the subsequent investigation, or “Egyptian affairs” in general. Appearing as the lead story in state-owned Al-Akhbar–and also prominently featured on the front page of Al-Ahram–are reports on Monday’s parliamentary session, during which members called for the immediate apprehension of the criminal(s) responsible for the attack. The call comes a few days after the bomber’s head was supposedly found, identified, and digitally reconstructed, appearing on front-pages of most national news publications. Parliament members also reemphasized enduring national unity, despite the efforts of “godless terrorists,” after a parliamentary committee assigned to further investigate the bombing stated that “the evidence so far confirms the involvement of foreign influences.”

Al-Akhbar also finds some space on its front-page for a gripping report: “Alexandria college student slaps her colleague across the face during an exam because of Facebook.” Apparently, an unnamed college student, angry with her friend for posting “personal details” about her on the social networking site Facebook, stormed an examination hall a few minutes after the exam had started, and proceeded to “grab the girl by the hair and slap her repeatedly, much to the astonishment of those present.” The attacker–an English literature major–was promptly taken into custody.

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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