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Stratfor Global Intelligence: Geopolitical Implications of Islamist Attacks on Christians in Egypt

Author: George Friedman
January 10, 2011

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This report from Stratfor Global Intelligence analyzes the recent increase in anti-Christian attacks by Islamists in Egypt, and explains the historical context that has led to an uncertain political future for the country.

Over recent days, Christian churches have been attacked in at least two countries — Nigeria and Egypt — while small packages containing improvised explosive devices were placed on the doorsteps of Christian families in Iraq. Attacks against Christians are not uncommon in the Islamic world, driven by local issues and groups, and it is unclear whether these latest attacks were simply coincidental and do not raise the threat to a new level or whether they indicate the existence of a new, coordinated, international initiative. There is a strong case to be made for the idea that there is nothing new in all of this.

Yet one is struck by the close timing of events in three distant and dispersed countries. Certainly, Egyptian intelligence services are looking for any regional connections (e.g., whether Iraqi operatives recruited the Egyptian bomber). While there have been previous bombings in Egypt, they have focused on tourists, not churches. What is important is this: If the recent attacks are not coincidental, then a coordinated campaign is being conducted against Christian churches that spans at least these countries. And it is a network that has evaded detection by intelligence services.

Obviously, this is speculative. What is clear, however, is that the attack on a church in one country — Egypt — is far from common and was particularly destructive. Egypt has been relatively quiet in terms of terrorism, and there have been few recent attacks on the large Coptic Christian population. The Egyptian government has been effective in ruthlessly suppressing Islamist extremists and has been active in sharing intelligence on terrorism with American, Israeli and other Muslim governments. Its intelligence apparatus has been one of the mainstays of global efforts to limit terrorism as well as keep Egypt’s domestic opposition in check.

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