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The Guardian - Egypt's chief prosecutor Hisham Barakat killed by Cairo bomb

One of the architects of Egypt’s crackdown on dissent has been killed by a car bomb, as the country’s insurgency claimed its highest-profile victim yet.

Egypt’s chief prosecutor, Hisham Barakat, died after the bomb ripped through his convoy as it passed through a affluent suburb of north-eastern Cairo on Monday. Six of Barakat’s bodyguards were wounded, as well as two drivers and a passerby, Egypt’s health ministry told the Guardian.

Hundreds of policemen and soldiers have been killed during a low-level insurgency that has continued since the overthrow of ex-president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. But Barakat is the first major government figure to be targeted since a failed attempt to kill former interior minister Mohamed Ibrahim in September 2013.

Amateur footage of the moments after the bomb shows passersby attempting to help a stricken Barakat, whose face and stomach were covered with blood. Several nearby vehicles were blown into the air by the explosion, witnesses said, while television footage showed that the windows in the surrounding buildings had been smashed.

One unnamed local resident told private television station CBC in a live interview: “I thought it was an earthquake. The stairs were damaged, the elevator was damaged. Even though the door was shut, it opened.” Another told the channel: “We feel like we’re living in a time of war – like we can’t take our kids out. We thought everything was supposed to be safe now.”

The government said it was braced for followup attacks. Ambassador Hossam Qawish, a state official, told an interviewer: “There could still be armed people around, and the bigger issue is that no one has been caught.”

The timing of Monday’s attack has added symbolism since it comes one day short of the second anniversary of protests that both hastened the fall of Morsi, and then brought Barakat to office. Many Egyptians support the direction Barakat subsequently took.

But Barakat was a figure of hate for Egypt’s opposition because he had, as chief prosecutor, enabled the detention of tens of thousands of government critics. Among the many controversial prosecutions he pursued, several have resulted in death sentences for hundreds of alleged supporters of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood. Rights campaigners also accused Barakat of bowing to police pressure to prolong the pre-trial detention of dissidents, even when there is little evidence.

Egyptian officials strenuously deny there is any executive interference with Egypt’s judicial system.

Following Barakat’s death, the Egyptian foreign ministry released a statement linking the attack to a wider wave of global terrorism, and called on world leaders – often critical of Egypt’s human rights record – to give the Egyptian government more support.

“Once again the international community needs to face up to a serious terrorist threat facing the world,” the ministry said, “to unite and work together to eliminate this scourge, and confront the extremist ideology that unites all the different denominations of terrorist organisations.”

In the aftermath of the attack, activists braced themselves for an expansion of the state crackdown on dissent, with the government expected to use Barakat’s death as an excuse to hasten its eradication of political opposition.

The Egyptian blogger, Zeinobia, argued that the attack “will generate more anger and we will have more vengeful actions from the regime, which already did not waste any time in the past [in terms of increasing] oppression and fighting freedoms in the name of counter-terrorism”.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/29/cairo-bomb-attack-injures-state-prosecutor

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