The Canadian Global Affairs Institute provides credible, open access expertise on global affairs. With your support, we can continue to spark impassioned nation-wide discussions designed to help Canadians better understand their role in the international arena.
S U P P O R T   U S

Egypt attack is tragic evidence of ‘new normal’



by Robert Muggah

November 25, 2017

he murder of at least 305 practicing Sufis in Egypt on Friday not only represents a dangerous escalation of violence in the Sinai, it also reflects a dramatic expansion of terrorism across North Africa and the Middle East over the past five years.

The savage attack on worshipers in Bir al-Abed is a reminder that the vast majority of terrorist-related killings don’t occur in European capitals but in lesser known cities across North Africa and the Middle East.

recent study of more than 1,300 cities reveals that Egyptian cities, together with Afghan, Iraqi, Libyan, Nigerian, Pakistani, Somali and Syrian cities, are registering considerably higher levels of terrorist violence than their counterparts in the United Kingdom, France, Germany or the U.S. These attacks aren’t given as much exposure in news headlines in the West. But cities like Baghdad, Mogadishu, Karachi and Kabul have experienced tens of thousands of killings over the past decade.

Meanwhile Egypt has experienced a sharp increase in terrorist-related violence, especially since an Islamist insurgency expanded in 2013. Indeed, of the 2,340 terrorist events registered by the Global Terrorism Database since 1970, the vast majority have occurred between 2013 and 2016. There were at least 315 terrorist-related fatalities reported in 2013 and more than 580 in 2015. With 556 killings reported so far this year, 2017 may prove to be the most violent yet.

The only future scenario we can predict with certainty is that there will be more terrorist attacks. The most direct way to address them is to dramatically scale up efforts to end simmering armed conflicts across the region. And while terrorist violence will never be entirely prevented, there are several strategies that can reduce its likelihood and limit its effects.

First, we need to recognize that terrorist groups frequently choose “soft” targets in cities and towns, especially those where a large of number of people are most likely to gather. The latest attack on the al-Rawda mosque in Bir al-Abed is no exception. Cities and their populations are the target.

Extremist groups such as Al Qaeda, Al Shabaab, Boko Haram and the so-called Islamic State are experts at separating different population groups from one another. By bombing religious sites, street markets, transport hubs, sports stadiums, theaters and police stations, they force people indoors in what amounts to physical and psychological siege.

More and more cities are designing resilience methods to counteract urban terrorism. The most common procedures involve improving intelligence cooperation, deploying extra layers of police surveillance in crowded spaces and investing in smarter police-community relations. Other strategies involve changing the city’s landscape, such as building unobtrusive physical barriers around tourist sites, government offices and major businesses. The challenge is to minimize the risk of terrorism without choking off city life altogether.

If cities are going to get to grips with these threats, they also need to think further ahead. Mayors and police chiefs may need to start normalizing the threat, investing in both prevention and consequence management. Businesses must regularly update their continuity plans and governments must improve their inter-agency communications to separate the signal from the noise.

An inescapable conclusion from this latest tragic attack in Egypt is that cities around the world — and the policymakers that shape them — must get used to the new normal.

Robert Muggah is the co-founder of the SecDev Group and the Igarapé Institute. He also advises the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report and the Council on Cities and Urbanization.

Image credit: Mohamed El-Shahed/AFP via Getty Images

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

Canada must act swiftly to help resettle Afghan interpreters, says vet

by Katie Simpson (feat. Howard Coombs), Power and Politics, July 29, 2021

Targeting COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy

by Global News Morning (feat. Heidi Tworek), Global News, July 29, 2021

China ‘demands’ on Taiwan, regional issues seek to constrain US action

by Sarah Zheng (feat. Stephen Nagy), South China Morning Post, July 29, 2021

Canada approved deal to sell $74-million worth of explosives to Saudi Arabia

by Steven Chase (feat. Thomas Juneau), The Globe and Mail, July 27, 2021

Diplomatie Canada-États-unis : qu’est-ce qui fait un bon ambassadeur?

par Olivier Mercure (avec Ferry de Kerckhove), Y a pas deux matins pareils, July 27, 2021

COVID-19: Province shifting vax strategy to reach those without a dose

by Tyler Orton (feat. Heidi Tworek), Business in Vancouver, July 27, 2021

Point Roberts businesses say border situation worst possible outcome

by Nicole Jennings (feat. Laurie Trautman), MyNorthwest, July 23, 2021

Canada offers ‘path to protection’ for Afghan aides

by Aidan Chamandy (feat. Denis Thompson), iPolitics, July 23, 2021

U.S. extends Canada border restrictions through Aug. 21

by Alex Harring (feat. Laurie Trautman), American Military News, July 22, 2021

How Justin Trudeau One-Upped Joe Biden

by Michael Bociurkiw (feat. Colin Robertson), Action News Now, July 20, 2021


Canadian Global Affairs Institute
Suite 1800, 150–9th Avenue SW
Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2P 3H9


Canadian Global Affairs Institute
8 York Street, 2nd Floor
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1N 5S6


Phone: (613) 288-2529
Email: [email protected]
Web: cgai.ca


Making sense of our complex world.
Déchiffrer la complexité de notre monde.


© 2002-2021 Canadian Global Affairs Institute
Charitable Registration No. 87982 7913 RR0001


Sign in with Facebook | Sign in with Twitter | Sign in with Email