London And Sharm El Sheikh

London and Sharm el-Sheikh Investigations

British police made a third arrest in their investigation of the July 21 attempted bombings of the London transportation system. They are attempting to reconstruct an al-Qaeda cell that recruited and facilitated the operation of the bombers.

The investigation has now been complicated by the killing Friday of an innocent Brazilian, Jean Charles de Menezes, who was living legally in the UK and working as an electrician. He lived in an apartment block that was under surveillance and was followed by plainclothes police. When he headed into the Underground, they commanded him to stop. He ran instead. Because he was wearing a jacket in the middle of the summer, they feared he was a bomber and shot him in the head five times. In fact, it was in the 70s that day in London and one of my correspondents from that city said there was a cool breeze, and he might have put on a jacket to go out himself. I suppose for a Brazilian the weather might have called for a wrap.

The tragedy of the death of Menezes is a deliberate outcome of al-Qaeda tactics. The organization is attempting to spread fear and hatred, and knows that the Western security agencies and military will often over-react, helping discredit them with Muslims and perhaps others. (The racial profiling aspect of Menezes’ death is clear, and has cast a chill on the UK Muslim community). That British police have received training in Israel in stopping suicide bombers with the technique of shooting the suspect in the head has not made things easier in that regard. (PM Tony Blair attempted to deflect criticism in this regard by sourcing the technique to Sri Lanka, where the Tamil Tigers virtually pioneered the suicide bombing as tactic).

In contrast to the British police, who admit that they are looking for an al-Qaeda cell, the Egyptian authorities initially maintained that the Sharm el-Sheikh bombings were the work of a small, isolated cell based in the town of El Arish. This characterization makes no sense.

Al-Jazeera is reporting that some analysts are now considering the possibility that a Pakistani terrorist cell struck at Sharm el-Sheikh. They are showing the identity papers of two Pakistanis found at the scene. At this point, I don’t know how seriously to take this report, which may just be speculation.

It also reported a big demonstration in Sharm el-Sheikh by townspeople against terrorism and the killing of innocents.

The defense lawyers for those charged in the Taba bombings argued Sunday that there could be no connection between Taba and Sharm el-Sheikh because the former targeted Israeli tourists in specific, whereas the latter targeted tourists in general. (I saw the video on al-Jazeera). I take it the defense strategy is to argue that there are several terrorist cells active in the Sinai, with various goals, and that therefore there are plenty of suspects out there besides their clients.