Senior Egyptian Officer Is Killed in Raid on Islamists

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CAIRO -- Gunmen killed a senior police officer and wounded 10 other officers on Thursday when security forces raided a bastion of Islamist support on the outskirts of Cairo, redoubling fears of a violent backlash against the recent military takeover.

The officer, Gen. Nabil Farag, the assistant security director for the province of Giza, was killed when a large convoy of tanks and other armored vehicles rolled into the town of Kardasa, across the Nile from Cairo, in an attempt to flush out Islamist militants hiding there.

An unidentified gunman appeared to have shot the general soon after security forces arrived in the town. In video of the shooting, the general is conspicuous in a white uniform and black protective vest, chatting at ease in an open lot with an Egyptian television news reporter. After a burst of automatic gunfire, the general falls to the ground bleeding from a wound to his side, and the reporter and others -- none injured -- begin calling for help.

The police abandoned the town on Aug. 14, the day security forces killed several hundred Islamist protesters at sit-ins in Cairo and militants stormed Kardasa's police station in retaliation. After battering it with rocket-propelled grenades, the militants executed about a dozen officers and mutilated their bodies, according to security officials and video of the remains.

The attack on the Kardasa police station was the bloodiest on security forces outside Sinai since the military ouster of President Mohamed Morsi on July 3, which enraged his Islamist allies in the Muslim Brotherhood. Security officials say militants have killed more than 120 police officers across Egypt. Nearly 50 of those were killed in fighting when soldiers and police officers broke up the Islamist sit-ins on Aug. 14; more than 50 other officers have been killed in the relatively lawless Sinai, including two dozen on a single day last month.

But the killing on Thursday in Kardasa -- a rural town that is a 20-minute drive from Cairo -- is the second episode in two weeks to raise the prospect that the violence could spread to the capital, where the government forces are strongest.

On Sept. 5, a car bomb exploded on a busy Cairo street in an attempt to assassinate the interior minister during his morning commute. Although he survived, the bombing killed at least one police officer and one civilian, and wounded more than 20 others.

The police raid on Kardasa was the second operation this week aimed at apprehending fugitive Islamist leaders in a town dominated by opponents of the new government. Both were conducted in tandem with the army.

On Monday, a convoy of armored vehicles and police trucks occupied the town of Dalga, in Minya Province south of Cairo, where the worst attacks on Egypt's Coptic Christian minority have occurred since Mr. Morsi's ouster. Security officials, however, said the operation was mainly an unsuccessful attempt to capture Assem Abdel Maged, a veteran leader of Gamaa al-Islamiya, which led an armed insurgency in the mid-1990s but has since renounced violence.

Security officials said Thursday that their forces in Kardasa had briefly traded gunfire with local militants as soldiers and riot police officers began to surround the town just after dawn. General Farag was on the front lines, officials said.

"General Nabil Farag was shot during the first 20 minutes of entering the town," Gen. Medhat el-Menshawi, head of the police's special operations unit, said in a television interview. Despite the video footage of General Farag being shot, he said the general was wounded "in the middle of random shooting by terrorists who were trying to stop us from entering Kardasa" and died when he reached a nearby hospital.

General Menshawi said that by midafternoon, 57 "terrorist elements" had been arrested. He insisted that, in contrast with previous operations, none was arrested arbitrarily. "Today there have not been any random arrests," he said. "All of those who were captured had arrest warrants issued against them by the prosecution and we targeted them by their names." There were no reports of other fatalities.

The extent of the resistance to the raid was difficult to determine. The police barred almost all journalists from entering the town, but evidently invited crews from several pro-government satellite networks to film the operation. (General Menshawi said the news media had "pushed us for the operation.")

The satellite networks broadcast live footage throughout the day, interrupted by adulatory interviews with the officers in charge. By midmorning, one network was broadcasting scenes of groups of riot police officers milling in the streets. A group of six officers in security vests posed for the cameras in front of an armored vehicle. Three others pointed their guns at the necks of two captives kneeling with hands tied behind their backs. Later footage showed officers raiding homes and taking prisoners.

Amro Hassan contributed reporting.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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