Friday Inbox: Forget “Situation Is Fluid” — Remember “Situational Awareness”

In our mailbox this morning:

Spilled hot coffee on your lap?  It’s probably an isolated incident. Still, you should exercise greater situational awareness, and be vigilant about the location and volume of your cup. Don’t worry, we have it on good authority that coffee imports remain strong. 

Rolling blackouts knocked out the lights at your softball game?  Well, it’s probably just an anomaly. Statistically, according to Wikipedia, Cairo gets at least twelve hours of daylight this time of year.  Exercise situational awareness and modify your plans accordingly. 

Seven Egyptian officers abducted by militants in the Sinai?  That’s a rare occurrence. The next group will exercise greater situational awareness, and perhaps be less obvious about being, you know, Egyptian officers. 

 

Our correspondent sounds snarkily unhappy.  It may have something to do with creeping developments like below:

Child Vendor Killed Outside US Embassy Cairo’s Front Gates (Ahram Online, February 2013):

“An Egyptian army conscript walks up to 12-year-old Omar Salah Omran, who sells hot sweet potatoes on the street – outside the front gates of Cairo’s US Embassy, close to Tahrir Square – and requests two potatoes from the young street vendor.

Omar answers, “I’ll do so after I go to the bathroom.” The allegedly untrained soldier retorts with a mix of cockiness and jest that he will shoot Omar if he doesn’t comply immediately.

On Omar’s reply, “You can’t shoot me” – the conscript, on the alleged presumption that his weapon was not loaded, sent two bullets through Omar’s heart. He died instantly.”

Chris Stone Knife Attack Outside US Embassy Cairo (AhramOnline/MENA, May 10, 2013):

“The man who stabbed an American in Cairo on Thursday says he was motivated by a hatred of the United States.  Mahmoud Badr, 30, who holds a bachelor’s degree in commerce, was arrested on Thursday after stabbing American academic Chris Stone in the neck outside the US embassy in Cairo.”

Separately, we heard that “Many Amcits in Cairo are concerned about the lack of security in the area outside the Embassy. Egyptian security forces are present in theory but do little other than sit at their check points and drink tea…. The Embassy appears to take little interest in what takes place outside its fortress.”

Al-Qaeda targeted US, French embassies in Cairo: Investigators (Ahram Online, May 15, 2013):

“Investigations have revealed that members of the Al-Qaeda terrorist group – who escaped from prison during Egypt’s 2011 uprising – had planned attacks on the US and French embassies in Cairo, according to official Egyptian news agency MENA.[…] Investigators said that the suspects had planned suicide attacks – with the use of car bombs – against the US and French embassies in Cairo.”

Benghazi Emails (NBC News, The Weekly Standard, May 15, 2013)

“On 10 September the Agency (CIA) notified Embassy Cairo of social media reports calling for a demonstration and encouraging jihadists to break into the Embassy.”

CIA Warned of ‘Jihadist’ Threat to Cairo Embassy (The Weekly Standard, May 15, 2013)

“The editing process specifically removed any hint that “jihadists” were encouraged to “break into” the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. In fact, jihadists were incited to act by Mohammed al Zawahiri, the younger brother of al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri, as well as several other al Qaeda-linked extremists.”

 

Meanwhile the State Department has now issued an updated Travel Alert dated May 15, 2013  to include information “about a knife attack on a private U.S. citizen near the Embassy on May 9.” The alert does not/not include any reference to a terror plot or terror cell in Egypt or that the mission has now been targetted in at least two known incidents.

 

— DS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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US Embassy Cairo Issues Security Message: Yo! Maintain Good Personal Security; A Terror Cell Got Disrupted Also!

But … nothintodowithus!

Two days after the Egyptian Government announced the arrest of three militants with ties to Al Qaeda plotting terrorist attacks in Egyptian cities and after local officials have reportedly told their American counterparts that the US Embassy was a target, the U.S. Embassy Cairo finally released Security Message to U.S. Citizens No. 44: Maintaining Good Personal Security in Egypt. Excerpt below:

The knife attack on the Embassy’s perimeter, along with weekend media reports acknowledging that Egyptian authorities have disrupted a terror cell possibly targeting Egyptian and Western interests, serve as yet another reminder of the need to exercise good situational awareness.  Effective situational awareness starts with fully understanding the threat environment and elevating your personal alert level when indicators are present or as the environment may dictate – oftentimes in more public settings. Security and Emergency Messages to U.S. Citizens over the past year portray an environment where elevated awareness and good security habits must become normal practice.

In an incident on May 9, 2013 involving the stabbing of a U.S. citizen on the Embassy perimeter, the victim was approached by an unknown person who asked whether he was an American.  The victim turned away from his attacker, at which point the attacker stabbed the victim with a knife.  Though in general, anti-American sentiment is not directed at individual U.S. citizens in Egypt, U.S policy in the region does elicit strong, often negative emotions in Egypt.  Therefore, U.S. citizens should consider their profile as U.S. citizens, and possibly adjust depending on the area they are in, including near the Embassy compound, or the person/s with whom they may be interacting.  Moving in and around the Embassy perimeter can readily identify U.S. citizens as such.

The Egyptian Minister of Interior’s announcement on May 11 that a terror cell was disrupted signals the need to be vigilant and exercise good security habits.  The most vulnerable periods are normally when departing/arriving from/to residence/workplace and therefore should be a time of elevated awareness.  Please do not set routine patterns; vary your times and routes.  Get a sense of what/who belongs in the neighborhood and  report anything appearing out of the ordinary or suspicious.

 

The knife attack gets the lead and exactly two paragraphs, in addition to one statement previously released about that incident on May 10th (see Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Knife Attack on Embassy Perimeter).  The terror plot unmentioned except for a disrupted terror cell. Makes one wonder if post management even acknowledged to its mission staff that the embassy was a target.

In a separate development, in no way related to whatever —  the embassy also announced that the Special Assistant to the President and White House Coordinator for the Middle East Philip Gordon (former EUR A/S) visited Cairo to meet with a range of government, political party, civil society, and business leaders.

Dr. Gordon is said to have “reaffirmed the importance of the U.S.-Egypt relationship and reiterated the United States’ strong support for the Egyptian people as they work to complete their democratic transition.” As well, he “pledged continued U.S. support as Egypt works to stabilize its economy and reach agreement with the IMF to promote its economic recovery.”

On May 9th, the AP reported that the IMF assessed that Egypt’s financial situation is deteriorating and the lending agency won’t move ahead with a $4.8 billion loan until receiving updated economic information and reform plans from President Mohamed Morsy’s government.

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