Home' Greymouth Star : February 21st 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
militant group based
in the remote Sinai
desert is emerging
as a major threat to
Egypt s stability, and
there are no signs
that the army-backed government has
devised an effective strategy to contain
it.With assassinations, suicide
bombings and shootings, Ansar
Bayt al-Maqdis has earned a spot on
the global jihad map and its bloody
campaign spreading across Egypt is
cause for alarm in the west, which sees
the biggest Arab nation as a strategic
e group has stepped up attacks
on policemen and soldiers since army
chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah
al-Sisi toppled Islamist president
Mohamed Mursi in July. Hundreds
have been killed.
Ansar does not have the firepower
to defeat Egypt s army, the biggest in
the Arab world. But it is proving to
be media savvy with a new strategy
of targeting foreigners, dealing a
devastating blow to tourism, vital for
the struggling economy.
"Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has rapidly
become one of the most active jihadist
groups in the world and there are
strong indications that it is an al
Qaeda franchise group," said global
intelligence firm Stratfor in a report.
Ansar said it dispatched a suicide
bomber who killed two South Koreans
and an Egyptian near the town of
Taba last week.
e attack is likely to keep foreign
tourists, already spooked by political
upheaval following the army takeover,
away from resorts and ancient sites
that once brought in hard currency.
In a video released on You Tube
in December, Ansar said its mission
had evolved from missile attacks on
Israel and blowing up gas pipelines to
a bloody campaign against Egyptian
security forces and intelligence officials
after Mursi s fall.
is week Ansar warned tourists to stay
away from Egypt or face attack, part of an
apparent tactical shift that could hit the
government where it hurts most --- the
e stakes are high.
Egypt, the heart of the Arab world, has
a peace treaty with Israel and contains
the Suez Canal. Growing instability
could impact the rest of a region already
destabilised by the conflict in Syria.
Egyptian security forces have experience
fighting militants dating back decades.
Islamist-leaning soldiers assassinated
President Anwar Sadat in 1981, mainly
because of his treaty with Israel. Hosni
Mubarak took years to end an Islamist
militant insurgency in the 1990s, which
left tourism in tatters.
is time, the picture is more complex,
with Egypt s political turbulence offering
Ansar has capitalised on a security
vacuum which arose after the 2011 popular
uprising that toppled Mubarak.
e group entrenched itself in the Sinai
Peninsula s mountains and deserts, forging
ties with smugglers, as well as bedouins
who have long felt neglected by the central
Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which means
supporters of Jerusalem, has also exploited
the struggle between Morsi s Muslim
Brotherhood and the army-installed
Security forces have been busy with a
crackdown against the Brotherhood, killing
hundreds in the streets, arresting thousands
and jailing its leaders.
at distracted the Interior Ministry
from the threat brewing in the Sinai,
a 61,000 square kilometre area located
between Israel, the Gaza Strip and the
" ey had the space and time to develop
in the tumultuous post-Arab Spring
period," said Kamran Bokhari, vice
president for the Middle East at Stratfor
and author of "Political Islam in the Age of
While the Brotherhood has been driven
underground, the government is still
focused on the movement, stamping out
protests and prosecuting Morsi and other
e army has told the public that victory
over Ansar is imminent. But Ansar s
extensive hit list is growing.
Aside from all the security force
members Ansar has killed, it has also
claimed responsibility for several high
profile assassinations of senior security
officials and said it was behind a failed
suicide bombing attack on the interior
minister in Cairo.
Security has been tightened since those
operations and an army offensive has been
raging for months in the Sinai, but the
attacks keep coming.
Although the government publicly
asserts the sheer firepower of the army will
eradicate the problem, security officials are
far more cautious in private.
"It will take time. We can t ever know if
someone is going to blow themselves up. It
is hard to prevent suicide attacks," said one.
e government, eager to show that a
political road map unveiled by Sisi after
Mursi s fall will succeed, does not have
Sisi is expected to announce his
candidacy for president soon. Elections,
which he is expected to win in a landslide,
are due in a few months.
e government wants the process to go
smoothly without more Ansar attacks that
could shake confidence in security forces.
Sisi s followers regard him as invincible
but even they could become disillusioned if
Ansar keeps challenging the army.
Some liberals who supported Morsi s
overthrow have started to question the
hardline tactics of the military and security
forces. Some have been jailed.
" e Taba attack, combined with Ansar
Bayt al-Maqdis warning that tourists must
leave the country is intended to frustrate
economic recovery and to subsequently
precipitate greater public opposition to
the military establishment," said Anthony
Skinner, Middle East and North Africa
Director at risk analyst Maplecroft.
Bombs are not the only thing that make
Ansar dangerous. Mystery surrounding the
group, believed to have about 1000 fighters,
makes it hard to penetrate.
Security officials who monitor the Sinai
speak in general terms about the group,
saying it evolved from Islamists who
established havens in the region after
Mubarak s fall.
Weapons smuggled in from chaotic post-
Gaddafi Libya, and Sudan, fell into the
hands of Ansar fighters, who also convert
landmines left in the desert since Egypt s
past wars with Israel into roadside bombs,
the security officials said.
e government makes no distinction
between Ansar and the Brotherhood. But
one security official said interrogations of
captured Ansar members have not revealed
any links. One thing is clear; easy solutions
" ere is no specific time set for ending
military operations against the group.
A number of its members are in rugged
mountain areas. Most move around from
one hiding place to another in small pickup
trucks " said a military source.
"Many of these people are not known
to security forces. We try to find out with
Bokhari warned that groups like Ansar
are likely to recruit Muslim Brotherhood
members so infuriated by the security
crackdown that they turn to violence.
"People are angry," said Bokhari. "Ansar
will tap into this anger." --- Reuters
4 - Friday, February 21, 2014
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uLetters to the editor
1919 - Bavarian Premier Kurt Risner is
assassinated in Munich.
1921 - Brigadier Reza Khan overthrows
Iranian government in military coup and later
1922 - British protectorate in Egypt ends.
1925 - e New Yorker
magazine makes its debut.
1963 - Soviet Union warns
United States that an American
attack on Cuba would mean
1965 - Former Black Muslim
leader Malcolm X is shot and
killed by assassins identified as
Black Muslims as he is about to address a rally
in New York City.
1975 - A 32-member UN Commission on
Human Rights, in Geneva, accuses Israel of
violating "basic norms of international law " in
Arab territories it occupies.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
"You can t separate peace from freedom
because no one can be at peace unless he has
his freedom." --- Malcolm X (1925-1965).
"If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;
the old has gone, the new has come!"
--- 2 Corinthians 5:17
e death occurred
yesterday of Mrs Mary
Ellen Pfeifer. Born
at Stafford 84 years ago, Mrs Pfeifer was the
last member of the Griffen family. Mrs Pfeifer,
who had resided in Blaketown for 35 years, had
lived all her life on the West Coast.
Predeceased by her husband Vincent two
years ago, Mrs Pfeifer is survived by one son,
Vincent (Greymouth), two daughters, Kit (Mrs
M O Grady, Greymouth) and Mary (Mrs E
Davies, Hastings); and 10 grandchildren.
e death occurred at Nelson yesterday of
Mr omas Lawry, one of the oldest surviving
drivers of Newman Bros. He was a native of
Reefton. For a time he resided in Greymouth,
being a driver on the Greymouth-Westport
He is sur vived by his wife, two sons and three
daughters. Two brothers, Jack and Frank, reside
Twenty-five years as director of the Reefton
School of Mines have been completed by
Mr W J Bolitho who took up the position
in 1938, the annual meeting of the school in
Reefton last night was told. Mr Bolitho joined
the school straight from high school in 1930,
winning a school of mines scholarship in 1932
and returned to take up his present post in
e school council and former pupils
extended congratulations to Mr Bolitho on
reaching his silver jubilee of mining teaching.
Five West Coast bowlers each have won
the 5-star medal for major wins and their
achievements were marked at the jubilee fours
tourney here last week. ey are F White
and A Taylor (Runanga), L G Mercer and
F A Hughes (Greymouth) and F Pascoe
uToday s birthdays
uFood for thought
Printed and published by the
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03 769 7900 (o ce)
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Chief Reporter Laura Mills
03 769 7913
03 755 8422
John Henry Newman, English cardinal
(1801-1890); Leo Delibes, French composer
(1836-1891); WH Auden,
English poet (1907-1973); Robert
Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe
(1924-); Nina Simone, US singer
(1933-2003); Hubert de Givenchy,
French fashion designer (1927-);
Ron Clarke, Australian athlete
(1937-); Kelsey Grammer, US
actor (1955-); Mary ennifer Love
Hewitt, US actress/singer (1979-); Ellen Page,
US actress (1987-).
Fatal gun violence can be reduced with
laws that require background checks before
purchasing firearms, as well as childproof
trigger technologies that limit firing to the
gun s owner, scientists in the United States
Experts are also studying new approaches
that would take guns away from anyone
served with a restraining order due to
domestic violence, a controversial effort
that was recently tried for the first time in
e problem of gun violence in America
--- where shootings at schools, movie
theatres and public places are a regular
occurrence --- is difficult to tackle because
of a powerful gun lobby, Constitutional
protections for the right to bear arms,
and also the sheer number of weapons in
circulation --- about one for every person
across the United States.
this country --- 310 million in private
hands," said Jeffrey Swanson, a professor
of psychiatry at Duke University in North
People with mental illness are often
implicated in mass shootings, even though
they account for just 5% cent of all cases of
violence against others, he told a meeting
of the American Association for the
Advancement of Science.
erefore, other methods must be tried to
keep guns out of the wrong hands.
One such approach is to add technology
to guns that enable the trigger to be pulled
only by its licensed user.
Already, these "smart-trigger"
technologies are being used in some
European countries, and a taskforce
convened by the US Department of Justice
recently said the technology is ready for
widespread use in the US, where there are
nearly 23,000 gun murders and more than
38,000 gun suicides per year.
" is is the future, but it is also now,"
said Daniel Webster, director of the Johns
Hopkins Centre for Gun Policy and
Research in Baltimore, Maryland.
"I think it will be something that will
reduce adolescent suicides, unintentional
shooting of children, and also crimes that
result from guns that are stolen," Webster
However, the technology is expensive for
now, costing thousands of dollars per gun,
though Webster said the hope is that costs
would come down once smart triggers
become widespread on the market.
New Jersey last year became the first
state to pass a law mandating that all new
guns on the market must be equipped with
childproof technology, beginning three
years after smart guns are available.
Researchers also discussed new findings
about a state that relaxed its gun laws,
and apparently led to a significant rise in
In 2007, Missouri repealed its permit-
to-purchase handgun law, which required
people buying a handgun to verify with
the local sheriff that they had passed a
federally required background check.
In the five years that followed, the state
experienced a jump in its murder rate that
was not seen in neighbouring states, said
the findings by Webster and colleagues, to
be published in an upcoming issue of the
Journal of Urban Health.
at meant between 55 and 63 additional
murders per year in Missouri, while the
homicide rate in the rest of the country
was going down, according to data from
the Centres for Disease Control and
" is study provides compelling
confirmation that weaknesses in firearm
laws lead to deaths from gun violence," said
Webster. --- AAP
Childproof triggers to cut down on fatalities
Laren, e Netherlands
In a windswept enclosure south-east
of Amsterdam, shivering volunteers are
building a home for themselves from
scratch, under the constant gaze of
television cameras relaying their struggles
to the outside world.
ey are contestants in Utopia, the
latest reality show from John De Mol, the
man behind Big Brother and many other
shows that have made the Netherlands
synonymous with reality television.
And if Big Brother, launched some 15
years ago, presaged a later world of social
media, with its proposition that private
lives are better widely shared, De Mol
thinks Utopia reflects the concerns of
today s audiences.
"Our trendspotters came back with one
consistent message," he said.
"People are worried about their finances,
about their jobs, about their futures,
about governments interfering in their
lives. So we said: Why don t we let them
build the world they ve always wanted, a
Utopia for themselves ?"
Perhaps the original brainwave behind
reality television came more easily in
a country where people rarely close
their curtains on long winter evenings,
giving passers-by on the chilly streets of
Amsterdam s 17th-century canal district a
view into peoples living rooms.
e trend set by De Mol with Big
Brother became a huge financial success
too, earning millions for Dutch investors
and drawing the attention of media
giants to the Netherlands.
Just last week, Warner Bros said it
would buy Dutch production company
Eyeworks for a reported 200 million
euros ($274.05 million). Eyeworks
has produced a slew of reality shows,
including Obese, My Kid is Too Fat, and
Slumdog Holiday which aired in 150
e Dutch television industry has
ballooned since the 1980s, when three
public channels mostly put out foreign
re-runs and only aired programming a
few hours a day.
Now, when surfing Dutch television on
any given night, reality shows dominate.
Subjects range from wilderness survival
and weight loss, to high school drama
and farmers looking for brides, the finale
of which had a quarter of the nation ---
more than four million viewers --- glued
to their televisions.
e Dutch were the third largest
exporters of "formats", or camera-ready
ideas for television shows, in a global
market worth 9.3 billion euros between
2006 and 2008, behind the United States
and Britain, according to industry group
"It s in our genes," said Patty Geneste,
founder of Absolutely Independent, an
agency that takes formats and develops
them for sale around the world.
"If you have a small domestic market,
you want to sell to as many countries as
In the control room for Utopia, rows
of producers and editors sit in front of
giant screens, tracking the show s inmates
24 hours a day with gentle flicks of the
joysticks controlling the cameras.
Watching them from plush cinema-
style chairs behind a one-way mirror are
clients from the United States, Germany,
France and much of the rest of the world
who have come to decide if Utopia is
something they want to buy.
"Everyone wants to see the control
room: it s like mission control," said De
Mol. "We re in the lucky situation that
it s been very busy in that room."
e 15 people who will spend a year
in the enclosure must build their living
quarters from scratch, making money by
making and selling things ("some wooden
toys, maybe, or giving massages," says De
Mol) to people outside the show.
At the end, the participants will vote
each other off one by one, with some help
from the audience.
e winner will walk away with all the
money, while billionaire De Mol and
his company Talpa Media hope to profit
from sales of the show, which has some
1.5 million viewers a week in a country
For starters, Talpa Media has just inked
a deal with Fox for a United States
De Mol insists the Dutch environment
is special. Public broadcasters in the
Netherlands make headlines with
programming that would never make it
onto the screen elsewhere.
Two presenters tried out cannibalism
by feeding each other with surgically
removed parts of their bodies.
Another broadcaster ran a game
show with an unusual twist, testing
refugees whose asylum bids had been
rejected on their knowledge of the
e growth and importance to the
Dutch economy of ever more creative
forms of entertainment, at the expense
of traditional industries such as
manufacturing, alarm some viewers.
"It s not a normal city any more," says
novelist Herman Koch of the culture
that is refashioning the Amsterdam
"Sometimes it seems a city of just artists
and creatives." --- Reuters
Welcome to Utopia, coming to a tv near you
Islamist terrorist groups like Ansar pose a significant threat to Egypt.
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