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Western Press Review: Terrorism In Egypt, Election Controversy In Bosnia

Prague, 19 September 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary on yesterday's bombing of a tourist bus in Cairo virtually dismisses an Egyptian government contention that the attack was an isolated act by a deranged individual. The commentary focuses on terrorism and Islamic extremism. There also is press commentary on an apparent backdown by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on a central issue in the Bosnian elections.

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Violent religious extremists want to transform Egypt into an Islamic state

In an analysis today, John Daniszewski describes the Cairo incident as follows: "It was the worst assault on tourists in Cairo in 17 months. The attackers brazenly struck at midday in the busiest part of downtown: Tahrir Square, home to the Egyptian Museum, a world-famous center for Pharoanic antiquities including the caskets of ancient rulers and King Tut's gold. Most people's suspicions immediately focused on Egypt's violent religious extremists, who have repeatedly targeted tourists in their six-year campaign to transform the country into an Islamic state."

SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Mubarak's government enjoys the mandate of the people

Commentator Josef Joffe, writing today, compares the Egyptian terrorism to Algeria's reign of terrorism. He finds any similarities flimsy. Joffe comments: "First Algeria, now Egypt? A terrorist attack on a bus in front of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo claimed the lives of at least nine tourists, the majority of whom were German."

Joffe says: "Egypt has been terrorized by the Gamaa Islamiya for five years." He continues: "Even so, Egypt is not Algeria, where only naked violence can hold the terror in check. As with any democratic regime, Hosni Mubarak's government enjoys the mandate of the people. So Mubarak, unlike Arafat, has all the instruments of state at his disposal in the fight against Islamic fundamentalism."

The commentary concludes: "He is obliged not to give in to the Islamic terrorists (even though) the murders will continue and the victims will continue to be the innocent. Today they are German, tomorrow they will be others."

TIMES OF LONDON: Egyptians will be as shocked and angered as the Germans

The paper contends today in an editorial that Egypt may be infringing too deeply on civil rights, understandably, perhaps, but dangerously, in its fierce counterattack on terrorism. The Times says: "Egyptians will have been as shocked and angered as were Germans and other foreigners by yesterday's petrol bomb attack on a tourist bus parked outside the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities in the heart of Cairo. Nothing has done more to discredit Islamist extremism in Egypt than the campaign, begun in 1992 by the terrorist group al-Gamaa al-Islamiya, to bring down the Government by hitting the tourist industry."

The newspaper adds: "The Government's ruthless defense of the security of the State is justified by the tactics employed against it; but so broad has been its assault on Islamist opposition that the price in civil liberties has been high. (But) some international litigants use the courts to hound such distinguished Muslim scholars as Dr Nasr Abu Zaid for their tolerant interpretation of Islam, and when Islamist academics at Al-Azhar, the leading Islamic university, have issued fatwas against 'blasphemous' writers, the concept of non-violent itself is qualified."

DIE WELT: Fundamentalists dream of a theocratic Egypt

Evangelos Antonaris comments today in the German daily that the bus firebombing was another tactic in a contest between terrorists seeking to destabilize the Egyptian government and government officials trying to contain and discredit the outlaws. Antonaris writes: "Islamic fundamentalist terrorists have for years staged attacks in which both local people and foreign tourists have been killed in Egypt, their aim being to create problems for the country's secular government." He says: "The Egyptian authorities may have achieved some measure of success in their five-year campaign against the fundamentalists with their dream of a theocratic Egypt."


DIE WELT: Karadzic was politically present during the elections

Across the Mediterranean Sea, organizers of elections in Bosnia attempted a delicate balancing act between realpolitik and the promises of the Dayton peace accord. In a commentary this week, Boris Kalnoky contended that in one key conflict, pragmatism won. He wrote: "The Dayton peace agreements envisage a ban on all political activity by Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. But in the run-up to the local elections last weekend, Karadzic was nevertheless politically very much present. His followers brought in placards showing his face and with captions saying 'Don't Touch Him -- He Means Freedom.' Messages from him were read out at meetings of the ruling Serb Democratic Party (SDS) party in Pale. The OSCE, which organized the election, decided to disqualify the party there retroactively.

"The decision was in line with the Dayton accords but it was not liked in high places for political reasons. Robert Frowick, head of the OSCE's Bosnia mission, overruled the decision. He had the backing of both the U.S. and the Bosnia contact group. The SDS remains in the election."

WASHINGTON POST: NATO and the OSCE were never going to put Bosnia back together again

The paper wondered in an editorial yesterday what the NATO-led Bosnia peace-keeping force is for if the OSCE can be forced to back away from legitimate decisions. The Post said: "A particular problem arose when a Norwegian overseer of the elections ruled that a slate of Serb politicians in the nationalist redoubt of Pale should be disqualified because of their ties to indicted war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic. His face was all over the place in open defiance of his Dayton obligation to fade out of politics. No sooner had word of the disqualification leaked, however, than the OSCE's man for Bosnia overruled the Norwegian to head off what he perceived to be the mob violence that the Pale Serbs were organizing against Western election observers, including 200 Americans."

The editorial said: "People cannot fail to ask where the 34,000 soldiers in the NATO-led Bosnia peacekeeping force were while this dismal exercise was playing out."

And it concluded: "It was never in the cards that NATO and the OSCE were going to put Bosnia all back together again. But it was and perhaps it remains possible to keep intact the idea and some of the form of a single Bosnia and to induce some cooperation between the Serbs on one side and the tentative Croat-Muslim federation on the other. The danger is that this latest incident will feed a palpable growing international despair and lead people to think the best way is just to let Bosnia split, calling it peace. But it will be war."