Category Archives: Egypt

(ET) Portugal to resettle 400 refugees residing in Egypt

(ET) CAIRO – 24 June 2018: Portugal will resettle 400 refugees residing in Egypt in 2018/2019 in light of an agreement reached between Egypt and the European Union (EU) on migration, said Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid in a statement on Saturday.

“This fruitful cooperation with Portugal comes in the framework of a comprehensive dialogue between Egypt and the European Union on migration, and [in light of] the efforts Egypt exerts with EU to resettle a number of refugees residing in Egypt,” the statement read.

The cooperation program between Egypt and the EU has been reached after holding a meeting in December 2017 in Cairo. The meeting recommended that some European countries should resettle a number of refugees from the hosting neighboring countries, the statement added.

In a bid to renew Egypt’s moral and legal commitment towards refugees in the territory, Egypt has called on the international community to share the collective responsibility of hosting refugees, said Abu Zeid in a statement on World Refugee Day.

Egypt MFA Spokesman

@MfaEgypt

On Egypt stresses need to share the collective repsonbilities of hosting refugees. We renew our legal & moral commitment towards refugees on our own territory and keenness to integrate them into society, despite high burdens &economic difficulties @UNHCREgypt

The registered number of refugees in Egypt reached 179,201 persons, mainly from Syria, according to the UNHCR data in February 2016.

In 2016, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi said that Egypt hosts around 5 million refugees (registered and unregistered).

On Friday, The Arab Council Supporting Fair Trial and Human Rights (ACSFT) praised the efforts exerted by the Egyptian government in its fruitful cooperation with the UNHCR and its national partners in Egypt, supporting refugees of multiple nationalities in Egypt.

(Reuters) Gunmen kill 26 in attack on Christians in Egypt: medical sources

(Reuters) Masked gunmen attacked a group of Coptic Christians in southern Egypt on Friday, killing 26 people and wounding 26 others as they were driving to a monastery, medical sources and eyewitnesses said.

The group was traveling in two buses and a small truck in Minya province, which is home to a sizeable Christian minority, the sources said.

Provincial governor Essam al-Bedaiwy said earlier that 23 people had been killed and 25 wounded.

Eyewitnesses said the Copts were attacked as they were going to pray at the monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor in the western part of the province.

They said masked men stopped the vehicles on a road leading to the monastery and opened fire.

Coptic Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population of 92 million, have been the subject of a series of deadly attacks in recent months.

About 70 have been killed in bomb attacks on churches in the cities of Cairo, Alexandria and Tanta since December.

Those attacks were claimed by Islamic State. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Friday’s attack.

(NYT) Attacks Show ISIS’ New Plan: Divide Egypt by Killing Christians

(NYT)

A funeral procession on Monday for victims of a church bombing in Alexandria, Egypt. The attack killed 17 people. CreditAmr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

CAIRO — Grief and rage flowed through Egypt’s Christian community on Monday as tear-streaked mourners buried the victims of the coordinated Palm Sunday church bombings that killed 45 people in two cities. The cabinet declared that a state of emergency was in effect. A newspaper was pulled off newsstands after it criticized the government.

It was just the reaction the Islamic State wanted.

Routed from its stronghold on the coast of Libya, besieged in Iraq and wilting under intense pressure in Syria, the militant extremist group urgently needs to find a new battleground where it can start to proclaim victory again. The devastating suicide attacks on Sunday in the heart of the Middle East’s largest Christian community suggested it has found a solution: the cities of mainland Egypt.

Since December, the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has signaled its intent to wage a sectarian war in Egypt by slaughtering Christians in their homes, businesses and places of worship. Several factors lie behind the vicious campaign, experts say: a desire to weaken Egypt’s authoritarian leader, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi; a need to gain a foothold in Egypt beyond the remote Sinai deserts where jihadists have been battling the army for years; and a desire to foment a vicious sectarian conflict that would tear at Egypt’s delicate social fabric and destabilize the state.

“There’s a significant propaganda factor to this,” said Mokhtar Awad, a militancy expert at George Washington University. “ISIS wants to show that it can attack one of the Arab world’s most populous countries.”

Few believe it can succeed. The sheer demographics of Egypt mitigate any Iraq-type success, in which the Islamic State fed off deep tensions between Sunnis and Shiites. Christians make up just 10 percent of Egypt’s people, who are mostly Sunni Muslims, and despite deep-rooted prejudices, there is no popular support for a bloody pogrom.

Yet for now, unless the Egyptian government can bridge its wide security gaps, Egypt’s Christians seem likely to bear the brunt of the Islamic State’s ambitions — and the fight could have broader consequences for civil liberties and political freedoms in a country where both are already in short supply.

A line of wooden coffins borne by Boy Scouts, and marked with the word “martyr,” filed through the doors of an ancient monastery on the outskirts of Alexandria on Monday. A mournful drumbeat accompanied the procession. The coffins held the remains of some of the 17 people killed on Sunday in a blast at the gates of St. Mark’s Cathedral, the historic seat of Christendom in Egypt. It was perhaps the most ambitious of the two attacks because the Coptic patriarch, Tawadros II, had been inside the church at the time.

The scene also stepped up pressure on Mr. Sisi, who counts Christian leaders among his staunchest allies.

His response, the imposition of a three-month state of emergency, was met with a national shrug. Egyptians have lived under a state of emergency for 44 of the past 50 years, and Mr. Sisi already has vast powers that have led to the imprisonment of his rivals, mass trials and unfettered surveillance of enemies.

This state of emergency, due to be approved by the rubber-stamp Parliament on Tuesday, will probably entrench his autocratic tendencies. Under the emergency law, suspected terrorists will be channeled through special courts with a low evidence threshold and no appeals process, and which operate entirely under Mr. Sisi’s control.

Photo

Relatives and other mourners showed their grief during the funeral for the victims of the bombing of a cathedral in Alexandria. CreditAly Fahim/European Pressphoto Agency

Additionally, the president will have the power to censor newspapers and intercept electronic communication, a provision that his supporters have suggested could be used to crack down on critics on social media, one of the last arenas of relatively unrestricted speech in Egypt.

“We’re likely to see people who tweet or use Facebook for political purposes, or to call for protests, being tried in these courts,” said Mai El-Sadany, a nonresident fellow for legal and judicial analysis at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.

Apparently foreshadowing such a crackdown, the government on Monday blocked distribution of Al Bawaba, a normally pro-state newspaper that blamed the Interior Ministry for security lapses in the church bombings in Alexandria and Tanta, a city in the Nile Delta. Parliament approved a law tightening the criminal code, while the speaker, Ali Abdel Aal, told lawmakers that the emergency laws would be applied to media outlets and social media.

The harsh reaction is an affirmation of sorts for the Islamic State, which until recently struggled to have any impact in Egypt outside of North Sinai. There, the fight is between the army and a local, tribal-rooted militant groupthat affiliated with the Islamic State in 2014. But it seems that the latest violence is being orchestrated through a separate network inside Egypt — one with direct links to the main Islamic State hubs in Syria and Iraq.

Mr. Awad, the militancy expert, said he had found evidence that Egyptian militants in the upper echelons of the central Islamic State leadership had established the network of cells in Egypt’s main cities. “We have seen an infrastructure of cells with connections” to the Islamic State’s strongholds in Raqqa, Syria, and Mosul, Iraq, he said.

Some cells are based in Cairo, he said, but many others have fled to the relative safety of the Nile Delta, where they can more easily hide and store weapons in Egypt’s sprawling, lush agricultural heartland.

The violent campaign against Christians, Mr. Awad said, was prompted by the Islamic State’s losses elsewhere — most notably their ouster from the Libyan city of Surt last year, and the continuing American-backed operation in Mosul. The first salvo was a suicide bombing of a Coptic church in Cairo in December that killed 28 people, and which was supported by slick propaganda videos distributed on the internet. Then the Islamic State’s Egyptian channels started buzzing with calls to execute Christians.

“I think it was a calculated escalation,” Mr. Awad said.

The Christian minority has long suffered from casual bigotry that, its members say, hinders their access to jobs and universities and has frequently erupted into mob violence in some rural areas. But concerted violence of the kind perpetrated by the Islamic State on Sunday was unknown.

Mr. Sisi has tried to reassure jittery Christians with the new emergency laws and by stepping up security at churches across the country. In a rare move, soldiers have been deployed to help the police, and armored vehicles lined the streets of Alexandria on Monday.

He also needs to move fast to prop up a modest upswing in Egypt’s battered tourist industry this year and to reassure Catholics before a planned visit by Pope Francis on April 28. On Monday, Israel closed a border crossing with Egypt, warning of an “imminent” attack by militants based in Sinai.

Yet experts say that Mr. Sisi’s greatest problem may lie in reforming his own security agencies, which have ruthlessly stifled Egypt’s political opposition in recent years yet had limited success in penetrating the new Islamist cells that threaten Egypt’s cities — or, at least, in stopping them from carrying out coordinated attacks on churches. In Tanta, the scene of one of the two attacks on Sunday, worshipers said a bomb had been found and disabled only a week earlier.

Mr. Sisi, a former general, knows how tough such work can be: One of his last jobs before coming to power in 2013 was as the country’s military intelligence chief.

(ABC) Editorial: El exterminio de cristianos

(ABC) La operación de limpieza religiosa en Oriente Próximo está en marcha, y la comunidad internacional asiste a ella de brazos caídos.

La iglesia copta de Tanta, tras el atentado terrorista de Daesh

Al menos 45 cristianos coptos fueron asesinados ayer en dos atentados cometidos por Daesh en sendos templos de esta comunidad en Egipto: la Catedral de San Marcos, en Alejandría, y la Iglesia de San Jorge, en Tanta, al norte de El Cairo. Estas masacres coinciden intencionadamente con elDomingo de Ramos, festividad que abre las celebraciones de la pasión, muerte y resurrección de Cristo. En diciembre pasado, la misma organización terrorista también golpeó a los coptos egipcios en plena Navidad con un ataque que causó 25 muertos.

Las comunidades cristianas de Siria, Irak y Egipto son un objetivo estratégico de los terroristas islamistas porque representan la diversidad religiosa de una región que fue la cuna del cristianismo. La supuesta tolerancia de los integristas con los «pueblos del Libro» supone una falacia propagandística que queda al descubierto con el ensañamiento que ponen en su persecución y asesinato masivo. La limpieza religiosa de la región está en marcha, y la comunidad internacional asiste a ella de brazos caídos, como si fuera un hecho inevitable, mientras muestra una sensibilidad extrema para prevenir la islamofobia cada vez que los terroristas yihadistas asesinan en las calles europeas.

Los ataques a la comunidad copta egipcia persiguen, además, dos objetivos. El primero de ellos es desestabilizar a Egipto, que no es un estado fallido como Siria o Libia y, por tanto, se encuentra en condiciones de hacer frente al terrorismo yihadista. El segundo, crear un clima de terror ante la cercana visita del Papa Francisco al país, prevista para finales de este mes. El Santo Padre y la Iglesia Católica ocupan páginas llenas de odio y amenazas en las últimas publicaciones de Daesh, porque los considera aliados de Occidente.

La derrota militar de los yihadistas es urgente y requiere muchos más medios de los países que dicen estar comprometidos en la lucha contra el terrorismo. Mientras Rusia y Estados Unidos mantienen su guerra diplomática y Siria se desangra en crímenes contra la Humanidad y conflictos a varias bandas, los cristianos de la región se han convertido en las víctimas del nuevo genocidio del siglo XXI. Es cierto que también son asesinados musulmanes a manos de los fundamentalistas de Daesh, pero el asesinato y la expulsión de los cristianos no responde a una pugna por el poder dentro del islam, sino a un odio fanático religioso que no conoce medida. Todos deben actuar. También las comunidades islámicas de Europa, que deben alzar su voz contra la invocación del islam para justificar estos crímenes atroces. Y conviene que lo haga de forma continuada, educando a sus fieles en la tolerancia y el respeto, marginando a los radicales y colaborando con las autoridades civiles.

 

(Reuters) Trump tells Sisi U.S., Egypt will fight Islamist militants together

(Reuters) U.S. President Donald Trump moved to reset U.S. relations with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Monday after the prior Obama administration’s strained ties, giving him firm backing and vowing to work together to fight Islamist militants.

A joint statement said the two leaders agreed on the importance of advancing peace throughout the Middle East, including in Libya, Syria, and Yemen, and expressed interest in supporting Israel and the Palestinians in moving toward peace.

“I just want to let everybody know in case there was any doubt that we are very much behind President Sisi. He’s done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation. We are very much behind Egypt and the people of Egypt,” Trump said in an Oval Office meeting with the Egyptian leader.

The trip was Sisi’s first official U.S. visit since being elected president in 2014. Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, never extended an invitation.

Obama froze aid to Egypt for two years after Sisi, then a general, overthrew President Mohamed Mursi in mid-2013 after mass protests against Mursi’s rule. Mursi, a Muslim Brotherhood member, had been elected the previous year.

The one-on-one meeting between Trump and Sisi, followed by a separate gathering with top aides, showed how intent the new U.S. president is on rebooting the bilateral relationship and building on the strong connection the two presidents established when they first met in New York last September.

“I just want to say to you, Mr President, that you have a great friend and ally in the United States, and in me,” Trump said.

Sisi said he appreciated that Trump has been “standing very strong … to counter this evil ideology.”

The joint statement said Trump and Sisi agreed that Islamist militants could not be defeated solely by military force. It said the leaders “agreed on the necessity of recognizing the peaceful nature of Islam and Muslims around the world.”

While Trump noted the United States and Egypt “have a few things” they do not agree on, he made no public airing of U.S. concerns about human rights in Egypt.

Rights groups have called for the release of Aya Hijazi, an Egyptian-American who works with street children and was arrested in May 2014 on human trafficking charges.

Hijazi has been held in custody for 33 months in violation of Egyptian law, which states that the maximum period for pre-trial detention is 24 months.

A senior administration official said the subject of Hijazi did not come up in the meeting with Trump, Sisi and their advisers, but said the detention was an issue of concern and a case that was being watched closely by the Trump administration.

At the United Nations in New York, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said the Trump administration was not backing away from human rights “because they fully support me speaking about human rights in the Security Council.”

Human rights groups have estimated that Sisi’s government has detained at least 40,000 political prisoners.

Egypt has long been one of Washington’s closest allies in the Middle East, receiving $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid annually. It is fighting an Islamist insurgency in Sinai in which hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and police have been killed.

(Reuters) Mubarak, Egypt’s toppled Pharaoh, is free after final charges dropped

(Reuters)

Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president overthrown in 2011 and the first leader to face trial after the Arab Spring uprisings that swept the region, was freed on Friday after six years in detention, his lawyer said.

The 88-year-old was cleared of the final murder charges against him this month, after facing trial in a litany of cases ranging from corruption to the killing of protesters whose 18-day revolt stunned the world and ended his 30-year rule.

“Yes, he is now in his home in Heliopolis,” Mubarak’s lawyer, Farid El Deeb told Reuters when asked if Mubarak had left Maadi Military hospital in southern Cairo where he had been detained. Heliopolis is an upscale neighborhood where the main presidential palace from which Mubarak once governed is located.

Mubarak was initially arrested in April 2011, two months after leaving office, and has since been held in prison and in military hospitals under heavy guard.

Many Egyptians who lived through his presidency view it as a period of stagnation, autocracy and crony capitalism. Arabs watched enraptured when the first images of the former air force commander, Egypt’s modern-day Pharaoh, were beamed live on television, showing him bed-bound in his courtroom cage.

The overthrow of Mubarak, one of a series of military men to rule Egypt since the 1952 abolition of the monarchy, embodied the hopes of the Arab Spring uprisings that shook autocrats from Tunisia to the Gulf and briefly raised hopes of a new era of democracy and social justice.

His release takes that journey full circle, marking what his critics say is the return of the old order to Egypt, where authorities have crushed Mubarak’s enemies in the Muslim Brotherhood, killing hundreds and jailing thousands, while his allies regain influence.

Another military man, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, stepped into Mubarak’s shoes in 2013 when he overthrew Mohamed Mursi, the Brotherhood official who won Egypt’s first free election after the uprising.

A year later, Sisi won a presidential election in which the Brotherhood, now banned, could not participate. The liberal and leftist opposition, at the forefront of the 2011 protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, is under pressure and in disarray.

Years of political tumult and worsening security have hit the economy, just as Mubarak always warned. Egyptians complain of empty pockets and rumbling bellies as inflation exceeds 30 percent and the government tightens its belt in return for loans from the International Monetary Fund.

“The economic crisis we are living in and the high prices take priority over everything, as does the fear of terrorism. That is what preoccupies ordinary citizens, not Mubarak,” said Khaled Dawoud, an opposition politician who opposed the Islamists but also condemned the bloody crackdown on them.

“When you see the group of people who show up and cheer and support him, you are talking about 150, 200 people,” he said, referring to occasional shows of support outside the Maadi hospital when Mubarak was there.

BACK TO THE PAST?

In the turmoil of the Arab uprisings, Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled into exile in Saudi Arabia, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi met an ignominious death at the hands of rebels and Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh resigned.

But early hopes of democratic change in the region have eroded. In Syria, Bashar al-Assad still holds the presidency in a country ruined by a civil war that has drawn in global and region powers.

Yemen’s Saleh joined his erstwhile enemies in a new battle for power that has driven into famine a country on the fringes of the Gulf, one of the world’s richest oil-producing regions.

In Egypt, Mubarak-era figures are gradually being cleared of charges whilst a series of new laws have curbed freedoms.

Mubarak was originally sentenced to life in prison in 2012 for conspiring to murder 239 demonstrators during the revolt. An appeals court ordered a retrial that culminated in 2014 in the case against Mubarak and his senior officials being dropped.

An appeal by the public prosecution led to a final retrial by Egypt’s highest court. It acquitted Mubarak on March 2.

Early on, families of those killed attended hearings. But as the political tide turned against the revolutionaries, Mubarak supporters began to show up and many of the families started to lose hope that they would see justice.

Mohamed al-Gundy died after being arrested in Tahrir Square and taken to a police station, where his mother says he was beaten to death. The 29-year-old tour guide became politically active after seeing a man eating from a bin, she said.

“He didn’t want to topple the government or bring in a new one or anything, he just wanted some reforms… And none of the things he asked for happened, none of the things he died for,” she told Reuters.

Through his trial, Mubarak seemed baffled by people’s anger, insistent that he had done his best by his country and adamant that history would vindicate him. Many Egyptians say the turbulent six years since their ill-fated flirtation with revolutionary change already have.

(Reuters) Exclusive: Russia appears to deploy forces in Egypt, eyes on Libya role – sources

(Reuters)

Russia appears to have deployed special forces to an airbase in western Egypt near the border with Libya in recent days, U.S., Egyptian and diplomatic sources say, a move that would add to U.S. concerns about Moscow’s deepening role in Libya.

The U.S. and diplomatic officials said any such Russian deployment might be part of a bid to support Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar, who suffered a setback with an attack on March 3 by the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB) on oil ports controlled by his forces.

The U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the United States has observed what appeared to be Russian special operations forces and drones at Sidi Barrani, about 60 miles (100 km) from the Egypt-Libya border.

Egyptian security sources offered more detail, describing a 22-member Russian special forces unit, but declined to discuss its mission. They added that Russia also used another Egyptian base farther east in Marsa Matrouh in early February.

The apparent Russian deployments have not been previously reported.

The Russian defense ministry did not immediately provide comment on Monday and Egypt denied the presence of any Russian contingent on its soil.

“There is no foreign soldier from any foreign country on Egyptian soil. This is a matter of sovereignty,” Egyptian army spokesman Tamer al-Rifai said.

The U.S. military declined comment. U.S. intelligence on Russian military activities is often complicated by its use of contractors or forces without uniforms, officials say.

Russian military aircraft flew about six military units to Marsa Matrouh before the aircraft continued to Libya about 10 days later, the Egyptian sources said.

Reuters could not independently verify any presence of Russian special forces and drones or military aircraft in Egypt.

Mohamed Manfour, commander of Benina air base near Benghazi, denied that Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) had received military assistance from the Russian state or from Russian military contractors, and said there were no Russian forces or bases in eastern Libya.

Several Western countries, including the U.S., have sent special operations forces and military advisors into Libya over the past two years. The U.S. military also carried out air strikes to support a successful Libyan campaign last year to oust Islamic State from its stronghold in the city of Sirte.

Questions about Russia’s role in north Africa coincide with growing concerns in Washington about Moscow’s intentions in oil-rich Libya, which has become a patchwork of rival fiefdoms in the aftermath of a 2011 NATO-backed uprising against the late leader Muammar Gaddafi, who was a client of the former Soviet Union.

The U.N.-backed government in Tripoli is in a deadlock with Haftar, and Russian officials have met with both sides in recent months. Moscow appears prepared to back up its public diplomatic support for Haftar even though Western governments were already irked at Russia’s intervention in Syria to prop up President Bashar al-Assad.

A force of several dozen armed private security contractors from Russia operated until February in a part of Libya that is under Haftar’s control, the head of the firm that hired the contractors told Reuters.

The top U.S. military commander overseeing troops in Africa, Marine General Thomas Waldhauser, told the U.S. Senate last week that Russia was trying to exert influence in Libya to strengthen its leverage over whoever ultimately holds power.

“They’re working to influence that,” Waldhauser told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.

Asked whether it was in the U.S. interest to let that happen, Waldhauser said: “It is not.”

REGAINING TOE-HOLD

One U.S. intelligence official said Russia’s aim in Libya appeared to be an effort to “regain a toe-hold where the Soviet Union once had an ally in Gaddafi.”

“At the same time, as in Syria, they appear to be trying to limit their military involvement and apply enough to force some resolution but not enough to leave them owning the problem,” the official added, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Russia’s courting of Haftar, who tends to brand his armed rivals as Islamist extremists and who some Libyans see as the strongman their country needs after years of instability, has prompted others to draw parallels with Syria, another longtime Soviet client.

Asked by U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham whether Russia was trying to do in Libya what it did in Syria, Waldhauser said: “Yes, that’s a good way to characterize it.”

A Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Russia was looking to back Haftar, although its initial focus would likely be on Libya’s “oil crescent.”

“It is pretty clear the Egyptians are facilitating Russian engagement in Libya by allowing them to use these bases. There are supposedly training exercises taking place there at present,” the diplomat said.

Egypt has been trying to persuade the Russians to resume flights to Egypt, which have been suspended since a Russian plane carrying 224 people from the Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Sheikh to St Petersburg was brought down by a bomb in October 2015. The attack was claimed by an Islamic State branch that operates out of northern Sinai.

Russia says that its primary objective in the Middle East is to contain the spread of violent Islamist groups.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pledged this month to help unify Libya and foster dialogue when he met the leader of the U.N.-backed government, Fayez Seraj.

Russia, meanwhile, is also deepening its relations with Egypt, which had ties to the Soviet Union from 1956 to 1972.

The two countries held joint military exercises – something the U.S. and Egypt did regularly until 2011 – for the first time in October.

Russia’s Izvestia newspaper said in October that Moscow was in talks to open or lease an airbase in Egypt. Egypt’s state-owned Al Ahram newspaper, however, quoted the presidential spokesman as saying Egypt would not allow foreign bases.

The Egyptian sources said there was no official agreement on the Russian use of Egyptian bases. There were, however, intensive consultations over the situation in Libya.

Egypt is worried about chaos spreading from its western neighbor and it has hosted a flurry of diplomatic meetings between leaders of the east and west in recent months.

(HB) Merkel’s Refugee Deal for Egypt

(HB) The German chancellor has come to Egypt offering financial support. In return, Berlin wants Cairo to set up reception centers for refugees. Human rights activists are incensed.

merkelegypt
Angel Merkel has praised Egypt’s stability. Human rights activists aren’t happy. Picture souce: Reuters/Amr Dalsh

Chancellor Angela Merkel is known for choosing her words carefully. Before departing for Cairo, she called Egypt a “stabilizing element” in a region that has descended into sectarian warfare.

The Arab world’s most populous nation has always played a critical role in the Middle East. For Ms. Merkel, Egypt is a lynchpin in her strategy to slow the movement of migrants from North Africa.

The chancellor met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in Cairo on Friday to discuss the civil war in neighboring Libya, the migrant crisis, counterterrorism, and bilateral economic relations.

Ms. Merkel is keen to cut a deal with the Egyptian president. The country has become an increasingly important transit region for migrants and refugees who may be seeking to cross into Europe. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, Egypt is hosting 190,000 refugees, 120,000 of whom have fled the civil war in Syria.

Ms. Merkel did find a half hour to meet with civil society representatives before having dinner with Mr. El-Sisi, whose military regime has systematically oppressed such groups.

Given this reality, sources in the German government told Handelsblatt that Germany and the European Union “have a great interest in Egypt continuing to pursue criminal human traffickers.”

Ms. Merkel’s proposal is simple. Egypt offers support for setting up refugee camps in North Africa, and Berlin offers financial support in return.

Germany has already provided Egypt €250 million in assistance. During her visit, Ms. Merkel announced that Berlin would provided another €250 million in 2018. Egypt will also enter into an investment partnership with Germany.

Pulling off such a deal, however, is politically fraught. Human rights activists are not happy with the chancellor’s position on Egypt. The stability that she praised has come at a high cost.

The military regime of President El-Sisi overthrew the democratically elected government of his Islamist predecessor, Mohammed Morsi, and has imprisoned 60,000 opposition activists. Torture is an everyday practice, according to human rights activists.

“El-Sisi is the worst dictator in the Arab world,” said Gamal Eid of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information. Mr. Eid himself has been barred from leaving the country.

Ms. Merkel did find a half hour to meet with civil society representatives before having dinner with Mr. El-Sisi, whose military regime has systematically oppressed such groups.

“Civil society and the rule of law play a central role in an open society and the fight against terrorism,” Ms. Merkel said at a press conference in the presidential palace.

High-ranking members of Ms. Merkel’s coalition government are also wary of setting up refugee camps in North Africa. Though he didn’t mention Egypt, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, a center-left Social Democrat, said on Monday that setting up camps in Tunisia and Libya, at least, would be unrealistic.

Mr. Gabriel, speaking after a meeting with his Austrian counterpart, said an agreement like the E.U. deal with Turkey would not be appropriate in highly unstable countries. Under a deal reached last year, Turkey houses millions of refugees in return for aid and other benefits from the European Union.

“It would be great if Tunisia were so stable that we could bring in the U.N. refugee commission like in Turkey. But we can’t do that.”

Sigmar Gabriel, German foreign minister

Egypt has dismissed the idea of refugee camps in North Africa so far, but Cairo is also aware of the hefty amount of financial aid the European Union offered Turkey, which could tempt Mr. El-Sisi’s government to change its mind.

Since February 2016, Mr. el-Sisi has repeatedly said that Egypt is hosting 5 million refugees, way above the numbers provided by the U.N. Refugee Agency. Egypt’s bureaucracy is known for trying to profit off the migrant crisis by charging high fees for temporary residence permits.

Ms. Merkel made sure to emphasize German investments in Egypt during her visit. She helped open the world’s largest gas and steam turbine, which was built by Siemens. Chief Executive Joe Kaeser participated in the ceremony remotely via video.

Berlin has also supported Egypt’s participation in an International Monetary Fund program, through which Cairo has received financial assistance in exchange for letting its currency float freely. In the wake of the deal, the Egyptian pound has lost 50 percent of its value, driving hyper inflation in the country.

On Friday, Ms. Merkel will fly on to Tunisia where she will also discuss financial aid and the migration crisis. The chancellor has sought to make the economic stabilization of Africa a central goal of Germany’s G20 presidency this year. Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble is currently negotiating an investment partnership with Tunis as well as four other African countries.

On the issue of setting up refugee camps in Tunisia, however, Ms. Merkel will faces opposition from her foreign minister.

“It would be great if Tunisia were so stable that we could bring in the U.N. refugee commission like in Turkey,” Mr. Gabriel said on Monday. “But we can’t do that.”

(Economist) The troubled lives of Egypt’s Coptic Christians

(Economist)

NO GROUP immediately claimed responsibility for a bomb that ripped through a chapel in Egypt’s capital on December 11th, killing 25 worshippers and wounding 49 (see picture).

But those behind the attack in Cairo timed it to coincide with Sunday Mass for the Coptic Christians, next to their most important cathedral, on the eve of a national holiday marking the birth of the Islamic prophet Muhammed. In his remarks after the bombing, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a general who overturned an Islamist government in 2013, reiterated his longstanding promises to ease religious tensions and protect minorities. It is a familiar refrain for Egypt’s long-suffering Christians (see article).

And yet for watchers of religious freedom, the Copts of Egypt present something of a paradox. Most pundits agree that the fortunes of this large and historically important community have somewhat improved since 2013. That year was a low point as mobs attacked their churches, property and communities. But in a country where sectarian tensions are never far from boiling over, and human rights in general are gravely abused, life for Christians has never been comfortable or free of danger.

For better or worse, Mr Sisi has forged a close relationship with Pope Tawadros, the leader of the Coptic Christians who are thought to make up between 10% and 15% of Egypt’s 89m people. For two successive years, the president has appeared at the Copts’ Christmas celebrations in Cairo which take place in January. The Coptic prelate has been defensive of the Sisi government and discouraged his followers, in Egypt or elsewhere in the worId, from criticising the president. But some rank-and-file Egyptian Christians feel their spiritual leader has been too deferential to the president and too slow to articulate the community’s complaints.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, one of two agencies in Washington, DC, that monitor liberty of belief, acknowledged in its latest annual reportthat the Cairo government had taken “some positive steps to address religious freedom concerns”, for example by curbing extremist messages in Muslim sermons and school lessons. It added that religiously inspired attacks on Christians and other minorities had diminished and there had been prosecutions, albeit on an insufficient scale, following the sectarian violence of 2013. The president had provided state help with rebuilding churches damaged during those attacks. Among the 596 members of the current parliament, the number of Christians was unusually high at 36.

But USCIRF still rates Egypt as a “country of particular concern” in respect of religious liberty, in other words in the top global tier of violators: the commission’s chairman Robert George told Congress the country has taken “one step forward, two steps back” in matters of freedom of belief.

The State Department, whose annual report on religious freedom around the world is an important reference work, also found that the Sisi government had failed in its stated intention of upholding Christian rights.

The government frequently failed to prevent, investigate, or prosecute crimes targeting members of religious minority groups, which fostered a climate of impunity, according to a prominent local rights organisation. The government often failed to protect Christians targeted by kidnappings and extortion according to sources in the Christian community, and there were reports that security and police officials sometimes failed to respond to these crimes, especially in Upper Egypt (in the country’s impoverished south).

Ordinary Christians are sceptical both of government promises and of their own church’s staunchly pro-government leadership. As is noted by Sarah Yerkes, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution think-tank, “Increasingly, Egyptian Christians are speaking out against the Egyptian government, ignoring the wishes of the church. Most recently 82 Copts signed a public letter protesting the church’s widespread support of [President] Sisi and expressed frustration that even under Sisi, the situation for Christians in Egypt has not improved.”

In some ways, the Copts of Egypt have the worst of both worlds. President Sisi presents himself as their ally and protector, so Islamist foes of the government bitterly resent them. And in the end, the president’s protection turns out not to be adequate.

+++ (FT) Wreckage found in hunt for EgyptAir flight MS804

(FT) Wreckage of the EgyptAir passenger jet that disappeared on Thursday morning has been found during a military search operation in the eastern Mediterranean, the airline said on Friday.

“The Egyptian armed forces found in the first hours of this morning the remains of wreckage and belongings from [flight] MS804 at 295 kilometres from the Alexandria shoreline,” EgyptAir said in a statement.

The Airbus A320 crashed after passing over Greek islands en route to Cairo from Paris with 66 people on board. French and Egyptian authorities have not ruled out the possibility that it was brought down by an act of terrorism.

The discovery of debris from the aircraft followed a day of confusion on Thursday, when EgyptAir at one point said wreckage had been found off the coast of Crete but was later forced to withdraw its statement.

Sherif Fathy, Egypt’s aviation minister, said on Thursday that the possibility of a terrorist attack was higher than technical failure, but added: “It is still speculations and assumptions.”

Contrary to some reports, a US official said that, so far, there was no evidence in satellite imagery of an explosion.

US intelligence services are helping French and Egyptians authorities analyse the list of 56 passengers for possible terrorist connections.

However, Josh Earnest, White House spokesman, said on Thursday evening: “At this time we do not yet know definitively what caused the disappearance of Flight 804.”

Panos Kammenos, Greek defence minister, said radar showed the aircraft veered sharply shortly after leaving Greek-controlled airspace. The jet plunged from 37,000 feet to 10,000 feet where it dropped off the radar before crashing into the sea between Karpathos and the Egyptian coast.

EgyptAir flight MS804

The state-owned airline said there were 30 Egyptian nationals among the passengers, along with 15 French and two Iraqi, and one each from the UK, Belgium, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Chad, Portugal, Algeria and Canada. The Canadian government later said that two Canadian citizens had been on board.

“We have a duty to know everything about what happened. No hypothesis is preferred, no hypothesis is being ruled out,” said François Hollande, French president. Asked if terrorism could be to blame for the disappearance, Sherif Ismail, Egypt’s prime minister, said his country was not excluding any cause at this stage.

MS804 left Charles de Gaulle airport at 11.09pm local time on Wednesday and disappeared off radar at about 2.30am Cairo time, 10 miles inside Egyptian airspace.

Konstantinos Lintzerakos, director of Greece’s Civil Aviation Authority, said controllers tried to contact the pilot 10 miles before the plane left the Greek Flight Information Region. The pilot did not respond, he said, and they tried to make contact for 10 minutes. Greek and Egyptian authorities said they had received no distress call from the flight crew.

The lack of radio contact is likely to be of particular significance to investigators, suggesting the crew was grappling with an emergency, incapacitated or prevented from answering before the aircraft abruptly changed course and crashed.

Weather conditions at the time of the crash were good, meaning investigators are likely to focus on the possibility that it was caused by a deliberate act or a catastrophic mechanical failure.

This incident is the second this year for EgyptAir after a flight from Alexandria to Cairo was hijacked in March. It later landed safely in Cyprus and no one was hurt.

Like all modern jets, the A320 has a good safety record. Airbus said the aircraft was delivered to EgyptAir in November 2003. The aircraft had accumulated about 48,000 flight hours and was powered by engines made by IAE, a joint venture between Pratt & Whitney of the US, Germany’s MTU and three Japanese companies.

Reporting by Adam Thomson and Anne-Sylvaine Chassany in Paris, Heba Saleh in Cairo, Kerin Hope in Athens, Mark Odell and Peggy Hollinger in the UK, Robert Wright in New York, Geoff Dyer in Washington and Hudson Lockett in Hong Kong

++ (DailyMail) Does King Tutankhamun’s tomb hold Queen Nefertiti’s remains? Radar experts cast new doubts over discovery of ‘hidden chambers’

(DailyMail) Researchers believe there is a 90 per cent chance King Tutankhamun’s tomb contains at least one, if not two, hidden chambers.

If it’s confirmed, it could be one of the most important archaeological discoveries this century.

But independent radar experts talking to LiveScience are now casting new doubts over the claim, arguing the unusual geology of the Valley of the Kings may be fooling scientists.

Researchers believe there is a 90 per cent chance King Tutankhamun's tomb contains at least one, if not two, hidden chambers. The announcement follows recent infrared thermography tests that revealed one area of the northern wall was a different temperature to others (marked). Pictured here is the interior of the tomb 

Researchers believe there is a 90 per cent chance King Tutankhamun’s tomb contains at least one, if not two, hidden chambers. The announcement follows recent infrared thermography tests that revealed one area of the northern wall was a different temperature to others (marked). Pictured here is the interior of the tomb

GHOST DOORS TO THE CHAMBER

After analysing high-resolution scans of the walls of Tutankhamun’s grave complex in the Valley of the Kings, Dr Nicholas Reeves spotted what appeared to be a secret entrance.

They feature very straight lines that are 90 degrees to the ground, positioned so as to correspond with other features within the tomb.

He uncovered the ‘ghosts’ of two portals that tomb builders blocked up, one of which is believed to be a storage room.

The other, on the north side of Tutankhamun’s tomb, contains ‘the undisturbed burial of the tomb’s original owner – Nefertiti’, Dr Reeves argued.

These features are difficult to capture with the naked eye, he said.

Reeves said the plastered walls could conceal two unexplored doorways, one of which perhaps leads to Nefertiti’s tomb.

He also argues the design of the tomb suggests it was built for a queen, rather than a king.

In particular, he believes these chambers are behind the northerns and western walls of tomb and that one contains the remains of queen Nefertiti, the chief wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten and mother to six of his children, who is Tutankhamun’s mother.

Earlier this month, archaeologists scanned the tomb to find what some believe could be the resting place of Queen Nefertiti.

Nefertiti was the legendary wife of Tutankhamun’s father whose mummy has never been found.

Egypt’s antiquities minister Mamdouh el-Damaty believes the chambers contain the tomb of a member of Tutankhamun’s family, but would not speculate on Nefertiti.

But experts speaking to LiveScience have questioned whether the chambers even exist.

They claim the landscape of the Valley of the Kings – which contains voids – makes it difficult for radar to separate archaeological features from natural ones.

They are calling for more data to be released from the recent scans.

‘It does not appear that these GPR [ground-penetrating radar] data have been processed, or that any of the so-called anomalies are visible in the raw data that are provided,’ Lawrence Conyers, a professor of anthropology at the University of Denver told LiveScience.

The in-depth report also mentions several other radar scientists, some of whom are calling for the raw data to undergo peer review.

More radar surveys are expected to be conducted later this week.

Dr Nicholas Reeves, who made the original discovery, has not yet responded to DailyMail.com’s request for comment.

The skepticism follows recent infrared thermography tests that revealed one area of the northern wall was a different temperature than others.

A team from Cairo University’s Faculty of Engineering and a Paris-based organisation called the Heritage, Innovation and Preservation Institute used infrared thermography to measure the temperature of each of the walls of the tomb.

Preliminary analysis of the non-invasive search showed that one area of the northern wall was a different temperature than other areas, which is a potential sign of a hidden chamber.

The completion of the experiment comes and at the same time that researchers unveiled newly colourised photos of the discovery of the tomb.

The dark blue border shows the walls that were scanned. The area alongside the antechamber is believed to be empty, while Area 1 contains metal and organic material, and Area 2 contains just organic material. This organic material could be human remains

The dark blue border shows the walls that were scanned. The area alongside the antechamber is believed to be empty, while Area 1 contains metal and organic material, and Area 2 contains just organic material. This organic material could be human remains

The pictures were taken by British photographer Harry Burton during the excavation process and have been made from the original glass plate negatives.

Egypt’s Antiquities minister Mamdouh Eldamaty said in a statement the experiment in which investigators looked for hidden tombs lasted 24 hours.

He continued that several more experiments will be carried out in hopes of more accurately determining the area showing a different temperature.

Scratching and markings on the northern and western walls are strikingly similar to those found by Howard Carter on the entrance of King Tut’s tomb.

The search follows claims by British Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves, of the University of Arizona, that high-resolution images of the tomb show ‘distinct linear traces’ on the walls, pointing to two unexplored chambers.

He said high-resolution images of what is known as King Tut’s tomb ‘revealed several very interesting features which look not at all natural.

They feature very straight lines that are 90 degrees to the ground, positioned so as to correspond with other features within the tomb.

These features are difficult to capture with the naked eye, he said.

Reeves said the plastered walls could conceal two unexplored doorways, one of which perhaps leads to Nefertiti’s tomb.

This image shows detailed scan results from one of the suspected chambers. The scan used electromagnetic waves to inspect the chamber's so-called cavity pattern. The red arrows indicate the entrance to the cavity and the yellow and green sections are believed to be metal and organic material

This image shows detailed scan results from one of the suspected chambers. The scan used electromagnetic waves to inspect the chamber’s so-called cavity pattern. The red arrows indicate the entrance to the cavity and the yellow and green sections are believed to be metal and organic material

Dr Nicholas Reeves recently claimed to have found evidence for the bricked up entrances. These include the burial chamber for Queen Nefertiti, who Dr Reeves claims was the boy-kings co-regent and may even have been his mother, and a new hidden storage room, as shown above

Dr Nicholas Reeves recently claimed to have found evidence for the bricked up entrances. These include the burial chamber for Queen Nefertiti, who Dr Reeves claims was the boy-kings co-regent and may even have been his mother, and a new hidden storage room, as shown above

Tutankhamun's 3,000-year-old burial chamber was discovered in 1922, after a 15-year search which eventually uncovered 5,000 antiques - including the king's sarcophagus, his gold mask, and stillborn mummies. Dr Reeves claims the 'ghosts' of two portals that tomb builders blocked up are shown in yellow

Tutankhamun’s 3,000-year-old burial chamber was discovered in 1922, after a 15-year search which eventually uncovered 5,000 antiques – including the king’s sarcophagus, his gold mask, and stillborn mummies. Dr Reeves claims the ‘ghosts’ of two portals that tomb builders blocked up are shown in yellow

He also argues that the design of the tomb suggests it was built for a queen, rather than a king.

Dr Reeves, an English archaeologist at the University of Arizona, has provided new evidence to support these claims in a report published by the Amarna Royal Tombs Project.

After analysing high-resolution scans of the walls of Tutankhamun’s grave complex in the Valley of the Kings, Dr Reeves spotted what appeared to be a secret entrance.

He described how he uncovered the ‘ghosts’ of two portals that tomb builders blocked up, one of which is believed to be a storage room.

 Archaeologists scanned the tomb to find what some believe could be the resting place of Queen Nefertiti, the legendary wife of Tutankhamun's father whose mummy has never been found

 Archaeologists scanned the tomb to find what some believe could be the resting place of Queen Nefertiti, the legendary wife of Tutankhamun’s father whose mummy has never been found

Dr Reeves claims he made the discovery after analysing high-resolution radar scans of the walls of Tutankhamun’s tomb complex, which was uncovered in 1922 in the Valley of the Kings

In particular, he believes these chambers are behind the northerns and western walls of tomb and that one contains the remains of queen Nefertiti, the chief wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten and mother to six of his children, who is Tutankhamun’s mother.

Famed for her exquisite beauty, the grave of Nefertiti or the ‘Lady of the Two Lands’ has been lost for centuries since her sudden death in 1340 BC.

Previous DNA analysis has suggested King Tutankhamun’s mother may have been a mummy known as the Younger Lady, who is also thought to be his father’s sister.

However, there are some Egyptologists who claim that it is actually Nefertiti, the chief wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten and mother to six of his children, who is Tutankhamun’s mother.

WERE KING TUTANKHAMUN’S PARENTS ALSO COUSINS?

The complex family arrangements of Tutankhamun has been one of the great mysteries surrounding the young king.

While his father was known to have been Pharaoh Akhenaten, the identity of his mother has been far more elusive.

DNA testing has shown that Queen Tiye, whose mummy is pictured above, was the grandmother of the Egyptian Boy King Tutankhamun

In 2010 DNA testing confirmed a mummy found in the tomb of Amenhotep II was Queen Tiye, the chief wife of Amenhotep III, mother of Pharaoh Akhenanten, and Tutankhamun’s grandmother.

A third mummy, thought to be one of Pharaoh Akhenaten wives, was found to be a likely candidate as Tutankhamun’s mother, but DNA evidence showed it was Akhenaten’s sister.

Later analysis in 2013 suggested Nefertiti, Akhenaten’s chief wife, was Tutankhamun’s mother.

However, the work by Marc Gabolde, a French archaeologist, has suggested Nefertiti was also Akhenaten’s cousin.

This incestuous parentage may also help to explain some of the malformations that scientists have discovered afflicted Tutankhamun.

He suffered a deformed foot, a slightly cleft palate and mild curvature of the spine.

However, his claims have been disputed by other Egyptologists, including Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities.

His team’s research suggests that Tut’s mother was, like Akhenaten, the daughter of Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye.

Hawass added that there is ‘no evidence’ in archaeology or philology to indicate that Nefertiti was the daughter of Amenhotep III.

The other, on the north side of Tutankhamun’s tomb, contains ‘the undisturbed burial of the tomb’s original owner – Nefertiti’, Dr Reeves argued.

If Dr Reeves is correct, the hidden tomb could be far more magnificent than anything found in Tutankhamun’s burial chamber.

He believes it is her tomb due to its position positioned to the right of the entrance shaft, which is far more typical of Egyptian queens rather than kings.

The small size of Tutankhamun’s burial chamber, given his standing in the Egyptian history, has baffled experts for years and Dr Reeves’ theory could suggest that it was built as an addition to an existing tomb – his mother’s.

Tutankhamun’s burial chamber is the same size as an antechamber, rather than a tomb fit for an Egyptian King, for example.

The tomb of King Tut is displayed in a glass case at the Valley of the Kings in Luxo. British Egyptologist's theory that a queen may be buried in the walls of the 3,300 year-old pharaonic mausoleum has been bolstered following infrared and radar scans

The tomb of King Tut is displayed in a glass case at the Valley of the Kings in Luxo. British Egyptologist’s theory that a queen may be buried in the walls of the 3,300 year-old pharaonic mausoleum has been bolstered following infrared and radar scans

Pictured is the the decorated north wall of Tutankhamen's burial chamber, behind which Dr Reeves believes is another, more lavish burial chamber belonging to Nefertiti

Pictured is the the decorated north wall of Tutankhamen’s burial chamber, behind which Dr Reeves believes is another, more lavish burial chamber belonging to Nefertiti

THE DISCOVERY OF THE TOMB

Tutankhamun’s 3,000-year-old burial chamber was discovered in 1922, after a 15-year search which eventually uncovered 5,000 antiques – including the king’s sarcophagus, his gold mask, and stillborn mummies.

The discovery caused a worldwide sensation. The rich furnishings and decorations have entranced the public while archaeologists have puzzled over the king’s death.

He was found buried with two stillborn children and his passing ended the Thutmosid family line.

Tutankhamun’s death led to war as he was succeeded by his adviser Ay, who married the boy king’s widow. Under his rule Egypt was defeated in a war with the Hittites.

Dr Reeve said the richness of the furnishings crammed into Tutankhamun’s four small chambers as ‘overwhelming’.

The majority of Egyptologists have taken this at face value, and said many of the objects there appear to have been taken from predecessor kings and adapted for the boy-king’s use.

He proposes some of the material in the tomb suggest Nefertiti had been the boy’s co-regent.

Combined with the scans of the north wall of the tomb, Dr Reeves believes the tomb belonged to Nefertiti and the pharaoh’s room was simply an afterthought, describing it as a ‘corridor-style tomb-within-a-tomb’.

The opening of what is believed to have been Nefertiti’s tomb is decorated with religious scenes, perhaps in a ritual to provide protection to the chamber behind it, he said.

‘Only one female royal of the late 18th Dynasty is known to have received such honours, and that is Nefertiti’, Dr Reeves writes.

If Dr Reeves’ theory is correct, it may resolve a number of oddities about Tutankhamun’s burial chamber that have long baffled researchers.

In 2010 geneticists used DNA tests to examine the parentage of Tutankhamun and suggested it might be the mummy above, known as the Younger Lady, who was the boy-king's mother. Other experts have claimed, however, that Nefertiti was a cousin of King Tut's father and may have been the boy's mother

In 2010 geneticists used DNA tests to examine the parentage of Tutankhamun and suggested it might be the mummy above, known as the Younger Lady, who was the boy-king’s mother. Other experts have claimed, however, that Nefertiti was a cousin of King Tut’s father and may have been the boy’s mother

Egyptian labourers work at the entrance of the Valley of the Kings. If Dr Reeves is correct, the hidden tomb could be far more magnificent than anything found in Tutankhamun's burial chamber

Egyptian labourers work at the entrance of the Valley of the Kings. If Dr Reeves is correct, the hidden tomb could be far more magnificent than anything found in Tutankhamun’s burial chamber

For instance, the treasures found within seem to have been placed there in a rush, and are largely second-hand.

‘The implications are extraordinary,’ he wrote.

‘If digital appearance translates into physical reality, it seems we are now faced not merely with the prospect of a new, Tutankhamun-era store room to the west [but] that of Nefertiti herself, celebrated consort, co-regent, and eventual successor of Pharaoh Akhenaten.’

Nefertiti, whose name means ‘the beautiful one has come,’ was the queen of Egypt and wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten during the 14th century B.C.

It is possible, however, that nothing at all will be found behind the walls of the tomb (wall pictured)

It is possible, however, that nothing at all will be found behind the walls of the tomb (wall pictured)

She and her husband established the cult of Aten, the sun god, and promoted artwork in Egypt that was strikingly different from its predecessors.

Her titles suggests she was co-regent and possibly a pharaoh after Akhenaten’s death. But despite her remarkable status, her death and burial remains a mystery.

Another theory is that if a mummy is found, it could belong to Pharaoh Smenkhkare or Queen Meritation, the full or half sister of Tutankhamun, experts said.

It is possible, however, that nothing at all will be found behind the walls of the tomb.

Colourised images of the tomb were recently unveiled by Factum Arte, a group which recently created a life-sized copy of Tutankhamun’s tomb, intended for tourists to visit.

The photos tell the story of English archaeologist and Egyptologist Howard Carter, who was asked in 1907 to supervise excavations in the Valley of the Kings.

By that point, Carter had been in in Egypt since 1891 and most of the ancient Egyptian tombs had been discovered.

But very little was known about King Tutankhamen, who died when he was 19.

Tutankhamen’s tomb was first discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter. Archaeologists are shown above removing part of a wooden couch, covered with gold leaf and a hippopotamus head, from the tomb at the time

The gold burial mask of Tutankhamun, shown above, is one of the greatest treasures found inside the boy king’s richly furnished tomb. Since its discovery, the story of the young ruler has entranced archaeologists

On November 4, 1922, Carter’s group found steps that led to Tutankhamun’s tomb and spent several months cataloguing the antechamber.

The discovery was made near the entrance of the nearby tomb of King Ramses VI in the Valley of the Kings.

On November 26, 1922, Carter and fellow archaeologist Lord Carnarvon entered the interior chambers of the tomb, finding them miraculously intact.

From then a famous exchange between Lord Carnarvon and Carter took place.

Tutankhamun died in mysterious circumstances around 3,000 years ago. His mummy, shown above being unwrapped by archaeologists, was removed from its ornate stone sarcophagus in the tomb in 2007 so it could be better preserved in a climate controlled case

Tutankhamun died in mysterious circumstances around 3,000 years ago. His mummy, shown above being unwrapped by archaeologists, was removed from its ornate stone sarcophagus in the tomb in 2007 so it could be better preserved in a climate controlled case

Dr Reeves believes the pharaoh's room was simply an afterthought, describing it as a 'corridor-style tomb-within-a-tomb'. Pictured is its entrance

Dr Reeves believes the pharaoh’s room was simply an afterthought, describing it as a ‘corridor-style tomb-within-a-tomb’. Pictured is its entrance

‘Can you see anything?’ asked George Herbert, the fifth Earl of Carnarvon, standing in a gloomy passageway cut into the bedrock of the Valley of the Kings, on the west bank of the Nile.

‘Yes,’ replied Carter, who was peering at the antechamber to the royal tomb. ‘Wonderful things.’

‘At first I could see nothing, the hot air escaping from the chamber causing the candle flame to flicker,’ Carter later recalled.

‘But presently, as my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues, and gold—everywhere the glint of gold.’

To document the entire process, the Metropolitan Museum sent Burton as the excavation photographer.

The discovery of Tutankhamun's 3,000-year-old burial chamber in 1922 captivated the world. Researchers recently released colourised black and white photos of the discovery. This image was taken in November 1925, and shows Tutankhamun lying with his burial mask on. The photo was taken as the coffin was opened

The discovery of Tutankhamun’s 3,000-year-old burial chamber in 1922 captivated the world. Researchers recently released colourised black and white photos of the discovery. This image was taken in November 1925, and shows Tutankhamun lying with his burial mask on. The photo was taken as the coffin was opened

The antechamber captured in December 1922. Pictured are ornately carved alabaster vases in the antechamber, containing perfume. The pictures, taken by British photographer Harry Burton, have been made from the original glass plate negatives

The antechamber captured in December 1922. Pictured are ornately carved alabaster vases in the antechamber, containing perfume. The pictures, taken by British photographer Harry Burton, have been made from the original glass plate negatives

Howard Carter and an Egyptian worker open the doors of the innermost shrine and get their first look at Tutankhamun's sarcophagus

Howard Carter and an Egyptian worker open the doors of the innermost shrine and get their first look at Tutankhamun’s sarcophagus

He was ‘Carter’s eye and memory.’ With his enormous camera and cumbersome negative plates, Burton trekked between the discovery site, his laboratory and his improvised darkroom.

‘Every step of the excavation work was documented in photographs, right down to the smallest detail,’ according to Premier Exhibition, who are displaying the photos.

‘The results of Burton’s labours are 2,800 large-format glass negatives, which document all of the finds, their location in the tomb and every single step of the excavators’ work with the utmost precision.

‘Carter patiently and unconditionally encouraged him like no other member of his team and, thanks to his photos, Burton was the first and only archaeological photographer to achieve worldwide fame.’

The colourised black and white photographs are part of a new exhibition opening in New York called The Discovery of King Tut.

But the discoveries to make made in King Tut’s burial chamber are far from complete.

A HISTORY OF QUEEN NEFERTITI AND WHY HER TOMB HASN’T BEEN FOUND

By Harry Mount 

She was the most beautiful queen ancient Egypt ever laid eyes on. She was the stepmother, and perhaps even the mother, of Tutankhamun, the boy-pharaoh of Egypt.

Still, today, the 3,300-year-old sculpture of her face, in the Neues Museum in Berlin, has the power to bewitch, with her almond eyes, high cheekbones and chiselled jaw.

Even her name, Nefertiti, is enchanting. Her full name, Neferneferuaten Nefertiti, means ‘Beautiful are the Beauties of Aten, the Beautiful One has come’. Her power and charms in 14th-century BC Egypt were so great that she collected a hatful of nicknames, too – from Lady Of All Women, to Great Of Praises, to Sweet Of Love.

Neferneferuaten Nefertiti - or Queen Nefertiti - was the wife and 'chief consort' of King Akhenaten, an Eyptian Pharoah during 14th century BC, one of the wealthiest era in Ancient Egypt (bust pictured)

Neferneferuaten Nefertiti – or Queen Nefertiti – was the wife and ‘chief consort’ of King Akhenaten, an Eyptian Pharoah during 14th century BC, one of the wealthiest era in Ancient Egypt (bust pictured)

Despite her epic beauty, she remained a model of fidelity to her husband, the Pharaoh Akhenaten.

The same could not be said of Akhenaten, who had his wicked way with a series of royal escorts, including, some say, his own daughters.

Nefertiti was Egypt’s most influential, and most beautiful, queen, who ruled at the height of the country’s power, in the years of the late 18th Dynasty.

Yes, Cleopatra is more famous, but she ruled Egypt in its declining years, in the first century BC. After her death, Egypt became just another province of the Roman Empire.

Nefertiti lived during the richest period in ancient Egypt’s history – from around 1370BC to 1330BC, a time when Greece, let alone Rome, was centuries away from the peaks of its magnificent civilisation. As well as marrying a pharaoh, she was probably born the daughter of another pharaoh, as well as possibly ruling alongside Tutankhamun.

There is even a suggestion that she ruled Egypt alone after her husband’s death. So from cradle to grave she ruled the roost. Thus her other nicknames: Mistress of Upper and Lower Egypt, and Lady of The Two Lands.

Nefertiti and Akhenaten had six daughters, although it is thought that Tutankhamun was not her son.

DNA analysis has indicated that Akhenaten fathered Tutankhamun with one of his own sisters – the first indication of his penchant for regal incest.

He is thought to have fathered another pharaoh with yet another wife, who is named in various inscriptions. The list of consorts didn’t end there. Among his other conquests are two noblewomen.

On top of that, it is even suggested that he slept with one of his six daughters. The jury is out on that one, although he probably did install one of them in the ceremonial – if not necessarily sexual – role of Great Royal Wife.

Despite all her husband’s rumoured lovers, Nefertiti’s name lives on as his loveliest, and most important, wife. Again and again, her beauty and power were depicted in temple images. Sometimes – like Prince Philip with the Queen – she is shown walking behind her husband. But she’s also often shown on her own, in positions of pharaoh-like power.

In one limestone sculpture at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, she is seen hitting a female enemy over the head on her royal barge.

She is power and beauty combined – Margaret Thatcher meets Princess Diana. In another sculpture, now in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin, her slim, lissom body is depicted in all its glory, leaving little to the imagination. Still, today, the bright red of her lips and the kohl-black edges of those almond eyes smoulder across the passage of a hundred generations.

Together, Akhenaten and Nefertiti blazed a trail across Egypt, building spectacular temples. In Karnak, the pharaoh erected one temple, the Mansion of the Benben, to his beloved, stunning wife.

This image shows a computer reconstruction created using the skull of a mummy found in an earlier tomb. It bears a resemblance to Nefertiti

This image shows a computer reconstruction created using the skull of a mummy found in an earlier tomb. It bears a resemblance to Nefertiti

But it wasn’t enough just to build temples. The royal couple’s devotion to the god Aten – representing the disc of the sun – was so great that they created a whole new capital in his honour at Amarna, a city on the banks of the Nile.

They built the new city from scratch, putting up two temples to Aten and a pair of royal palaces. It was like the Queen and Prince Philip deciding to up sticks from Windsor Castle tomorrow and building a new royal palace in the middle of Cumbria.

Here, too, in Amarna, images of the lovely Nefertiti abound, sporting her distinctive, tall crown. She and her pharaoh are also shown receiving great piles of jewels and gold from their subject people.

They ruled over a civilisation of astonishing sophistication.

Among the discoveries are the Amarna Letters, more than 350 tablets excavated in the late 19th century, with 99 of them now in the British Museum. They tell the tale of a great nation with a highly developed diplomatic service. There are also rare chunks of poetry, parables and similes in the Amarna Letters. One striking line reads: ‘For the lack of a cultivator, my field is like a woman without a husband.’

Nefertiti is thought to have lost her own cultivator – her husband –around 1336BC; it is then she may have reigned over Egypt alone.

Her own death is shrouded in mystery. She is reckoned to have died about six years after her husband, possibly from the plague that struck Egypt at that time.

In 1331BC, Tutankhaten changed his name to Tutankhamun and moved the Egyptian capital to Thebes, where he died in 1323BC.

+++ (FT) EgyptAir hijacking: plane lands in Cyprus

(FT) Cypriot president says incident is not related to terrorism.

A policeman stands guard at Larnaca airport near a hijacked EgyptAir A320
A policeman stands guard at Larnaca airport near a hijacked EgyptAir A320 © Reuters

An EgyptAir flight from Alexandria to Cairo was hijacked and forced to fly to Cyprus where it landed at the island’s main commercial airport, at Larnaca.

The Egyptian aviation ministry said Omar al Gamal, the pilot of the diverted flight, said there was a threat from an individual on board who claimed he was wearing an explosive belt.

“It is not something which has to do with terrorism,” Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades told reporters from Nicosia.

The hijacker allowed most passengers and crew to leave the aircraft. Sherif Fathy, the Egyptian aviation minister, told a press conference that seven people remained on board the plane with the hijacker – the pilot, co-pilot, an Egyptian security man, a stewardess and three passengers.

Mr Fathy refused to name the hijacker and said it was not confirmed that he had an explosive belt. He said the hijacker had not made any concrete demands so far.

The Egyptian government has apologised to Ibrahim Samaha, a university professor who was on the flight, who was mistakenly identified as the hijacker. Mr Samaha’s wife contacted a television station to say that he had been in touch from Cyprus and was among those released from the plane.

According to Egypt’s foreign ministry, there were 55 passengers on board the Airbus A320.

News reports citing Cypriot officials suggested there may have been a personal motive relating to an ex-wife behind the hijacker’s actions, but this has not been confirmed by Egypt.

Tuesday’s incident is a major setback for Egypt which has been trying to convince the world that its airports are safe after a bomb brought down a Russian airliner last year after it took off from Sharm el-Sheikh airport in the Sinai, killing more than 200 people.

The attack on the Russian aircraft, claimed by Isis, has devastated the country’s already faltering tourism industry. Russia, a major source of tourists, halted all flights to and from Egypt. Various western carriers have also stopped flying to Sharm el-Sheikh, a major tourist destination.

President Anastasiades discussed the hijacking with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi by telephone in the presence of European Parliament president Martin Shultz, who is paying an official visit to the island.EgyptAir-hijacking_-plane-lands-in-Cyprus-—-FT

(FT) UK and Russia at odds over causes of Sharm el-Sheikh plane crash

(FT)

Russian investigators check debris from crashed Russian jet at the site of the crash in Sinai, Egypt, 01 November 2015©EPA

The UK and Russia found themselves at loggerheads over the causes of the Sinai passenger jet crash, after Moscow dismissed as “speculation” a claim by London that the disaster may have been caused by a bomb.

David Cameron said it was “more likely than not” that the crash had been caused by a terrorist bomb. He was speaking hours after the Foreign Office suspended flights between the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh and the UK, leaving 20,000 British tourists stranded.

But the Kremlin later said Mr Cameron had spoken to President Vladimir Putin, who had warned against jumping to conclusions.

According to a statement on the Kremlin website, Mr Putin told the UK prime minister it was “necessary to operate with facts, which will be clarified during the official investigation that is now under way”.

President Barack Obama said on Thursday that there was a “possibility” that a bomb had caused the crash in Egypt but added: “I don’t think we know yet”.

“I think there is a possibility that there was a bomb on board. And we are taking that very seriously,” the US president said in a radio interview.

Earlier on Thursday Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said the US had not ruled out the possibility of terrorism. On Wednesday CNN cited a US intelligence official who said the crash was probably the result of a bomb.

Lufthansa followed the UK lead on Thursday, saying it had halted all flights to Sharm el-Sheikh by its units Edelweiss and Eurowings. Ireland and the Netherlands have also banned flights to the Red Sea resort.

The UK claim that the Metrojet A321 airliner was destroyed by a bomb has provoked anger in Russia and Egypt, whose president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, is in the UK on an official visit.

Russia is sensitive to any suggestion that Isis could have brought down the plane in retaliation at Moscow’s air strikes against Syrian opposition groups in Syria. Egypt fears any terrorist link to the crash could wreak lasting harm on its tourist industry, a key source of revenue.

The UK decided to suspend flights after sending a team of aviation experts to Egypt to examine airport security at Sharm el-Sheikh on Wednesday and determined that more needed to be done.

Philip Hammond, foreign secretary, told the BBC that officials were working with the Egyptian authorities to put in place “short-term emergency measures” that included extensive screening of luggage and double-checking of planes. The transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, said he hoped flights bound for the UK could leave on Friday.

Moscow criticised the UK flight suspension and said Russian airlines would continue to operate flights to and from Sharm el-Sheikh.

“Only the investigation can put forward possible theories of what happened, and so far we have not heard any announcements from [them],” said Dmitry Peskov, Mr Putin’s spokesman. “Any other such hypotheses are based on unverified information or speculation.”

Konstantin Kosachev, head of the foreign relations committee in the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house of parliament, said he believed there was “an element of psychological pressure” in the UK government’s decision.

“There is geopolitical opposition to Russia’s actions in Syria,” he said, adding that many would “prefer to ascribe this catastrophe, without the necessary proof, to a reaction from jihadis against Russia”.

The Egyptian foreign ministry said the UK decision was taken “unilaterally without consulting with Egypt, in spite of high level contacts between the two sides just hours before the decision was announced”.

“We would have wished [they] had waited until the end of the investigations and did not anticipate events,” said Alaa Youssef, a spokesman for Egypt’s president.

Sameh Shoukry, the Egyptian foreign minister, had said earlier it was “premature and unwarranted” to suggest a bomb caused the crash.

An Egyptian source close to investigators looking into the crash told Reuters news agency that an explosion of some kind was believed to have brought down the plane, though it was not yet clear if it was a bomb.

“There is an examination of the sand at the crash site to try and determine if it was a bomb,” he said.

In an audio tape released on Wednesday, Sinai Province reiterated its claim that it brought down the Metrojet plane but said it would not reveal the method used.

“We brought it down by God’s help, and we are under no obligation to reveal the mechanism we used. So search the wreckage and analyse the black box,” the speaker said. He also threatened further actions against Russia, accusing it of waging war against Isis “and its subjects” — a reference to the Russian military involvement in Syria.

He noted that the crash happened a year after the Sinai militants, who had previously operated under the name Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, pledged allegiance to Isis.

Russia and Egypt had dismissed an earlier claim of responsibility from the group as experts said the militants did not possess missiles that could hit a plane flying at an altitude of more than 30,000ft.egypt