In early October, a suicide bomber affiliated with Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis drove his car through several checkpoints in the southern Sinai city of El-Tor, pulled up at Egyptian security headquarters, and detonated his explosives, killing three policemen. A month later, the Sinai-based jihadi group identified the attacker as Mohammed Hamdan al-Sawarka, in a haunting video that also included images of crackdowns by Egyptian security forces and footage of Egypt’s Anwar Sadat and Israel’s Menachem Begin making peace alongside Jimmy Carter. “I only decided to do the mission for the victory of the religion of God and to revenge our brothers, the mujahideen, against the infidels and tyrants,” al-Sawarka declared. Three months later, and three years after the fall of Hosni Mubarak, the swell of militancy that has afflicted Egypt since the overthrow of Mohammed Morsi is only getting worse. What follows is a letter from Egyptian writer Youssef Rakha to the young assailant behind the fatal attack in El-Tor.
(Note: Video contains graphic imagery.)
Of the hundreds of news items that cite your name, Mohammed Hamdan (Abu Hajar) al-Sawarka, none gives your age or personal details. It’s hard to believe you are older than 17. “Abu Hajar” suggests you already have a daughter, named after the wife of the prophet Ibrahim according to Muslim custom. But if that is the case she can’t be more than a few years old; it wouldn’t surprise me if you married right after puberty. Under the circumstances, of course, those who condemn you do not bother to account for your good looks, the mildness of your manner, or the child’s warmth in your smile—an earnestness that makes sincerity irrelevant, so ingenuous is your willingness to die.