Egypt Independent

MP demands explanation for string of fires, suspects ‘invisible hand’ at work



Member of Parliament Fouad Badrawy has called on Prime Minister Sherif Ismail to supply the missing information on the “multiple fires” seen in Cairo in recent days, adding fuel to speculation that arsonists have been at work in Cairo and elsewhere, perhaps with a view to destabilizing the nation.

During a phone-in to Al-Assima satellite TV channel, the MP stated, “There is an invisible hand behind these incidents, aiming to shake up stability and impede economic development.”

He went on to state: “Multiple fires caused by short circuiting in Cairo and Damietta – it hardly seems likely.”   

“Perhaps the matter needs to be looked into, in order to discover the truth and real the perpetrator,” he speculated.

Several large fires have hit the headlines in the past week, along with a few smaller ones, causing some to speculate on a deliberate campaign of arson.

The largest and most serious in terms of casualties — with three killed and more than 90 injured — occurred last Monday, when a hotel and market in Cairo's Attaba district were gutted by fire. Some shopkeepers said they suspected arson. Then on Thursday, another fire started in Cairo, this time at the headquarters of the Cairo Governorate, further stoking speculation of deliberate intent.

The same week, a number of smaller blazes were reported in the media, including one on a rooftop and one in a car near to the High Court building in Cairo. In most cases, officials said the cause was likely to be electrical short-circuits.

On Friday, the Abdeen Prosecution heard the testimony of various witnesses to the fire at the Cairo Governorate headquarters. Witnesses told first Attorney General Waeel Shabal that the fire began at 8.30 a.m. when an employee switched on the power at the building’s main fuse box. Within 15 minutes, said witnesses, the place was full of smoke.

Luckily, the building was empty of staff at that early hour. Nobody was injured in the fire apart from minor cases of smoke inhalation.

Shabal asked for an inventory of damaged office contents to be compiled, and ordered that the building be left unouched in order for investigations to be conducted – particularly since the offices contained the private documents of citizens.

Judicial sources have denied rumours that the fire was an arson attack, including rumours that suspects had been arrested and that arsonists wanted to destroy blueprints for the new administrative capital.

Meanwhile, local prosecutors heard statements from witnesses to the fire that engulfed a hotel and market in Cairo's Attaba neighborhood on Monday. The deadly blaze destroyed the Andalus Hotel and numerous shops in the busy shopping area, and it took firefighters two days to cool the embers..

Ninety people, including shop keepers in the market there, have filed complaints regarding the destruction of their property in the blaze. According to a report in Al-Ahram, some shopkeepers insisted that the blaze was the result of arson attacks, pointing to another recent fire at the nearby Sednaoui Department store.

Investigators are checking footage from security cameras for clues to the causes of the fire, but so far officials have not identified any potential arsonists, nor announced arrests.

However, speculation on the subject seems likely to continue, with government officials under pressure to explain the string of unfortunate events, one way or the other.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm