Egypt tightens railway, metro station security

By Waleed Abu al-Khair in Cairo


Egypt has tightened security measures at metro and railway stations in order to improve public safety. [Waleed Abu al-Khair/Al-Mashareq]

Egypt's metro and railway stations have been placed on maximum alert, with additional security measures in place to prevent terror attacks from targeting civilians as they use public transportation, officials tell Al-Mashareq.

A large number of police and military personnel have been deployed inside and outside the stations, which also are being equipped with surveillance cameras, explosives detection equipment and police dogs, they said.

"The Egyptian army took over the task of supervising the securing of all railway stations, both metro and train stations alike, as part of the ongoing co-ordination between all security forces to ensure the success of general security operations in responding to terrorist threats," said Brig. Gen. Mahmoud Salem of the Cairo Police.

This began during the Christmas and New Year holidays , he told Al-Mashareq, noting that it is now under the command of a "unified operations room comprising officers and representatives of all the security and intelligence units".

"These measures are integrated with those taken in all provinces, including security patrols on main and side streets, in a way that eliminates any potential unmonitored entryway for terrorists or those wanted by security authorities," he said.

The enhanced security measures come as Egypt is battling the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) and other extremist groups in Sinai , he said, adding that extremists may engage in retaliatory attacks as they come under pressure.

"The war in Sinai could induce the terrorists to exploit any gap in security to carry out terrorist attacks in vital areas crowded with citizens," Salem said.

Intensive surveillance and training

In addition to safeguarding stations, Salem said, the new security measures also include the monitoring of railway lines.

Army and police units have been deployed to prevent or thwart any attempt to sabotage railway lines to disrupt the movement of trains, cause collisions or plant bombs on the tracks, he said.

"Security personnel are undergoing intensive training on securing railway stations, including the use of the most advanced surveillance and inspection equipment," he said.

Under the new measure, Salem said, private security firms have been called in to monitor internal gateways at stations, and they are instructed to report any suspected person or object inside the stations to official security personnel.

"All metro and train stations, without exception, have been secured with precise surveillance cameras installed at entrances and internal halls and sidewalks," said Hani Salah of the development department at the Ministry of Local Development's Roads and Transportation Directorate.

Three types of X-ray machines have been installed to detect metals and explosives, he told Al-Mashareq -- one of which is used for inspecting people, another for close inspections and another for baggage.

Additionally, major and central stations have been equipped with police explosives-sniffing dogs, he said.

Security agencies work together

"[Security] also was enhanced with the deployment of a large number of police personnel drawn from the General Directorate of Transport Police and the Central Security Directorate, reinforced with elements drawn from police precincts, the army and special forces," Salah said.

New measures also include intensified controls to prevent infiltration or usage of the metro or mainline trains without tickets, he said, which will significantly enforce orderly conduct and regulate the flow of traffic inside the stations.

The tightest security measures are being rolled out at the main "train stations in the capital, Alexandria, Luxor and Aswan, and major metro stations where all three metro lines converge", he said.

Crowded metro stations that serve densely populated areas, such as the Giza, Cairo University, Faisal, Dar al-Salaam, al-Marg and Helwan stations, also will see ramped up security measures, he said.

The strict security measures put in place at railway stations are "indispensable in view of the continuing terrorist threats", said Younes Ibrahim of the Directorate General of Information and Public Relations at the Egyptian Company for Metro Management and Operation.

The railways are the fastest means of transportation inside Cairo and Giza and between the provinces, he told Al-Mashareq.

These stations serve millions of passengers every day and can become crowded, he said, as this mode of transportation is inexpensive and quick, and helps people avoid traffic congestion in the streets.

"Any security breach, such as gunfire or a bomb, could cause disasters, either directly or in a stampede that would be expected to ensue as citizens try to escape upon the occurrence of a security incident," Ibrahim said.

Egyptians have been complying with the tight measures as they are aware that these are designed to protect their security and public security in general, he added.

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