Former Egyptian premier Ahmed Shafiq still considering presidential bid

Ahmed Shafiq has made his first comments since arriving in Cairo amid a swirl of rumors he had been kidnapped. The former premier and air force officer says he is still considering a run for the presidency in 2018.

Former Egyptian prime minister and presidential hopeful Ahmed Shafiq said Sunday he had not been kidnapped and was still considering running in next year's election.

The former air force chief had not been heard from since arriving in Cairo on Saturday from the United Arab Emirates, where he had been in exile since 2012.

Aides and family members said he had been taken from his UAE home and deported, days after he made an announcement that he would run for president.

Shafiq is viewed as the strongest challenger for President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who hasn't yet made an announcement on whether he will run next year. He is, however, expected to do so.

'Talk to people in the street'

"Today, I am here in the country, so I think I am free to deliberate further on the issue, to explore and go down and talk to people in the street," Shafiq said Sunday in his first television interview since arriving in Egypt.

Egypt's deadliest terror attacks

1997 Luxor massacre

Sixty-two tourists were killed at Egypt's Deir el-Bahri archaeological site in Luxor. Six assailants, thought to have been linked to al-Qaida, disguised themselves as members of the security forces and descended on the temple armed with automatic machine guns and knives. Egyptian tourist police and military forces eventually stopped the attackers, who were either killed or committed suicide.

Egypt's deadliest terror attacks

2004 Sinai bombings

A series of bomb attacks targeting tourists in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula killed 34 people and injured 171. Most of the casualties were killed after a truck drove into the lobby of the Taba Hilton. Two more bombs went off at campsites some 50 kilometers away, killing a handful of people. Roughly half the casualties were foreigners, including 12 Israelis.

Egypt's deadliest terror attacks

2005 Sharm el-Sheikh attacks

The attack in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh was carried out on Egypt's Revolution Day and for a decade remained the worst Islamist attack in Egypt's history. A series of bombs planted close to bars and restaurants, as well as by a hotel, killed 88 people and injured 150. The majority of victims were locals, although a number of tourists also died, including 11 British nationals.

Egypt's deadliest terror attacks

2006 Dahab bombings

The attack on the the Egyptian resort city of Dahab marked the third consecutive year that tourist resorts had been targeted. A series of blasts in a restaurant, a café and a market killed at least 23 people, most of whom were local, and wounded around 80. Egyptian officials maintain that the attacks were carried out by the Islamist cell known as Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, a forerunner of "IS."

Egypt's deadliest terror attacks

2015 Metrojet Flight 9268 disaster

All 224 mostly Russian passengers were killed when Metrojet Flight 9268 suddenly dropped out of the sky over the Egypt's Sinai peninsula, shortly after having taken off from Sharm el-Sheikh international airport. Authorities agree that it appeared a bomb had been snuck on board. The so-called "Islamic State" jihadi group claimed responsibility for the attack.

Egypt's deadliest terror attacks

2016 Attacks on Egypt's Coptic Christian minorities

While Egypt's Coptic Christians have for decades been targeted by Islamists, deadly attacks on Coptic churches have increased dramatically in recent months. At least 102 Egyptian Christians have been killed in four separate attacks since December 2016.

Egypt's deadliest terror attacks

2017 Coptic church and Al-Rawda mosque bombings

On April 9, 2017, the Coptic church faith followers encountered devastating twin blasts in Tanta and Alexandria as they celebrated Palm Sunday, killing 28 and 17 people respectively. On November 24, 2017, a bomb went off outside of Al-Rawda mosque in the city of Al-Arish in the northern Sinai Peninsula, which claimed the lives of more than 300 people and injured 109 others.

"There's a chance now to investigate more and see exactly what is needed ... to feel out if this is the logical choice."

Squashing rumors he had been kidnapped, Shafiq said authorities picked him up at the airport and brought him to a hotel in Cairo, adding that his home needed some renovations.

"I was surprised truthfully when I was in the car that I was being driven to one of the most distinguished hotels in the area where I live," he said in the interview on Dream TV. "Here I am talking to you and not kidnapped or anything."

His lawyer, Dina Adly, wrote on her Facebook page that she had met with him at the hotel on Sunday and that he was not under any investigation.

Read more: Egypt mulls law to prosecute 'political commentators' amid free expression crackdown

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Egypt needs new blood: Shafiq

Shafiq announced his intention to run for the presidency on Wednesday, saying the country needed new blood to solve its many problems.

President El-Sissi (right) is a close ally of Gulf Arab states

He apparently upset his UAE hosts after claiming in an interview on Al-Jazeera that he was being prevented from leaving the country. The UAE, alongside Arab Gulf states including Saudi Arabia, view the Qatar-based TV network as propaganda and want it shut down.

The countries are also close allies of el-Sissi, who they view as a bulwark against Islamist militants and the Muslim Brotherhood, an ideological and political rival of the Gulf monarchies. 

Shafiq ran for the presidency in 2012, but narrowly lost to Islamist Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

He then fled the country after facing a series of criminal charges, all of which were later dismissed.

El-Sissi led a military coup against Morsi in 2013, subsequently banning the Muslim Brotherhood.

cw/cmk (AFP, AP, Reuters)