CAIRO – Egypt’s military leaders have come under ridicule after the chief army engineer unveiled what he described as a “miraculous” set of devices that allegedly detects and cures AIDS, hepatitis and other diseases.
The claim, immediately dismissed by experts and called “shocking to scientists” by interim President Adly Mansour’s science adviser, strikes a blow to the army’s carefully managed image as the savior of the nation. It also comes as military chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who toppled President Mohammed Morsi last July, is expected to announce he will run for president.
The televised presentation was made to el-Sissi, Mansour and other senior officials.
“The men of the armed forces have achieved a scientific leap by inventing the detecting devices,” military spokesman Col. Ahmed Mohammed Ali wrote later on his official Facebook page. Ali said a patent has been filed under the name of the Armed Forces Engineering Agency.
Well-known Egyptian writer Hamdi Rizk noted that video clips of the presentation had gone viral on social media, with tweets and blogs saying the military had made a fool of itself.
“(El-Sissi’s) camp has been dealt a deep moral defeat,” he wrote in a column in Thursday’s Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper. “God give mercy to . . . the reputation of the Egyptian Army, which became the target of cybershelling around the clock.”
Professor Massimo Pinzani, a liver specialist and director of the Institute for Liver and Digestive Health at University College London, said he attended a demonstration of the C-Fast device on a visit to Egypt but “was not given convincing explanations about the technology.” He also was not allowed to try it for himself.
“As it is at present, the device is proposed without any convincing technical and scientific basis and, until this is clearly provided, it should be regarded as a potential fraud,” he wrote in an email.
None of the research has been published in a reputable journal.
The uproar escalated when a scientific adviser to Mansour denounced the device and said it has no scientific base.
“What has been said and published by the armed forces harms the image of the scientists and science in Egypt,” Essam Heggy, a planetary scientist at the California Institute of Technology, was quoted as saying by the daily newspaper El-Watan on Wednesday. “All scientists inside and outside Egypt are in a state of shock.”
He added that both Mansour and el-Sissi were surprised, and their presence in the audience did not indicate approval.
The furor started when Maj. Gen. Taher Abdullah, the head of the engineering agency in the armed forces, gave a widely televised presentation to el-Sissi and other senior officials on what he called an “astonishing miraculous scientific invention.”
Abdullah said two of the devices, named C-Fast and I Fast, used electromagnetism to detect AIDS, hepatitis and other diseases without taking blood samples, while the third, named Complete Cure Device, purified the blood. He also said the C-Fast, which looks like an antenna affixed to the handle of a blender, detected patients infected with HIV and viruses that cause hepatitis with a high success rate.
A short film aired during the presentation showed the engineering team’s leader, Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Abdel-Atti, telling a patient: “All the results are great, showing you had AIDS but you were cured. Thank God.” The patient replies, “Thank God.”
For the general public, the uproar added to the uncertainty already fueled by years of turmoil since President Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow in February 2011.
Gamal Shiha, head of the Association for Liver Patients Care, one of Egypt’s prominent centers that worked alongside with the military, said he was angry about the “hasty” announcements. He said only one of the devices — C-Fast — underwent thorough testing. He said the C-Fast uses electromagnetic frequencies similar to those used in bomb detectors and radars and had been tested on more than 2,000 patients with a high success rate.
“The technology of C-Fast is effective, without doubt,” he said.