Over the past few days, Egyptian authorities have reportedly arrested a number of wanted jihadists in the Sinai Peninsula.
On Wednesday, Egyptian authorities arrested three jihadists, one of whom was reportedly in the possession of an Egyptian military uniform, according to Ma’an News Agency. On Friday, Egyptian officials announced that “a well-known leader in a Jihadist organization,” Mohammad Abdullah Abed al Rahman, was arrested on Wednesday. It is unclear if his arrest occurred during a separate raid.
On Thursday, Ahmed Allam el Hefny, a wanted jihadist, was arrested in the town of Sheikh Zuweyid near the city of el-Arish in northern Sinai. El Hefny was wanted in connection with “a June 2011 attack on el-Arish’s main police station and a bank,” according to the Associated Press. In September, he was convicted in absentia; he will now be retried, however.
The brother of Ahmed el Hefny, Kamal el Hefny, has threatened to kidnap Egyptian policemen and army officers if his brother is not released. In addition, he reportedly “phoned a police station in el-Arish and threatened to bomb administration headquarters.”
Meanwhile, Egyptian authorities have denied Arabic press reports that alleged that 20 jihadists fleeing to Gaza through a border tunnel and in possession of 30 automatic weapons, 3 RPGs, 5,000 rounds of ammunition, and a photo of Osama bin Laden, had been arrested. Officials have also denied that President Mohamed Morsy recently received a list of 7,000 suspected al Qaeda militants in Sinai and that a Palestinian was arrested carrying a handwritten letter from al Qaeda’s Ayman al Zawahiri to jihadists in the Sinai.
Since the beginning of the so-called Arab Spring, a number of Salafi jihadist groups linked to al Qaeda have sprouted up in the Egyptian Sinai. The terror groups have conducted attacks against Israel, international peacekeepers in the Sinai, Egyptian forces, and a pipeline transporting natural gas to Israel and Jordan. Israeli intelligence believes that most of the attacks originating in the Sinai have been carried out by Ansar Jerusalem, also known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis.
Last Saturday, three Egyptian policemen were killed in the city of el-Arish in the North Sinai governorate. At least one other policeman was injured in the attack. Although the attack was blamed on jihadists, al Salafiyya al Jihadiyya in Sinai denied that jihadists were involved. On Tuesday, a senior Egyptian security official was wounded in another attack in the Sinai.
Egyptian forces have reportedly stepped up their presence in the Sinai since the two incidents. According to Al Masry Al Youm, security sources have said that Egyptian authorities are planning on destroying a number of tunnels between Gaza and Egypt within days. Arif Abu-Akr, a leader of the al Akur Tribe in the Sinai, recently told Asharq al Awsat that some 1,200 tunnels connecting Egypt and Gaza are still operating at full capacity.