Today, Egyptian officials announced the arrest of Mohammed Abdullah Abu Jarir in the Sinai town of Sabeel, near el Arish, North Sinai. Abu Jarir had escaped from a Cairo prison last year during the protests against former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. According to the Associated Press, Abu Jarir had been “sentenced to life in prison for his role in bombings at tourist resorts on the Red Sea that killed at least 125 people in 2004 and 2005.”
Egyptian authorities also announced today the arrest of Hassan Ghanem, Abu Jarir’s brother-in-law. Ghanem was wanted in connection to the Nasr City terror cell.
Over the past two days, militants have fired on the Central Security Forces camp near el Arish, North Sinai on two separate occasions. In both cases, the attackers fled the area after security forces fired back. No casualties were reported in either incident.
Derek Chollet, the US assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, is currently in Egypt for a four-day visit “to discuss bilateral cooperation, specifically in Sinai security, with Egyptian officials,” according to DPA. Last Monday, the deputy commander of the US Central Command visited American troops stationed in the Sinai as part of the 12-nation Multinational Force and Observers mission. On Oct. 31, former CIA Director David Petraeus began a short visit to Cairo where he reportedly met “with top Egyptian security officials to exchange information about combating terrorism.”
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.
On Nov. 3, 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. A couple of days after this attack, 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.