« Nephew of Baitullah Mehsud killed in Bannu shootout | Main | Al Nusrah Front claims suicide attack in Hama »




Militant tied to Red Sea resort attacks arrested, Central Security Forces camp attacked



Last week, Egyptian authorities arrested a number of wanted jihadists operating in the Sinai Peninsula. This was followed by the arrest of two additional jihadists on Saturday evening.

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.



READER COMMENTS: "Militant tied to Red Sea resort attacks arrested, Central Security Forces camp attacked"

Posted by Neo at November 16, 2012 5:41 PM ET:

How much support do the jihadists on the Sinai have, and who exactly is supporting them? Who is against them? I think this is a much more muddled question than most around here will acknowledge. There is probably no shortage of sympathy within the Muslim Brotherhood for the cause of the jihadists. Officially at least, President Morsi is opposing the jihadists in the Sinai as a security threat. We also have to remember that neither Morsi or the Muslim Brotherhood are at their leisure to support any radical group they please. The interests of the Army and Security apparatus are still in play. The Egyptian Army is an entrenched part of the political apparatus that cannot be simply ignored by Morsi.

If the jihadists are a problem for the Egyptian army, than they are indirectly a problem for President Morsi. Supporting people who are too radical would further antagonize the current power sharing between religious conservatives and the army. Morsi is not all powerful like an Iranian Ayatollah. Too often I hear analogies thrown around about Egypt being the next Iran. Sunni clergy in Egypt has no equivalent to a Shiite Ayatollah. I believe it is important to remember that Sunni clergy and Shiite clergy are structured very differently with Shiite being much more hierarchical.

I think the western press and political pundits have been far too fast to announce the eclipse of the Egyptian Army. Egypt as a Muslim country has a very long history of being ruled by military leaders. Some of those leaders have been nationalists, some leaders of empires, more often than not they have been outside rulers. Oddly enough, for all the times it has been at the center of power struggles within the Muslim world, Egypt has seldom been a launching point of religious movements. Now that the Muslim Brotherhood has power they need to keep Egypt’s traditional powers at bay and please a fickle electorate. There are lots of reasons why President Morsi will shy away from raw power plays.