Rising concerns over foreign militants in the Sinai as more explosives seized
Egyptian authorities today seized one ton of explosives that were in transit to the Sinai. A security official told DPA that they were likely destined for the Gaza Strip. The driver of the truck is being detained, along with the 50 crates of explosives, according to Ma'an News Agency.
Meanwhile, Egyptian officials are reportedly worried that militants from Algeria and Libya are now operating in the Sinai Peninsula. These concerns were reported by the Los Angeles Times as Algerian forces were winding up their siege of the In Amenas gas facility.
The existence of foreigners among the jihadist groups operating in the Sinai has been known since at least June 2011, when Adi Saleh Abdullah al Fudhayli al Hadhli (a.k.a Abu Hudhayfa al Hudhali), a Saudi member of the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC), was killed after carrying out an attack that killed one Israeli civilian. However, in recent weeks officials have increasingly noted the existence of foreigners among the jihadist groups. According to one report, Western officials now estimate that there are at least several hundred jihadists, some of whom are from Yemen and Somalia, now operating 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 the Egyptian military and policemen, Israel, international peacekeepers in the Sinai, 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.
In recent weeks, Egyptian authorities have seized a number of weapons and explosives in the Sinai believed to be destined for the Gaza Strip, including short-range rockets and antiaircraft and antitank missiles.
On Jan. 7, Egyptian authorities foiled a car bomb plot in the city of Rafah, near Gaza; the intended target is still unknown. Following the incident, Egyptian authorities issued a security alert for the Sinai as intelligence services received information about potential attacks by extremist groups in the Sinai.
Recent press reports have indicated that Egyptian authorities are worried that Islamist militants in the Sinai may soon resume attacks in response to the Egyptian army's statements that it does not intend to stop its operations or negotiate with the militants.