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Report: Egyptian authorities fear increased attacks by militants in the Sinai



Egyptian authorities are worried that Islamist militants in the Sinai, who have been targeted since the August 2012 attack that killed 16 Egyptian soldiers, may soon resume attack, according to Asharq al-Awsat. The fear of an escalation reportedly comes as a result of the Egyptian army's statements that it does not intend to stop its operations or negotiate with the militants.

Asharq al-Awsat says the suggestion by some security officials that last Friday's attack on a police patrol, which injured seven, was carried out by "smugglers," has been contradicted by "high-level security sources" who state that the attack surprised the police and was likely not conducted by smugglers.

"Had the exchange of fire been between security forces and smugglers, there would not have been all these injuries ... and the attackers would not have been able to flee ... quickly after carrying out the attack. Those who carried out the attack are militarily trained, because they succeeded in inflicting all of these injuries," one source was quoted as saying.

Sources told Asharq al-Awsat there are fears that Sinai-based militants will attempt to show their strength in response to announcements that the army's operations against them are continuing. According to the report, the goal for the militants, who are said to be active in Sheikh Zuwaid and Rafah, would be to show that the army's operations since August have been unsuccessful. In addition, sources said that Egyptian authorities are also wary that the militants may try to motivate their members by carrying out attacks.

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. According to a recent report, Western officials estimate that there are at least several hundred jihadists, some of whom are from Yemen and Somalia, now operating in the Sinai.

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 unclear.

Following the Rafah incident, Egyptian authorities issued a security alert for the Sinai as intelligence services received information about potential attacks by extremist groups in the Sinai.

On Jan. 11, an Egyptian army officer was killed by a sniper "seemingly affiliated to extremist groups" in el Arish in the Northern Sinai.



READER COMMENTS: "Report: Egyptian authorities fear increased attacks by militants in the Sinai"

Posted by mike merlo at January 15, 2013 5:03 PM ET:

As the Egyptian Security Forces seek to impose their will upon the insurgents where else in Egypt will the insurgents surface in response to the applied 'pressure?' Also how long before the Suez itself is targeted? If the Suez & its accompanying ship traffic is not targeted then this means that President Morsi himself or someone close to him is complicit in
anti-state activity in the Sinai. This stands to reason if the aforementioned is so because this means that insurgents have no desire to punish Egypt's economy, hence Morsi.

Posted by dani at January 16, 2013 8:11 AM ET:

the economic impact of this is massive. sinai has a huge tourist infrastructure with thousands of hotel beds from dusty flea holes to a number of five star hotels. an entire region will fall off the touristic radar screen and will simply be made unsafe an unworkable by these problems. this will be a great 'road show' for egypt what their new president and his henchmen have in store for them. we will witness a nation of 80 million people go down the drain in slow motion. this is a train wreck of epic proportions.
the lesson of this will be that islamism simply does not work in a society once it is semi industrialized. the arabs need to see this , feel this that mursi has no real solution to their problems.

Posted by My2Cents at January 16, 2013 2:38 PM ET:

Don't read to much into it if there are not news reports of attacks on the Suez Canal. The Suez Canal is the western boundary of the Sinai, while the unrest areas are in the eastern half. The critical areas are well guarded against attack, and the rest patrolled. Most attacks will be small arms and RPG’s directed at ships from shore as they pass, most of the canal is less than 700’ wide. Don’t expect many of those attacks to appear in the press unless there are deaths or tourists involved. Normally these attacks will generally only appear on specialized merchant marine sites.

Posted by mike merlo at January 16, 2013 11:10 PM ET:

@My2Cents
I find it extremely hard to believe that if the Suez Canal or any of its traffic was a victim of sabotage that the 'International Media' would fail to comment or report on 'it.'

No target is safe or immune from attack when dealing with individuals or groups willing to employ suicide tactics.

Posted by Luca at January 17, 2013 5:33 AM ET:

Could Sinai security issues have anything to do with Qassem Soleimani's mysterious visit to Cairo? I just don't buy he went there coz the Brothers need assistance (from him of all people??) in establishing a civilian intel apparatus independent of the military as reported. Somewhat more plausible to me that as a guy who knows one thing or two on Sinai (after all his Qods operatives use it as conduit to smuggle arms to Hamas) Egyptian security men invited him for a "friendly chat among professionals".