Jihadists assaulted a base in the Egyptian Sinai that is manned by international troops, breached the perimeter, and wounded four soldiers. The attackers reportedly raised al Qaeda’s black banner over the base before exiting the base.
Scores of “Bedouin Salafi gunmen” attacked the Multinational Force & Observers base in the Gora region of the Sinai Peninsula yesterday evening, according to The TImes of Israel. The international soldiers are in the Sinai to enforce the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt.
The fighters broke through the outer perimeter and an estimated 60 to 70 of them entered the base “amid heavy gunfire.”
The fighters wounded four peacekeepers, torched a vehicle and a guard tower, and seized ammunition and communications equipment, according to Haaretz. The jihadists reportedly flew al Qaeda’s flag before being driven off.
The base is manned primarily by Colombian troops, however US National Guard members from New Mexico were also at the base. The New Mexico National Guard confirmed the attack.
“Early reports from the unit indicate that the attack was beaten back, and though a few coalition troops from other countries sustained injuries, we have been told that no US soldiers were injured,” New Mexico National Guard said in a statement, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
No group has claimed credit for last night’s attack. But an al Qaeda-linked jiahdist group in the Sinai recently threatened to attack UN peacekeepers and Egyptian troops.
On Aug. 1, Jund al Sharia announced its formation, and threatened to carry out attacks against US peacekeeping forces and the Egyptian military and government if its five demands were not met. The group demanded that the US withdraw from the Sinai within three days [see Threat Matrix report, New jihadist group emerges in the Egyptian Sinai].
Five days after the announcement, jihadists launched a complex attack at night on a border crossing between Israel, Egypt, and the Gaza Strip. The terrorists killed 16 Egyptian soldiers and overran their base, seized two Egyptian armored personnel carriers, attacked the border checkpoint and penetrated more than a half mile into Israeli territory. Israeli soldiers and the air force engaged and killed the terrorists who had entered the country.
Al Qaeda-linked groups on the rise in the Sinai and in Gaza
Over the past several years, several Salafist groups professing allegiance or admiration for al Qaeda have formed in Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza.
In the Egyptian Sinai, Al Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula and its military arm, Ansar al Jihad, the Mujahideen Shura Council, and Jund al Sharia have all emerged since the Arab Spring. The terror groups have conducted attacks against Egyptian forces and a pipeline transporting natural gas to Israel.
In Gaza, there are six major al Qaeda-affliated jiahdist groups: the Tawhid and Jihad Group in Jerusalem, the Masada al Mujahideen, the Army of Islam, Jund Ansar Allah, Jaish al Ummah, and Jaish al Mu’minun. These groups have clashed with Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated terror group that rules Gaza and is supported by Iran and Syria.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.