Four suspected jihadists in the possession of weaponry were arrested by Egyptian authorities today in Rafah. According to a statement released on the Facebook page of the Egyptian Armed Forces spokesman, among the weapons were an automatic rifle, mortars, and a hand grenade.
Today’s arrests come on the heels of a number of recent raids by Egyptian authorities on weapons caches in the Sinai. On April 8, authorities seized a variety of arms and ammunition from a weapons cache approximately three miles from the border with Israel. On the same day, a second cache of weapons was discovered in central Sinai.
Two days before these discoveries, authorities seized an explosives cache in Rafah that was intended to be smuggled into the Gaza Strip. And on April 2, Egyptian authorities arrested 15 suspected Islamist militants in the Sinai, and seized a weapons cache in the Sinai that included antiaircraft missiles.
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. According to the Shin Bet, elements of the “global jihad” are using the Sinai as a base to wage terror attacks against Israel.
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 at least several hundred jihadists, some of whom are from Yemen and Somalia, are now operating in the Sinai. Egyptian officials have also expressed concern that militants from Algeria and Libya are now operating in the Sinai Peninsula.
In recently revealed communications between Muhammad Jamal al Kashef, the head of the Nasr City terror cell, and al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri, Jamal said that he had formed “groups for us inside [the] Sinai.” As Thomas Joscelyn noted in the Long War Journal, this was an “especially interesting revelation given that some jihadist groups there have openly proclaimed their allegiance to al Qaeda.”
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