AP confirms former bin Laden doctor leading jihadists in Sinai

Ramzi Mowafi.jpg

Ramzi Mowafi. Image from Al Arabiya.

On July 17, the Long War Journal reported that Ramzi Mowafi, a former doctor for Osama bin Laden, was heading al Qaeda-linked groups in the Sinai Peninsula. Today, the Associated Press confirmed the report. From the AP:

An Egyptian doctor once close to Osama bin Laden is bringing together multiple al-Qaida-inspired militant groups in Egypt’s Sinai to fight the country’s military, as the lawless peninsula emerges as a new theater for jihad, according to Egyptian intelligence and security officials…

…Topping the most wanted list in Sinai is Ramzi Mawafi, a doctor who joined al-Qaida in Afghanistan in the 1990s. Mawafi, 61, escaped from an Egyptian prison in 2011 in a massive jailbreak that also sprung free Morsi and more than a dozen Muslim Brotherhood members during the chaos of the uprising against autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Mawafi is now believed to be in Sinai coordinating among militant groups and helping arrange money and weapons, security officials told The Associated Press.

In addition to elaborating on Mowafi’s role in the Sinai, the AP report confirmed that there has been an influx of foreign jihadists to the Sinai.

Several hundred Yemeni fighters came in after Morsi’s ouster in response to religious edicts by clerics back home urging them to fight jihad in Egypt, according to a Yemeni security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press.

“Egyptian officials say fighters have also come from Saudi Arabia, Libya and Syria,” the AP report further stated.

Readers of The Long War Journal will not be surprised by the reports of foreign jihadists in the Sinai.

In January, the LWJ reported that Israel’s Shin Bet believed that elements of the “global jihad” are using the Sinai as a base to wage terror attacks against Israel. Threat Matrix similarly noted in January reports that Western officials estimated that at least several hundred jihadists, some of whom are from Yemen and Somalia, are operating in the Sinai. And in a separate report, Threat Matrix noted that Egyptian officials were concerned that jihadists from Algeria and Libya were active in the Sinai.

Today’s AP report on the rise of jihadists in the Sinai came on the same day that Egyptian security forces reportedly killed at least eight Islamist militants in a series of strikes.

Two weeks ago, Shin Bet officials told the Israeli daily Haaretz that there are at least 15 Salafi groups, some of which are affiliated with al Qaeda, currently operating in the Sinai.

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