Thursday, 22 August 2013
Egypt: Militancy in Sinai
For Israel the growing instability and the increased activity by militant jihadists in the Sinai on its border poses a serious security problem. On 19 August, armed gunmen stopped a bus transporting police near Rafah in northern Sinai, ordered them off the bus, and shot 25 dead. It was the worst single incident in the recent Sinai conflict and underlined what the security forces face there.
The presence of jihadi groups in the Sinai peninsula has increased since the upheaval of 2011. They can survive untraced within the vast desert wastes. Some even tried to establish an al-Qa'ida offshoot. Some are from other parts of Egypt and are attracted by the ability to operate beyond the control of the security forces. Others are local, drawn from the tribes of Sinai, who have no loyalty to the central state, and little reason given their treatment at the hands of callous and ignorant government officials.
The election of an Islamist president did not stop the confrontation of jihadis with the state. Until the bus killings, the single bloodiest incident has been the killing of 16 border troops under the Morsi administration. He cracked down, and the Muslim Brotherhood called on the government to "confront this serious challenge to the Egyptian sovereignty" and "protect Sinai from all armed groups". But the army felt that Morsi was not being tough enough.
It is unclear if the latest incident was part of the jihadists continuing confrontation with the state or was provoked by the army's crackdown on the Brotherhood in the Nile Valley.
For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.
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