The police chalk up another victory as more suspected terrorists fall, writes Jailan Halawi
While the manhunt for suspects of the Dahab bombings continues, the security apparatus says it has tightened the noose around suspected perpetrators from Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad group (Unification and Jihad). The group, which is believed to be behind the spate of terrorist attacks in the Sinai Peninsula which started in October 2004 has been dismembered as a result of shootouts, arrests and surrenders.
The police announced on Saturday the arrest of two alleged group members wanted in connection with the triple bombings that claimed the lives of 20 people and left scores injured in the Red Sea Resort of Dahab on 24 April. The suspects, identified as Elian Suleiman El-Hamrawi and his brother Hussein, were arrested in North Sinai. Three other suspects, also brothers, were killed in a gun battle the same day on the outskirts of Al-Arish in North Sinai. It is believed that more militants are holed up in this area of rugged mountains and dunes.
Meanwhile, 15 members of the group are facing trial before a state security court in Ismailia in connection with the 2004 Taba bombings. Atwan, Ibrahim and Radi El-Qarm were allegedly betrayed by a fourth unnamed brother who surrendered a day earlier and escorted forces to their hideout in the mountains. He had hoped to convince his brothers to surrender. The four men are brothers of alleged suspect Attallah Qarm, whose body was reportedly found among the debris of the Dahab bombings and identified using DNA tests.
A security source, speaking on the customary condition of anonymity, said the brother who surrendered informed police of the places frequented by his brothers. The police escorted him to the scene and reportedly opened fire after he failed to persuade his brothers to lay down their weapons. Security forces reciprocated and killed the three, seizing two automatic rifles and explosive devices. According to the source, the families of the deceased had disowned them because of their alleged involvement in terrorist operations, and for violating the traditions and norms of the Sinai Bedouin community.
According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Interior, the killings bring to 10 the number of suspects killed since the April bombings, including group leader Nasser Khamis El-Mallahi. El-Mallahi is also charged with involvement in the attacks in Taba in October 2004 and Sharm El-Sheikh in 2005. Police believe that all the Sinai attacks were executed by the Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad group.
Last month, the Interior Ministry announced for the first time that Palestinian militants were involved in planning the Dahab bombings. It said that several Egyptians who carried out the attacks had trained in the Gaza Strip, and that Palestinian militants in Egypt were also involved. The ministry added that three Palestinian suspects were currently in Egyptian custody.
El-Mallahi is believed to have sent bombers Ahmed Mohamed El-Qoreimi, Mohamed Abdel-Aziz Nafei and Attallah El-Qarm to Gaza for weapons and explosives training. Two other members, brothers Ayman and Yosri Mohared, crossed into Gaza to prepare for the attacks as part of a larger group allegedly with contacts with Palestinian Islamic fundamentalists, according to the ministry.