Thursday,20 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1253, ( 2 - 8 July 2015)
Thursday,20 September, 2018
Issue 1253, ( 2 - 8 July 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Sinai under control

Relative calm prevails a day after the fiercest confrontation of its kind between Egyptian security forces and extremist militants. Ahmed Eleiba reports    


Al-Ahram Weekly
Official armed forces spokesman Brigadier General Mohamed Samir has stated that the Egyptian army has the situation in Sinai entirely under control in the wake of a day of the fiercest confrontation of its kind in the history of the security forces' counter-terrorist operations.

A source on the ground in Sinai told Al-Ahram Weekly that the situation there has quieted down and confirmed the statement by Brigadier General Samir regarding the army's control over the situation there. He said that there are no new manifestations of military activity, especially in Al-Arish and stressed that calm now prevails in the direction of Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid as well.

He also observed that on the whole there is a generally and, perhaps, unprecedentedly positive attitude in favour of the Armed Forces with respect to their actions. “The Armed Forces' response to the terrorists this time was extremely powerful in spite of the intensive mobilisation of the [terrorist] organisation. Also, the air force pursuit of terrorist elements was quicker this time.”The source noted that, according to rumours circulating among Sinai tribes and available preliminary information, most of the terrorist elements who were killed belonged to the Suwarka and Rumeilat tribes.

According to an official Armed Forces statement, the army lost 17 men of whom four were ranking officers, and that 13 were injured, while at least 100 terrorist elements were killed. A military source told the Weekly that the Armed Forces had gained the upper hand in the confrontation from the outset since they had been prepared to act from the beginning. In the first half hour of the first wave of the confrontations they moved on the offensive against 22 terrorist operatives in the vicinity of checkpoints.

In the opinion of General Hisham Al-Halabi, military adviser at the Higher Nasser Military Academy, the terrorist group Sinai Province, the Egyptian wing of Islamic State, wanted to deliver several messages via the attack. In an interview with the Weekly, he noted that, firstly, in terms of timing, it coincided with the anniversary of the 30 June Revolution and the victories in the October 1973 war which fell on the 10th of Ramadan. Also, it wanted to paralyse the major preparations underway for the inauguration of the new Suez Canal in five weeks time. Secondly, the mobilisation, organisation, coordination and dissemination of the terrorist forces that undertook the attack signalled that the terrorist forces sought to break out of their scope of confinement in Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid in a bid to seize control of new territory, as IS is doing in Iraq and Libya, in order to declare new “emirates”there and open pathways for extending their activities even beyond Sinai in the direction of the Suez Canal. But their plan failed, he added.

In view of the nature of the planning of the terrorist attack, General Al-Halabi continued, there is a conviction among military and security circles that the operation was planned and supported from abroad and that it was carried out merely by the operatives in the Sinai. “We are facing international intelligence agencies. These are the parties who are choosing the timing, that are making the preparations and that are mobilising the operatives. These agencies belong, above all, to regional powers.”

He added, “This war has no parallel in recent generations of wars. The battlefield and the elements recruited were chosen for a specific mission which is to confront the Egyptian state and the Egyptian army. That organisation, as has been revealed by the arms it uses, is equipped with the weapons of armies, in contrast to the conventional weapons that are found among other groups that operate in parts of the Nile Valley and the Delta, and its members are better organised and trained.”

They are also very well equipped. Al-Halabi said. “They have anti-aircraft artillery and a highly explosive substance, C4, which is 10 times more powerful than TNT. They have huge weapons that come from the legacy of other wars and from the legacy of the organisations that smuggled weapons through the Sinai to Gaza. It is difficult to unearth all the weapons caches in Sinai. Also, some tunnels are still functioning and are used to transmit operatives from Gaza. One has been discovered recently and it may have been used for the recent attack.”

In addition, he said, the organisation has a support system for its elements in Sinai Bedouin environment. “For example, the cars that the organisation use are modern and expensive and properly licensed as a rule. It obtains them from Bedouins who sell them the vehicles. In addition there are organisations or institutions that are used as a cover for transferring funds to the group through seemingly legal channels.”

Former director of military intelligence General Talaat Moussa agrees on the existence of a social support system among the Bedouin, while he stresses that it is important not to overgeneralise this environment “is what furnished the climate that enabled a large number -- in the hundreds -- of local and foreign takfiri elements to undertake an operation of that scale,”he said in an interview with the Weekly.  “They did not appear suddenly or drop down from the skies. They did not plan the operation in a day. They have been there for some time in their particular locations and in large numbers that should have attracted attention. Why had no one notified the authorities of their presence? What happened to the promises from the local tribes regarding committing members to support the armed forces? There must be some interests in common between those elements and some Bedouins.”

General Moussa adds, “From the initial impression one gains from how the operation was planned, prepared and carried out, one is led to the conviction that the Muslim Brotherhood was involved in the planning. There are clear signs of this, whether through the timing or the objective of the operation. The MB has recently been able to regain its strategic balance, reorder itself abroad and contact other organisations with which it shares a single goal: to overthrow the Egyptian state and the current regime, and to attempt to portray the armed forces as incapable of mounting an effective confrontation. These arrangements were made in Turkey by senior officials in the international Muslim Brotherhood group who coordinated with other individuals abroad from other terrorist organisations. They are all complicit in all the terrorist operations that have been taking place.”

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