Wednesday,13 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1288, (24 - 30 March 2016)
Wednesday,13 December, 2017
Issue 1288, (24 - 30 March 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Editorial: A nation in mourning

Al-Ahram Weekly

Attacks against Egypt’s soldiers and officers fighting extremist, terrorist organisations in Sinai have become common over the past three years. Nevertheless, this doesn’t make any new attack less painful, as young, brave Egyptian men lose their lives while combating groups that are certainly fighting a lost war.

On Saturday, 15 more names were added to the long list of martyrs who sacrificed their lives to save their country and people from a fate of chaos and infighting among militias, as has been the case in neighbouring Libya, and in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. According to security sources, three soldiers were kidnapped after the attack on a police checkpoint in Al-Arish, the capital of North Sinai. The attack was claimed by Welayat Sinai , a branch of the terrorist Islamic State (IS) group that operates in the peninsula.

In previous similar incidents, IS terrorists brutally murdered their hostages, using horrific means to kill their victims. Killing a hostage violates the most precious principles of the Islamic religion they claim to be fighting for, and which strictly prohibits committing any harm towards war captives. This is why all respected Muslim scholars have been firm in rejecting the absurd claims of IS that its true goal is to build an Islamic state, or caliphate.

The followers of IS are nothing more than gangs of fanatics who live in their own world, taking advantage of the widespread state of chaos all over the region, with collapsed governments and fragmented armies.

Immediately following the removal of former president and Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi in early July 2013, one of the group’s top figures, Mohamed Beltagi, said: “The moment Morsi gets back into office, all violence will stop in Sinai.” During his one year in office, Morsi released from prison dozens of militants who were known for their involvement in terrorist organisations, including Al-Qaeda and IS.

He also publicly supported and encouraged the travel of hundreds of young Egyptians, including some who belong to the Brotherhood, to Syria to fight alongside extremist organisations against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.

These complex conditions should not make us shy away from learning from previous mistakes to avoid repeated attacks against Egypt’s police and army in Sinai. In addition to the outsiders who come from all over the world to take part in the declared “jihad” against “an infidel regime”, many of the militants involved in the attacks are from the local population and hide in their midst. This means that concerned authorities certainly need better sources of intelligence, and this can only happen by winning the hearts and minds of the local people.

Speaking about the need for economic development in North Sinai while a real war is taking place is nothing but meaningless rhetoric. There remains a vital need to win locals in Sinai to the side of the army and police by treating them well at checkpoints and making sure that damage to their lives or property from counter-terrorism efforts is immediately compensated.

There also must be better protection for local sources, particularly as there have been cases of the kidnapping and killing of those accused by local IS elements of working as “informants”.

Finally, those who carry out terrorist attacks in Sinai and on Egypt’s mainland should seriously consider the popular reaction to their crimes each time the country loses a new group of courageous young men in the fight against terrorism. All of Egypt fell into mourning after the latest terrorist attack in Al-Arish.

In the funerals held for these heroes, whether in Cairo, the Delta, Port Said or Upper Egypt, there was nothing but determination to continue the fight to protect Egypt and its people against groups who offer nothing but death and brutality. That is why the terrorists are fighting a lost war.

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