Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1289, (31 March - 6 April 2016)
Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Issue 1289, (31 March - 6 April 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Security successes in Sinai

Ahmed Eleiba reports on the army’s capture of a major terrorist base

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Security forces are continuing their escalated military campaign in North Sinai following last week’s attack on the Safa checkpoint in Al-Arish. According to the army spokesman, counterterrorist forces staged several preemptive operations in southern Rafah and in Sheikh Zuweid. The targets were identified through intelligence reports, and the ground soldiers leading the operations received aerial support.

Local Sinai sources confirm that the army’s current operations are focussed on Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid. They report that the Al-Barth area, close to the border in southern Rafah, has been sealed off and the army now controls Wadi Omar through which terrorists used to move.

During its sweep of the area, the Third Field Army discovered underground depots for storing military supplies, ammunition and food, planning rooms and a fuel store. Sources believe the base, located near the southern Sinai-Gaza border tunnels and the mountain paths leading to Central Sinai, may have served as a centre for receiving jihadists from abroad.

The army has now established a security centre in what was once one of the terrorists’ main strongholds in Sinai.

In the last week of counterterrorist operations, the army reports that 27 four-wheel-drive vehicles and half-bed trucks were destroyed, 70 terrorists killed and 60 wounded. A large number of motorcycles, which are often used in terrorist attacks, have been seized, together with heavy moving and digging machinery, and 32 weapons caches destroyed.

Members of the Third Field Army also captured an explosives warehouse in the quarry area north of Jebel Al-Hilal. It contained 200 kilos of TNT, 90 kilos of the plastic explosive known as C-4, 60 kilos of chloride nitrate and two kilos of sodium nitrate. It is thought to be one of the terrorists’ major centres for the manufacture of explosives.

Military personnel and security experts warn that Sinai’s terrorists are adept at changing tactics.

“The form of operations changes from time to time. They might develop a new means to carry out an operation or revert to a previously used method, as happened with the attack on the Safa checkpoint, which was very similar to the tactics used in the Karm Al-Qawadis attack,” a high-level military source told Al-Ahram Weekly.

Asked how successful the army’s counter-terrorist operations in Sinai have been, the source said: “No country in the world, regardless of the resources they possess, has succeeded 100 per cent in the fight against terrorism. What I can say is that considerable progress has been achieved in the Sinai.”

A military source on the ground in Sinai told the Weekly that counterterrorist forces could bring a halt to terrorist operations were it not for the assistance terrorists receive — in terms of infiltration, hideouts and scouting — from some local civilians. The problem is particularly acute in the semi-urban parts of Al-Arish.

“Who allowed terrorists to use the olive groves and conceal themselves close to the Safa checkpoint?” he asked.

Though military operations in Sinai are set to continue indefinitely, local inhabitants and officials have begun to complain of the tight security measures that, they say, are causing huge economic strains.

According to the Cairo Observatory on Stability in the Middle East, published by the Regional Centre for Strategic Studies, more terrorists were killed in North Sinai in 2015 than in any other governorate.

The 1,292 members of Sinai Province, an affiliate of the Islamic State group, accounted for 97 per cent of terrorists eliminated in Egypt in 2015. North Sinai also tops the governorate league tables in terms of the numbers of murdered soldiers and policemen. Eighty per cent of soldiers and policemen who died in the course of duty in Egypt were killed in North Sinai. (see p.16)

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