Monday,25 September, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1338, (30 March - 5 April 2017)
Monday,25 September, 2017
Issue 1338, (30 March - 5 April 2017)

Ahram Weekly

In the wake of Torrent 5

Ahmed Eleiba reports on the aftermath of the latest counter-terrorist offensive in Sinai

In the wake of Torrent 5
In the wake of Torrent 5

The counter-terrorist offensive against the Islamic State (IS) affiliate Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis in Sinai has intensified in response to an escalation in terrorist attacks.

The latest upsurge in confrontations comes in the wake of Torrent 5, the Special Forces counter-terrorist operation launched in the Gabal Al-Halal area last month. Terrorist and criminal elements were apprehended in the siege and large stocks of arms, explosive devices, TNT and C-4, and spare parts for vehicles and motorcycles used by terrorists were seized. Analyst Brigadier General Khaled Okasha, director of the National Centre for Security Studies, believes the latest terrorist attacks were a direct response to Torrent 5.

The most formidable was a bomb attack in central Sinai. As the army pursued terrorists IEDs struck two of the attack forces’ vehicles, killing three officers and seven soldiers, said military spokesman Colonel Tamer Rifaai. Even so, military units succeeded in killing 15 terrorists and arresting seven. They also located and destroyed two arms storehouses containing explosives and IEDs, medical equipment and other supplies used by takfiri groups.

Colonel Rifaai also reported that on Sunday counter-terrorist forces, aided by local residents, were able to monitor the activities of a group of terrorists who had set up a roadblock in order to stop and search people travelling along a road in the Rafah border region. They succeeded in killing eight of the terrorists and arresting 22. Forces in the area were then redeployed to cut off terrorist supply routes.

The army spokesman said terrorists often filmed their roadblocks in order to portray a negative image of the security situation in Sinai. Recently, Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis set up a roadblock on Assiut Street in Arish, the capital of North Sinai, and inspected the IDs of pedestrians at gunpoint. They were screening for Copts.

Military sources in Egypt expect an escalation in terrorist attacks in Sinai in response to the increase in counter-terrorist raids and to developments in Iraq where the liberation of Mosul is well underway and preparations are being made for a similar assault on the terrorists’ stronghold of Raqqa. Syrian Kurdish political analyst Mohamed Raslan told Al-Ahram Weekly that IS’s foreign commanders have already fled Raqqa in the direction of Deir Al-Zor and from there are likely to move to other locations in order to start other fronts.

Okasha agrees that events in Sinai are linked to regional developments.

A military source who took part in the Gabal Al-Halal operation goes further: “Regional developments are the key. Without them there would never be the funding, the supplies of explosive substances such as C-4 and TNT and of ammunition, not to mention improvements in operational tactics, without foreign elements furnishing support and training.”

Mohamed Gomaa, a researcher into terrorism at Al-Ahram Centre of Political and Strategic Studies, believes that jihadists from Syria and Iraq will embark on attacks in their home countries following their return. “Equally worrying, they could be put to use as bridges between jihadist organisations abroad and local groups affiliated with them,” he told the Weekly.

“We have information that some jihadists, including non-Egyptians, have entered Egypt and assumed leadership positions in local groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda or IS. In so doing they were acting out of their desire to take part in what theybelieve to be ‘a promising Egyptian jihad’.”

Following the latest attacks President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi convened a meeting with members of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and the Higher Police Council. The meeting was attended by Minister of Defence Sidki Sobhi and Interior Minister Magdi Abdel-Ghaffar. Presidential Spokesman Alaa Youssef said the meeting was part of a regular series the president holds with military and police commanders to monitor developments throughout the country. The meetings allow commanders to follow through assessments of the measures being taken by the army and police to counter terrorist groups.

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