Wednesday,26 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1360, (14 - 20 September 2017)
Wednesday,26 September, 2018
Issue 1360, (14 - 20 September 2017)

Ahram Weekly

A bloody week

As more soldiers lost their lives to terrorism, security forces raided a hideout of extremists in Agouza, reports Ahmed Morsy


A bloody week
A bloody week

Eighteen policemen were killed on Monday in a terrorist attack that targeted a police convoy in the Northern Sinai city of Arish. The attack was later claimed by the Islamic State.

The attack took place near Al-Teloul village on the Arish-Beer Al-Abd road, about 20 kilometres west of Arish. Militants targeted the convoy with an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) and then exchanged fire with the convoy’s security detail. The militants then blocked the road to prevent ambulances from reaching the scene and also attacked them.

“The militants surprised the convoy with the IED attack that targeted the first vehicle which was signal-jamming. Then they targeted the other vehicles and opened fire on the injured conscripts,” a security source said. Three police armoured vehicles and a signal-jamming vehicle were destroyed in the attack.

While the attack proves that terrorist groups are still receiving support, training and weapons from abroad, their lessened frequency and smaller scale when compared to two years ago proves the efficiency of the precautionary and pre-emptive operations carried out by the army and police forces, according to Major-General Fouad Allam, a member of the National Council to Confront Terrorism and Extremism (NCCTE).

“Two years ago, militants in Sinai were able to carry out multiple terrorist attacks during the same week and sometimes the same day. Moreover, they were able to attack police stations in North Sinai and occupied one of them for several hours,” Allam said.

Since 2013 Egypt has been fighting an Islamist insurgency led by the Islamic State’s branch in North Sinai, formerly known as Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis. Hundreds of soldiers and policemen have been killed. While Beit Al-Maqdis is at the forefront of militant groups launching attacks against security targets, smaller militant groups — most notably Hasm (Decisiveness) and Lewaa Al-Thawra (Revolution Brigade) — emerged in 2016, carrying out terrorist attacks in Cairo and provincial governorates.

Monday’s terrorist attack was the biggest against the police and Armed Forces in two months. On 7 July IS attacked Battalion 103 south of Rafah city, resulting in the death and injury of 26 of Armed Forces soldiers and the killing of 40 militants.

“Terrorist groups are trying to send messages to the world that Egypt is not safe and that the situation is unstable,” Osama Al-Gohari, a member of parliament’s Defence and National Security Committee, told Al-Ahram Weekly.

The more stable the internal situation becomes and the more positive economic indicators are, the more terrorist operations are launched to disrupt the development process in the country and send negative messages to the world, he said. Al-Gohari referred to investment deals signed during the president’s foreign visits and news of the possible return of Russian tourism next month.

“However, army and police forces should be more vigilant and cautious in the coming period as I expect more terrorist attacks targeting the police forces in particular. This comes as a result of the remarkable activity of the national security apparatus which began to monitor and chase terrorist cells and members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood and their financiers,” Al-Gohari said.

Monday’s attack came one day after security forces said they had busted an extremist cell planning attacks in Cairo. Ten militants were killed and nine policemen were injured in an exchange of fire in Cairo’s Agouza district when security forces attempted to issue an arrest warrant to suspects at dawn in two separate apartments used as hideouts, according to the Interior Ministry. In addition to the exchange of fire, one militant blew himself up injuring a number of policemen. A number of weapons were found in the two apartments.

“The terrorist cell members were hiding in Agouza in preparation for a number of terrorist operations,” a security source said.

According to the Interior Ministry, six of the militants have been identified; all have registered addresses in Greater Cairo. Two were wanted on terrorism-related charges in North Sinai.

Allam and Al-Gohari believe that Sunday’s strike had no connection to the following day’s terrorist attack. “In order for the militants to perform a terrorist attack like the one on Monday, they need time to monitor the route of the convoy in addition to time to study tactics of the attack,” Allam said.

Al-Gohari echoed Allam’s opinion. “If Monday’s attack were a reprisal operation, it would be a minor one of much less magnitude.”

Several Arab and foreign countries as well as international organisations condemned Monday’s terrorist attack. Nevertheless, Al-Gohari believes that “we need action, not denunciations.”

“Terrorism will continue as long as there are countries which fund terrorist groups and support them with weapons and training. Terrorism will only be eradicated if all countries take action, especially Arab countries from which actions are expected, not just statements,” Al-Gohari said.

Domestically, Allam believes that terrorism cannot be defeated by security alone. “If there is a failure in combating terrorism, it is from the state, not security. Scientific solutions to confront terrorism should rely on an integrated strategy involving seven factors: political, cultural, economic, information, social, religious and security. Ministries, state institutions and Al-Azhar should be included since it is only through these seven elements that the state can get rid of the [false] understandings of the religion,” Allam, who helped quash a wave of terrorist attacks in Egypt in the 1990s, said.

The NCCTE was created by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi in July. It includes ministers, public officials, security experts and religious figures.

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