Sinai Terrorism

Category: Sinai

Egypt pleads for U.S. help on ‘war on terror’

Abdel Fattah El-Sisi the ex army chief – who looks odds on to become the new head of state – has pleaded with the United States to help in their fight against terrorism originating from the Sinai Peninsula, asEl-Sisi puts it to help avoid the creation of new Afghanistans in the Middle East.  El-Sisi is calling for the resumption of U.S. military aid, which is worth around $1.3 billion a year, yet this was frozen buy the U.S. after a violent crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood supporters.  “The Egyptian army is undertaking major operations in the Sinai so it is not transformed into a base for terrorism that will threaten its neighbours and make Egypt unstable. If Egypt is unstable then the entire region is unstable.” The Egyptian army has been undertaking operations in the Sinai for a while now, with little success as much of what they have been doing has targeted the local Bedouin population and the underground economy there, which has only further antagonised the Bedouins.  These Bedouins hold the key to peace in the region, and the Egyptian military operations has only set to push them into the welcoming arms of the jihadi groups operating there.

The framing of El-Sisi’s pleading for U.S. money and equipment is designed to push President Obama into a corner where he cannot turn his back on Egypt and their fight on terrorism or he risks losing a strong and increasingly rare ally in that part of the world. However Obama needs to stand firm against these pressures as the lack of any progress towards improving their human rights record is intollerable, especially when Egypt sentances 529 Morsi supporters to death. “No review of evidence, no witnesses, no time for the defense to make their case,” one of the lawyers, Khaled el-Koumi told reporters. The West must take a tough stance against these breaches of human rights not just in this trial but the breaches that take place against those in the Sinai Peninsula and people who oppose the military backed government in place after their coup on 3rd July 2013.

Egypt’s foreign minister said that “The West risks losing the Egyptian people” partly because Western governments do not always fully support the statements and actions of the Egyptian government. For example how the UK has not declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation, despite the fact that they have not carried out any terrorist style attack (however it is still unclear about if they have links to or help fund any of the terrorist groups operating in the Sinai). He also claims thathis government will enhance and engage the Sinai population with economic and social measures. Again it remains to be seen if these actions will go ahead, the Bedouin in the Sinai are used to this lip service paid to them when elections come around as it is a common place. But the Sinai is in desperate need of it, as another soldier was killed this week when his convoy was attacked by suspected militants in Sheikh Zuweid inspired by al-Qaeda.

The Sinai which El-Sisi says is a threat to the world if it continues to grow and is not helped by the U.S. giving military aid and equipment, is plausible. However the main reason it is growing is because the local population have been pushed into the arms of these insurgents because of teir horrific treatment by the Egyptian military and government. Therefore i would only resume aid to Egypt once they demonstrate a long term commitment to helping re-develop the Sinai both economically and for equal status for the Bedouin. Actions that would make that a reality would also go a long way to cutting down the number of terrorist groups and attacks that take place.


Terror in the Sinai Report

Report on Terror in the Sinai by the Henry Jackson Society that i helped research for.

Invest in the Sinai or lose it

The Sinai liberation day that occurred last week is now just a propaganda day to talk about the development of the Peninsula, like in political campaigns these projects are spoken about and talked up. Yet in reality the Sinai sees nothing of these proposed investments and developments. The reality is that the population of Sinai still faces hardship in obtaining water, proper medical treatment and a good education. The infrastructure is in dire need of development projects as well as the roads which are in very poor shape and an electrical grid that is feeble. So when these populist speeches and promises of investing billions to re-develop the Sinai Peninsula are constantly used as rhetoric and only stay that way, of course the local population will be angry.

This is not just a recent occurrence; these promises have been made for years to the residents of the Sinai. In 2010 the Salam Canal project offered hope, only for the project to be transformed into an impervious dam, which deprived the lands and crops of water. The building of the Ismailia-Rafah railway was suddenly halted for several months in 2011 and thieves stole the iron tracks, without anyone stopping them.

The absent of any real development, job opportunities and infrastructure – not to mention the discrimination the Bedouin population face – is the cause of the illegal occupations and industries flourish among the Sinai Bedouin clans. It is also a large indication to why jihadist propaganda is flourishing in the region, the population is extremely resentful to the government and due to the weapons smuggling routes from Libya, Sudan and Gaza it is exceedingly easy to get your hands on cheap weapons. Resentment, weapons and a security vacuum after Mubarak was ousted in 2011 is the main cause of the high number of attacks since then.

The attacks continue in the Sinai, as today there were two suicide attacks in el-Tor today attacking a military checkpoint and a tourist bus that carried workers. One soldier was killed and nine other people were injured.

To stop the growing extremism the Egyptian government needs to start taking the Sinai Peninsula seriously, and treat the region and its population as part of Egypt. With this attitude and a considerable investment to re-develop the area is their best chance of stopping the growing insurgency. As people will feel less aggrieved, they will not turn to illegal occupations if they can get proper work, and this will all help in decreasing the support for the Jihadist groups in the region and making it much harder for them to operate, which will mean they will be easier to stop.  However the likelihood of this kind of project or attitude happening is virtually zero.

The Sinai’s crimes against Humanity

The horrendous breaches of human rights that have occurred through the human trafficking of thousands of  Eritreans through the Sinai into Israel has been decreased since Israel’s building of a fence along the Sinai border – which has had a positive effect of stopping the unrest in the Sinai Peninsula from spilling over.

This crackdown on smuggling by the Israeli government has had a horrific side effect as now the Bedouin smuggling gangs hold them hostage instead, as they realised they can get more money for them through ransom.  Even the most destitute refugees, they found, could stump up lucrative ransoms if they were starved, raped, tortured and terrified enough to plead with relatives over the phone, particularly if some of their loved ones had already made it to wealthy Israel or Europe.The atrocities that occurred to these Eritreans are beyond deplorable, however these breaches of human rights are not just contained to the Bedouin smugglers.

The Egyptian military under the vague term of “war on terror” in the Sinai Peninsula are committing murders, arrests, torture and the displacement of Egyptian citizens. The Egyptian Observatory of Rights and Freedoms said: “Since the coup on July 3, 2013, until now at least 200 citizens have been killed, 1,500 people have been arrested, more than 350 houses have been demolished, as well as the systematic torture within the Azula military prison on citizens of northern Sinai, without investigations.” This blatant disregard by the Egyptian government of the basic human and legal rights of the citizens who live in the Sinai Peninsula is only made worse by how it is ignored by the United States, who have are giving the Egyptian military ten Apache helicopters. These are for use in counter terrorism operations in the Sinai, despite the deliberate breaches of human rights by the military. The overlooking of this type of tactics by the Egyptian military is not just contained to the United States. As when America put on hold its aid to Egypt – as a result of the turmoil in the country – Russia then wanted to give Egypt $2 billion in arms.

The brutal treatment of the Bedouin by Egyptian police, military and security forces has been a cause in the violence in the Peninsula since it started after President Mubarak was ousted in 2011. Continuing with this kind of behaviour is only going to exacerbate the situation further, as it is only going to antagonise the local population who are already angry with the government. Especially when there are already ties between the local Bedouin population and Islamic militant groups that are in operation there since 2011.

The threat from the Sinai Peninsula is still far from being contained as yesterday three policeman were wounded whilst travelling in el-Arish. The Egyptian government need to realise that violence is not the answer as it is only being met with violence back, and the terrorist groups operating in the region are expanding their targets to mainland Egypt with much more sophisticated weaponry. If they want to stop the Sinai insurgency, they need to win over the Bedouin population and introduce wide ranging reforms in the Sinai, or look ahead to years more of violence there.

Sinai is under “complete control”

With the announcement yesterday that the Egyptian Military has “complete control” over the Sinai Peninsula, it shows how little the military really know what is going on over there, as attacks are still occurring there with regularity and more sophistication in 2014. The rate of attacks in the Sinai and attacks in mainland Egypt by Sinai based terror groups has decreased since the peak of  July 2013 – after President Morsi was ousted in a military coup. However the frequency of attacks now is still higher than that of a year ago, which begs the question if the Sinai is under “complete control”, what is not under control?

If anything the threat is increasing in the Sinai as the types of attacks are becoming more sophisticated, which was demonstrated when Ansar Bayt al Maqdis (ABM) used a S.A.M. to shoot down an Egyptian helicopter which killed five people on the 25th January 2014 in Sheikh Zuweid. This was only a day after ABM let off four bombs in Cairo, killing six people. But what is more concerning is the spread of attacks to the Egyptian mainland, as well as an expansion of targets to include civilians as well as military, police and security forces. This expansion is epitomised by the suicide attack on an Egyptian tour bus on the 16th February 2014, which killed three South Korean tourists and their Egyptian driver, this attack was also claimed by ABM as part of their “economic war” against the treacherous regime.

This shows the danger is not just increasing but it is spreading from the Sinai to mainland Egypt, especially the capital of Cairo. This can be seen by the increase in attacks in Cairo from Sinai based terror groups as more attacks have taken place this year in Cairo, than the whole of last year already. Recently Ajnad Misr let of bombs at a university in Cairo which wounded eight people. Ajnad Misr have carried out a spate of attacks this month after their announcement of existence on 23rd January.

Today is Sinai Liberation Day, while Egypt is celebrating the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Sinai Peninsula in 1982 the terrorist groups – who have links to al-Qaeda and the support of them – are trying to liberate the Sinai for themselves as an Islamic Emirate. The Sinai is being put to the torch by the multitude of terrorist and militant attacks there which have dominated the region since 2011. It remains to be seen if in a few years’ time these Islamic militants will be celebrating their own liberation day.

The sending often apache helicopters by the United States for use in the Sinai for use in counter terrorism operations – which was urged by Israel – will hopefully help to combat the growing insurgence in the Sinai. However their effectiveness remains to be seen.