Archive for the ‘Siani’ category

Egypt’s Battle Against Islamic Extremism

June 3, 2017

Egypt’s Battle Against Islamic Extremism, Gatestone InstituteShireen Qudosi, June 3, 2017

Sisi faces more than just militant and political extremists within Egypt’s borders; he is also walking a theological tightrope. Egypt is home to the regressive theocratic influence of the most revered Islamic institution in the Sunni world, Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, which openly views freedom as a “ticking time-bomb.”

Being held hostage intellectually by the grip of Al-Azhar University ensures that there is a constant supply when it comes to producing the next generation of militant and political Islamists.

President Sisi’s response to the brutal slaughter of peaceful Christian worshippers is being called rare but should not be surprising, considering the aggressive measures that need to be taken to hold extremism at bay, and to eradicate the threat that local groups pose to the Egyptian people. Coming out of the Riyadh Summit, where President Trump and a host of Muslim nations, including Egypt, agreed to drive out extremism, Sisi’s reaction was necessary.

 

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When it comes to regional interests in the Middle East, the priority is the most dominant and violent force.

Egypt stands out as a primary target, given the cocktail of challenges that position it as a center of radical Islam. Egypt faces political, violent, and theological militancy within its borders.

For a nation to do what it must to survive, it needs the steadfast support of world powers. Step one is annihilating all sources of violent Islam.

 

For a Western audience, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is a complex figure, who was shunned by the Obama administration. There appear truly pressing, immediate priorities in Egypt, such as developing the economy and combating the avalanche of extremist attempts to overthrow him. Among Middle East and North African territories, Egypt stands out as a primary target, given the cocktail of challenges that position it as a center of radical Islam.

President Sisi faces violent extremist hotbeds in the Sinai Peninsula, and the still-destabilizing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood (a political arm of violent radicals). Most notably, Sisi brought a reality check to the Arab Spring when he led the military overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013, ushering a spiritual and cultural Islamic reformation with widespread popular support from Egyptians on a grass-roots level.

Sisi faces more than just militant and political extremists within Egypt’s borders; he is also walking a theological tightrope. Egypt is home to the regressive theocratic influence of the most revered Islamic institution in the Sunni world, Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, which openly views freedom as a “ticking time-bomb.”

Being held hostage intellectually by the grip of Al-Azhar University ensures that there is a constant supply when it comes to producing the next generation of militant and political Islamists.

Egypt also faces extremist infiltration from neighboring Libya, a nation caught in a power vacuum after the murder of its leader, Col. Muammar Gaddafi. This vacuum has been readily filled by Islamic militants, including ISIS.

Upon returning home in April from his first visit to the U.S. since 2013, Sisi faced a series of domestic terror attacks that once again put Egypt in a global spotlight. On Palm Sunday, in April, two suicide bombings in Coptic Christian churches killed more than 45 people and injured another 120. For Egypt, one of the last regional strongholds that still has a vibrant non-Muslim minority population, violent eruptions on major Christian holidays have become routine.

In England, just days after the May 22 Manchester suicide bombing, attention was once again on Egypt where 29 Coptic Christians were gunned down on a bus traveling to a monastery near the city of Minya. The attack was launched by masked terrorists who arrived in three pick-up trucks and opened fire on the passengers, many of whom were children. Egyptian intelligence believes the Minya attack was led by ISIS jihadists based in Libya. In February, the aspiring terrorist caliphate also launched a campaign against Egypt’s Christian population. The Egyptian military responded swiftly with air strikes against terrorist camps, along with a televised warning against sponsored terrorism.

President Sisi’s response to the brutal slaughter of peaceful Christian worshippers is being called rare but should not be surprising, considering the aggressive measures that need to be taken to hold extremism at bay, and to eradicate the threat that local groups pose to the Egyptian people. Coming out of the Riyadh Summit, where President Trump and a host of Muslim nations, including Egypt, agreed to drive out extremism, Sisi’s reaction was necessary.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (front row, far-right) attended the May 21 Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, along with U.S. President Donald Trump (front-center). The problems of Islamic extremism and terrorism were much-discussed at the summit. (Photo by Thaer Ghanaim/PPO via Getty Images)

In a war that is equally ideological and kinetic, Muslim nations and others trying to survive the plague of Islamic terrorism will need to be as ruthless as their extremist counterparts. That is something that the warring political factions in the U.S. quickly need to understand. When it comes to regional interests in the Middle East, the priority is combating the most dominant and violent force. If that force wins, human rights are completely off the table. Beyond Egypt, President Trump has received considerable backlash in the U.S. for siding with what are seen as repressive regimes, whether it was hosting Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the White House or engaging with dictators and monarchs during the Riyadh Summit.

In order to bring security to the region, alliances need to look at the real instigators and agents of chaos. There is a metastasizing threat that requires a new coalition of the willing. For a nation to do what it must to survive, it needs the steadfast support of world powers. Step one is annihilating all sources of violent Islam.

Shireen Qudosi is the Director of Muslim Matters, with America Matters.

US Tomahawk cruise missiles for ISIS-Sinai HQ

April 18, 2017

US Tomahawk cruise missiles for ISIS-Sinai HQ, DEBKAfile, April 18, 2017

 

A final decision to go ahead with a US missile assault on central Sinai rests with Defense Secretary James Mattis. He is due to arrive in Cairo on Wednesday, April 19.

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The US Mediterranean fleet is moving into position ready for a decision to launch Tomahawk cruise missiles for a crushing assault on the Islamic State’s mountain strongholds in central Sinai, DEBKAfile’s military and counterterrorism sources report.

This would be the second American strike in a month against a Middle East target, after 59 cruise missiles destroyed one-fifth of the Syrian air force at the Shayrat air base on April 7 in response for Assad’s chemical attack on Syrian civilians.

The prospective American missile attack in Sinai would raise the war on ISIS in the Middle East to a new plane. It would have been discussed during the Egyptian President Abdul-Fatteh El-Sisi’s visit to the White House on April 3. He explained to his host, President Donald Trump, the immense difficulty of overcoming the Islamic State’s affiliate when its headquarters were dug into an interconnected web of tunnels and caves in the central Jabal (Mount) Halal of the peninsula. Nicknamed the “Tora Bora of Sinai,” approach roads to this mountain fastness are few and far between, in common with the Afghan cave network near the Pakistan border destroyed on April 13 by the biggest non-nuclear bomb, the GBU-43/B, in the American arsenal.

The last Egyptian assault on ISIS’ towering mountain stronghold took place on April 2, shortly before El-Sisi travelled to Washington. The Egyptian military announced that 31 terrorists had been killed and a number of caves holding arms and ammunition destroyed.

But the damage was not devastating enough to disrupt the Islamist terrorists’ operations, DEBKAfile’s military sources report. Most of the terrorists escaped with the help of allied Bedouin tribesmen who, familiar with every nook and cranny in the desert peninsula, guided them to safety in new caves in Jabal Halal that were even more inaccessible to Egyptian troops.

Their new headquarters can only be destroyed by cruise missiles capable of exploding underground.

The Egyptians and Americans believe that if the Jabal Halal cave system sheltering the ISIS-Sinai core command center is destroyed, its long campaign of terror will be curtailed. The flow of terrorist manpower, arms and explosives from the mountain to the networks which terrorize the population and Egyptian forces of northern Sinai will dry up.

Jabal Halal is also the hub of the ISIS smuggling networks, through which fighters and arms are moved from southern Libya into Sinai and Egypt. Knocking it out will also deliver a resounding blow to that traffic.

A final decision to go ahead with a US missile assault on central Sinai rests with Defense Secretary James Mattis. He is due to arrive in Cairo on Wednesday, April 19.

Rephidim, Amalek then: Bir Gafgafa, ISIS now

April 10, 2017

Rephidim, Amalek then: Bir Gafgafa, ISIS now, DEBKAfile, April 10, 2017

Bir Gafgafa’s mission is to provide the Egyptian forces fighting in Sinai with a shield, as well as securing the Suez, one of the world’s most important waterways, against ISIS attack.

It will also serve as a hub for coordinating air operations over Sinai and the Libyan border. It is vitally important to prevent the jihadist networks based in ungoverned Libya and the lawless heartland of the Sinai Peninsula from reaching Egypt’s main cities.

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They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” The Lord said to Moses, take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord. Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim.  Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. And Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the sword. (Exodus 17)

About 3,200 years later, Moses would not have recognized Rephidim. In 1967 it was called Bir Gafgafa and was the site of the Egyptian Air Force’s biggest air facility in Sinai, known as “Egyptian Air Force Base 244.”

From there, Egyptian ruler Gemal Abdul Nasser declared that year: “If Rabin wants war, let’s go!”

And so when the Israeli Air Force preemptively wiped out Nasser’s air force on the ground at the outset of the Six-Day war, Bir Gafgafa was hit first. Rephidim was next transformed into Baha 3, the main Israeli Air Force operations base in Sinai during the War of Attribution and the Yom Kippur war. It was supported 8 kilometers away by a radar and electronic warfare station.

But then, Rephidim aka Bir Gafgafa stepped back into history in its next reincarnation as the very first base from which Israeli withdrew in late 1979 after Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat signed the Camp David peace accords, Israel’s first peace pact with an Arab nation.

Another 37 years went by and in 2017 Rephidim now serves another Egyptian President, Abdul-Fatteh El-Sisi, for his life-and-death struggle with the Islamic State’s Sinai affiliate.

The Egyptian Air Force is in the course of transforming the small air field there into the largest air base in Egypt, this time with Israel’s concurrence. The base is being tailored to serve a wide variety of warplanes, attack helicopters and UAVs, with long runways, hangars and storage depots for bombs, missiles and fuel.

The Egyptian have built an enormous hangar 70×57 meters for housing long-range Wing Loong UAVs purchased from China, which are 9 meters long with a 14-meter wing spread. The Wing Loongs are also being deployed at the Uthman Air base in the Western Desert just 68km from the Libyan border.

The huge base will also have a large civilian passenger terminal at its northeastern end to serve the large army contingents deployed in Sinai. Today the 2nd and 3rdArmies are waging war against terror in Sinai supported by Border Guard units which are undertaking special training in anti-terror warfare.

Rephidim is today hemmed in by packs of the new Amalek, the Ansar Beit al-Maqdis which has pledged loyalty to the Islamic State and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi El-Sisi and is battling Egypt under his direction. The base is accessible only by air or convoys escorted by armored vehicles.

But El-Sisi has big plans for defeating them, DEBKAfile’s military sources report. Bir Gafgafa’s mission is to provide the Egyptian forces fighting in Sinai with a shield, as well as securing the Suez, one of the world’s most important waterways, against ISIS attack.

It will also serve as a hub for coordinating air operations over Sinai and the Libyan border. It is vitally important to prevent the jihadist networks based in ungoverned Libya and the lawless heartland of the Sinai Peninsula from reaching Egypt’s main cities.

The importance of this mission was demonstrated this week. On April 9, President El-Sisi reported that three gangs of terrorists had infiltrated the country from Libya and sent two suicide bombers to blow up two Coptic churches celebrating Palm Sunday, taking the lives of 45 people and injuring 150.

The jihadist menace points more than one way. The next day, Israel closed the Taba crossing into Egyptian Sinai to Israeli holidaymakers bound for the beach resorts, after its security services had received intelligence of an imminent ISIS death-cum-abduction attack afoot for the 10,000 Israeli trippers.

Propping up US-Iraqi Mosul flop exposed Baghdad

December 31, 2016

Propping up US-Iraqi Mosul flop exposed Baghdad, DEBKAfile, December 31, 2016

(I receive frequent daily Google alerts on Iraq. Most deal with terrorist attacks in and near Baghdad, sometimes resulting in a few deaths and sometimes resulting in many.  —  DM)

mosul_iraq_destroyed_tank_12-16Iraqi tank blown up by ISIS bomber in Mosul battle

This week, another 1,700 US special operations forces and 4,000 members of the Iraqi federal police and counter-terrorism service (CTS) were urgently sent out to reinforce the crumbling front lines. Their deployment was officially characterized as marking the launch of “the second phase of the operation to retake Mosul.”

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The US-backed Iraqi campaign launched in October to liberate Mosul from the clutches of the Islamic State is on its last legs, although the Obama administration and Iraqi Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi are making every effort to disguise the debacle.

AS DEBKAfile has been reporting for three weeks, the Iraqi army’s Mosul operation has run aground, despite solid US military backing, giving the advantage to Islamic State fighters occupying Iraq’s biggest city since the summer of 2015.

This development has major security ramifications – not only for Iraq, but also for Syria, Jordan, Israel and the West at large.

The jihadists staunched the Iraqi army’s advance by releasing in its path hundreds of suicide killers in waves on foot and in bomb cars. This tactic has inflicted crippling losses on the two elite Iraqi divisions leading the offensive, the Golden Division, which is the backbone of Iraq’s Special Operations forces, and the 9th Armored Division. Devastating losses forced both to pull back from the battlefield.

This week, another 1,700 US special operations forces and 4,000 members of the Iraqi federal police and counter-terrorism service (CTS) were urgently sent out to reinforce the crumbling front lines. Their deployment was officially characterized as marking the launch of “the second phase of the operation to retake Mosul.”

Their real function was to prop up the few positions Iraqi forces have captured so far and save the Mosul offensive from crashing.

Western military observers noted Saturday, Dec. 31, that more and more American troops are to be seen on the embattled city’s front lines. US combatants are therefore fighting face to face with ISIS jihadists, a development the Obama administration is loath to admit, never having released the number of American lives lost in the Mosul offensive.

Our military sources add that the Iraqi counter-terrorism force sent to Mosul was previously posted in Baghdad to secure the capital against Islamist terrorist operations and ISIS attempts to seize the center and Iraqi’s national government centers. Its transfer to Mosul, 356km to the north, exposed central Baghdad to terror.

And, inevitably, on Saturday, two suicide bombers blew themselves up on a main street of the capital, killing 28 people and injuring 40 in their first major attack there in three months since the onset of the Mosul offensive..

This happened the day after the Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook released an unwelcome report that US security agencies “do think [Abu Bakr al] Baghdadi is alive and is still leading” the Islamic group and the battle for Mosul.

ISIS for its part issued a menacing new communiqué that jacked up its threat against neighboring Jordan’s King Abdullah II and his security forces, in the wake of its terrorist-cum-hostage assault earlier this month on the southern town of Karak, in which 10 people were killed and 29 injured.

The communiqué reads:“All Jordanian soldiers, police, mosque preachers, information activists and regime supporters are legitimate targets for the muhahideen’s bullets and knives. All of Jordan is an open battlefield!”

ISIS is informing the world of its coming targets, say DEBKAfile’s counterterrorism sources, which are:

1. The overthrow of the Hashemite king and his rule, and

2. The seizure of southern Jordan.

If Baghdadi succeeds in this scheme, he will gain control of a large stretch of land adjacent to Israel and Egyptian Sinai to the west and Saudi Arabia to the south, thereby bringing both under threat and placing itself close enough to block the port of Aqaba, Jordan’s only outlet to the sea.

From the desert region of southern Jordan, ISIS will also achieve proximity to the Sinai desert – through Israeli and Egyptian Bedouin – and be able to control the main Middle East arms-smuggling route and the Sinai center of operations of this illicit and enormously profitable trade

ISIS Attacks Northern Sinai, 15 Egyptian Police Dead

June 5, 2016

ISIS Attacks Northern Sinai, 15 Egyptian Police Dead, The Jewish PressHana Levi Julian, June 5, 2016

Egyptian security forces stand by their Armoured Personell Carriers ahead of a military operation in the northern Sinai peninsula on August 08, 2012. Egypt, which launched air raids against Islamist militants in Sinai for the first time in decades, faces a tough enemy that has used the peninsula's rugged terrain to evade capture in the past. The military said it deployed Apache helicopter gunships in the strikes that killed 20 "terrorists" in the Sinai village of Tumah, in retaliation for a weekend ambush that cost the lives of 16 soldiers. AFP PHOTO/STRINGERSTRINGER/AFP/GettyImagesEgyptian security forces stand by their Armored Personnel Carriers ahead of a military operation in the northern Sinai peninsula.

Da’esh (ISIS) operatives from the local Sinai Province terrorist group carried out a massive attack Friday in the northern Sinai Peninsula.

At least 15 Egyptian police officers were killed in one of the terror attacks on a checkpoint in El Arish.

Terrorists attacked the checkpoint using a car bomb and followed up with mortar fire against government troops at the site, according to a translation of the Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper report, cited by Egypt Independent.

The Sinai Province group officially claimed responsibility for the attack a few hours later.

Also on Friday the Masa’ed Sheikh Zuwayed power line in northern Sinai came under attack by terrorists. The attack led to power blackouts in Sheikh Zuwayed and in Rafah, located on Egypt’s border with Gaza.

Such incidents are common, according to the Electricity Ministry, which said security forces provide protection for technicians tasked with repairing the lines. The forces are also tasked with hunting for the terrorists responsible for the attacks that cause the blackouts.

Egypt and Israel have been quietly working together to fight against the attempt by Da’esh to increase its forces in the area.

The Islamist terror group has also forged a bond with Gaza’s ruling Hamas terrorist organization, further complicating the already complex security situation along Israel’s southern border.

Since the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Iranian proxy Hezbollah terror group both also have operatives moving in and out of Sinai and Gaza, one wonders how long it will take before Da’esh and Iran sit down to discuss an alliance, with the Muslim Brotherhood (which gave birth to Hamas) as the broker.

US military chiefs overrate damage to ISIS

May 28, 2016

US military chiefs overrate damage to ISIS, DEBKAfile, May 28, 2016

The US military chiefs fighting ISIS, have recently claiming that the US has re-organized its military resources and is determined to cut down the Islamic state after its lame efforts in the last two years.

These words of encouragement have come from genral Votel commander of US Middle East forces and the first US General to be assigned to Syria in its nearly six years of war, and Lt. Gen Charles Brown commanding the US Al Udied Air Base in Qatar where 750 aircraft operating in the Gulf and Middle East are based.

When US airstrikes against the Jihadist organization began the offensive in late 2014 was marred by inadequate intelligence and (specifically that of intelligence analysis), and sporadic aerial action.

DEBKAfiles repeatedly reported that American and coalition air strikes  against the Jihadists were too few, misfired and many of the bombers returned to base with much of their ordinance unused.

It appears that the Obama administration has finally decided to tackle ISIS in earnest.

Our military and anti-terror experts claim it is too soon to determine whether the US commitment is real.

It is true that there are signs of limited US military movement in Syria, Libya and Iraq indicating a possible change.

For example: Increasing the number of US special forces in these three countries, far beyond the framework that President Obama is talking about publicly, when he says ‘small forces’.

There are about 7,500 US soldiers deployed in Iraq and Syria, with an additional  2,000-3,000 fighters working for private security contractors. In Libya there are an additional 1,000 to 1,250  soldiers. American planes take off from Incirlilk base in South Turkey 350km by air from Raqqa, ISIS Syrian capital, and 700km from Mosul, ISIS Iraqi capital, and do not need to fly more than 1,450km (about 770 miles) when they approach from the Persian Gulf.

ISIS still shows no sign of cracking or dismantling its Islamic Caliphate, and its military and terrorist capabilities.

ISIS_State_of_war_25.5.16

There are several reasons for this:

ISIS is expanding fast. While the Obama administration treats Iraq and Syria as the main fronts against the jihadi organization, ISIS has opened three more fronts: in Egypt, Sinai Peninsula, and Libya. While the US had quietly added 4 to 5 detachments of US special forces, these forces are too small to be a military challenge to the terror organization, and all they can do is fight ISIS with the help of local forces, as the US are doing in Iraq and Syria.

In addition to Mosul and Raqqa, the ISIS has established capitals at the Lybian port of Sirte on the Mediterranean Sea and in Jabal Halal mountain range in central Sinai with a cluster of ISIS bases. They provide a fallback option for the terrorist organization in the still distant prospect of Raqqa and Mosul falling to US and local forces.

When General Brown reported that the US Air Force is now hitting ISIS held oil fields, funds and headquarters, and that its revenue has fallen “only” to $56 million per day, he omitted to mention the ISIS Lybian oil fields and their revenue. In fact, DEBKAfile’s military sources note that ISIS is making up for revenue shortfalls in Syria and Iraq by pumping oil in Libya and the surrounding desert.

While US military sources claim that 45 percent of the territory the Islamic State seized in Iraq in 2014, and 20 percent in Syria, has been reclaimed, ISIS still hangs on to its key strategic assets.

Furthermore ISIS this week launched an offensive in the northern and eastern Syrian regions of Aleppo, Azaz, and Deir-a-Zor`; and inflicted damaging assaults on May 14 and May 23 on Russian bases and Syrian Syrian government centers near Jableh and Tartous in Western Syria. It is obvious its external terrorist capacity has not been cut down as was expected.

US and Middle East intelligence agencies hold information showing that ISIS is going to expand its bomb attacks in major cities in Europe and the Middle East, in the coming weeks. This follows an estimate of the organization’s leaders that the attacks on the Russian and Egyptian passenger aircrafts, and the terror attacks in Paris, Brussels and Tunisia, to be very successful.

ISIS to Israel: “We’re coming very soon”

May 8, 2016

ISIS to Israel: “We’re coming very soon” DEBKAfile, May 8, 2016

65 Killed in Egypt's Sinai, ISIS Claims Responsibility

65 Killed in Egypt’s Sinai, ISIS Claims Responsibility

The last 48 hours (May 7-8) have seen a major escalation of the ISIS threats against Israel, DEBKAfile’s intelligence and counterterrorism sources report. In a coordinated maneuver by all of the ISIS commands in the Middle East, the terrorist organization simultaneously released at least 10 videos that it said showed ISIS forces on their way to attack targets in Israel.

All of the videos refer to the Palestinian issue, Jerusalem and the timing of the attacks. In each one, the narrator claims the terror organization did not forget the Palestinians, and will not neglect them any more; describes Jerusalem as “a bridge to Islam”; and threatens an impending attack, saying “We’re coming, and coming very soon” accompanied by images of fighters from the ISIS affiliate in the Sinai are shown.

It was not the first time for the ISIS propaganda machine to threaten hostilities against Israel, but it was the first time for the threat to be issued simultaneously from every province or city where ISIS is located in the Middle East. The videos included ones from Raqqa, the ISIS capital in Syria; Mosul, the terrorist organization’s capital in Iraq; the Sinai Peninsula and Egypt; Derna in eastern Libya; and central Libya, where according to DEBKAfile’s counterterrorism sources ISIS controls a huge 300-kilometer area including the Mediterranean coast on the Gulf of Sidra.

Our sources report that every video contains the following sentences: “We know that the Egyptian army is being helped by Israeli intelligence and the Israeli Air Force in its war against us”; “We also know that Israel set up intelligence networks within the population of the Bedouin tribes in the Sinai”; and “From now on we will take action against Egyptian and Israeli targets as one.”

DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources report that these comments are intended to counter efforts by the Egyptian military to establish anti-ISIS militias among the Bedouin tribes. This came after American counterterrorism experts advised the Egyptian military to operate the same way that the US operates among the Sunni tribes in western Iraq’s Anbar province, where US military instructors are setting up local militias to prevent ISIS fighters from entering or passing through areas under the tribes’ control.

Our sources report that three Bedouin anti-ISIS militias have been established in the Sinai so far: the “Sons of Sinai”, “Unit 103”; and the “Death Squad”.

Meanwhile, the ISIS affiliate in the Sinai carried out one of its boldest terrorist attacks on Sunday, May 8, killing eight Egyptian policemen including an officer, in the Cairo suburb of Helwan. Four masked terrorists with automatic weapons jumped out of a commercial vehicle that had blocked a minibus transporting the policemen, fired hundreds of bullets at the minibus, killing everyone inside, and then fled the scene.

Western counterterrorism experts monitoring ISIS-Sinai estimate that it not only has the ability to carry out terrorist attacks in major Egyptian cities, but also against Israel.

US Sinai pullback payback for islands handover

April 27, 2016

US Sinai pullback payback for islands handover, DEBKAfile, April 27, 2016

RedSeaBab2

The US withdrew its forces from the Sinai Peninsula last weekend in retaliation for Egypt’s transfer of sovereignty over Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia, according to DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources. They also report that the move came after Washington protested to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi over its exclusion from the consultations and military coordination between Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel regarding the islands.

The US message was clear. Since Riyadh, Cairo and Jerusalem do not report their military steps in the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea to Washington, the US sees no need to inform them of its military steps in the Sinai.

That message was conveyed by the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joseph F. Dunford, to the Egyptian president during their meeting on Saturday, April 23 in Cairo.

On Tuesday, DEBKAfile’s military sources reported that several days earlier the US military secretly withdrew about 100 of its officers and enlisted men from the multinational peacekeeping force in the northern part of the Sinai. As far as Riyadh, Cairo and Jerusalem are concerned, there is no doubt that it was a retaliatory measure.

US sources refused to specify the current location of the troops. The American force was withdrawn from El Gorah base, located next to the town of Sheikh Zuweid. Gen. Dunford told al-Sisi that the Obama administration is no longer willing to maintain forces in the northern Sinai following the recent shelling of the base by the ISIS affiliate in the restive area. The incident marked the terrorist organization’s first attack on US troops in the Sinai, but its second on an American force in the Middle East.

On March 19, ISIS shelled Fire Base Bell, a US marine base in Makhmur, northern Iraq, about 77 kilometers southeast of the terrorist organization’s de facto capital of Mosul. One marine was killed.

It was not by chance that shortly before he visited Cairo, Gen. Dunford made a visit lasting no more than 90 minutes to the US forward base to award purple hearts to four marines for their bravery during the ISIS shelling.

But while Washington is determined to maintain Fire Base Bell, where it has deployed HIMARS rocket launchers that can fire GPS-guided rockets known as GMLRS capable of reaching Mosul, and awards medals to soldiers serving at the base, it is not ready to treat its soldiers in the Sinai in the same manner because they have the status of multinational observers. Rather than giving out medals, it withdrew those soldiers immediately after the first ISIS attack.

At the same time, US sources launched an unprecedented personal attack on Egypt’s president over his decision to hand over the two islands to Riyadh. Articles attacking El-Sisi’s policy started to appear in the American media, with one saying “The decision to transfer the islands to Saudi Arabia may be the final nail in Sissi’s coffin.” It also described Egypt as being on the verge of a revolution against al-Sisi.

Two other Middle Eastern figures who were involved in Cairo’s decision regarding the islands were Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammad bin Salman and Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who said recently that Cairo consulted Jerusalem regarding the transfer of the islands. However, his comment was not mentioned in US media reports, as if the development was not related to Saudi Arabia or Israel.

DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report that one of the main reasons for Washington’s rage was the fact that Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel decided to establish and coordinate by themselves a regional defense mechanism covering the Suez Canal, the gulfs of Suez and Aqaba, and the Red Sea.

The Obama administration prefers to ignore the fact that the US withdrawal of its naval and air forces from those areas over the last three years has enabled the Iranian fleet to start operating in those waters.

US mulling withdrawal of Sinai multinational force, reports say

April 6, 2016

US mulling withdrawal of Sinai multinational force, reports say, DEBKAfile, April 6, 2016

The Obama administration is considering the redeployment of the multinational peacekeeping force in the Sinai Peninsula, made up primarily of US troops, from bases in the north to more well-protected ones in the south, and replacing the troops with unmanned technology, reports said Wednesday. The move comes amid continuing terrorist attacks by ISIS in the area. Defense Department spokesman Christopher Sherwood said in a statement issued Tuesday that “The (Pentagon) supports the role being played by the Multinational Force and Observers in supporting the Treaty of Peace between Israel and Egypt,” adding that “We are in continuous contact with the MFO and adjust force protection capabilities as conditions warrant.” The MFO consists of soldiers from numerous nations including 700 US troops. Some of its observer stations were shut down in September 2015 after four of peacekeepers were injured in an ISIS roadside bomb attack.

The Sinai Insurgency is Spiking

March 29, 2016

The Sinai Insurgency is Spiking, Israel DefenseDr. Shaul Shay, March 29, 2016

(Please see also, Sisi asks Obama for military intervention to save Egypt from ISIS. — DM)

SianiPhoto: AP

On March 19, 2016, a terrorist attack on a checkpoint in the Safa neighborhood in southern Arish city resulted in the death of 15 police personnel. The victims were two police captains, a first lieutenant, and 12 conscripts. A police officer and two conscripts are still missing after the attack and the whereabouts of the three “missing” police officers are still unknown. Egyptian security forces killed five of the terrorists after violent clashes that lasted for two hours.

This attack is the last among a series of terrorist attacks that have targeted army and police centers in the Sinai Peninsula. The attack was the biggest in Sinai this year and the deadliest since July 2015. It could mark the return of Wilayat Sinai (Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis) to large-scale coordinated attacks after a period of limited operations against checkpoints and security personnel.

Wilayat Sinai has claimed numerous deadly attacks in the region recently, targeting mainly security forces. Earlier this week, an Egyptian soldier and police officer were killed during two separate attacks in the northern Sinai Peninsula. Gunmen affiliated with Wilayat Sinai shot and killed the officer outside his home in el-Arish. A soldier was also killed by a sniper in Sheikh Zuweid, which is not far from el-Arish.

The attack

The terror attack was carefully organized, suggesting it had long been planned. Wilayat Sinai surveillance personnel had probably observed the checkpoint for some time and that automatic weapons and an RPG were stashed nearby.

The checkpoint was close to a valley and olive farm, providing ground cover that the terrorists probably used to crawl undetected on the ground as they hid their weapons. When the suicide bomber struck, his cohorts were then able to fire on any survivors using their cache of weapons.

According to the prosecutor-general, the incident took place at 6.30pm on Saturday (March 19). Prosecutors say checkpoint personnel were subjected to mortar and RPG fire. Ambulances attempting to reach the scene of the attack also came under heavy gunfire.

Wilayat Sinai claimed responsibility

The Wilayat Sinai, which is affiliated with the Islamic State group, claimed responsibility for the attack. In a statement on Twitter, the group said the attack was “part of a series of operations in response to the humiliation and searching of Muslim women at checkpoints.”

The statement said a suicide bomber – Abul-Qaaqaa Al-Masri – drove an explosive-laden car into the security force and detonated it. The statement threatened more attacks in the future.

The response of the Egyptian security forces

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi held a security meeting attended by the ministers of interior and defense, the army chief of staff and senior army and police commanders. Presidential spokesperson Alaa Youssef said Al-Sisi ordered the army and police to coordinate fully in the field.

Security forces were placed on high alert, and the decision was taken to continue targeting terrorist and criminal dens while simultaneously prioritizing the safety and security of civilians.

Egypt’s North Sinai prosecution began investigations into the attack. The prosecution has inspected the site of the attack and will later listen to the testimonies of eyewitnesses and officials in the checkpoint, judicial sources said.

A few days later, Egypt’s army executed an operation to get revenge for the army and police martyrs. The forces destroyed a number of militant hideouts in Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid cities in raids. An Egyptian Army spokesperson has said that 60 Islamic State group militants were killed after fighter jets targeted the group’s positions in North Sinai.

In a Facebook post detailing the outcome of the operation, Brig. Gen. Mohammed Samir said, “counterterrorism units backed by the air force” had “killed 60 terrorists, wounded another 40 and destroyed 27 four-wheel (drive) pick-up trucks south of Rafah and Sheikh Zayed.”

Egypt’s war against terror

A new report of the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) think tank, shows Egypt suffered more than 100 attacks on average per month from January to August 2015, compared to around 30 attacks per month in 2014.

The attacks are also spreading around the country. Until June 2013 violence was mostly contained to North Sinai, but after the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi by Egypt’s military, reports of militant strikes are coming in from all over the country. In particular, Greater Cairo (the provinces of Giza and Cairo), Fayoum and Sharqia have seen a spike in incidents.

The insurgency in North Sinai has transformed into near-daily attacks, often with use of advanced weaponry. Civilians account for the majority of casualties in these strikes.

Another report of the Regional Center for Strategic Studies – the Cairo index of stability, confirmed that terrorist organizations in Egypt in 2015 have become more aggressive than ever before. The number of terrorist attacks reached 617 in 2015, compared with 349 in 2014. According to the same index, Sinai’s statistics are among the worst in Egypt, as the number of terrorist attacks there reached 90 in 2015.

Yet details of the index confirmed there was a crackdown on terrorist organizations following the attacks on Sheikh Zuweid (July 2015): The total number of terrorist attacks in Egypt from August to December 2015 dropped significantly to 64, compared with 170 in the same 2014 period. The escalation in the attacks in recent weeks indicates that Egypt’s efforts to eliminate terrorism in Sinai has not been successful.

According to Maha Abdel Azim (Egyptian streets, March 13, 2016), an estimated 2100 people were killed in North Sinai in 2015, including roughly 1800 described by the military as terrorists, 150 civilians, 40 police officers and conscripts, and 140 military personnel. Many civilians are direct victims of militant attacks or are killed by often unidentified shelling. Others were killed in the crossfires during clashes between the military and militant groups. The estimate is a roundup based on statements by the military spokesperson as well as reporting from Aswat Masriya and Ahram Online.

In January 2016, Islamic State wrote in its weekly magazine Naba’, which runs news from the group’s various branches, that the Sinai branch had killed 1,400 people – members of the military and police as well as collaborators and tribal fighters – in the previous 15 months. The Egyptian military has disputed this figure and said only 69 military personnel were killed in that period.

Summary

Egyptian forces are grappling with an Islamist insurgency based in North Sinai governorate, which spiked following the 2013 ouster of President Mohamed Morsi. The insurgency has killed hundreds of Egyptian security forces, while the armed forces have said their operations have killed Thousands of militants in the area.

One of Wilayat Sinai’s largest attacks came on July 1 ,2015, when car bombs targeted security checkpoints in Sheikh Zuweid. According to a statement from Egyptian army officials issued shortly after the attacks, 17 soldiers and more than 100 militants died.

The challenge of the ongoing terror attacks in Sinai demand a comprehensive response of military and civilian counter measures. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced last year to spend 10 billion Egyptian pounds ($1.28 million) on developing the Sinai Peninsula. Additionally, the current government has said that it recognizes the need to work with the local population and provide a development program for the region.

Egypt urgently needs to come up with proper long-term social, political, and economic strategies. Only a well-coordinated plan of dialogue with the local population, social and economic development and military and security crackdown on terrorism will return security and stability to the Sinai region.