Egypt: escalating violence in Sinai Peninsula

Some 40 supporters of Egypt’s deposed president Mohamed Morsi were injured as soldiers opened fire on protesters outside a government office in El Arish, a town in the northern Sinai Peninsula July 6. (Euronews, July 6) That same day, a Coptic Christian priest, Mina Aboud Sharween, was shot dead while walking on a street in El Arish—apparently the first sectarian killing since the power transfer. Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood had criticized Pope Tawadros, spiritual leader of Egypt’s 8 million Copts, for giving his blessing to the removal of the president and attending the announcement by army chief Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, suspending the constitution. (The Guardian, July 6)

One day earlier, five police officers guarding government buildings were gunned down in separate incidents in El-Arish. Troops and Morsi supporters also clashed at the other end of the peninsula, in the cities of Suez and Ismailia on the Suez Canal. (JP, July 5)

A representative of the Sinai-based militant network al-Salafiyya al-Jihadiyya has announced the formation of a new front in the wake of Morsi’s ouster, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, to be called “Ansar al-Sharia in Egypt.” In its founding statement, the group warns it will “make preparations and acquire means of power such as weapons and training.” The statement accuses Egypt’s Christians of arming in preparation for a massacre of Muslims, “until churches became fortresses and weapons depots…” The statement asks rhetorically: “Shall we leave ourselves that weak to let massacres happen to Muslims in Egypt and let it turn to another Andalusia?”

In a seeming swipe at more moderate Islamists, the group says it will work to “implement the Sharia of the Lord of the Worlds,” but not “the alleged democratic Sharia,” which is a “system that cannot deliver us to the implementation of the Sharia of Allah and the removal of the submission to the West over the necks of Muslims in any way.” (Long War Journal, July 6)

Ansar al-Sharia already has local franchises in Tunisia and Yemen, where it is said to be a wing of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsual (AQAP). 

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