Egypt’s Sinai on high alert over jihadist infiltration

Egypt has declared a state of alert in the Sinai after extremist Islamist fighters set up a military base in the peninsula, Egyptian security officials said June 17.  Egyptian forces and police have imposed curfews on Sinai cities el-Arish, Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah. Military helicopters were seen hovering over the cities, a Ma’an News Agency reporter said.  Militants from Egypt, Palestine and Mali affiliated to jihadist groups and al-Qaeda have deployed heavily in bunkers in a desert area in central Sinai, Egyptian security officials told Ma’an. 

Around 30 “dangerous” militants affiliated to jihadist and Takfiri groups entered Sinai through tunnels from the Gaza Strip to join the camp, the officials said. The militants have large amounts of ammunition and weapons, suggesting they plan to join demonstrations against the Muslim Brotherhood planned for June 30, the security sources added. 

Sinai clan chiefs have formed a popular committee in north Sinai to protect protect strategic facilities and public properties during the planned protests. Abdul-Hamid Salami, chief of the al-Fawakhiriya clan in el-Arish, said Friday that clan dignitaries would hold an emergency meeting on Monday with army and police commanders to discuss ways to protect the peninsula against security chaos.  “We have learned a good lesson from the previous experience during the Jan. 25 revolution,” Salami told Ma’an. “We will sacrifice our souls to protect all security facilities in Sinai, and will not allow Palestinians to infiltrate through smuggling tunnels seeking to support a certain party at the expense of the Egyptian people. We hereby warn in advance that the people of Sinai will defy any external elements and prevent them by force from destroying Sinai or reaching Cairo.” 

From Ma’an News Agency, June 19

  1. US troops to Egypt
    More than 400 US troops are about to be deployed to Egypt as part of the Multinational Force and Observers peacekeeping mission in the Sinai Peninsula. They’re ostensibly tasked with reporting violations of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, but will also be manning checkpoints. The troops trained for six months at Fort Hood, Tex., and at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. The training apparently included courses in corwd control and anti-riot tactics. (Washington Times, June 21)