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Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Sinai’s terrorist attack repelled

Al-Ahram Weekly reports on Sinai’s second terrorist attack this month

Ahmed Eleiba , Wednesday 12 Feb 2020
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The Armed Forces repelled a terrorist attack on a security installation in North Sinai on Sunday. According to local sources, the incident took place in Al-Gora, south of Shiekh Zuweid.

In a press statement Military Spokesman Colonel Tamer Al-Rifaai attributed the army’s success to “the vigilance of the guards who made it possible for the security force at the installation to intercept and engage the terrorists, killing 10 and destroying a four wheel drive vehicle.”

Two officers and five military personnel were killed and wounded during the shootout.

During the funeral ceremonies in Daqahliya, Sohag and Beheira popular anger and condemnation of terrorism rang out amid the expressions of grief.

The Ministry of Interior also announced on Tuesday that 17 terrorist elements were killed in an exchange of fire in the Al-Obaidat area in Arish in North Sinai governorate. It clarified in a statement that the security forces had found eight assault rifles and three explosive devices in their possession. The ministry indicated that they had chased the terrorists in the Al-Obaidat area in Arish, North Sinai, resulting in the death of 11 members, while others managed to escape inside one of the abandoned houses located in the area of Al-Hoss in Arish. However, they too were tracked down, besieged and dealt with, resulting in the death of six others. They were found in possession of four automatic rifles and two blaster belts.

Al-Azhar’s Counter-terrorism Observatory condemned the Sunday attack and added that thanks to the efforts of the army Egypt is no longer among the top 10 countries affected by terrorism. The Egyptian army itself now ranks ninth among the strongest armies in the world.

International reports note the decline in terrorist activity in North Sinai. According to the Global Terrorism Index (GTI), there has been a marked decline in terrorist attacks in North Sinai since 2018, when Egypt launched Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018, compared to 2015 to 2017 when Egypt was ranked the ninth country most affected by terrorism. The latest GTI report, which appeared in November 2019, attributed the decline in deaths due to terrorism in Egypt to the efficacy of the Egyptian army’s counterterrorism drive. As a result of these efforts, the GTI reported that Egypt had “the third largest total fall in deaths and one of the largest percentage decreases, with deaths from terrorism falling 90 per cent in a single year”.

Sunday’s attack was the second terrorist incident this year after a period of relative calm in North Sinai. On 3 February armed men detonated explosives on a gas pipeline near Beir Al-Abd, about 80km west of Arish. The pipeline runs between Egypt and Israel. According to sources in the area they targeted an exposed portion of the pipeline which supplies gas to central Sinai for domestic and industrial use. Both official and local sources confirmed the explosion had not interrupted the pipeline’s operation.

Experts fear that terrorists affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) might be lying low in more populated areas waiting for an opportunity to attack the pipeline again. It was attacked multiple times before Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018 and was eventually forced to cease operations for nearly five years.

On 27 January, five days before the attack on the pipeline, an IS spokesman, Abu Hamza Al-Qorashi, threatened a spate of attacks targeting Israel. The threats appear were made during a more than half hour-long recording outlining the organisation’s new agenda for the region.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 13 February, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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