Egyptian border guards patrol near the border with Israel in Rafah, Egypt, August 6, (Photo: AP).
The reported beheading of Manazil Bereikat, a Bedouin tribesman, and the subsequent investigation of his death are the latest chapters in a series of recent developments in Egypt's strategic Sinai Peninsula.
Egyptian security sources believe Bereikat's murder could be connected to his role in the assassination of Ibrahim Ouda Bereikat, a Jihadist member of Sinai-based group Jamaat Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis.
Egyptian security sources believe Ibrahim Bereikat was killed by the Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency. These sources say that footprints and tyre tracks had been identified by local Bedouin trackers.
According to these sources, four Mossad officers hired four Bedouin tribesmen in Sinai to help carry out Ibrahim Bereikat's assassination. These were, according to the sources, Manazil Bereikat, Salama Mohamed Salama Bereikat, Suleiman Bereikat and Mohamed Dakhl Allah.
The Egyptian collaborators, sources say, brought the Mossad officers across the Egypt-Israel border and drove them 15 kilometres into Egyptian territory to the area in which Ibrahim lived. There they helped the Mossad operatives plant the explosives that later killed Ibrahim, who had allegedly been involved in the killing of Israeli tourists in August of last year.
This narrative was corroborated by Jamaat Ansar Bait Al-Maqdis fi Sinaa, the group with which Manazil Bereikat had been affiliated.
In an online statement, the group claimed to have carried out their own investigation and related an almost-identical account of events, albeit in greater detail. According to the statement, the explosives were detonated via an electronic chip affixed to Ibrahim's motorbike by one of the collaborators.
The statement goes on to assert that the Mossad agents had infiltrated Egypt's Sinai Peninsula twice to carry out the assassination.
The first infiltration, according to the statement, had been on 22 August. That attempt failed due to the absence of Ibrahim, who was being interrogated by Egyptian security forces at the time.
The second attempt was carried out the following Saturday, 25 August, which led to Ibrahim's death when the device on his motorbike was detonated by remote control. The statement also claimed the operation had been backed up by Israeli unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones.
The group said there had been three collaborators: Manazil Mohamed Suleiman Salama, Salama Mohamed Salama, and Suleiman Salama Himdan. The group also claimed it had captured Manazil Bereikat, who they killed after he had confessed to involvement in the operation.
The group went on to assert that Suleiman Salam Himdan had been disowned by his family and handed over to Ibrahim's family when news of his collaboration reached them. The last alleged collaborator, Salama Mohamed Salama, is reported to have fled to Israel.
Last month, an attack by unknown assailants that killed 16 Egyptian border guards near the border with the Gaza Strip prompted the Egyptian military to launch 'Operation Eagle' in an attempt to flush suspected Islamist militants out of Sinai's mountainous terrain.
The extensive aerial and ground offensive is the first of its kind since the signing of the Camp David peace agreement between Egypt and Israel in 1979. The treaty tightly limits Egyptian military deployments in certain sectors of the peninsula.
Following Israeli complaints about Egypt's increasing military presence in Sinai in recent weeks, the Egyptian army withdrew its tanks from positions in zones A and B, located approximately 50 kilometres from Egypt's Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip.
So far, 'Operation Eagle' has led to the arrest of more than 23 suspected militants and the killing of 11, according to spokesmen for Egypt's military.