In the framework of the ongoing nationwide counter-terrorism drive, the Egyptian Armed Forces have delivered a succession of blows to terrorist operatives and infrastructure over recent days.
According to a statement from the General Command of the Armed Forces on Sunday, a series of coordinated military operations succeeded in killing 89 “extremely dangerous” jihadists in North Sinai and seizing 73 machine guns, a drone equipped with a camera, communications equipment, and sums of money.
The Armed Forces also destroyed 404 explosive devices planted on roads, four explosive belts, and 52 vehicles and 59 motorcycles used by jihadists. The operations unearthed and destroyed 13 openings to tunnels used by terrorists to infiltrate into Sinai.
To the west, Egyptian border guards tracked, targeted, and destroyed 200 four-wheel drive vehicles, some carrying weapons and ammunition, as they attempted to penetrate prohibited zones along Egypt’s western and southern borders.
Eight soldiers were killed or wounded in the course of “the valiant combat efforts of our Armed Forces in the areas of operations,” the Armed Forces communiqué said.
The statement shows, firstly, that the Armed Forces have sustained the strategy of pre-emptive counterterrorist strikes in four strategic directions. As the previous General Command statement was issued on 8 December 2020, it is possible to assume that the statement released this week covers operations carried out during the last nine months.
Secondly, it shows that terrorists are still active in North Sinai and are trying to procure weapons, ammunition, and explosives from sources abroad. The presence of a surveillance drone among the seized equipment is noteworthy, as it is an indication of the terrorists’ narrowing scope of movement as a result of the Armed Forces’ control over the theatre of operations in Sinai.
It is also indicative of their ability to frustrate the terrorists’ attempts to seek alternative equipment as a way of compensating for their lack of manoeuvrability. The sealing of the tunnels reflects the Armed Forces’ ongoing efforts to prevent the infiltration of terrorist elements from Gaza.
Thirdly, the statement shows that the security situation in western Libya continues to pose a threat to Egypt’s eastern border, especially towards the south in the vicinity of the intersection with Egypt’s border with Sudan. Mercenary organisations have proliferated in these areas, a situation that the terrorist organisations in Sinai hope to benefit from. It is believed that at least some of the mercenary organisations are in the pay of powers hostile to Egypt.
The recent military cooperation agreements with both Libya and Sudan, Egypt’s augmented defence capacities along all land and maritime borders, the Armed Forces’ increasingly honed skills in monitoring and intercepting threats, and other such factors reflect the qualitative technological and operational progress that Egyptian counterterrorist operations have attained in the battle against terrorism in the Middle East.
Such progress is of the essence in view of the growing presence of terrorist organisations in the North African Sahel region.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 5 August, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly