Category Archives: Egypt

Terror in the Sinai: Ongoing battles, police under siege, at least 100 dead

Roi Kais, News Agencies// Egyptian security and military officials said  on Wednesday that Islamic militants staged simultaneous attacks, including a suicide car bombing, on army checkpoints in northern Sinai, killing at least 100 including soldiers and civilians. 

An Egyptian newspaper said that 64 soldiers and police officers had been killed. While Hamas said that its border with Egypt would be reinforced by extra military operatives.

Islamic State’s Egyptian affiliate claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement on Twitter.

An Egyptian military spokesman said battles were ongoing and that airstrikes against terrorist were also continuing.

Smoke billows after attack in Sinai
Smoke billows after attack in Sinai

 

The Egyptian military issued a statement saying that 70 terrorists had participated in attacks on five checkpoints. It said it returned fire, killing 22 terrorists and destroying three vehicles.

Egyptian media outlets reported that the coordinated attacks in northern Sinai included three suicide bombings.

Officials said militants also took soldiers captive and seized several armored vehicles. Al Arabiya reported that the Egyptian military was boosting its forces in the northern Sinai and the area bordering Gaza. Meanwhile, the Egyptian Defense Ministry announced a level three state of emergency.

Witnesses told Egyptian media outlets that the town of Sheikh Zuweid felt like a warzone, with battles between the IS-affiliated militants and security forces. According to these reports, the militants mined roads in order to limit movement and placed explosive charges around the police headquarters, preventing law enforcement from leaving.

“We are under siege,” a source in the police station told one outlet.  The source denied unverified reports that the town had been fully overrun.

  The attacks came just two days after the assassination in Cairo of the country’s top prosecutor. President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi vowed on Tuesday to step up a two-year crackdown on militants.

Militants in northern Sinai have battled security forces for years but stepped up their attacks following the July 2013 ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

Al-Sisi, then the nation’s army chief, led the ouster and went to become Egypt’s president, winning a landslide election a year ago.

Wednesday’s attacks came in swift response to al-Sisi’s pledge the previous day to carry out justice for the prosecutor general’s assassination — and possibly move to execute Muslim Brotherhood leaders, an Islamist group from which Morsi hails.

Pounding his fist as he spoke Tuesday at the funeral of Barakat, who led the prosecution and oversaw scores of cases against thousands of Islamists, Al-Sisi’s comments seemed to signal an even tougher campaign on the Brotherhood, Egypt’s oldest Islamist group that is now outlawed and declared a terrorist organization.

Egypt has since Morsi’s ouster waged a crackdown that has led to thousands of arrests, mass convictions and death sentences. Morsi is among those condemned to die, but has a potentially lengthy appeal process ahead of him.

Al-Sisi said the government was ready to brush aside criticisms and free the judiciary’s hand for a “battle” the country is prepared to wage.

“The judiciary is restricted by laws, and swift justice is also restricted by laws. We will not wait for that,” el-Sissi said.

Action will be taken within days “to enable us to execute the law, and bring justice as soon as possible,” he said. “We will stand in the face of the whole world, and fight the whole world.”

In a thinly veiled reference to jailed members of the Brotherhood,al-Sisi blamed the violence on those “issuing orders from behind bars,” and warned: “If there is a death sentence, it will be carried out.”

 

 

Egypt to Appoint Israel Ambassador, after 3 Years

Three years after it withdrew its ambassador from Israel, when Operation Pillar of Defense was launched in Gaza, Egypt is about to send a new ambassador to its Tel Aviv embassy.

Hazem Hayrath, 57, who was a senior assistant to the Egyptian foreign minister until recently, was tapped as the new ambassador to Israel and will discharge his duties from the Jewish state.

He will replace the current ambassador, Atef Salem, who was urgently recalled to Cairo in November of 2012, just two months after his appointment, and has since been technically working as Cairo’s Israel ambassador – from Cairo. Salem was recalled by then-president Mohammed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, to protest Israel’s Gaza operation.

The formal changing of the guard is to take place in September.

Following the takeover by General Abdel Fattah a-Sisi in Egypt, Israel appointed a new ambassador to Cairo, Haim Koren. Since then, the countries have been discussing the return of the Egyptian ambassador to Israel.

The Foreign Ministry told Arutz Sheva that it is pleased with the appointment and that it hopes for fruitful cooperation with the new ambassador.

Sinai: Islamic State Claim Rocket Attack on UN Airport

Al-Qaeda supporters in the Sinai

By Ben Ariel/Reuters

Sinai Province, Islamic State’s Egypt affiliate, fired rockets at the direction of an airport in Sinai used by UN peacekeeping forces on Tuesday night, Reuters reported.

Security sources told the news agency there were no casualties in the attack. Details of the attack were not immediately clear, with some sources saying the rockets fell inside the airport and others saying they fell outside.

Sinai Province claimed responsibility for the attack on several Twitter accounts linked to it, according to Reuters.

Sinai Province, formerly known as Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis, has claimed responsibility for most of the terrorist attacks in the restive Sinai Peninsula over the last few years.

Among the attacks claimed by the group since Morsi’s ouster was the assassination of a top Egyptian police general, who was gunned down as he left his home in a west Cairo neighborhood, and a bus bombing on a tour bus filled with South Korean tourists in the Sinai.

Most recently, members of the group killed two Egyptian judges and a prosecutor in the Sinai, in an attack which came hours after a court in Cairo sentenced ousted president Mohammed Morsi to death for his role in a mass jailbreak during the 2011 uprising.

The leader of Sinai Province later called on the group’s followers to continue to attack local judges.

Go Sisi! Egypt army has killed 725 terrorists over 6 months in Sinai campaign

Egypt’s offensive against violent militants in the Sinai Peninsula has resulted in the deaths of 725 terrorists, a new report by the Egyptian army claims.

According to al-Ahram, the report, which was released on Saturday, details operations spanning the period between October 25 to April 30 of last year. It specifically details February as being the most lethal month, during which 173 terrorists were killed, and January as the calmest, with 44 on the radicals reported dead.

Apart from the body count, 1,873 suspects connected to militant groups were reported detained, with most arrests, some 575 taking place in November, and the least, 158, in January.

November also saw the discovery and destruction of the most militant hideouts by security forces, with 1,023 such cases occuring in that month alone. An additional 800 havens were also reported destroyed in the period in question.

Weapons and ammunition, the latter numbering 80,927 and composed of various calibers, were also seized.

Property confiscation was also part of the offensive given the popular implementation of car bombs and hit and run tactics by militants. Cairo’s security forces had apparently seized or destroyed 591 vehicles, in addition to some 1,447 motorcycles, non of whom had license plates.

Egypt has been locked in an escalating insurgency in the Sinai since 2011, when the its military, headed by now president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, deposed the Islamist president Muhammad Morsi, cracking down on his Muslim Brotherhood cohorts and launching a broad effort to suppress any challenge to his rule.

Most of the attacks against security forces in the Sinai, and numerous bombings across the Suez in Egytp’s urban centers have been claimed or attributed to an Islamic State linked jihadist group formerly known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, and now calling itself the Sinai Province.

Egypt: Joint Arab Force to Combat ISIS, Iran Will be Ready Within Four Months

Egypt's ex-army chief and leading presidential candidate Abdel Fattah al-Sisi gives his first television interview since announcing his candidacy in Cairo on May 4, 2014. Sisi is expected to win the May 26-27 election easily riding on a wave of popularity after he ousted in July Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president. The 59-year-old retired field marshal, dressed in a suit and appearing composed and often smiling in what was a pre-recorded interview, is seen by supporters as a strong leader who can restore stability, but his opponents fear that might come at the cost of freedoms sought in the pro-democracy uprising three years ago. AFP PHOTO/STR

David Daoud

The proposed timeline for the establishment of a joint Arab military force is four months, revealed Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on Thursday

Speaking to London-based pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat on the sidelines of a trip to Eritrea in East Africa, Shoukry said there were already technical crews working on the project.

Shoukry refused to divulge details from the recent meeting of Arab chiefs of staff concerning the creation of the joint force, saying only that the force would be ready in four months.

The idea of the Joint Arab Force was first introduced by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who said it was a necessity to combat the expansion of the Islamic State, which currently has strongholds in Syria and Iraq.

The rising threat of Iranian regional influence also adds urgency to the Arab countries’ plan, particularly as Iranian-backed Houthi rebels fight to take over Yemen, and the Saudi-led intervention to roll them back advances.

“The need for a unified Arab force is growing and becoming more pressing every day,” said Sisi back in February. The Egyptian president said he had received offers from both Jordan and the United Arab Emirates to help in the endeavor by sending troops.

“The challenges in the region and those facing our countries are huge … We can overcome those challenges once we are together,” said Sisi.

Last month, Shoukry said that the joint Arab force was necessary to combat the threats of extremism in the region, and that this force would undertake ”quick and effective missions” aimed at rebuffing growing threats to regional stability.

In late March, Arab foreign ministers assembled at an Arab League summit in Egypt’s Sharm Al-Sheikh adopted a draft resolution in support of the force’s creation.

The proposed force will be twice the size of NATO’s Response Force, at 40,000 men, according to an Arab League source. It will be based in Egypt, and will be led by a yet-to-be-determined Saudi officer.

The source also told Defense News that “the majority of the units will be from Egypt and Morocco, with Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Jordan also providing troops, while other countries will have smaller numbers included. The force would be made up of an air command, a naval command and a land operations command.”

Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby spoke optimistically of the measures, which received broad support from Egypt, Kuwait, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

“The resolution sends a clear message that Arab nations can agree on a plan to defend themselves,” Elaraby said.

Iraq and Syria – two Arab countries with very close ties to Iran – opposed the creation of a joint Arab army.

Report: Egypt Preparing Large Assault Against ISIS in Libya Despite Opposition From Obama

Egypt is getting ready to launch a large air and ground attack against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in eastern Libya DebkaFile reports, quoting military and intelligence sources.

The Obama administration is reportedly opposed to the operation.

“Egypt is massing large-scale ground and air forces in the Western Desert along the Libyan border, in preparation for a military campaign to capture eastern Libya — Cyrenaica — from the Islamist State of Syria and Iraq — ISIS — occupation,” reports DebkaFile.

“The substantial naval and marine forces assembling at Egypt’s Mediterranean ports indicate the possible launching of the offensive by dropping Egyptian marines on the Libyan coast around Derna (pop: 100,000), which ISIS has made its provincial capital,” it added. “They may be accompanied by simultaneous landings of paratroops from the air.”

Some officials have warned that ISIS may use Libya to launch attacks against Europe.

The DebkaFile report notes that the Obama administration is against a direct invasion of Libya by Egypt, but would support Cairo taking action through local Libyan militias.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi was not convinced by CIA Director John Brennan who related Obama’s position on April 19.

“President El-Sisi was not surprised to hear from the CIA director that the Obama administration objects to a direct Egyptian invasion of Libya, but would not oppose Cairo acting through local Libyan militias,” said DebkaFile.

“Brennan leaned hard on the Egyptian president to follow Washington’s line, but El-Sisi refused,” it added later.

President El-Sisi did tell the CIA director that he does not plan to keep the Egyptian army in Libya. He is planning to pull his troops out after the jihadists are defeated. Ultimately, El-Sisi said he would hand power back to the elected Libyan government.

ISIS’ presence in eastern Libya and Sinai poses an unacceptable threat to El-Sisi’s country, noted the report.

“He has been warned in a number of intelligence reports that the Islamic State’s terrorists have already penetrated some Egyptian towns and even infiltrated certain army units,” it said.

ISIS is reportedly beefing up its presence in eastern Libya with reinforcements from Syria and Iraq to counter Egypt’s planned assault.

“From Syria, they are traveling by air or sea through the Mediterranean; from Iraq, through the Sinai Peninsula, whence oil and drug rings smuggle them across the Suez Canal and Egypt,” said DebkaFile.

Libya has been engulfed in unrest since Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown and executed in 2011 with the support of the Obama administration. Various tribes, militias, and political groups are competing for power in Libya.

The country has been split by two warring factions. One is led by the elected government operating out of Tobruk and the other by militias in Tripoli.

The Obama administration and other Western nations have been reluctant to intervene.

Egypt, without the support of the U.S., launched airstrikes against ISIS targets in Libya after the jihadist group beheaded 21 Egyptian Christians.