The Sinai Insurgency is the culmination of tensions from a peninsula that has long been neglected and disregarded. Since its capture by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, the Sinai Peninsula has been captured, recaptured, and returned to Egypt who has then failed to develop the Sinai which has allowed for the marginalization of the local Bedouin tribes. Similarly, the location of the peninsula is to the far north-west of Egypt and as such, the government has neglected to exercise full control in the area, leading to an ‘increasingly lawless scenario’. Consequently, it has enabled Islamic militants who continue to terrorise and attack Egyptian Security Forces.
The trigger for the current landscape of the Sinai Peninsula can be handed to the 2011 Arab Spring uprising leading to the collapse of both the Mubarak regime in Egypt and the Gaddafi regime in Libya. These altered environments led Islamic extremists from the Gaza strip and the wider region to flock to the Sinai as well as allowing for huge quantities of weapons to be smuggled into the area. This coupled with the temporary withdrawal of police and military from the Sinai due to the uprising has led to the insurgency that we see today.
In July 2013, the insurgency further deteriorated. With the increased protests against the Muslim Brotherhood, the military was pushed to oust Mubarak’s successor, the democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi. Morsi had promised to end discrimination against the Sinai Bedouin tribes and address their concerns. However, with his ousting followed a year-long interim until former Defence Minister Abdel Fatah al-Sisi was elected President in May 2014 with the promise of continued crackdowns against the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters.
The challenges of Islamic extremism are far from over, November 2014, Wilayat Sinai (previously referred to as Ansar Bait al-Maqdis) declared its allegiance to the Islamic State. This group then became the biggest and most organised militant group in the region. This altered the campaign of terrorism, which moved away from soft targets e.g. hotels and restaurants, and instead focused the insurgency on structured low-to-mid level hard targets e.g. military camps and churches. As can be seen in the case of the Al-Rawda Mosque where the use of bombs along with militants who were equipped with small arms stormed the mosque, killing 312 and injuring 122. Furthermore, the group utilizes IS tactics such as beheading suspected informants as a way of emphasizing propaganda and demonstrative terror. However, over the years such tactics are proving to alienate the local Bedouin tribes.
Egypt’s response in the Sinai has continued to place emphasis on security, as it involves counter-insurgency tactics, detentions, curfews, and operations such as Operation Eagle and Operation Sinai. This security heavy approach to the insurgency has left little room for the al-Sisi regime to address the concerns of the Bedouin, whose interests have underpinned the insurgency since its inception. Therefore, by continuing this approach as opposed to assuaging local anger and grievances it appears that the militant attacks will persist against the Egyptian forces.
Where: Sinai Peninsula (Egypt, North Africa)
Population: 1.4 million
Deaths: 1,000 security force members
1,500 extrajudicial killings
Refugees/Displaced peoples: 100,000
Historically, the Egyptian government has pursued a policy of marginalization socially, economically, and politically against the Bedouin tribes in Sinai. However, Morsi had been elected on the promise of outreach to the Bedouin tribes. This promise included, change to the discriminatory treatment of the tribes and a reinvestigation of the cases related to Bedouin who had been jailed for extremist activities. However, none of these promises were kept. Therefore, with the addition of insurgent and terrorist attacks in the Sinai, the government policy under al-Sisi has been to pursue a security heavy response.
The military since Nasser’s coup against the monarchy in 1952 has been the dominant political institution in Egypt. Consequently, it is the role of the Egyptian military to act in Sinai. However, such actions are limited due to the terms of the Treaty of Peace between Egypt and Israel. This treaty restricts the number of soldiers Egypt can deploy in the peninsula. Yet, to counter attacks, Israel has authorised the Egyptian government to deploy two additional infantry battalions in Sinai to counter the terrorist threat.
The Egyptian counter-terrorism approach has evolved over the years, seeing improvement in countering IED’s which soldiers in Sinai often fell victim to. While this improvement has proved effective in reducing the death toll of soldiers, their strategy to defeat the insurgency in Sinai has been brutal and often ineffective with little change on the ground. This brutality has led security forces to be accused of human rights violations. There has also been evidence of the Egyptian government and military using the Sinai insurgency as a façade to pursue other agendas e.g. the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and a blockade of Gaza to isolate and impoverish Hamas.
There are approximately 33 tribes across North and South Sinai, however, these are no accurate population figures for Sinai, but it is approximated that there are 300,000 Bedouins in the North and South governorates. Tribes are differentiated by origin, traditions, and language amongst other factors. Consequently, there is a level of inter-tribal competition which has led to a lack of pan-tribal leadership, hindering them from negotiations with the Egyptian state as a single coherent group.
The tribes have long been opposed to Cairo due to the discrimination and segregation placed against them. This includes the creation of a resort town on their traditional lands, the unemployment and lack of social services being delivered to their communities and are barred from joining the military and are locked out of key government positions. These actions by the Egyptian government have occurred due to the belief that during the period of Israeli occupation, the tribes collaborated with the Israeli forces. Therefore, there is a level of distrust between the two factions. These sentiments led the Bedouin tribes to be among the first to rise up in 2011. However, Bedouin attacks can be characterised as being significantly less violent than those of militants, as the Bedouin engage largely in kidnappings for ransom or the prison release of fellow tribesman.
This anger towards the Egyptian government has led some of the Bedouin tribes to fight alongside Jihadi groups, despite the lack of conviction in their Islamic ideology. However, there is to some extent evidence of radicalisation of Bedouin tribes and members joining militant groups, but to a lesser extent. What has been growing is the hostility from the tribes towards militant groups, this has particularly grown since Wilayat Sinai declared their allegiance to ISIS.
Founded by Hassan al-Banna in 1928, the Sunni Islamist group hold the objective of transforming Egyptian society towards a system based on Islamic law and principles whilst fusing Muslims nations against Western values.
The Brotherhood has persevered through decades of repression and persecution. First by Gamal Abdel Nasser’s regime during the 1950s and 60s which can be characterized by mass detentions. It then followed to endure over three decades of antagonism from the regimes of both Presidents Anwar al-Sadat and Hosni Mubarak. However, the group has persisted to progressively develop a strong network by providing social services to local communities.
After the 2011 Arab Spring and the ousting of Mubarak, it was the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party who won the 2011-2012 parliamentary elections with Morsi as their candidate. However, the economic mismanagement of the party and growing fears of an Islamist power grab led to large protests and the ousting of Morsi.
Since December 2013, the Brotherhood has been labelled a terror organization and has turned into an underground network. Now, the organization has a moderate faction mostly composed of members committed to non-violence and political reforms, while some revolutionaries remain who seek to overthrow the regime through violence.
Since the early 2000s militant Islamist groups have been operating in the Sinai. However, since 2011 new Islamist groups have emerged in Egypt who have routinely launched attacks against government forces. The dominant terrorist groups operating in the Sinai can be broken into three affiliate groups: 1. ISIS, 2. Al-Qaeda, and 3. The Muslim Brotherhood.
Wilayat Sinai is an ISIS affiliate who emerged in 2011 following the overthrow of President Mubarak and who in 2014 changed its name from Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (ABM) and declared its allegiance to ISIS. This group seeks to establish an Islamic Caliphate within Egypt and eliminate the Egyptian government, army and both non-Muslims and non-jihadi Muslims. The group operates predominantly in the Sinai using conventional guerilla tactics whilst also carrying out large-scale attacks against civilians. Despite failing to control territory within Egypt, the group did have a short-lived success in the seizure of the town Sheikh Zuweid in July 2015.
Another branch of ISIS is the ‘Soldiers of the Caliphate’ led by Amr Saad, emerged in 2014 and has carried out attacks on Coptic Churches and other places of worship.
Jama’at al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad (JTJ) is an extremist group allied to al-Qaeda. JTWJ is considered the ‘original’ militant group responsible for terrorist attacks in Sinai back in the 2000s where it was founded by Khaled Musa’id. JTJ has focused on an anti-Israel message, therefore the group has attacked areas where Israeli tourists in Egypt frequent e.g. the Hilton attack in 2004.
Other groups linked to al-Qaida include Jund al-Islam is a rival to Wilayat Sinai and condemns ISIS’s targeting of Muslim civilians. The fighters for this group utilized the lack of security apparatus following the fall of the Gaddafi regime in Libya to train, recruit and accumulate weapons. The group believes that the Egyptian military are traitors to Islam and so have targets Military bases e.g. in 2013 they claimed responsibility for the bombing of the Rafah military intelligence building.
Those associated with the Muslim brotherhood include Hassm and Lewaa al-Thawra which emerged in 2016. These groups are composed of former Brotherhood members; however, they do not claim a formal affiliation to the Brotherhood. Hassm and Lewaa al-Thawra are responsible for attacks on infrastructure, security forces, and religious figures, but do not target civilians. The group has shown little signs of activity since 2017.
The MFO is an independent peacekeeping force comprising of approximately 1,700 troops from 12 countries. Following the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the region in 1982, the MFO troops have taken their position in Sinai. The role of the organization is to monitor the terms of the Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel and is funded by the US, Egypt, and Israel.
The MFO has been caught in the crossfire between militant attacks and Egyptian counterinsurgency, resulting in the MFO to remain confined to its bases as it holds no mandate to play any role In the Sinai conflict. This has led to attacks on the MFO, while still not major targets of militants in 2015, four American and two Fijian peacekeepers were wounded in blasts near the MFO’s north camp. In 2016 the US Defence Secretary formally notified Egypt and Israel that the US was considering the reconfiguration of the mission in Sinai and this would entail the withdrawal of troops and instead place reliance on remote sensing technology.
The EU-Egypt partnership has been on the rise for the past several years, with the two parties signing an association agreement in 2017. The agreement aims to support Egypt in its pursuit of stability through supporting socio-economic development, improved governance, security and terrorism. The 528 million Euro deal is meant to help Egypt until 2020. Individual countries with the EU have condemned Egypt’s human rights records, but they continue to sell arms and sign cooperation agreements.
Israel controlled the Sinai Peninsula for a 15-year period following the Six-Day War in 1967. During this occupation, Israel forged relations with Bedouin leaders by providing social services and developing the area’s tourist industry. However, following the transfer to Egyptian control, the Mubarak regime instead of continuing Israel’s policies ostracized the Bedouin’s from the Egyptian state.
A peaceful and stable Sinai is beneficial to both Egypt and Israel. Since the 2011 Arab Spring, Israel has been subjected to a number of attacks originating from Sinai. Therefore, both Egypt and Israel both share the hope for a peaceful and stable Sinai. This has led to a level of cooperation between the two powers as Israel has allowed Egypt to increase the number of troops deployed in the region. This has been allowed despite the Treaty of Peace which restricts the number of Egyptian forces deployed in the area.
Similarly, Israel has bolstered its own security forces along with building a 240km fence along the border it shares with Egypt. The fence has acted as a form of deterrence not only from insurgent attacks, but also to hamper human trafficking and smuggling. The southern Israeli border has experienced an influx of migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa (notably Eritrea and Sudan) who aim to enter Israel via Sinai.
Timeline of the crisis
Following the signing of the Peace Treaty between Israel and Egypt, the Sinai Peninsula had been traditionally quiet, with infrequent attacks. However, the turn into the new millennium brought an increase of attack in the region. Most of the attacks were related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rather than locally-focused issues. One of the most notable attacks was the October 7th attacks on the Hilton Taba and campsites used by Israelis in Ras al-Shitan. The VBIED attack on Hilton Taba not only killed 34 people but also caused the ten-floor hotel to collapse. The bombers responsible for the attacks were Palestinians who had failed to gain entrance to Israel to conduct the attack, thus, conducting the attack in Egypt in areas populated by Israelis. Less than a year later, on 25 July, Abdullah Azzam Brigades, a Salafist group allied to al-Qaida, attacked Egyptian resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh killing 88 people and injuring another 200. The Egyptian government blamed the Abdullah Azzam Brigades on the October 7 attacks. Less than a year later, nail bombs set off by timers are denoted in several locations in the resort city of Dahab in the Sinai Peninsula, killing 23 people instantly and injuring another 80. According to the International Crisis Group, this attack conducted by suspected Bedouin militants was directly related to Mubarak government policies that left the region marginalised. The Egyptian government concluded that Jama’at al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad, an extremist group allied to al-Qaida, was responsible for the attack. The Sinai Insurgency was triggered and shifted to a more extremist angle during the Arab Spring that brought the end of Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship.
Omar Suleiman, Egyptian Vice President, announced that President Hosni Mubarak has resigned and handed power to the military. His resignation came after 18 days of mass protest that called for his removal from power. Mubarak’s resignation was met with cheers and excitement, especially by those camping at the Tahrir Square, the centre of demonstrations. His departure was a symbol for a renewed Egypt that would be democratically governed. A military council led by Defence Minister, Field Marshall Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, will lead the country until a date for next election is announced.
Mohammed Morsi came to power following the decision by former president Hosni Mubarak to resign.
For more information about Mubarak’s resignation, refer to 11 February 2011.
Refer to the Key players: Jund Al-Sharia section
Insurgents overrun an Egyptian army outpost on the Israeli border using two armoured personnel carriers, killing ten soldiers, Israeli soldiers and their air force engaged with the insurgents who had entered Israel, killing an unspecified number of gunmen.
Since the military had controlled Egypt for an extended period, the tension between a civilian government, with influences from the Muslim Brotherhood, and the military was rising, resulting in the firing of several senior military staff. By 12 August, Mohamad Hussein Tantawi, the Head of the Armed Forces, and Sami Hafex Anan, the Army Chief of Staff, were asked to resign. Following the resignation of President Mubarak, Mohamed Tantawi served as the de facto Head of State and Defence Minister until Morsi was elected president of Egypt. Though the two senior military officials were forced to resign, the Morsi government gave them advisory positions which were largely ceremonial. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi replaced Mohamed Tantawi as the new Defence Minister. Four days later, the Director of the Intelligence Directorate and the Commander of the presidential guards, Mourad Mowafi, and other senior security figures, were removed from their position. The government justified the decision by citing the clashes in the Sinai region that led to the death of 16 policemen on August 6th.
Four peacekeeping soldiers, belonging to the Multinational Force and Observers base in Gora region, were wounded when 60-70 gunmen attacked the base. Colombian troops predominately man the station. However, US national guard members are also at the base. No group or militia has claimed the attack, but the government suspects Bedouin Salafi gunmen staged the attack.
Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (ABM), who later rebrand themselves as ISIS-Sinai Province, claimed responsibility for the attack that took place a week ago that killed one Israeli soldier. The soldier was providing security to construction crews building a fence in the Har Harif area on the border with the Egyptian Sinai. Another soldier was injured when the militants opened fire
Fourteen insurgents are found guilty and sentenced to death for their role in the 2011 Sinai attack which led to deaths of four police and military officers, along with one civilian. The attack took place at an El-Arish police station and a Bank of Alexandria branch in Northern Sinai. The militants are believed to be part of the al-Qaida linked Jama’at al-Tawhid wal Jihad
Similar to the Arab Spring but a much smaller scale, the Egyptian people, especially the secularists, took to the streets to protest Morsi’s presidency. Many saw his administration as an extension of the Muslim Brotherhood in power. The decision to give the presidency ultimate powers, through a constitutional declaration, was the catalyst for the protests to begin.
A military coup successfully deposed Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s only democratically elected president from power. The chief of the Armed Forces, General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, the current president of Egypt, announced that he had suspended the constitution. He added that he would nominate Adli Mansour, the head of the constitutional court, as the interim president and a transitional cabinet would be formed. He finished the statement by saying that presidential and parliamentary elections would follow shortly. Following the coup, it was unclear whether former President Morsi was free or in detention in an unknown location. As soon as the coup was announced, supporters of the ousted president and army personnel clashed in various cities and towns in the country. Fourteen supporters were killed in Cairo, eight in Marsa Matrouh, and three dead and 50 wounded in Alexandria.
In response to mass protests by Muslim Brotherhood supporters who were against the military coup, police and the army troops reportedly opened fire on the demonstrators. They opened fire at a pro-Morsi sit-in in Rab’a al-Adawiya Square in the Nasr city district in Eastern Cairo. Additionally, the security forced employed snipers and gunmen to target the protestors.
- In five separate incidents, the police and army forces killed at least 1150 protestors.
North Sinai Security Forces detained three suspected perpetrators of the second Rafah massacre, where 25 soldiers were killed in the Abu Tawila region, located along the international Al-Arish/Rafah road. The three suspected perpetrators are Adel Mohamed Ibrahim, who was founding hiding out in Al-Arish, Ahmed M. and his brother.
Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (ABM) claims to have conducted the assassination attempt on Mohammed Ibrahim, the Interior Minister, on 5th A car bomb ripped through his motorcade, injuring at least 21 people. Following the attack, gunfire could be heard in Nasr city neighbourhood where the attack took place.
Jund al-Islam claimed responsibility for the explosion on the Rafah military intelligence building. The attack was carried out by a suicide bomber who targeted a two-story building in Rafah that housed a local branch of the Egyptian air force intelligence. The bombing caused the building to collapse. On the same day, a second suicide bomber targeted a military checkpoint in Rafah. The twin attacks claimed the lives of 9 people and injured 17, including seven civilians.
While addressing the nation, Egyptian army spokesperson Ahmed Ali announced that their recent operations to stabilise the Sinai has resulted in the arrest of 309 militants. Additionally, the operations identified al-Mahdiyyah near Rafah in the Sinai as an extremist stronghold for Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (ABM).
Five hundred twenty-nine members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood have been sentenced to death. The mass sentencing, which is the largest in Egypt’s history, sparked widespread outrage and international condemnation. The international community questioned how a fair trial could be conducted when so many of the defendants had a two-day trial.
Israeli Army confirms that two soldiers were wounded after assailants fired shots and anti-tank missile at a vehicle near the Egyptian border. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Egyptian government has declared a state of State of Emergency in the north and centre of the Sinai Peninsula after a suicide bombing killed at least 31 soldiers. President el Sisi said that the state of emergency would remain for three months
Ansar Beit al-Maqdis pledges allegiance to Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)., they had expressed their support of ISIS. Following their pledge, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis changed its name to ISIS-Sinai Province, commonly referred to as Sinai Province.
A vehicle IED was detonated at Mansoura security directorate building in the Nile Delta region, northern Egypt. The explosion ripped apart the five-story building and created damage to neighbouring buildings. At least 16 people, 14 of whom were police officers, were killed and another 150 were injured.
Though no group claimed responsibility for the attack immediately, Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi, was quick to place the blame of the Muslim Brotherhood. ISIS-Sinai Province (then known as Ansar Bait al Maqdis) later claimed responsibility for the blast.
The ISIS-Sinai Province militants fired a barrage of rockets and set off a car bomb in a series of attacks in North Sinai province which killed 45 people, mostly soldiers. Two children were among the dead. President al-Sisi, who was in Ethiopia for an African Union meeting, flew back to Egypt to address the nation. The president pledged to defeat the militants in the Sinai.
Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, is classified as a terrorist group by an Egyptian court. The decision is based on allegations that the armed wing staged terrorist attacks to support the Muslim Brotherhood and carried out a bombing and a shooting operation which killed 33 security personnel in the Sinai Peninsula in October 2014. The classification of the armed wing of Hamas comes at a time where the Egyptian
A year since taking office, President Sisi issued an apology to “every Egyptian citizen who has been subjected to any abuse. I am accountable for anything that happens to an Egyptian citizen.” These remarks come as more activists release reports and statements detailing the increase of abuse since he took office, especially while pursuing militants in the Sinai.
Human Rights Watch claim that President al-Sisi presides over flagrant abuse of human rights since taking office a year ago. The human rights abuses started when he pledged to restore stability following the increase of violence by armed groups. The report adds that the absence of an elected parliament during his first year in office provided near total impunity for security forces abuses while issuing laws that severely curtail civil and political rights. This trend will effectively erase the human rights gains of the Arab spring that ousted President Hosni Mubarak. The report maintains that the security forces must be held accountable for the mass killings of protestors after the coup that removed Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.
Hisham Barakat, the state prosecutor, was killed after a bomb blast hit his motorcade in Cairo. The bomb, which was planted in a parked car, was remotely detonated. Two civilians and two police officers were reportedly injured. The following night, Egypt announced that Zakaria Abd El-Aziz Osman had been appointed as the acting prosecutor general. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the government suspects ISIS-Sinai Province is behind the attack.
After attacking 15 military and security posts, a band of 300 militants briefly occupied the town of Sheikh Zuweid. Independent reports indicate that 35 people have been killed, while at least 22 militants and 3 of their vehicles destroyed. The government issued a statement that only 17 soldiers were killed, and more than 100 attackers died in the attack.
ISIS-Sinai province says it fired three rockets into Southern Israel in a rare attack from Egyptian soil. They claimed the attack through a statement on Twitter. The Israeli military spokesperson confirmed the attack, adding that only two rockets were fired from the Sinai region.
ISIS-Sinai Province claims an attack on the Italian Consulate in Cairo, killing one civilian and injuring nine others. The consulate was targeted since it is near one of the busiest intersections in Cairo. The group warned Muslims from targets such as the consulate since they are legitimate targets for strikes. The Egyptian military detained four foreign journalists who were covering the bombing.
Sinai Province claims that they have killed hostage Tomislav Salopek. Mr Salopek is a Croat national who was kidnapped on 22nd June in Cairo where he worked as a surveyor Previously for a French geoscience company CGG. The group posted the photo on twitter claiming to be the body of Mr Salopek. Before the photo was circulated, Sinai Province had demanded the release of all jailed Muslim women in exchange for Mr Salopek’s life. This was the first time that any insurgent group in the Sinai has kidnapped a foreigner from the capital and executing them in their stronghold.
Jund al-Islam officially pledges their allegiance to al-Qaida in an audio message. Though they have pledged their allegiance, the extent of the ideological and moral ties between the two groups are yet to be determined.
The Russian airline Metrojet crashed, killing all 224 people on board. The plane broke down in mid-air. Most of the passengers were from Russia, visiting the resort town of Sham-el Sheikh. ISIS-Sinai Province claimed responsibility for the attack, adding that they smuggled an explosive onboard. The attack led to Russia suspending all flights to and from Egypt, dealing a heavy blow to the country’s tourism industry.
Conflicting narratives from the Egyptian and Russian governments about the attack. On 4th November, the Russian Intelligence Services release a statement saying that they found traces of explosives in the debris of the Metrojet airliner. The Russian government is adamant that the downing of the plane was a terrorist attack. On 15th December, Egypt investigators say that there is no indication that a bomb was used to bring down the plane. Before both countries released their findings, Metrojet issued a statement insisting that technical fault is not the cause of the plane crash.
A suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden vehicle into a police club killing nine people, including four police officers and wounding several others in El-Arish. ISIS-Sinai Province claimed responsibility for the attack.
ISIS-Province claims the Swiss Inn Hotel attack in El Arish that killed 7, including two judges, four police officers and a civilian. The attack came a day after Egypt held the second round of parliamentary elections. Judges who supervised the vote I the Sinai were staying at the heavily guarded hotel.
An ISIS-Sinai Province attack at a security checkpoint in the city of Arish claimed the lives of 13 Egyptian policemen. Witnesses reported hearing a massive explosion then heavy gunfire. Security forces killed five militants who carried out the attack.
Plainclothes police officers have been shot dead in the outskirts of Cairo by four gunmen. Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in the Sinai Province have claimed that the attack.
According to the Egyptian military, Abu Duaa al-Ansari, the head of ISIS-Sinai Province, along with 45 other militants were killed in an operation in El-Arish town in the Sinai. The army destroyed arms and ammunition stores. ISIS-Sinai Province has not yet commented on the Egyptian military operations.
A bombing near the main Coptic Christian St Peter’s Cathedral in Cairo kills at least 25 people and wounding another 49 people. Hours after the attack, Hundreds of Christian and Muslims protested the increase in the attacks against Christian around the country. The protesters called for the dismissal of the Interior Minister, Magdy Adel Ghaffar, due to security failures.
Hundreds of Coptic Christian are fleeing the city of Ismailia following a series of killing by a local armed group. The militants have killed at least seven Christians in separate attacks in El-Arish city in February alone. The provincial government have been helpful, aiding the fleeing Christians to find housing. The recent increase in the attack against the Coptic Christians is a result of a video message from ISIS-Sinai Province claiming they are ‘infidels’ empowering the West against Muslims.
The first suicide bomber denoted his explosive device inside St. George’s Church in the Nile Delta city of Tanta. Survivors of the attack say that the suicide bomber denoted his explosives while rushing towards the altar. This attack killed 30 people and injured 78. Later in the day, the second suicide bomber denoted a bomb inside the Saint Mark Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria, the seat of the Coptic papacy. Another bomb exploded outside the Cathedral gates while the survivors were escaping from the bombing inside. The attack took place just minutes after Coptic Pope Towadros II had left the church after hearing the news about the explosion in Tanta. Seventeen people were killed, and another 48 were injured. Mahmoud Mohamed Ali Hussein is believed to be the mastermind behind both of the bombings. The Egyptian government responded to the twin suicide bombings with issuing a three-month state of emergency.
21 April 2017: Egyptian airstrike kills 19 ISIS fighters, including three leaders, in the Sinai
The Egyptian military alleges that an airstrike targeting ISIS-Sinai Province has killed 19 ISIS fighters, including three leaders. ISIS- Sinai Province has not commented on the matter.
A suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden vehicle into a checkpoint at a military checkpoint in the southern Rafah village of El-Barth. Following the explosion, heavy gunfire from dozens of masked fighters ensued on foot. Forty fighters were also killed in a subsequent gun battle. 26 Egyptian soldiers were killed. Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in Sinai Province claimed responsibility for the attack in an online statement.
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) alleges that Interior Minister had developed “assembly line” of abuse of collection information and prepare often fabricated cases. The aim of this practise is to pursue political stability “at any cost.” The HWR report was based on interviews from 19 former detainees and the family of the 20th detainee who all claim to have been tortured between 2014 and 2016. The Egyptian government categorically denies all the accusations.
Eighteen police officers were killed when suspected ISIS militants detonated a roadside bomb near the town of el-Arish. The militants then opened fire with machine guns at the survivors of the blast, which destroyed three armed vehicles and a fourth with signal jamming equipment.
Following a series of assaults on security posts in northern Sinai, a confrontation ensued, killing 6 Egyptian soldiers and 24 militants. The militants were armed with heavy machine guns and mortars when they attacked the security post in Sheikh Zweid and the surrounding area. The Egyptian military repelled the attacks with Apache helicopters gunships.
Gunmen attacked a Sufi Mosque in Bir al-Abed, in the Sinai Peninsula, killing at least 235 people and another 120 were wounded. The attack, which took place shortly after Friday prayers, was a combined bombing and armed attack. Hours after the attack, the Egyptian warplanes targeted the mountainous areas around Bir al-Abed, which is 40KM from the capital of North Sinai, El Arish. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, which is the worst attack by insurgents in the Sinai desert. Suspicion is that ISIS affiliates are responsible for the attacks.
The Egyptian military says that an airstrike has killed some of the attackers involved in the Sufi Mosque massacre, as well as their vehicles.
Following the horrific attack at a Sufi mosque on 24 November, Egyptian president el-Sisi gave his security forces a three-month deadline to “restore security and stability” to the country’s northern Sinai province. The Egyptian military immediately launched airstrikes on targets in the surrounding Bir al-Abed in the Sinai. Local researchers and activists detail how the military forces are raiding villages and residential clusters near the site of the 24 November attack. Dozens have been detained, without proper charge
Colonel Tamer Rifai announced the implementation of a plan to push out armed groups in the Sinai, parts of the Nile Delta and the Western Desert. The army has ordered hospitals in the area to increase its capacity to accommodate possible emergencies and medical evacuations. By October 2018, the Egyptian army indicated that they had killed at least 450 armed fighters, dismantled 1200 explosive devices and destroyed 1900 vehicles and motorcycles. As a result of the operations in the Sinai, the government has spent $1.3bn to compensate residents forced to relocate from Northern Sinai. During the operation, 30 soldiers have lost their lives.
Egypt operations to jam the mobile signals of Sinai insurgent has affected the people of Gaza and Southern Israel. The Egyptian operation of jamming a range of mobile phone frequencies in the Sinai began on February 21st.
2 November 2018: ISIS-Sinai Province claimed responsibility for an attack on a bus in northern Egypt
A bus carrying Coptic visitors to a monastery in Minya, northern Egypt, was targeted by ISIS-Sinai Province. According to the Coptic archbishop of Minya, Anba Makarios, seven people were killed and another 14 wounded.
In a statement, the Egyptian Army stated that they had killed 46 ‘very dangerous’ militants, though it did not specify the dates or locations of the security operations. At least 100 suspected militants were arrested, and more than 30 cars and scooters were confiscated or destroyed in the operation. Fifteen militant hideouts were destroyed, and 204 explosive devices were dismantled.
During an offensive in the Sinai Peninsula, Egyptian military claims to have killed at least 47 fighters. Five soldiers were killed during the operation. The operations resulted in the neutralising of 385 explosive devices. Since operation started in February, 650 fighters and 45 soldiers have been killed though no independent source has verified the government numbers
Human Rights Watch published a report tilted “If you are afraid of your lives, leave Sinai.” The report details wide spread of abuses against civilians during the Egyptian military offensives in northern Sinai. HRW say that the abuses amount to war crimes. Some of the abuses detailed include extrajudicial killings, intentional airstrikes on civilian areas, death due to ill treatment in custody, lack of media care, and the arrest and detention of children as young as 12. The Egyptian government has not commented on the report.
Militants killed at least 8 Egyptian policemen at a checkpoint west of El Arish. Some of the militants escaped following the attack while others were killed. The Egyptian government has dispatched reinforcements to the checkpoint.
A suicide bomb attack targeting security forces near a parking lot in the city of Sheikh Zuweid in North Sinai results in two deaths, including a civilian, and three security forces injured. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Egyptian military say that at least three forces and three militants have been killed in a militant attack on a checkpoint in El-Arish, northern Sinai. The militants opened fire on the security forces and Egyptian military returned fire. The Security forces chased after the militants after they tried to escape, killing the three assailants. It is unclear which group the militants belong to since no group has claimed responsibility. Two other security forces are reportedly injured.
Seven soldiers and one civilian killed in an ambush in Bir Al-Abed by suspected Islamic state militants. Two other soldiers were injured in the attack. Islamic state claimed the attack, adding that they killed 15 Soldiers.
Egypt claims that they have killed at least 83 suspected fighters over the past month in operations in Central and North Sinai. The operations also led to the arrest of 61 criminal suspects. 376 explosive devices were found and destroyed during the operation that began on September 28th.
An Egyptian F-16 fighter jet crashed in North Sinai, killing the pilot. The Egyptian military spokesperson stated that the plane crashed during an air force training exercise, however, the cause of the crash is yet to be determined.
ISIS’s Amaq News Agency posted a message on one of its affiliated Telegram channels stating that an “Egyptian intelligence spy, called ‘Suleiman Mutawe’ was killed after Islamic State fighters captured him near the city of ‘Sheikh Zuweid’ in the Sinai”. Accompanying the message was a video that included Mutawe making a statement about being an informant for the Egyptian Army along with his execution.
It was reported that militants blew up a section of the recently inaugurated gas pipeline linking Israel and Egypt. A terrorist group affiliated with IS claimed the attacked, stating it was aimed at disrupting relations between the two nations. However, it is unclear whether the damaged area was a domestic section of pipeline or one connecting to Israel’s Leviathan field.
According to Colonel Tamer al-Rifai the Spokesperson for the Egyptian Armed Forces the attack resulted in the death of 10 militants and an Egyptian army officer.
Egypt’s Interior Ministry has announced the deaths of seven suspected militants who have been killed in a raid by. The raid of an insurgent hideout in the Amiriyah district in eastern Cairo, led to a shootout leading to the death of a police officer and the militants. The raid also found ammunition, weapons, and explosives. Authorities announced that these weapons were for the use in a suspected terror attack set to coincide with the country’s Coptic Christians holiday of Easter on April 19.
Islamic State in their news outlet claims responsibility for an attack occurring on the 30th of April that killed 10 soldiers in the Sinai region. However, no detail on how the attack was carried out or who was involved was reported. According, to Colonel Tamer al-Rifai Egyptian army spokesperson, an improvised explosive device targeted a military vehicle near the southern city of Bir al-Abd.
Egyptian Interior Ministry has announced that 18 suspected armed group insurgents were killed in North Sinai during a firefight with security forces. The Ministry stated that “National security received intelligence about terrorist elements hiding out in a home in Bir al-Abed, where they were planning to launch hostile operations”.
Security forces also found 13 automatic weapons, 2 explosive belts and three other explosive devices in their possession.
Militants enter the village of Abou Tawila, east of Sheikh Zayed, where, by the village mosque, they left the decapitated head of the nephew of Ibrahim al-Ergany, a businessman and the founder of the Sinai Tribal Union.
Militants dressed in uniforms of the armed forces snuck into Qabir Umair, a village located on the western side of Sheikh Zuwayed. The attack, which had aimed to kidnap certain families led to the death of four people. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, stating it had killed four spies.
Egyptian police forces killed 21 militants in two shootouts in North Sinai. Egypt’s Interior Ministry in a statement announced that the militants were planning to carry out terrorist attacks during the major Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr holiday.
Local sources have stated that in late May an agreement was reached among tribal elders and Egypt’s security agencies. The deal aims to encourage those in tribes who have fought with Wilayat Sinai to turn themselves in.
Under this deal, those who willingly turn themselves in will be granted amnesty after being submitted to interrogation by the security forces. So far, it has been recorded that 23 members have surrendered to security services. Participants in this operation are from the Tarabin, Sawarka and Rumailat tribes.
Wilayat Sinai militants raid a rural community on the outskirts of Joura in Sheikh Zuwayed in an attempt to kidnap two brothers from the Sawarka tribe. The attack is thwarted by the villagers leading to the death of one brother, the other managing to escape.
75-year-old member of the Sinai Tribal Union had been murdered by Wilayat Sinai in southern Rafah, two months after being kidnapped.
Egypt’s council for Media Regulation has come under fire after announcing a bad on the media from addressing various ‘sensitive’ issues. From now, outlets and social media users are restricted from discussion or reporting on Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam, the pandemic and the conflicts in Libya and the Sinai Peninsula. Instead, information can only be issued by official authorities and that legal measures would be taken against violators. The statement read that “the country is going dangerous and sensitive period which requires the concentrated efforts of all national powers to maintain the country’s national security”.
The Egyptian National Action Group (ENAG) a key opposition group to Egypt’s government, condemned the ban and said that no emergency declaration could justify this level of censorship. They stated that “This measure is not only morally wrong but also constitutes a real security threat to the public, as a consequence of the lack of information, lack of transparency and the regime’s impunity”.
Two militants were killed in gunfire by security forces in the Jalbana area of North Sinai. Allegedly, the militants had been plotting a terror attack.
Weapons and ammunition were seized during a police raid that thwarted the terrorist attack that was expected to coincide with the seventh anniversary of the June 30 Revolution.
Egypt’s National Security Agency had been tipped off regarding a terrorist hideout in the Jalbana area. The terrorists engaged the Egyptian forces in a shootout which resulted in the deaths of the two men.
The Egyptian army has reported the deaths of 18 suspected militants, foiling a potential terrorist attack on a military post in the area of Bir al-Abed, Northern Sinai.
Two army personnel were killed, and four others wounded. Troops destroyed four vehicles including three car bombs while chasing the militants through a farm and uninhabited homes.
Egyptian authorities in the city of Alexandria have arrested six members in of the Muslim Brotherhood, a designated terrorist group by Egypt. The arrested were according to the Ministry of Interior, planning to “carry out sabotage operations” ahead of the August elections. The statement further read that “they planned to disseminate disinformation among citizens during the election period by compiling fake news and videos, which they planned to broadcast via satellite channels”.
Currently, the Egyptian military is facing a standoff against ISIS affiliate group Wilayat Sinai. Three soldiers have been killed and dozens of civilians are displaced following the actions of Wilayat Sinai. However, Wilayat Sinai have claimed to have killed 40 soldiers during the attack.
The terrorist group have seized control of four villages near the city of Bir Al-Abd in the North Sinai governorate. Bir Al-Abd was also where Wilayat Sinai militants stormed a Sufi mosque killing 311 worshippers in 2017, this was considered to be the deadliest attack in the nation’s history.
The offensive began shortly after Cairo had reported the deaths of 18 militants. Militants of Wilayat Sinai have placed IED’s and mines at strategic points are the villages which are impeding the military’s ability to drive out the militants. The military have since resorted to aerial bombardments to tackle the insurgents but could also harm civilians.
According to eyewitnesses and local tribal sources, the air force has launched more than 25 strikes targeting insurgent positions in the villages.
Currently there are no records civilian casualties, however a medical clinic and a number of homes have been destroyed.
How can you help?
- Carnegie Endowment for International Peace – http://carnegieendowment.org/sada/68296