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Egyptian police officers have been killed in a shootout with militants in Egypt’s western desert. The security forces went out into the desert after being reportedly tipped off about a potential militant hideout. Egyptian forces are currently fighting an Islamist insurgency in north Sinai, hundreds of kilometers north-east of the Bahariya oasis where the attack occurred.
According to Egypt’s state-run media outlet, Ahram Online, police reported a number of militants were killed in the shootout which occurred when police attempted to raid the hideout. Initially Egyptian media linked Hasm to the attack, but this was later confirmed as false. There has not yet been a claim for the attack by Islamist groups which are active in the area. BBC reported 50 Egyptian security personnel were killed. Reuters, citing security sources, reported that at least 30 police officers were killed. An exact number of deaths has not been given by Egypt’s interior ministry.
While the presence of a militant hideout so close to Cairo, some 370 kilometers, is a threat to the safety of Egyptian citizens it is important to consider other options to addressing these threats than with violence. Attacks like these often breed more violence as friends or relatives of the perpetrators who are killed may seek to avenge their deaths. It is necessary to address the reasons as to why these groups appear and why they commit these acts of violence.
Egypt has been battling an insurgency in Northern Sinai since 2011. The insurgents mainly target Egyptian police and soldiers but have recently been targeting Egyptian Christians in Cairo and other cities. The Sinai Peninsula is renowned for being lawless and is often used for the smuggling of weapons and supplies. The January 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak’s regime created a security vacuum in the Sinai Peninsula allowing radical Islamist groups to take advantage and launch attacks against the Egyptian military.
It is difficult for states to deal with insurgent groups in any other way than with violent means due to the way that the groups operate. They are difficult to bring to the negotiating table and doing so legitimizes them as a group. However, fighting violence with violence has not worked in the past and alternative options need to be sourced.