Al-Rawdah mosque in north Sinai has been bombed by militants killing at least 232 people and injuring around 120. As Friday prayers on the 24th of November were finishing, four off-road vehicles approached the mosque and militants charged inside, gunning down worshippers. There were reportedly around 20 attackers and the Guardian has called the attack ‘the deadliest in recent memory.’
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Egyptian president, has offered his condolences to the families of victims as well as declaring that Egypt will respond with ‘brute force.’ He has said that this will only increase Egypt’s unity and that, “The police and military will avenge our martyrs and restore peace and security.” Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit has also condemned the attack saying that it “shows that Islam is innocent of those who follow extremist terrorist ideology.” BBC’s Sally Nabil, who is based in Cairo, has said the number of people killed in this sort of attack is unprecedented and the first time that people inside a mosque have been attacked by militants in North Sinai. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
While there have been many voices across the globe deploring this attack and others like it, it is not clear what is actually being done to prevent the escalation of violence on the Sinai Peninsula. Two military operations have been undertaken by Egypt, Operation Eagle and Operation Sinai, but each time there has been stronger push back by the insurgents. For example Operation Sinai in 2012 resulted in the elimination of armed Islamist groups in the area, the destruction of the tunnel network which connects Sinai with Gaza, and the protection of the Suez Cannel. From July to August 2013 security forces were under attack daily and in 2014 the deadliest attack on security forces since 2011 occurred which thrust the situation into the international spotlight. Military reactions to violent attacks are not the solution and other options should be explored. Until then, it is unclear which alternatives are better when preventing insurgencies like these.
Conflict has been ongoing in the Sinai Peninsula since President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in the 2011 Egyptian crisis. Militants – mainly Bedouin tribesmen – took advantage of the chaos and weak government and have continually carried out attacks against the government. Following the 2013 military coup overthrowing president Mohammed Morsi, attacks on the peninsula have been unprecedented.
The attack on the al-Rawdah mosque has shown how attacks by insurgents are continuing and increasing in violence despite attempts by local governments to shut them down. As Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has promised, there will be a heavy military crackdown on insurgents in Sinai. This is likely to have more negative effects in the future such as unprecedented attacks on civilians. We can see that military reactions to violence do not work in the long-term so it is important we seek new solutions.
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