A terrorist attack has been carried out on Egypt’s Sinai checkpoint. Several news sources report that the Islamic State has taken responsibility for the attacks which occurred in the early hours of June 5th as Muslims were holding prayers to usher in the Eid al-Fitr holiday. Eight police officers were reportedly killed in the exchange of fire that took place, while five terrorists were killed by Egyptian security forces during the exchange. However, the Egyptian military has banned journalists from entering northern Sinai, so it is difficult to verify the statements being made about the events. For instance, while the Interior Ministry has claimed that two police officers and six conscripts were killed in yesterday’s attack, some media sources are reporting that as many as ten officers were killed.
The attack is the latest in a string of attacks carried out by IS or IS affiliates on the Sinai Province. According to BBC News, terrorist groups have killed hundreds of Egyptian security personnel since the military overthrew Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013. However, not all of these attacks have been aimed at military forces. The Washington Post claims that the militants also targeted tourists and Coptic Christians. In 2015, the terrorists claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian passenger plane that killed all 224 people aboard and shattered Egypt’s tourism-driven economy.
Following the deadly attack on a Sinai Mosque in February 2018 which killed more than 300 people, the Egyptian military began an extensive military campaign against suspected terrorist groups, and Aljazeera reports that since the campaign began, at least 650 terrorists have been killed. However, according to the BBC this campaign is currently under investigation after a report by a US-based group alleged the security forces were committing abuses that amounted to war crimes.
Yesterday’s attack comes a year after Egypt launched a military campaign against IS and its affiliates in the area -suggesting that the use of force has not been entirely effective. Hence, Egypt must use more than hard power to solve its terrorism problem. Indeed, terrorism is a very difficult issue for countries to combat. And although many theories exist regarding the use of hard vs. soft power, none have proven to be solely superior to the other. However, seeing as different groups and cultures respond differently to different tactics, terrorism is best handled on a case-by-case basis.
Egypt is dealing with groups that have emerged in response to the long period of political turmoil that has gripped the Middle East since the Arab Spring of 2011. The terrorists are using violent tactics to respond to a political problem. Egypt has tried to counter this violence using hard power and military campaigns against militant groups. While it can be argued that hard power is an efficient way to cut down the number of terrorists in a region, it has the risk of creating harsh feelings that will ultimately lead to more terrorist attacks in the future. Additionally, if Egypt is truly carrying out war crimes, then country will drive away citizens and create more terrorists that will fight the perceived injustices of the government. Even though Egyptian forces have killed hundreds of terrorists in the last year, attacks are still being carried out. In order to stop these attacks, Egypt needs to adopt soft power tactics, adhere to international human rights laws and employ other diplomatic means to ease tension and lower incentives for terrorists to attack.