Posts Tagged ‘Muslim Brotherhood’

Qatar slammed for funding ‘terrorist’ Muslim Brotherhood in UK

January 8, 2018

LONDON: Qatar has been strongly criticized for its alleged funding of the Muslim Brotherhood in the UK by a senior British Army veteran and counter-insurgency expert, who also called the group a “terrorist organization.”

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Col. Tim Collins, who served in Northern Ireland and the second Iraq War, was speaking in Westminster and said the Muslim Brotherhood was a problem in the UK and that the government needed to challenge it more.
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He also hit out at Qatar for allegedly funding the organization, questioning why they would “hurt a friend.”
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“(The Muslim Brotherhood) has been a problem and continues to be a problem in the United Kingdom and we need to challenge it — and indeed it is challenging our response to terrorism,” Collins told Arab News.
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“In fairness to Turkey they are not actively promoting it in this country. I understand why they would have a close relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood given the nature of Turkish politics, but the Qataris are actively funding this, what do they think they are doing?”
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“We are a close ally and we stood by them in tumultuous times. They’ve been isolated in the Gulf yet we’ve stood by them, we have to ask them to show their friendship and comradeship and stop doing this.
“It’s not using leverage, what you say to friends is ‘why are you hurting us, why are you doing this?’”
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Four years ago the UK government ordered a review into the Muslim Brotherhood. The result, the Jenkins Commission, concluded that the organization — while outwardly purporting peaceful means to promote its agenda — was willing to use violence and terror in pursuit of its long-term goals and that aspects of its ideology and tactics “are contrary to the (UK’s) national interests and security.”
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Collins however, said that he would go further and describe the Brotherhood as an out and out terror group.
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“I believe they are a terrorist organization,” he said.
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“They have tried to rubbish and make an issue out of the Contest (UK counter-terrorism) strategy – that which is there to confront radical Islam.
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“We have to work with allies and friends to reduce (the Muslim Brotherhood’s) influence.
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“We have to be careful we don’t want to sow disharmony in our attempts to reduce its influence. We need to challenge it and to do so in such a way we don’t offend, isolate or alienate our Muslim population so we have to be very careful in how we do that.”
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Egypt hangs five prisoners: officials

January 2, 2018

A policeman stands guard in front of Mar Mina church, in Helwan, Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Dec. 29, 2017, where several people have been killed in a shootout outside the church. (AP/Amr Nabil)
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Cairo: Egyptian prison authorities executed on Tuesday five inmates who had been sentenced to death, four of them over a bombing that killed military cadets, security officials said.
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The hangings came days after the execution of 15 inmates convicted of attacking police and the military in the largest mass execution in Egypt in recent memory.
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Four of those executed on Tuesday had been sentenced to death by a military court over a 2015 the bombing at a stadium north of Cairo that killed three military cadets.
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The fifth had been sentenced to death over a criminal matter, the sources said without elaborating.
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The other four had been accused of having links with the Muslim Brotherhood movement of former president Muhammad Mursi whom the army toppled in 2013 following protests against his single year in office.
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On December 26, prison authorities hanged 15 inmates sentenced to death by a military court over attacks on the police and military in the Sinai Peninsula.
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Attacks by jihadists in the restive peninsula have killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers since Mursi’s overthrow.
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Courts have since sentenced hundreds of Islamists to death, although most have appealed the rulings and won retrials.

Egypt court jails ousted president Muhammad Mursi over insulting judiciary

December 30, 2017

Former Islamist President Muhammad Mursi and 18 others over insulting the judiciary, sentencing them to three years in prison. (AP)

CAIRO: An Egyptian court has convicted former Islamist President Muhammad Mursi and 18 others over insulting the judiciary, sentencing them to three years in prison.

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Among defendants in the case are prominent rights activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah and political analyst Amr Hamzawy, both of whom were fined 30,000 Egyptian pounds ($1,688). Abdel-Fattah is serving a five-year sentence for taking part in an illegal protest in 2013. Hamzawy lives in exile.
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Saturday’s verdict can be appealed.
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Mursi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, was ousted by the military in 2013 following mass protests against his one-year divisive rule. He has since faced trial on a host of charges, including espionage and conspiring with foreign groups.
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Egypt has since 2013 cracked down on Islamists, jailing thousands of them as well as secular and liberal activists.

Arab countries need to rally around the “Arab axis” of Saudi Arabia and Egypt — UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash says

December 27, 2017

DUBAI (Reuters) – A senior UAE diplomat said on Wednesday the Arab world would not be led by Turkey, the Gulf State’s first comment on Ankara since a quarrel broke out last week over a retweet by the Emirati foreign minister that President Tayyip Erdogan called an insult.

 

FILE PHOTO: Minister of State for Foreign Affairs for the United Arab Emirates, Anwar Gargash

Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates, said there was a need for Arab countries to rally around the “Arab axis” of Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

“The sectarian and partisan view is not an acceptable alternative, and the Arab world will not be led by Tehran or Ankara,” he wrote on his official Twitter page.

Last week, Turkey summoned the charge d‘affaires at the UAE embassy in Ankara, after UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahayan shared a tweet that accused Turkish troops of looting the holy city of Medina a century ago.

Erdogan himself lashed out: “Some impertinent man sinks low and goes as far as accusing our ancestors of thievery … What spoiled this man? He was spoiled by oil, by the money he has,” the Turkish leader said at an awards ceremony.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu newspaper reported on Saturday that Turkey planned to rename the street where the UAE embassy is located in Ankara after Fakhreddin Pasha, the commander of the Ottoman Turkish troops at Medina in 1916. Medina, the holiest site in Islam after Mecca, is now in Saudi Arabia.

The UAE sees itself as a bulwark against political forms of Islam, and views Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted ruling AK party as a supporter of groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, which it opposes.

Editing by Peter Graff

In first remarks since retweet feud, UAE diplomat says “Arabs won’t be led by Turkey.”

December 27, 2017

Reuters

DUBAI (Reuters) – A senior UAE diplomat said on Wednesday the Arab world would not be led by Turkey, the Gulf State’s first comment on Ankara since a quarrel broke out last week over a retweet by the Emirati foreign minister that President Tayyip Erdogan called an insult.

Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates, said there was a need for Arab countries to rally around the “Arab axis” of Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

“The sectarian and partisan view is not an acceptable alternative, and the Arab world will not be led by Tehran or Ankara,” he wrote on his official Twitter page.

Last week, Turkey summoned the charge d‘affaires at the UAE embassy in Ankara, after UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahayan shared a tweet that accused Turkish troops of looting the holy city of Medina a century ago.

Image result for UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, photos

UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahayan

Erdogan himself lashed out: “Some impertinent man sinks low and goes as far as accusing our ancestors of thievery … What spoiled this man? He was spoiled by oil, by the money he has,” the Turkish leader said at an awards ceremony.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu newspaper reported on Saturday that Turkey planned to rename the street where the UAE embassy is located in Ankara after Fakhreddin Pasha, the commander of the Ottoman Turkish troops at Medina in 1916. Medina, the holiest site in Islam after Mecca, is now in Saudi Arabia.

The UAE sees itself as a bulwark against political forms of Islam, and views Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted ruling AK party as a supporter of groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, which it opposes.

Editing by Peter Graff

Opinion: Arab States Will Likely Cave If Donald Trump Names Jerusalem Israel’s Capital — “Verbal missives will soon subside.”

December 4, 2017

 

BY BEN LYNFIELD
 DECEMBER 3, 2017 22:43

Unless domestic reaction becomes unexpectedly explosive, Riyadh, Cairo and Amman can be expected to confine their responses to verbal missives that will soon subside.

Abbas Salman

Mahmoud Abbas with Saudi King Salman.. (photo credit: SAUDI PRESS AGENCY/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

If the Palestinians are counting on a strong response from Arab states if the Trump administration recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, they are likely to be disappointed.

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Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyadh Malki called Sunday for an emergency meeting of the Arab League amid US media reports that US President Donald Trump is going to deliver a speech on Wednesday in which he will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Malki said the meeting would discuss “necessary steps regarding this irresponsible American measure.”

But the bitter reality for the Palestinians is that key Arab countries – Saudi Arabia, Egypt and even Jordan with its Palestinian majority and role as custodian of Jerusalem holy sites – are simply too dependent on US goodwill to get into a real row with the Trump administration. This is a case where each of their national interests trumps Arab solidarity.A United Jerusalem Celebrates its Diversity (YouTube/ Israel’s Foreign Affairs Min.)

Unless domestic reaction becomes unexpectedly explosive, Riyadh, Cairo and Amman can be expected to confine their responses to verbal missives that will soon subside.

“They will at least pretend to be objecting vociferously. But as long as he doesn’t move the embassy, they will put up with it after a few days of protesting,” said Gabriel Ben-Dor, a Middle East specialist at the University of Haifa. “The moderate Arab states will understand this is a compromise for Trump between his commitments and the practical realities. They’ll protest vocally, but that’s all.”

Given close Saudi-US ties, Riyadh may even be expected by Washington to temper the anger of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas over the step, according to Brandon Friedman, a Saudi specialist at Tel Aviv University’s Dayan Center.

“If the rumors are true about tight US-Saudi coordination and a back channel between Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and [Trump adviser] Jared Kushner, the Saudis may be expected to reach out to the Palestinian Authority and to manage Abbas,” he said. “One imagines that at the beginning there will be a lot of aggressive rhetoric among the Palestinians if the US goes ahead with this. But if the US coordinates with the Saudis, it could be their job to reassure the Palestinians to get them to back away from the most provocative things they could do and to manage them. But that will be a tall order.”

The Saudis can be expected to put their own strategic interests before the Palestinian issue, Friedman said.

And their main strategic interest is pushing back against what they perceive as Iranian expansion in the region – be it in Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen or Syria. For this, they need Washington, and they are hoping the Trump administration will take a more combative posture toward Iran than its predecessor. This need is more important to them than tangibly backing the Palestinians in a dispute with Washington.

Still, Friedman said, “It is way too early to say the Saudis will throw the Palestinians under the bus. To say that, we need to know more about the American step – what it means and how it affects any final status agreement.”

Jordan’s response will likely also be a function of its dependence on the US.

Jordan Times columnist Daoud Kuttab said in a phone interview from Amman that the US recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would likely trigger demonstrations called by professional unions, parties and the Muslim Brotherhood. Parliament can be expected to make a very strong statement, he added.

But beyond issuing its own statement, there is not much the palace can do, Kuttab said.

“I don’t think they can do much about the US because they need the US for financial support,” he said. “They can make clear it’s not conducive to peace and that as custodian of the holy places, Jordan will oppose it.”

Jordan received $1.4 billion in aid in 2017.

Kuttab said the fact that the US Embassy in Israel is not being moved and the fact that the Israel Embassy in Amman, a magnet for demonstrations, is closed may temper the protests.

“People look for what is actionable rather than statements,” he said. “The fact that it looks like the embassy move is being postponed means the US is giving lip service, though it is a violation of international law, its own laws and its own commitment.”

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Egypt police kill 11 suspected ‘terrorists’ in shootout

November 28, 2017

AFP

© AFP | The attack on Rawda mosque killed 305 people, making it one of the world’s deadliest since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United State

CAIRO (AFP) – Egyptian security forces killed 11 suspected “terrorist elements” during a raid on a hideout for militants providing support for jihadists in the northern Sinai, the interior ministry said on Tuesday.A ministry statement said police were still identifying the suspected militants killed in the raid in Ismailiya province after they opened fire on security forces approaching the hideout.

Militants carried out a bomb and gun assault on a mosque in Rawda village in North Sinai province on Friday, killing 305 people — the deadliest in Egypt’s recent history — in an attack thought to have been carried out by the Islamic State group.

It is widely believed in Egypt that the massacre took place at the mosque because Sufi Muslims worshipped there.

The raid on the hideout was part of a security campaign in the province of Ismailiya around the Suez Canal separating the Sinai Peninsula from the rest of the country, and in the Nile Delta province of Sharqiya.

Police were pursuing leaders of “terrorist groups in North Sinai that aimed to carry out a series of hostile operations targeting important and vital buildings and Christian churches,” the statement said.

Security forces were able to identify “a group of these elements and the hideouts they were using to hide, train, and store means of logistic support ahead of smuggling them to terrorist groups in North Sinai”.

The statement said police also arrested six suspected militants and three people thought to have smuggled communications equipment to them.

It said weapons, ammunition and communication devices were recovered.

In the Rawda attack, authorities said up to 30 militants in camouflage and flying the black banner of IS surrounded the mosque and massacred worshippers during weekly Friday prayers.

Another 128 people were wounded.

Egypt’s North Sinai-based IS branch has killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers, as well as civilians accused of working with the authorities, since the July 2013 ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

The jihadist group has also targeted Sufis and Christians since authorities cracked down on Morsi supporters, killing more than 700 in one August day in 2013 as they cleared a protest camp in the capital.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared three days of mourning and vowed to “respond with brutal force” to Friday’s killings, among the deadliest in the world since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

The army said warplanes struck militant hideouts in the North Sinai in retaliation.

In Egypt’s Sinai Region, a Call to Cooperate With the Army — Union of Sinai Tribes asks for help

November 27, 2017

Statement by tribal group shows desperation to end an Islamist insurgency after deadly attack

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Bedouin leaders in the Sinai Peninsula have issued a rare call for solidarity with the Egyptian army to fight against Islamic extremism in response to a Friday attack that killed more than 300 Muslims at a local mosque.

“We call on men and youths of Sinai tribes to join their brothers…to coordinate for a major operation with the army” to end terrorism, said a statement posted on Facebook by the Union of Sinai Tribes.

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“Egyptian failures are astonishing” — Review of Egypt’s Sinai defense plan finds ineffectiveness, bad planning — Israeli intelligence warns of ISIS 2.0

November 27, 2017

The ineffectiveness cries out to the heavens, especially considering reports that Israel helped Egypt with intelligence and the use of drones against ISIS strongholds

Amos Harel Nov 26, 2017 11:30 PM
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The Sufi mosque west of the North Sinai capital of El-Arish after a gun and bombing attack, Sinai, Egypt, November 25, 2017. STR/AFP

The massacre of worshippers at a mosque in Sinai on Friday – the deadliest jihadi terror attack ever in Egypt – is the Egyptian security forces’ second failure in just over a month. In the previous incident, in the Giza district west of Cairo, more than 50 Egyptian policemen were killed in a raid gone wrong at a hideout of Muslim Brotherhood militants. After the first incident, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi fired his army chief of staff, now simply a presidential adviser.

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From the Israeli point of view, the two Egyptian failures are astonishing. Especially in Sinai, it’s hard to understand how after constantly fighting the Islamic State’s Wilayat Sinai affiliate in recent years, the Egyptians have let fewer than 1,000 operatives carry out such murderous attacks. The ineffectiveness of the Egyptian security forces cries out to the heavens, especially when we remember the foreign media’s reports that Israel has been extensively helping Egypt in intelligence and the use of drones against Islamic State strongholds.

The United States shares the frustration and surprise; in a number of cases Washington noted to Sissi and his people that the Egyptian security forces’ preparedness was clumsy and predictable. In the fight against terror and guerrilla groups, quicker action is needed, combining precise intelligence and commando forces. The Egyptians are still very far from employing this method that resembles the way Israel combats terror groups.

From the Egyptian point of view, things aren’t so bad, despite the terrible massacre in Sinai. If more than 300 had been killed in Cairo, for example, this would have presented a much greater challenge to the regime.

Senior Egyptian officials have said more than once that the fight against terror, especially in Sinai, will take a great deal of time, and that they have patience. To them, they’ve chalked up plenty of achievements, above all getting some of the Sinai Bedouin tribes to fight the Islamic State. The backdrop for the recent attack might have been the refusal of the tribe in whose territory the attack took place to cooperate with ISIS.

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Cairo, in any case, perceives the war against fundamentalist groups as a battle on three fronts: on the Libyan border, in core Egypt and in Sinai. The fighting on the Libyan front is more severe than in Sinai, and the Egyptians have seen some success there. The main concern, shared by Egypt and Israel, involves the possibility that Wilayat Sinai will now strengthen in light of events in the entire region.

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The defeat of the Islamic State and the fall of the caliphate the group established in Syria and northern Iraq paves the way to a new era that Israeli intelligence calls ISIS 2.0. This is no longer control of a clearly defined territory, but rather a “virtual caliphate” in which the group recruits young radicals for attacks via the Internet, in Western countries as well, while taking advantage of Sinai’s great desert.

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In a speech to the nation, Sissi promised that operations against the Islamic State would become more brutal. It may be assumed that the Egyptians will opt for a major show of force in Sinai while trying to reach understandings with more Bedouin tribes.

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The Islamic State has already taken in to its ranks veterans of its battles in Syria and Iraq, a phenomenon that could increase in the coming months. Friday’s attack showed a high degree of planning and implementation; the terrorists stormed the mosque where hundreds of worshippers were trapped and then set ambushes for rescue personnel. Such sophistication also worries the Israel Defense Forces, in case ISIS fighters (who are also operating against Al-Qaida’s awakening local branch) try an ambitious attack in the direction of Israel.

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Shaky Hamas-PA reconciliation

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The Sinai attack will delay the opening of the Rafah crossing, which Gazans have been waiting for impatiently following the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. But the status of the reconciliation talks is worse than the parties are willing to admit. For the moment, it seems high hopes will be dashed: completing the process by December 1, launching the joint government’s operations and putting the Rafah crossing into continual operation.

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The last round of talks in Cairo ended in utter failure. In this context, a kind of unsigned manifesto has been published detailing the ostensible understandings reached by the parties. This might have been a false report by Egyptian intelligence, which is mediating the process and now wants to calm things down.

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Among other things, it claimed that Hamas had agreed to accept the Palestine Liberation Organization as the only legal representative of the Palestinian people. It’s hard to believe that Hamas would agree to this without promises of representation in PLO bodies – one of the main stumbling blocks in the negotiations.

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And so there’s a double danger. One is the Palestinian people’s loss of hope in light of the talks’ failure, which could help reheat the border between Israel and Gaza. The second is the possibility that Islamic Jihad will request a chance to settle accounts after Israel blew up a tunnel on the Gaza border last month, killing 12 Islamic Jihad militants and one Hamas man.

Amos Harel
read more: https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/1.824959

Why the Arab World’s Largest Army Can’t Beat ISIS in Sinai — Failed Strategy, Uneven Effort

November 25, 2017

Egypt has neglected northern Sinai for too long, and now it’s paying the deadly price

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By Anshel Pfeffer Nov 25, 2017 8:39 PM

Haaretz

The Islamic State has yet to take responsibility for the attack on a Sufi mosque in northern Sinai on Friday that claimed 305 lives, but there is little doubt that it was carried out by Wilayat Sinai — an Islamic State affiliate in the Sinai. The organization has targeted Sufis before in other countries and it is currently the only insurgent group operating in Sinai capable of such a large-scale attack. Which leads to the question, why is ISIS, currently in retreat in its former main strongholds of Syria and Iraq, still capable of such operations, in Egypt of all places.

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Unlike Syria and Iraq, where Islamic State took advantage of the vacuum created by civil war and demoralized armies, Egypt — despite political upheaval in recent years — still boasts the largest army in the Arab world and for over four years, has been ruled by the iron fist of a military regime. The Egyptian army does not lack for the resources to fight a counter-insurgency war in Sinai, including mobile armored vehicles and attack helicopters. Israel has green-lighted every Egyptian request to reinforce its units in the peninsula, despite the demilitarization protocols of the Camp David peace accords. And yet despite Egypt’s ongoing campaign to wipe out ISIS in Sinai — a campaign which, according to foreign reports, includes major assistance from Israel — the group still retains the capability of launching the sort of devastating attack we saw on Friday.

 

Egyptian army conscripts guard the Suez Canal University hospital, where the victims of an attack on a North Sinai mosque receive treatment, Ismailia, Egypt, November 25, 2017.MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP
A year ago, the tide seemed to have turned in Sinai. In a series of attacks on Wilayat strongholds, the Egyptians succeeded in eliminating an estimated two-thirds of the ISIS fighters, including their commander Abu Du’a al-Ansari. They were down to around only 300 men when Muhammad al-Isawi, known in ISIS as Abu Osama al-Masri, an Egyptian who had fought with the group in Syria, took command. Al-Masri, with reinforcements, aid and supplies from Islamic State’s base in Libya has succeeded in reviving the organization, with its numbers back to around a 1,000 and more damaging attacks on both military and civilian targets.

According to intelligence sources, the Wilayat’s fighting force is made up of Egyptian Islamists, volunteers from other countries, including veterans of Syria and Iraq, and most crucially, members of local Sinai Bedouin tribes. Their zone of operations is the northern half of Sinai, while for the most part, the Red Sea coast region in the south, where thousands of Israelis spent their High Holidays vacation two months ago, has remained calm. This is not disconnected from the fact that while billions have been invested in building the Red Sea resorts, the villages and towns of the northern Mediterranean coast have remained underdeveloped. Until about three years ago, residents of the region were still making money from the open trade of the smuggling routes that run through the tunnels under the border with Gaza. Egypt has now destroyed all but a few of the tunnels, which are now used exclusively by Hamas and other Palestinian groups, for arms and personnel.

While the local Bedouin tribes in the south are loath to jeopardize their income from Red Sea tourism by cooperating with ISIS in the south, those in the less developed north have fewer qualms. Egypt is now paying the price for decades of neglect of northern Sinai. Its soldiers hunker down in armored vehicles and fortified positions, while the jihadists enjoy cover from local collaborators there and in the nearby mountain passes. Egypt’s energetic sponsorship of the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation agreement in recent months was mainly motivated by its interest in ensuring that Gaza doesn’t serve as Islamic State’s backyard — something it was in danger of becoming. But the Egyptians’ real problem is within its own territory. It has allowed northern Sinai to remain a black hole of resentment and radicalism for too long and is now paying the price.

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Anshel Pfeffer
read more: https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/1.824936

 

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Damaged vehicles outside a Sufi mosque attacked by Islamist militants in Bir al-Abed, Egypt. A government official said the gunmen had set fire to cars parked outside the mosque to hinder escape. Credit Mohamed Soliman/Reuters

CAIRO — After militants massacred 305 people at a packed mosque on Friday in a stunning assault on a sacred place, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi responded as he knows best.

Mr. Sisi went on television vowing to “take revenge” and strike back with an “iron fist.” Moments later, Egyptian warplanes swooped over the vast deserts of the Sinai Peninsula, dropping bombs that pulverized vehicles used in the assault. Soldiers fanned out across the area.

But that furious retaliation, which follows years of battle in Sinai against a vicious Islamic State affiliate that downed a Russian passenger jet in 2015 and has regularly attacked Egyptian security forces there, revived the most troubling question about Mr. Sisi’s strategy in the desert peninsula: Why is it failing?

One of the most striking aspects of the carnage that unfolded on Friday, the deadliest terrorist attack in Egypt’s modern history, was how easy it was for the militants to carry it out.

In a statement issued on Saturday, Egypt’s prosecutor general, Nabil Sadek, described the grisly scene in forensic detail.

Between 25 and 30 gunmen, traveling in five vehicles and carrying an Islamic State flag, surrounded a Sufi mosque on all sides in Bir al-Abed, a dusty town on a road that arcs across the sandy plain of North Sinai.

After an explosion, they positioned themselves outside the main entrance of the mosque and its 12 windows, spraying the worshipers with gunfire. Seven parked cars were set ablaze to prevent victims from escaping. Among the dead were 27 children.

For Sinai residents, the attack deepened an abiding sense of dread about life in a part of Egypt where many feel trapped between barbarous militants and a heartless military. At a hospital in nearby Ismailia, survivors recounted how they leapt through windows as militants raked them with gunfire, or of watching their friends and relatives die.

A victim of the attack receiving medical treatment on Saturday. Survivors recounted how they leaped through windows as militants raked them with gunfire. Credit Amr Nabil/Associated Press

“If even mosques are being targeted, then where are we safe?” said Mohamed Abdel Salam, 22.

For Sinai experts, the assault sharpened scrutiny of Egypt’s counterinsurgency tactics against a dogged Islamist insurgency that has surged in strength since 2013, after Mr. Sisi came to power in a military takeover.

They paint a picture of a stubbornly outmoded approach that is unsuited to the fight, and that perpetuates the mistakes of successive Egyptian leaders.

Read the rest:https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/25/world/middleeast/egypt-sinai-mosque-attack-sufi.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

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Sinai attack needs to be a turning point in Egypt’s war on terror

Isis insurgents in Egypt have established a potent capability despite the continual efforts of the authorities to destroy them

People gather at the site of the Sinai mosque where a bomb and gun assault left at least 235 people dead and scores more injured.
 People gather at the site of the Sinai mosque where a bomb and gun assault left at least 235 people dead and scores more injured. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Egypt’s restive northern Sinai province, where at least 235 people were killed and scores more injured in a bomb and gun assault on a mosque on Friday, has been under a state of emergency since October 2014, when Islamist militants killed more than 30 soldiers in one operation.

More than three years of fighting has failed to crush an insurgency waged by the local Islamic State affiliate, Wilayat al-Sinai (the Governorate of Sinai), which is also blamed for bombing attacks on churches in Cairo and other cities, killing dozens of Christians. It had also carried out the previous deadliest attack in Sinai when it downed a Russian passenger jet carrying tourists back from the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in 2015, killing 224 people.

Russian state security services have admitted that a bomb brought down a Metrojet aircraft over Egypt 

The most obvious suspect for the attack in Bir al-Abed is again Wilayat al-Sinai, though there has been no claim of responsibility.

One clue is the target: worshippers from the mystic Sufi strand of Islam, which is frowned upon by Muslims who follow the rigorous and puritanical version of the faith associated with many Gulf countries. Isis sees Sufis as apostates, and thus not just legitimate targets, but obligatory ones.

Wilayat al-Sinai is one of more than a dozen Isis affiliates established by high command around the Middle East in 2014. As elsewhere, Isis leaders in Iraq used an existing local group as a base for expansion in Egypt. While other “governorates”, such as those in Libya and Algeria, have been almost entirely eliminated, Isis in Egypt has established a potent capability despite the continual efforts of the Egyptian authorities to destroy it.

“It very much fits the Isis modus operandi, even if they are not the only group with the capability locally … [Isis in Sinai] is a potent organisation,” said Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a US-based terrorism specialist.

Earlier this year Isis in Egypt had focused its assaults on Egypt’s Christian minority and killed dozens in at least four attacks.

In July, extremists killed 23 soldiers, including five officers, in an attack on a military checkpoint. This strike was claimed by Isis but is now thought by investigators to have been carried out by local groups affiliated to rivals al-Qaida, which is also active in Egypt.

Ayman al-Zawahiri and Saif al-Adel, the leader of al-Qaida and his most senior lieutenant, are both Egyptian, and have long been keen to expand the organisation’s presence in their homeland.

Al-Qaida targets military personnel, police or officials, but not ordinary Muslims, even Sufis, as part of a “hearts and minds strategy” designed by al-Zawahiri. “Al-Qaida is not more moderate than Isis … just more pragmatic,” said Gartenstein-Ross.

The deeper causes of the violence in Sinai are tragically familiar from elsewhere in the Middle East.

There is the legacy of the 2011 Arab spring uprisings. The fall of President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt led to political turmoil, a security vacuum in parts of the country, and the release of thousands of jailed Islamist militants. The end of Muammar Gaddafi’s rule in Libya released a flood of weapons.

There is also a background of deep and long-held grievances among the marginalised Bedouin tribes of the Sinai. The clumsy and brutal counter-terrorist efforts of recent years have not helped.

One hope is that the deaths on Friday will not be in vain. An attack in 1997 in Luxor killed more than 60 foreign holidaymakers, crippled the tourist industry and appalled ordinary Egyptians. It swung public opinion squarely against the extremists, limiting recruitment and fundraising, while boosting support for an invigorated counter-terrorist campaign. It was a turning point. The campaign against the extremists in Egypt desperately needs another.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/25/sinai-attack-needs-to-be-a-turning-point-in-egypts-war-on-terror

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