Pressured in Iraq and Syria, IS Launches Attacks in EgyptApril 24, 2017 in Egypt, Uncategorized
Twin bombings targeting churches in Egypt earlier this month have suggested that the so-called Islamic State (IS) group are lashing out, as they find themselves coming under increasing pressure in their strongholds in Iraq and Syria.
IS’ Egyptian affiliate claimed responsibility for the 9 April attacks in the Nile Delta cities of Tanta and Alexandria, with the group being centred in the Sinai Peninsula, where it has killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers. It has however been unable to seize population centres there, unlike its early gains in Iraq and Syria. Furthermore, in recent months, it has lost top militants to Egyptian military strikes.
While the militant group has attacked Egyptian Coptic Christians before, Since December 2016, it has increased their campaign against the minority group. That month, a Cairo church bombing killed 29 people. In Sinai, IS militants killed seven Copts in January and February, forcing dozens of Christian families to flee the peninsula, which borders Israel and the Palestinian Gaza Strip. That December church bombing however marked a shift in IS tactics, as it was not until that incident when IS began a systematic campaign to target Coptic Christians in the North African country. In a video released in February 2017, IS attacked Christians as “polytheists” and promised that there would be further attacks.
The shift in tactics also comes at a time when it has been under growing pressure in Iraq and Syria, with the group likely carrying out deadly attacks elsewhere in a bid to boost morale amongst its followers and show its relevance and continued capability to launch attacks. In Iraq and neighbouring Syria, where the group proclaimed its “caliphate” in 2014 as it swept across the northern region of Iraq, IS has faced consecutive defeats in the last year and is now on the verge of losing control of Iraq’s second city Mosul.
The ongoing attacks on Coptic Christians hae prompted President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to declare a three-month state of emergency in Egypt.