Suez-Sinai UpdateSeptember 1, 2013 in Egypt
Mohab Mamish, Chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, says that the Egyptian military foiled an attack on a container ship on Saturday. The attack, conducted by “terrorist elements” was intended to disrupt shipping in the Suez Canal. Reports indicate that the attempt was “completely unsuccessful” and the vessel was undamaged. The report did not indicate how the ship was targeted.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that two explosions occurred at 12:30 GMT as the Panama-flagged vessel, Cosco Asia, traversed the canal. Egyptian authorities have enacted extra security measures to secure the waterway, and have dealt “firmly” with the attempt. There was minimal interruption to shipping activity.
It is possible that the attack was linked to the increased arrests of Muslim Brotherhood (MB) leaders and members following the removal of President Mohamed Morsi. Attacks in the Sinai have become a near daily occurrence since the removal of the MB backed leader. It is known that factions of al-Qaeda have taken residence in the North Sinai region. A week earlier, 25 off-duty, unarmed policemen were killed by suspected al-Qaeda militants; one of the worst militant strikes since the removal of former president Hosni Mubarak in 2011. The Egyptian government says they are conducting arrests of MB supporters in the fight against terrorism.
On Saturday, a top militant leader, Adel Mohammed (aka Adel Habara) was arrested in the Sinai Peninsula. Habara was tried in absentia and sentenced to death last year for the murder of soldiers in Nile Valley Egypt. The arrest of Habara could undermine militant activity in the area.
Earlier on Saturday, an Arabic recording was released by Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, spokesman for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The recording stated, “There is nothing more right in God’s religion (Islam) than those who speak of the infidelity, reneging on Islam and abandonment of religion, and call for the necessity to fight these armies, foremost of which is the Egyptian army.” Al-Adnani also accused the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist al-Nour party of being co-opted to conduct the “futile secular approach to power through elections and democracy.”
There are currently no reported delays in the Suez Canal.
Egypt Update: Monsour Sworn in as Interim PresidentJuly 4, 2013 in Egypt
On 4 July, head of the Egyptian High Constitutional Court (HCC), Adli Monsour, has taken the oath of office as Egypt’s Interim president, following yesterday’s overthrow of former President Mohamed Morsi. Immediately following his swearing in, Monsour gave his first speech to the people of Egypt, thanking the youth for leading the charge to gain back the 2011 revolution. “I look forward to parliamentary and presidential elections held with the genuine and authentic will of the people. The youth had the initiative and the noblest thing about this glorious event is that it was an expression of the nation’s conscience and an embodiment of its hopes and ambitions. It was never a movement seeking to realise special demands or personal interests.”
Monsour, who had been deputy head of the Supreme Constitutional Court from 1992, had been chosen by President Morsi to be the leader of the Supreme Constitutional Court upon the retirement of its former leader, effective 30 June.
He had been in office only two days when the army named him leader of Egypt
Monsour is a 67-year-old father of three, French educated at the Ecole Nationale de l’Administration. He was a long-serving judge under the former president Hosni Mubarak, serving in state sponsored religious courts as well as civil and criminal courts. Monsour helped to draft the supervision law for the presidential elections that brought Morsi to power in 2012, which included setting a legal timeframe for electoral campaigning.
As the swearing in proceeded, dozens of Mohamed Morsi-supporters protested outside the High Constitutional Court. Security forces formed a barricade to prevent clashes with celebrating citizens, and arm tanks and soldiers surrounded the HCC.
Following the swearing in, several ministers from Egypt’s Cabinet who belonged to the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and Muslim Brotherhood presented their resignations in protest. These include the Ministers of Local Administration, Youth, Labour Force, Investment, Supply, Planning and International Cooperation, Education, Information, and Transportation. Declining an offer by Interim President Monsour to work on developing a unified government, Sheikh Abdel Rahman El-Bar, a member of the Brotherhood’s executive board, stated that the group will not work with “the usurper authorities.
In Damanhour and Beni Suef, thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters held rallies against what they are calling “a coup against legitimacy,” holding photos of Morsi and chanting, “Down with military rule.” Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood issued a statement Wednesday announcing their refusal of the former president’s removal, calling the military’s move a “coup d’etat.”In Beni Suef, reports say that protesters have stormed and are currently occupying the governorate building.
In a press conference on Thursday, The National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, an umbrella group for several Islamist parties, has issued a call for “peaceful protests on Friday in all of Egypt’s provinces to denounce the military coup against legitimacy and in support of the legitimacy of President Morsi.” The statement was echoed on the Muslim Brotherhood’s official website, Ikhwanweb.
Egyptian Army’s Overnight Actions
In the early hours of July 4, several hundred arrest warrants were issued for Muslim Brotherhood figures who were accused of inciting violence or posing a threat to national security. Among those arrested were the Muslim Brotherhood’s former Supreme Guide Mahdi Akef, and the group’s current Supreme Guide, Mohamed Badie. Badie was arrested for the murder of eight protestors in Marsa Matrouh, near the Libyan border. The army has taken them to Tora Prison on the outskirts of Cairo, where ousted president Hosni Mubarak and his sons are detained.
Security forces also stormed Al Jazeera’s Egyptian offices, arresting five employees for reportedly showing “only pro-Morsi” demonstrations. Several other stations were also taken off the air, including the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist networks in al-Nass, al-Hifaz and al-Amjaad. The Army states that it is a precautionary measure to prevent the media from inciting violence. It is unknown if or when they will resume broadcasting.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s legislative chamber, the Shura council, has been dissolved due to suspension of the constitution, and will not reconvene until a new constitution is drawn. In June, the council’s election was ruled unconstitutional by the HCC, but was granted immunity from dissolution by the now suspended constitution. The lower council was dissolved earlier in the year by a separate court ruling. Following the draft of the new constitution, new presidential and parliamentary elections will then take place. A timeline is yet to be determined.
Hope for Egypt
Despite these setbacks, Egyptians are in high spirits at the prospects of rebuilding the nation. Protesters celebrated into the night, with fireworks and cheers. In the morning, Egypt’s main stock exchange index, the EGX30, which had been in decline for a month, rose by 7.3 percent, cutting year-to-date losses to just 2.3 percent as the market reacted to the ousting of Morsi from power. Egyptian investors, relieved by the removal of Morsi, purchased a net LE140.3 million worth of stocks, and total turnover reached a relatively high LE459 million. Egypt saw a market capital gain of LE20 billion in the first hours of trading.
There has been mixed reaction to the events in Egypt. In the Middle East, formal congratulations came from Saudi Arabia; however, leaders in Qatar, a supporter of Islamists in the Arab uprisings, sent a more muted statement, saying they would “respect the wishes of the Egyptian people.” Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad called Morsi’s ouster the “fall of political Islam”, and said, “Syria’s people and leadership and army express their deep appreciation for the national, populist movement in Egypt which has yielded a great achievement.”
Rached Ghannouchi, head of Tunisia’s ruling Islamist an-Nahda party, called the removal “a flagrant coup against democratic legitimacy,” and Turkey has lamented the loss of a valuably ally, calling it “unacceptable.” Iran called for respecting the legitimate demands of the people, but warned of “foreign and enemy opportunism”.
In the African Union, an unidentified senior source has stated that the group is likely to suspend Egypt from all its activities following Morsi’s removal from office. Members of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council will meet on Friday, and may implement the AU’s response, which is suspension for any country where an unconstitutional change has taken place.
Western foreign governments are still working through semantics to determine whether Morsi’s removal was a coup, or a military intervention. UK Foreign Secretary William Hague criticized military intervention but called it a popular move, urging fast and inclusive transition: “We have to recognise the enormous dissatisfaction in Egypt with what the president had done and the conduct of the government over the past year.” The United States is considering using the annual $1.3 billion aid package as encouragement for civilian
MENA UpdateJune 20, 2013 in Africa, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Qatar, Yemen
Algeria builds military zone along Tunisian Border
9 June 2013- Algeria has made plans to build 20 military zones along the Algerian-Tunisian border to minimize terrorist infiltration and arms smuggling. The move comes after success following similar efforts along the Libyan and Malian borders. The military zones are off-limits to civilians without a permit. In mid-May, Algerian military leadership began implementations of plans to protect over 80 border crossing points, covering 956 kilometres. Algerian-Tunisian Security agreements include military cooperation and exchanges of information, and well as tracking of suspects and mutually aiding in investigations related to “Jihadist” networks.
Bouteflika Suffered Full Stroke
13 June 2013- A statement released by the Algerian government admits that President Abdel Aziz Bouteflika suffered a full stroke, rather than the “mini-stroke” that was officially reported. Bouteflika suffered the event on 27 April and was immediately flown to France for treatment at Val de Grace Hospital. In early June, he was relocated for recuperation. Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal and Army Chief of Staff, General Gaid Salah have visited Bouteflika, and report he is in good condition. The Algerian president gave orders to ensure that markets have adequate food supplies as the month of Ramadan approaches in three weeks time. A portion of the meeting was released on Algerian national television in order to show that Bouteflika is improving, in hopes of quelling growing rumours that the president was in grave condition. Despite the images of Bouteflika’s improving condition, speculation is increasing that he will not run for election in April of 2014.
44 Terror Suspects arrested
13 June 2013- The Bahraini Interior Ministry announced the arrest of forty-four suspects, including two women, for committing terrorist activities in Bahrain. The investigation led to the identification of members and leaders of the terrorist group, the February 14th organization, as well as the “Al Imam Army”, which has trained others in the use of weapons and explosives with the aim of disrupting security and endangering lives.
The arrested individuals are suspected of a list of charges including: conspiring to plant a bomb during the recent Formula One race, blowing up ATMs, conducting arson attacks on car showrooms, and placing explosives around Manama, which have resulted in the deaths of two Asian expats. Three were arrested for using a homemade bomb planted in a car near the Bahrain Financial Harbour.
The February 14 organisation was created following incidents stemming from the uprising in Bahrain in February 2011. The Bahraini Interior Ministry have also named the cell’s masterminds in Bahrain and in London. The masterminds are known to frequently travel between Iran, Iraq and Lebanon to obtain financial and moral support.
Nationwide Protests Scheduled for 30 June; Interior Ministry Closes Routes between Sinai and Mainland
18 June 2013- Egypt’s Interior Minister has announced the closing of tunnels and ferries across the Suez Canal and the halt of any traffic between the Sinai Peninsula and mainland Egypt ahead of the upcoming anti-government protests on 30 June. The move is an effort to prevent the crossing of militants into the mainland of Egypt.
Nationwide protests against president Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are expected across Egypt on 30 June, the anniversary of his first year in power. Opposition groups have joined together to call for his removal.
Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim is specifically concerned with the possible invasion of prisons and subsequent release of prisoners, which has occurred several times during protests since the ousting of former president Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Ibrahim is also concerned with securing Itihadiya Palace, where the president resides, and pre-empting clashes between supporters and opposition to President Morsi.
Security forces will also be deployed to the Egyptian Media Production City on the outskirts of Cairo, however national security services will not be provided to offices of any political parties.
Opponents of President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood come from both liberal and secular movements, and believe that the 30 June protests are the last opportunity to drive him from power. Public discontent is widespread, ranging from concerns over failed infrastructure, food shortages, high prices and lack of security. One protest campaign has started a petition drive called “Tamarod” (Translation: “Rebels”) which has collected over 15 million signatures calling for Morsi to step down and early elections to be held.
Many of Morsi’s backers are planning counter-protests, calling the planned demonstrations an attempt to overturn democracy. A senior Brotherhood leader has stated that the protests are not actually backed by genuine popular support, and believes that the Tamarod signatures are forged. Some hard-line clerics have also issued fatwas, calling organizers and participants in the protests “kuffar,” or non-believers, who deserve to be killed.
Egyptian police, who have been angry with Morsi’s administration for being treated like a “tool of the political party”, have intoned that they wish to stay out of the conflict. The Egyptian military has not voiced an opinion, but has been visibly at odds with the ruling party.
Morsi names ex-militant as governor of Luxor
17 June 2013- Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has appointed Adel el-Khayat as the new governor of the ancient city of Luxor, raising anger among Egyptian tourism workers and residents. El-Khayat is a member of the political arm of ex-Islamic militant group Gamaa Islamiya. In 1992, the group staged an insurgency against the state, attacking police, tourists, and Coptic Christians. In 1997, Gamaa Islamiya claimed responsibility for what became known as the “Luxor Massacre”, when 58 tourists and four Egyptians were killed at the 3,400 year old Temple of Hatshepsut outside Luxor. In the 2000s, Gamaa Islamiya renounced violence and in 2011, the group turned to politics, aligning themselves closely with Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Leaders of the organization have threatened an “Islamic revolution” if liberals try to unseat the Islamist president.
Workers and political opposition to the appointment have planned to seal off the governor’s office to prevent Adel el-Khayat from entering. Tourism workers fear that el-Khayat’s ties to the former militant group and his hard-line Islamist stance will deter tourists, which are the lifeblood of the region.
El-Khayat’s appointment is one of several new appointments for provincial governor positions. On 16 June, Morsi made seventeen appointments, including eight from his party, the Muslim Brotherhood. The appointments mean that the Brotherhood controls 10 of Egypt’s 27 provinces. Nine additional provinces are still run by military and police, stemming from the Mubarak era.
Hassan Rouhani wins Iranian election, replaces Ahmadinejad
14 June 2013- In a relatively calm election process, Hassan Rouhani has won the Iranian elections, and will be replacing outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Rouhani was a participant in the Islamic Revolution of the 1970s and was linked to Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic republic. Rouhani was the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council for 16 years, and the nation’s chief nuclear negotiator from 2003 to 2005. Rouhani won just over 50% of the vote, and called his election a “victory of moderation over extremism.” After his victory was announced, Iranians took to the streets in tens of thousands, wearing purple, the colour of Rouhani’s election campaign.
Rouhani’s election brings a shift in Iran’s power structure, as he ushers in a mix of both conservative and moderate beliefs. As the former chief nuclear negotiator, Rouhani is supportive of Iran’s nuclear agenda, pledging in the run-up to elections to try to ease international sanctions imposed over Iran’s nuclear programme. His dealings with the West are expected to be significantly different from those of Ahmadinejad, whose brand of ultimatums and threats increased tensions with the West, resulting in heavy sanctions and economic strain for Iran. Rouhani is expected to take a more pragmatic tact in dealing with both foreign and domestic powers.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu maintains that Iran’s nuclear program should be stopped “by any means.” He added, “The international community should not fall into wishful thinking and be tempted to ease pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear programme.” Israeli President Shimon Peres is more hopeful, believing that Rouhani will not go toward extreme policies.
Although Israel will still consider military action if Iran continues its nuclear program, Western powers have indicated that they are willing to engage with Rouhani, providing he lives up to his obligations under the UN security council resolutions.
Rouhani has already begun discussions on his cabinet with Ali Larijani, speaker for Iran’s parliament. The Iranian Parliament must approve his selections when he takes office in August.
Suicide Bombers Target Mosque; 24 dead, 52 wounded
17 June, 2013- Two suicide bombers blew themselves up inside and near a Shiite mosque in Baghdad, killing 24 people and wounding 52. The bombing is the latest in a string of escalating sectarian violence over recent months. Since April 2013, nearly 2,000 have been killed, including over 220 in June.
The first bomb was detonated at a security checkpoint near a mosque in Baghdad’s Qahira district, a predominantly middle class, Shiite-majority neighbourhood. It is believed the first bombing was an attempt to distract the authorities as a second bomber went into the mosque and blew himself up while worshippers were performing midday prayers.
While no party has claimed responsibility yet, al Qaeda’s Iraqi division has conducted suicide bombings and attacks against Shiite citizens frequently.
On 16 June, 51 people were killed in coordinated bombings. On Monday, fifteen people were killed in bomb attacks, including deaths caused by a suicide bomber who set off his explosives among a group of policemen in Fallujah.
Bombings kill 13 ahead of vote
19 June, 2013– A provincial party leader and four of his relatives were killed in a suicide bombing attack in northern Iraq. Yunus al-Ramah, the leader of the United Iraq party, was hosting an event at his home in Al-Hadhr when a suicide bomber targeted people gathering in his garden. The attack happened just days before local elections are to be held on Thursday in Sunni-majority Nineveh and Anbar provinces, where polls had been delayed since 20 April due to security concerns. Ramah was not running in the upcoming election, although several members of his party are.
Later in the evening, back-to-back roadside bombs killed eight youths and wounded 25 near a football pitch in Muqdadiyah.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack; however Sunni militants linked to Al-Qaeda previously attempted to intimidate candidates in order to derail elections in majority Sunni provinces. Analysts believe that Shiite-led authorities are not exerting enough effort to address the underlying causes of the demonstrations. This lack of action has given militant groups opportunities to carry out terrorist tactics.
Libyan Judge Assassinated; Clashes in Benghazi
17 June, 2013- Unidentified militants have assassinated Judge Mohammed Naguib in a drive-by shooting in front of a courthouse. Naguib was a senior Libyan judge in the eastern city of Derna, which is a known stronghold of Islamic militants, including Ansar al-Shariah, the group suspected of involvement in the September 11 attacks on the US mission in Benghazi.
In Benghazi, Libya’s General National Congress has postponed the vote on a new president following another round of clashes in Benghazi, which erupted in the early hours of 15 June near the city centre. Libyan Special Forces battled gunmen, resulting in six soldiers dead and several injured. An explosion also occurred at the headquarters of the National Oil Corporation. Authorities are working to identify perpetrators of the pre-dawn assault, through license plates and photographs. One group has been identified; investigations are on-going.
Some Libyan activists believe that the national congress lost credibility by adopting the political isolation law at gunpoint and that the government was now losing its credibility as well, as “the state has failed Benghazi.” Locals say the city has become a place to settle accounts, and call on the government to come and conduct affairs in the city. One witness stated, “If Benghazi does not settle down, then Libya will not settle down. The state must meet its responsibilities.”
US- Taliban Talks Cancelled in Doha
20 June, 13- Talks scheduled for Thursday between US officials and Afghan Taliban representatives in Doha have been cancelled due to the Afghan government’s anger at the opening of a Taliban office in Qatar.
The opening of the Taliban office was intended to be a step toward paving the way for peace talks, however, protesters in Kabul argued that the office would develop into a Taliban government-in-exile. US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has been in talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who accused the Obama administration of duplicity. Karzai was particularly infuriated by Taliban officials displaying white Taliban Flag and referring to the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”, and suspended talks on a long-term security deal to keep US troops in Afghanistan after NATO leaves in 2014. The US has asked the Qatari government to remove the sign outside the new office in Doha that claims to represent the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”.
Though the office in Doha is meant only as a base for talks rather than a political platform, Karzai felt the Tuesday press conference was a violation of that agreement. Further, the Afghan government prefers the US to refrain from broad negotiations with the Taliban. Although Washington agrees that the process must be Afghan-led the delegates want to discuss issues including renouncing violence, links with al-Qaida and women’s rights in the country.
On Wednesday, the US suspended plans to attend the talks. Meanwhile, the Taliban also claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on the Bagram air base that killed four Americans on the same day that the tentative deal about talks was announced.
Yemen market suicide bomber kills two
A suicide bomber has struck a market in the north Yemen town of Saada, about 80 miles north of Sanaa. The bomber detonated a bomb-laden motorbike in the town, killing himself and at least two civilians, and injuring eight.
Saada is a mainly Shia city in the north of majority Sunni Yemen. The town has been controlled by the Houthi Shia rebels for years. Fighting between the rebels and government forces had killed thousands of people over the course of a decade, until a truce was agreed upon in 2010. The rebels are involved in a national dialogue, however tensions have recently escalated as the Sunni-dominated government makes claims that the Houthi are backed by mainly Shia Iran. The rebels, who are also in conflict with AQAP, feel they are politically and socially marginalised.
Security Update – EgyptApril 19, 2013 in Egypt
The Muslim Brotherhood has called for a “million man” demonstration on Friday to oppose a court ruling which calls for the release of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak from court custody. The demonstrators will also lobby for a “purge” of the Egyptian judiciary.
In light of these plans, the US embassy in Cairo issued a security message late Thursday evening to warn citizens of demonstrations scheduled over the weekend. “Areas that may be affected by demonstrations on Friday afternoon include Tahrir Square, the Court of Cassation, Cairo University in Giza, Moqattam, Sidi Gaber, and the Manshia Courts complex in Alexandria.”
Another protest is scheduled on Saturday by activists in front of the Qatari embassy in Cairo to protest against “Qatar’s support for the Morsi government.”
The demonstrations are not anticipated to target foreign embassies or interests. Violence is not anticipated, however it is difficult to prediction reactions should opposing groups come into contact with one another.
The statement continues, “Though we are unaware of any further protest activity or security concerns, it is possible that additional demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience may develop elsewhere in Egypt.”
Understanding Sinai: Smuggling and Radicalism in the Sinai PeninsulaMarch 10, 2013 in Sinai Peninsula
Since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, the Sinai Peninsula has become a hotbed of radicalized activity. Many indigenous Bedouin, who have long been disenchanted by the Egyptian government, have turned to smuggling as a lucrative financial endeavor. The system of tunnels, created to transport illicit goods, have also served as for radicalized individuals and groups to enter the region. The desert terrain, largely uninhabited, provides hidden shelter among road-less paths and desert caves. This combination results in a prime opportunity for mujahedeen to build bases from which to carry out organized crimes and terrorist activities throughout the Maghreb and into the Sahel regions.
Impact of Bedouin Disenfranchisement
Since ancient times, the Egyptian Sinai has been home to several nomadic Bedouin tribes. During the Six-Day war in 1967, Israel took control of the Sinai Peninsula, providing job opportunities for Bedouin, particularly in the tourist industry. The Bedouin had become accustomed to a cash economy and material wealth during Israeli occupation. Following the end of the occupation in 1982, the Cairo-based government perceived the Bedouin as collaborators with the Israel to destabilize Egypt. Consequently, the Bedouin have been perceived as second-class citizens, facing human rights hardships and severe economic blows.
Twenty percent of Bedouin in the Sinai are denied Egyptian citizenship. They cannot join the police or military, or study in police or military universities. Bedouin tribesmen cannot hold government positions or form political parties, nor can they own land, for fear they would re-sell it to Israelis. Employment opportunities in the Sinai are preferentially given to non-Bedouin Egyptians, and corporate developments have created boundaries that impact the nomadic tribes’ ability to travel throughout their historic territories. Finally, Bedouin tribesmen are often blamed for violence in the region, held without cause or evidence by Egyptian Police. These factors generate great animosity against the Egyptian government; outcries have been met with meager financial assistance and empty promises.
In order to retain wealth and material goods, members of some tribes have turned smuggling as a lucrative opportunity to generate income. Since the 1990s, smuggling rings have expanded to include items of higher value, including drugs, weapons, cars, and people (kidnap for ransom). Concurrently, Bedouin traffickers have enlarged their networks, with weaponry becoming the new expression of wealth.
Smuggling in the Sinai
It is important to note that not all members of tribes have resorted to smuggling, rather, certain members of specific tribes. The dominant tribes involved in smuggling on the Sinai Peninsula are the Sawarka, Tihaya, and Tarabin tribes, which have traditional boundaries bordering Israel and/or the Gaza Strip. Connections also exist between Bedouin Rashaida of Eritrea and Sudan, who predominantly engage in human trafficking, and the Tuareg tribes of Libya, who transfer weaponry throughout the Maghreb. Bedouin tribes do not have a sense of national loyalty—only to tribe— nor do they ascribe to an ideology that prevents them from dealing with particular groups, even if they are deemed dangerous or radical, as long as they can afford the price. Daniel Kurtzer, former US Ambassador to Egypt and Israel wrote, “…terrorists, both from Gaza and reportedly al-Qaeda, have used the territory to smuggle arms and plan operations.”
Heading west, tribes transfer goods and materials through the Maghreb and Sahel Regions, taking advantage of porous borders and lax security. From the south, tribes use a system that goes from Kassala, Sudan to the Egyptian border, then north into Sinai. Toward the east, Bedouin smugglers use an intricate system of tunnels to deliver materials through Gaza and beyond. At Sinai’s eastern border, commonly used routes are the Heth and Philadelphi routes, which go between Gaza from Sinai. Tunnel systems that are known by Egyptian and Israeli law enforcement have been bombed or flooded. However, to keep their trading systems open, tribesmen will pay up to $100,000 for the creation of new tunnels.
In addition to smuggling, some tribesmen charge for extensive knowledge of safe and desolated areas within the Peninsula, where smugglers or radicals entering the region can hide while fleeing from law enforcement.
Hideout for Radicalized Groups
Increased lawlessness in the Sinai results directly from the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. Bedouins were among the first to ignore national curfews, and rising vehemently against Egyptian police. In February 2011, the police left the Sinai Peninsula, and returned in August 2011 with limited presence. In that time, Al Qaeda inspired militants penetrated the region, and continue to increase presence. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the militant faction of Hamas, as well as Al Qaeda inspired networks, are known to be operating quasi-military training camps in the Sinai. Due to this threat, the Egyptian Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) received permission to send 3,500 military troops into the demilitarized zone, yet the small number of troops is unable to secure the vast, unfamiliar region.
Increased Radical Activity
This week, Egypt’s interior ministry told police in the Sinai Peninsula to raise a state of emergency, after obtaining intelligence that jihadist fighters might attack their forces. Last August, fifteen Egyptian policemen were killed in an assault on a police station bordering Egypt and Israel. The militants seized two military vehicles and attempted to storm the border.
In early January, Egyptian authorities issued a security alert for the Sinai as intelligence services received information about potential attacks by extremist groups in the Sinai. On 15 February, the authorities announced the seizure of two tons of explosives headed to the Sinai from Cairo, followed by the discovery of a weapons cache in Al-Arish two days later. The seized weapons include 21 anti-aircraft shells, six anti-tank mines and an anti-aircraft gun. The same day, one ton of explosives was found in a car headed from Cairo toward the Sinai. On 27 February, Egyptian security forces confiscated 60 antitank missiles south of Cairo that were being transported in two pickup trucks from Libya. And on 5 March, a cache of weaponry, including antitank mines, was seized in el Arish
Egyptian President Mohamed Mosri has pledged to get a grip on security in Egypt but as he struggles to assert control over an entrenched security establishment, this appears to be another empty promise. Morsi administration and Egyptian security forces are hindered by several factors, including poor resources and coordination, and conflicting views on counter-smuggling and counterterrorism strategies. A failure to cultivate Bedouin allegiance and intelligence will also decrease Egyptian security forces ability to identify lairs of suspected jihadists.