Egyptian security forces today carried out strikes in the Sinai Peninsula that reportedly killed at least eight Islamist militants. The strikes come just days after security forces operating in the Sinai arrested wanted jihadists tied to the recent killing of over 20 policemen.
Using Apache helicopters, Egyptian authorities struck a number of targets in the Sinai. In addition to the eight killed, an additional 15 Islamist militants were reportedly injured in the strikes. “Eight militants were killed and 15 were wounded when air strikes hit four Islamist positions south of Rafah,” a security source told Agence France Presse.
Today’s operations in the Sinai come a few days after Egyptian authorities announced the arrest of Adel Mohammed Ibrahim, a top jihadist wanted in connection with numerous attacks in the Sinai, including the Aug. 19 execution of over 20 policemen, which he reportedly masterminded.
And on Sept. 2, Egyptian authorities arrested two additional jihadists linked to the killing of the policemen. Interestingly, the two jihadists, identified by Ma’an News Agency as Adel Hussein and Muhammad Fawzi, are said to be members of the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC).
The MSC has yet to comment on the killing of the policemen on Aug. 19, but was quick to deny charges that it was responsible for the Aug. 5, 2012 attack on a Rafah military outpost that killed 16 Egyptian soldiers.
Hussein and Fawzi were also wanted in connection with recent rocket attacks from the Sinai toward Israel, according to the Associated Press.
The MSC, a consortium of Salafi jihadist groups based primarily in the Gaza Strip, took responsibility for an Aug. 13 rocket attack on the southern Israeli city of Eilat. The MSC said it fired the Grad rocket in response to the killing of four members of the Sinai-based Ansar Jerusalem jihadist group. In April, the MSC similarly claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on Eilat from the Sinai.
Since the ouster of Mohammed Morsi on July 3, there have been near-daily attacks in the Sinai Peninsula, which have left dozens dead. On Aug. 23, the Egyptian army claimed that recent operations by Egyptian security forces in the Sinai Peninsula have led to the deaths of 78 militants. Thirty-two of those killed were said to be non-Egyptians.
Along with the increase in attacks in the Sinai, there have been a plethora of statements from jihadists in response to the ongoing crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. For example, Harith bin Ghazi al Nadhari (also known as Muhammad al Murshidi), an official in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), recently charged that the Egyptian government was seeking “to return Egypt to the era of oppression, tyranny and the domination of the security and intelligence agencies.”
On Aug. 17, jihadist ideologue Abu Sa’ad al ‘Amili posted a series of tweets to his Twitter account urging Egyptian Muslims to prepare for an “open war.” Likewise, Abdullah Muhammad Mahmoud of the jihadist Dawa’at al-Haq Foundation for Studies and Research warned Egyptian Muslims, in an article posted to jihadist forums on Aug. 14, that “if you don’t do jihad today, then only blame yourselves tomorrow.”
Similarly, on Aug. 15, Abu Hafs al Maqdisi, the leader of the Gaza-based Jaish al Ummah (Army of the Nation), called on Egyptians to wage “jihad” against Egyptian army commander General Abdul Fattah el Sisi. Four days later, al Shabaab, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia, urged Egyptian Muslims to “pick up arms and defend yourself.” In addition, on Aug. 30, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant called on Egyptians to wage ‘jihad’ against army.
And on Aug. 22, al Salafiyya al Jihadiyya in Sinai released a statement that called on Muslims to fight the “apostate” Egyptian army. The communiqué was particularly notable as last fall the group said: “[T]he army and the police are not our targets and that our weapons are directed at the enemies and the enemies of our Ummah the Jews.” More recently, in mid-May, the jihadist group said: “[T]he target of the Salafist Jihadist current in Sinai is the Zionist enemy and its operations are directed to them, and the Egyptian soldiers are not a target for us.”