On Saturday, three Egyptian policemen were killed in the city of el-Arish in the North Sinai governorate. At least one other policeman was injured in the attack, which security officials say was likely carried out by jihadists operating in the area.
“Armed men who might belong to a jihadist group attacked a police vehicle and fired on its passengers before fleeing,” a security source said, according to AFP. Reuters similarly reported that a “police source said [the] attackers were probably militants who Egyptian forces…have been hunting since the ambush killing of 16 border guards on Aug. 5.”
According to the Associated Press, after shooting the police vehicle and prior to driving away, the attackers “raised a black flag associated with jihadis and shouted ‘God is great.'” No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, which may have been carried out in response to the killing of a number of Bedouin by Egyptian police last week.
Since the beginning of the so-called Arab Spring, a number of Salafi jihadist groups linked to al Qaeda have sprouted up in the Egyptian Sinai. The terror groups have conducted attacks against Israel, UN peacekeepers in the Sinai, Egyptian forces, and a pipeline transporting natural gas to Israel and Jordan. Israeli intelligence believes that most of the attacks originating in the Sinai have been carried out by Ansar Jerusalem, also known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis.
On Oct. 25, Asharq al-Awsat reported that Egyptian authorities were investigating claims that jihadists were planning attacks against Sinai resorts. A few days later Al-Hayat reported that Egyptian authorities had foiled a jihadist plot to attack resorts near Sharm el-Sheikh and Dahab in South Sinai. The report was dismissed by an Egyptian security official.
Despite the dismissal, on Friday, the UK’s Foreign Office raised its threat level for Egypt to “high” and advised “against all travel to the Governorate of North Sinai and against all but essential travel to parts of South Sinai.” “There is a high threat from terrorism throughout Egypt, including in Sinai. Although security is tight throughout the country, especially in resort areas, there remains a high risk of attacks, which could be indiscriminate, including in public places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers such as hotels and restaurants,” the Foreign Office warned.