Sunday, September 8, 2013

Islamic Caliphate of Sinai

Includes the jurisdictions of Sinai and Gaza, but recognizes the jurisdiction of Allah without borders, the Islamic Caliphate of the World [link]

"Egypt launches new assault on militants; Military operation in Sinai Peninsula is largest in years"
2013-09-09 from "Associated Press":
CAIRO — Egyptian helicopter gunships and tanks pounded suspected hideouts and weapon caches of Islamic militants on Saturday in the northern Sinai Peninsula in what locals say is the largest operation in the lawless region for years. Nine militants and two soldiers were killed during the raids, security officials said.
Officials say that the military is hunting hundreds of militants believed to be responsible for a series of attacks in the region they overran after the fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011. The militants, the officials say, belong to a number of well-known al-Qaida-inspired groups that seek the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate in northern Sinai, a region bordering Israel and the Gaza Strip.
Attacks in the region have increased following the July 3 military coup that toppled President Mohammed Morsi, an Islamist, prompting the military offensive.
Early Saturday, resident say they saw winding columns of trucks and armored vehicles pour into the area. Some said they hadn’t seen soldiers on foot in their villages in decades. Communications were jammed for hours, as authorities seized control of two telephone exchanges.
Military helicopters hovered overhead in a dozen villages concentrated near two border towns of Rafah and Sheikh Zuweyid, security officials said. Airstrikes targeted shacks believed to be gathering points of militants, they said. Soldiers later stormed homes searching for suspected fighters.
“Successive strikes are aimed at causing paralysis of the militant groups and cutting communications between each other,” a security official said. “The offensive is carried out within a timeframe where there will be periods of calm for intelligence before resuming once again.”
“We aim for cleansing the whole region of militants and prevent them from coming back,” he added.
Other officials said two soldiers were killed in a nighttime attack by militants in the town of Sheikh Zuweyid in northern Sinai. The soldiers were there as part of the offensive. 
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to publicly brief journalists.
In a statement, Army spokesman Col. Ahmed Mohammed Ali said nine suspected militants were killed on Saturday and nine others detained.
Earlier, another official said “dozens” were wounded in the Sinai offensive. Conflicting casualty figures come from militants taking away the corpses of their comrades and treating their wounded, a security official said. Smoke could be seen rising from villages and troops set up a cordon to prevent militants from escaping as others combed the area, he said.
Troops arrested a number of suspected militants but others managed to escape to mountainous areas in central Sinai, an official said.
In the past, militants used a vast network of underground tunnels linking Egypt with Gaza as a way to escape security crackdowns. However, over the past two months, the military has destroyed more than 80 percent of them, stemming the flow of weapons, militants and goods into Gaza, a territory under an Israeli-imposed blockade.
Sheik Hassan Khalaf, a tribal leader from al-Joura, one of the targeted villages in the area, said the assault was “by far the largest operation we have seen and the one we have been waiting for.” As he spoke, the sound of helicopter rotors could be heard. 
“Starting today, you will not hear of attacks on army or police checkpoints as before. They either have to flee or get arrested,” Khalaf said.
Another tribal leader in the area offered a different account of the operations. He called the raids “arbitrary,” citing one incident where army troops attacked the house of a pro-government tribal sheik in the village of al-Dhahir. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of fear of retribution.
A leader of an ultraconservative Salafi group in el-Arish, Hamdeen Abu-Faisal, accused the government of spreading “false and fabricated reports” about targets and causalities in order to rally support from the population.
“There are many question marks over the government-led operations in Sinai,” he said. “There is violence and counter violence. But targeting the innocent, demolishing civilians’ houses or destroying mosques serves no purpose.”
It remains difficult for journalists to gather information on Sinai operations. Ahmed Abu-Draa, a Sinai-based journalist, has been under arrest since Wednesday and faces a military investigation after questioning military statements about its operations. 
The military-backed government says it is waging a “war on terrorism” against Sinai militants and those who commit violent acts during protests over Morsi’s ouster. Suspected Morsi supporters have attacked police stations, government buildings and churches.
In one of the most dramatic attacks amid the unrest, Egypt’s Interior Minister survived a suicide car bomb explosion Thursday in an eastern Cairo neighborhood. Authorities said one person was killed and 22 wounded, while the minister escaped unharmed.
On Saturday, three mortar rounds were found tied to railway tracks linking the Suez Canal cities of Suez and Ismailiya, a security official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

2013-07-05 "Egyptian, Israeli military alerts prompted by Islamist mutiny threat from Sinai and first attacks" from "Debka Files" [‎]:
A new Egyptian crisis arena:  the Egyptian and Israeli armies Friday, July 5, raised their alert levels on either side of the Sinai border after the Muslim Brotherhood declared Sinai its center of revolt and revenge for the Egyptian army’s ouster of Mohamed Morsi as president Wednesday, July 3.
Following a multiple Islamist attack in northern Sinai, the Egyptian army went on high alert in the Suez and North Sinai provinces. The Sinai border crossings to the Gaza Strip and Israel were closed. The army spokesman in Cairo denied declaring an emergency – only a heightened alert.
Israel has imposed a blackout on news from this tense region, but debkafile reports reinforcements were sent in Friday to boost the IDF units standing ready along the Egyptian border.
 Egyptian forces also shut down all three underground passages running from the mainland to Sinai  under the Suez Canal. Egypt’s Third Army was deployed to secure them, under the command of Maj. Gen. Osama Askar.
Further measures imposed for guarding Suez Canal cargo and oil shipping against possible rocket fire from central Sinai included the stationing along its banks of Patriot anti-missile batteries and anti-air weapons systems, according to debkafile’s military sources.
Around one-third of the world’s oil supplies from the Persian Gulf pass through the Suez Canal on their way to the Mediterranean and Europe.
 These emergency measures were clamped down Friday after the Muslim Brotherhood established a Sinai "War Council" to mount a rebellion against the army in collaboration with the radical Palestinian Hamas and Jihad Islami as well as the al Qaeda-linked Salafist groups in the Gaza Strip and Sinai.
The ousted Muslim Brotherhood’s strategy is seen by intelligence sources as designed to transform the Sinai Peninsula into an area of revolt and a base for attacking Israel. They are counting on the army having its hands too full with maintaining security in the mainland cities of Cairo, Alexandria and the Nile Delta to have troops to spare for Sinai. They intend to demonstrate that the military are incapable of at one and the same time fighting the Egyptian people, defending Western shipping in the Canal and Gulf of Suez and preventing attacks on Israel.
The new Sinai War Council set up by Morsi’s followers released a video tape threatening that “rebel’ forces would target any army and police personnel found in Sinai in retribution for the military coup.
debkafile’s military sources also report that Maj. Gen Ahmad Wasfi, head of the Egyptian Second Army, said after an emergency meeting at the headquarters of Defense Minister Gen. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi Friday that the Egyptian army “would use force to prevent the creation of an Islamic caliphate in Sinai.”
The new Islamist coalition launched its “revolt” Thursday night, July 4, by firing a couple of Grad rockets at Eilat. They exploded harmlessly outside Israel’s southernmost town. Israel’s military spokesman has drawn a curtain of secrecy of the event. However, the IDF’s Adom Brigade and its three sub-units, along with the Gaza division, were known to have been placed on high alert.
The Islamist Sinai War Council struck again Friday morning, with a multiple attack by Salafist gunmen associated with Hamas and Jihad Islami in northern Sinai. They fired rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and heavy machine guns at Egyptian military intelligence headquarters in northern in Rafah and El Arish airport as well as several Egyptian military and border guard facilities.
Our sources report they attacked in wave after wave, the gunmen shooting from heavy machine guns and rocket launchers mounted on minivan as they raced around. Army helicopter gun ships were finally brought in to halt the assault. No word on casualties or the scale of episode has been released.

2013-05-20 "Unanswered questions on Sinai" by Abdel Latif el-Menawy []:
Sinai's problems have certainly not been resolved. What we can agree on is that problems are mounting in the peninsula. What could have been resolved before has become a thornier issue and extremely difficult to resolve. This is down to an impulsive manner which has been adopted by the government when dealing with national security issues - a manner that has increased problems and further complicated them.
The extreme decline in concern over in what is happening in Sinai, in addition to leaving it as prey for "terrorist" groups, is the beginning of the collapse of the state's authority over Sinai.
The reasons for this collapse are not only the security problems that Sinai suffers from; nor are they a product of leaving Sinai's doors wide open for extremist groups reveling in it anyway they want, or considering it Gaza's garden instead of considering it an important part of Egyptian land that Egyptians scarified their blood to regain.
The major reason is the style of governance adopted towards this issue ever since the current government assumed power. Under the current regime, Sinai has become a hotbed for the world's terrorists and a safe haven for anyone escaping pursuit. The world's terrorists rushed to go to Sinai considering it as the Caliphate state that the Brotherhood granted them.
The crisis is not limited to this. But Sinai has become a permanent and stable residence and so, old as well as new jihadi and al-Qaeda groups that we've heard of before, begin to spread. Borders on the other side were opened for their Islamist extremist and jihadi relatives to reside in Sinai doing whatever they want, attacking Egyptian police and army, kidnapping their members and also killing them.

Sinai’s suffering?
It is certain that the current situation, after soldiers were kidnapped by "terrorist" groups raises a lot of questions, condemnations and interpretations. These questions must be answered. It is not acceptable to consider this abduction as an expression of the suffering of Sinai's people and a reflection of their chronic problems because this suffering and these problems had already existed before but they have never reached this extent of kidnapping soldiers.
The second issue is that Sinai's people disagree with the general logic of resorting to abduction for the sake of having the state meet their demands even when it came to demands of releasing their family members. Ever since explosions in Dahab, Taba and Sharm al-Sheikh and the detentions that followed of people from Sinai, residents of the latter protested to call for the release of their family members but the situation did not escalate to resorting to abduction. Another thing is that those whom demands are being made to release are not those who have been arrested without evidence against them in the case of the armed attempt to raid a police station in el-Arish, as they've previously said.
Another point that raises questions is that the current regime has not taken a single positive step that confirms its commitment to reach a solution or address the problems in Sinai. On the contrary, its behavior has always been one that raises a lot of suspicions regarding the extent of the regime's holding on to Sinai or regarding the regime's concern in resolving its residents' problems. and not resolving other problems at the expanse of Sinai and its people. This raises further questions that must be answered as well.
What is the current regime's political stance regarding the destruction of the Gaza tunnels? Why hasn't there been a single political stance that confirms commitment and desire to destroy these tunnels especially since there is no justification for them anymore with the permanent opening of the Rafah border?
Why hasn't there been one clear stance regarding the mechanism of the operation to hunt down "terrorist" groups in Sinai? What is the real role of the Islamist movements in the dialogues that they speak of with jihadi groups? Has this style of launching dialogue been agreed on before and met with political and popular support?
The most important question is why hasn't a single politician affiliated with the regime stood up to tell the Egyptians who killed the soldiers in the month of Ramadan last year and why were they killed? The most important of condemnations is linked to accepting to negotiate with the abductors and to the commitment of he who holds the presidency office to seriously look into their demands. Whom are these negotiations being held with? Who accepts to pave way for negotiations with "terrorists? Who is holding these negotiations and why?
My final question is: Will these negotiations prompt anyone who has a problem with the state to kidnap a policeman or a soldier to get what he wants?

2012-11-13 "Egypt security uncovers militant group’s ‘caliphate’ plan to conquer state" []:
Egyptian security has recently uncovered a document circulated among armed groups and which details a plan to “conquer” Egypt and restore the Islamic caliphate.
The document, entitled the “Conquest of Egypt,” was handwritten by a militant called Karim Ahmed Bedeiwi, who was killed in a recent police raid on a flat in the district of Nasr City in eastern Cairo.
The flat was reportedly was used as a weapons warehouse and the headquarters of a terrorist cell, security sources were quoted as saying by the online version of the Egyptian newspaper al-Wafd.
This document, the sources added, was distributed among 22 jihadist cells that operate under an umbrella group, which later came to be known as the Nasr City cell, and together form an intricate terrorist network that connects Cairo to other Egyptian governorates.
The “Conquest of Egypt” offers a detailed account of a plan by militant Islamists to seize power in Egypt and establish an Islamic caliphate.
The document mentions a series of steps that need to be taken to achieve their goal to “conquer,” they include assassinating the president, the Coptic pope, and several political and security figures.
This plan would coincide with a series of simultaneous bombings in several vital establishments as well as the Suez Canal, while main roads between Cairo and other Egyptian governorates and communication networks are to be taken over by the militants.
The plan also revealed that in addition to the Pope, the militants were going to target the Coptic community in general whether by assassinating and abducting prominent Coptic figures or carrying out terrorist operations in areas densely populated by Copts or known as their favorite gathering places.
The purpose, the document said, was to ignite a sectarian strife that not only rids the country of its Christian minority, but one that also undermines the structure of the Egyptian society.
According to security sources, the main purpose of the bombings is terrorizing the people so that they would not take to the streets in protest.
Certain strategic cities like Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, Port Said, and Ismailia, according to the document, were to be turned into military barracks.
The 22 cells, sources explained, possessed large numbers of advanced weapons and bombs that were brought from the Sinai Peninsula and Libya.

2011-08-17 "EGYPT: Nearly 20 alleged gas pipeline saboteurs arrested" by Amro Hassan []:
One man has been killed and nearly 20 Islamist militants, suspected in recent attacks on a police station and a natural gas pipeline supplying Israel, have been arrested in recent days in a sweeping military operation in the Sinai Peninsula. More than 1,000 Egyptian soldiers have been taking part in Operation Eagle against  armed extremist groups believed to be responsible for the recurring assaults in the peninsula since the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime. The Sinai pipeline has been targeted five times over the last six months. On July 30, two police officers and three civilians were killed when 100 masked gunmen riding motorcycles and carrying flags with Islamic slogans attacked a police station in the city of Arish. A security source, who spoke to state media on condition of anonymity, said militants were arrested Tuesday shortly before planning to bomb the pipeline near the city of Arish. On Monday, the first day of the operation, the state news agency MENA reported that Palestinians and Egyptians were captured and one gunman was killed in a raid on militant hideouts. Concerns over the security situation in Sinai intensified on Aug. 2 when a group referring to itself as Al Qaeda's wing in Sinai called for the creation of an Islamic caliphate in the peninsula. Authorities later claimed that the jihadists responsible for attacks on the Arish police station and the pipeline were linked to Al Qaeda’s Sinai wing. The unrest in the region has political and tribal overtones. Many Egyptians are opposed to Cairo selling natural gas to Israel, especially following disclosures that Mubarak's regime gave the Jewish state below-market prices. The matter has been further complicated by Egypt's long battle with Bedouin tribes who smuggle weapons, cars, food, building materials and other items through tunnels and into the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip. A 1979 peace accord between Egypt and Israel limits the number of Egyptian soldiers in Sinai. But on Monday, Israeli public radio announced that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had accepted an Egyptian request to deploy extra forces in the troubled peninsula.

2012-08-08 "Sinai attack clearly Egyptian operation - expert" by Yekaterina Kudashkina []:
Yoram Schweitzer, a Senior Research Fellow at Israel's Institute for National Security Studies, giving us more details of the Sinai incident.
The Israeli side as part of the drill procedures was waiting for an attack to come, but it didn’t know exactly when, where, at what time and in what form. Whenever it happens the forces react according to the drill and manage to curtail the operation and to block it. The fact that they managed to enter the Israeli territory on few kilometers was due to the surprise and the magnitude of the attack. But still it was prevented after de facto.
As for the group itself, we still don’t know who was behind it. It was definitely coming from Sinai. Whether there was an involvement of people from Gaza is still unknown. But it is quite clear that this was an Egyptian operation. There are several groups that have been involved in terrorist attacks from Sinai and this is probably one of them. Although according to some information that is already published, from Israeli sources, by leading journalists, it may have been an organized network, not necessarily one of these leading organizations. But we still don’t know.
So, it might be either kind of ad-hoc network of local Bedouins from the Sinai desert or one of the organizations that have already operated in the past. We still have to wait for few days and I’m sure that we will get claiming of responsibility by one of these organizations. It seems that these were very determined people. It was quite well organized. They had enough ammunition, they had vests. So, they not only took control of one of the armored vehicles of the Egyptians but they had their own equipment. So, it seems to be very well planned, probably for quite a long time, by people who are very determined and it seems to be a very professional job.

Q. What could be the implications of this attack?
A. I suppose that the best news is the fact that it was prevented and caused no harm the Israeli side, it helped Israel to restrain its countermeasure. On the other hand the Egyptians suffered part of the casualties, or most of the casualties if you wish, and thus it may force the Egyptians to do what they had to do for quite a long time, but I’m not sure that it will be done. The Egyptians should have taken control of the situation send more skilled forces to the area trying to regain their sovereignty and dominance in the area which they failed to do until now. So, the consequences for the Israeli side because of the lack of casualties on the Israeli side and the quick and effective operation of the Israelis, Israel can restrain itself and not do anything on the ground and let the Egyptians take care of things.

Q. Now the Egyptians seem to be insisting on increasing the amount of their troops in the Sinai Peninsula. Is it acceptable for Israel?
A. Look, I think first of all it is not only a matter of quantities of the Egyptians because I think when Israel reopened the agreement, according to the agreement there is a venue for the Egyptians and the Israelis to decide together on the increase of forces there. Israel has already let the Egyptians, with the consent of the Egyptians, to increase their forces there. But it is the matter of political decision, military determination and quality of soldiers that are being sent, rather than only the quantity. It is not a matter of increasing the quantity, the quantity could have been increased and more effective even by the Israeli-Egyptian previous consent.

Q. Dr. Schweitzer, as an expert in low intensity conflict, how would you describe the role of the Bedouins?
A. It is quite known that there are groups or clans among the Bedouin population that are taking active part in these operations. They were involved in the suicide attacks and the other attacks in 2004 and 2006 there. And they are definitely involved in the operations now. In any case, that part of the groups operating in Sinai whether it is ex-Islamist convicts that were released and others are enjoying the support and hospitality of Bedouins there. That is something quite well known. But there are groups within the Bedouins who have adopted these Islamist-Salafi-Jihadists doctrine and are recruited to be part of the game and they are helping others who flooded from Egypt and other places to the Sinai Peninsula in order to organize, to attack both the Egyptian installations in order to create what they see as a “free Sinai”, they see “free Sinai” as a part of the Sinai caliphate; and part of it is in order to increase their attacks against the Israelis. One of the claims of responsibility is by of one the groups that operate within Sinai Peninsula calling itself the Shura of Mujahideen, they say that they recognize no border except the Allah’s border which means that they don’t recognize the border in Sinai and the border between Israel and Egypt, and thus not recognizing Israel etc.

Q. So, what we are witnessing is the implications of the Arab Spring processes?
A. I think they are taking the opportunity of the lack of effective Egyptian control over Sinai in order to increase their operations. They are moving freely to Gaza and from Gaza to Sinai, not only groups from Gaza – Salafists, Jihadists and also Hamas – but other Salafist groups are coming from Gaza to Sinai to smuggle men, to train and to operate from Gaza to Israel, and from Sinai towards Israel plus with the backing of the Egyptians – of Bedouins and others – that are operating from Sinai by their own merit towards Israel.

Q. But this is quite a desperate picture what we are having now.
A. It is not desperate, it is part of reality. And I think it was quite well realizable. Even in the public domain we published an article about a year ago that described this process and now we see it materializing in a much more severe way. I think it is a matter of determination and allocating resources by the Egyptians cooperating with Israel. And I think we may confront it, but it a much more risky situation.

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