Egypt launches massive security operation against militants
Egypt launches massive security operation against militants
The operation, announced in a televised statement by army spokesman Col. Tamer El-Rifaai, began early Friday and covers central Sinai and areas in Egypt’s Nile Delta and Western Desert. He said the operation is targeting “terrorist and criminal elements and organizations.” There was no indication how long the operation would last.
In a subsequent statement, El-Rifaai said the air force carried out airstrikes on militant hideouts in north and central Sinai. He added that naval forces were deployed to cut off their supply lines and that security has been boosted around the country’s border crossings, shipping routes and vital facilities.
Security officials said the forces killed at least 20 militants in the north Sinai town of Bir Al-Abd. They added that militants are also being targeted south and west of the town of Rafah, on the border with the Gaza strip. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
The operation began amid local media reports of heightened alert levels in north Sinai hospitals and in other neighboring provinces in anticipation of casualties. Local gas stations and shops were also ordered shut.
The military campaign comes ahead of the presidential election in March in which President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi is running for a second four-year term with no serious contenders. El-Sisi was elected in 2014 in a landslide with promises of restoring security.
Egypt has for years been struggling to contain an Islamic insurgency in the turbulent Sinai region. It has carried out military operations there that, it says, have killed hundreds of militants and soldiers over the years. Egypt also built a buffer zone along the border with Gaza to curb the flow of militants and weapons through a vast tunnel network under the border. The insurgency, nevertheless, shows no signs of abating.
In November, militants killed 311 worshippers in a mosque attack in the region, the deadliest in Egypt’s modern history. Shortly afterward, El-Sisi gave security forces a three-month deadline to restore stability to northern Sinai and authorized his chief of staff to use “all brute force.”
Later, militants fired a projectile at El-Arish airport and struck an Apache helicopter that was part of the entourage of Egypt’s defense and interior ministers who were in the city on an unannounced visit on Dec. 19. Neither minister was in the aircraft when the attack took place but the missile killed an officer and wounded two others. Egypt is currently building a buffer zone around the airport.
Militant attacks have generally surged since the 2013 military ouster of elected President Muhammad Mursi following mass protests against his divisive one-year rule. The violence has been concentrated in northern Sinai Peninsula but has also spread to the mainland.
Egypt is also facing a growing number of attacks in its Western Desert along the porous border with Libya that has been the source of serious concern to authorities who contend Islamic militants and smugglers use it as their route into the country.
Egypt has been under a state of emergency after suicide bombings struck two Coptic Christian churches on Palm Sunday last year in an attack that was claimed by the Egyptian affiliate of Daesh.
Jordanians fight back against terrorism
- Militants from Daesh and other radical groups have long targeted Jordan and dozens of militants are serving long prison terms
- Jordanian security forces have been extra vigilant having warned that sympathizers of Daesh could launch revenge attacks after militants were driven out of most of the territory
JEDDAH: The terrorist attacks in Jordan over the weekend shocked the country but the people support the security agencies in countering extremist ideologies, political analysts told Arab News on Tuesday.
The chain of events in Jordan began on Friday when assailants detonated a homemade bomb under a police car guarding a music festival in the predominantly Christian town of Fuheis, west of the capital, Amman. The blast killed a police officer.
Security forces chasing the Fuheis suspects raided a multi-story building in the nearby town of Salt on Saturday.
The militants opened fire and set off explosives, killing four members of the security forces and collapsing part of the building. Three suspects were killed and five were taken into custody.
The assailants had hoarded large quantities of explosives that were apparently intended for attacks on civilians in public places and on security installations. The explosives “were ready, on a timer, and could be detonated immediately,” government spokeswoman Jumana Ghuneimat told reporters at a press conference on Monday.
According to university professor and geopolitical analyst Amer Sabaileh, the attack in Fuheis and the subsequent clashes in the city of Salt indicated that the terrorists were currently targeting the security services.
“The explosive device planted under a security patrol’s vehicle in Fuheis did not target civilians, although there were large numbers participating in the Fuheis Festival. They insisted on sending a clear message that the target of terrorism at this stage are the security services,” Sabaileh said.
This trend indicated that there was an internal decision among the members of these terrorist organizations that the “enemy” was the security members but not civilians.
This puts the members of the security services in direct confrontation with this pattern of terrorism, which was clearly evident in other countries where the security services were targeted directly, he said.
However, this did not mean that the terrorists might not also target civilians in the future.
Sabaileh praised the timely security operation to unveil and swiftly counter the terrorist cell behind the Fuhais attack in less than 24 hours.
“The logical reading of the events of Salt indicates the high effectiveness of the anti-terrorism squad at the Jordanian intelligence department, which was able to read the facts of the Fuheis attack and identify the people and the point of their presence very quickly,” he said.
Nevertheless, he said, the high number of casualties among the security task force that responded to the terrorists requires the Jordanian authorities to revise all security plans, training and tactics.
Officials said on Monday that the suspected militants who killed members of Jordan’s security forces over the weekend were Jordanian citizens who support the ideology of the Daesh group but did not have proven links to foreign funding or foreign extremist organizations.
“It is clear that all the conferences, seminars and funds spent on strategies and plans to combat extremism and terrorism, and the establishment of a special unit (the anti-extremism unit), were in vain and had no real value, and this requires those responsible to reconsider all training programs and anti-terrorism strategies,” he said.
Hassan Barari, a professor of political science at the University of Jordan, said that there were lessons to be learnt from the recent attacks.
“First, there is a consensus among Jordanians that the stability and security of the country is a top priority. The solidarity expressed by Jordanians is a statement of a strong domestic front, and this should be reinforced by sound policies by the government,” Barari said.
“Second, there is a pressing need to nip radicalism in the bud. We all know that there are some incubating environments for radicalism in at least three sites in Jordan. Given the gravity of the situation, the government should adopt a deradicalization strategy. True, the security approach is a key pillar for this strategy; yet, it is far from being sufficient,” he said.
He underlined that many young Jordanians were susceptible to radicalization due to their perception of the weakness of the current political reality and a lack of a stake in the political order, and it was time to admit that there was an ideological component to this that could not be confronted by force alone.
On Tuesday, King Abdullah visited the General Directorate of the Gendarmerie and the General Security Directorate, where he said: “We are not worried about the security of our country’s present and future. Our society rejects the extremist ideas and those carrying it and trying to force it on our society.”