Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—The security situation in the Sinai Peninsula has deteriorated even further following the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Mursi, with a series of terrorist attacks being carried out by suspected Islamist militants.
Egyptian army spokesman Col. Ahmed Mohammed Ali stressed that “terrorists have escalated their planned operations against the police and armed forces in the Sinai over the last few days. Their aim is to spread chaos and undermine Egyptian national security.”
Unknown gunmen in northern Sinai attempted to assassinate the commander of the Second Field Army, Gen. Ahmed Wasfy, late Wednesday. A bystander was killed in an exchange of fire between the gunmen and the convoy guarding the senior military official. One of the assailants was reportedly captured, while the others escaped. Wasfy was not hurt in the clashes.
While Egyptian security officials reported on Friday that suspected Islamist militants attacked a police checkpoint in the Sinai Peninsula, killing one officer. The attack happened south of the city of El-Arish, and saw militants reportedly firing a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) at an armored car at the checkpoint, killing a 40-year-old Lieutenant Colonel. The attack also wounded a policeman who was taken to hospital and is reported to be in critical condition.
An Egyptian Central Security Forces (CSF) soldier was killed on Thursday, reportedly by smugglers. A security source in North Sinai revealed that the soldier was killed after smugglers shot him when he attempted to stop them south of the Rafah land crossing and Karm Abu Salem crossing.
Elsewhere, an Egyptian border guard and five soldiers were injured when a jeep they were riding in overturned while they were chasing a group of armed militants in central Sinai.
Egyptian authorities abruptly shut down the Rafah border crossing—the only border crossing not controlled by Israel—on July 5 in response to the intensification of unrest on the Sinai Peninsula following Mursi’s ouster. Egypt reopened the border crossing on Wednesday, July 10.
The Sinai Peninsula, near Egypt’s border with Israel, has suffered from a lack of security since the January 25 revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Criminal elements and others have sought to take advantage of the security vacuum on the strategically important peninsula to attack police stations and security convoys, and to escalate smuggling operations. Unrest on the Sinai Peninsula only intensified following Mursi’s ouster.
As soon as the military announced the Islamist president’s ouster and the transitional roadmap, Islamists took to the streets across the Sinai Peninsula to protest the “coup.” Armed Islamists also appeared on the scene to guard the protesters, some of whom were reportedly waving the black flags of the Tawhid wal Jihad group, which claims to be an Al-Qaeda affiliate.
Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood condemned the assassination attempt targeting Egypt’s Sinai military commander and rejected all acts of terrorism. In a statement released Thursday, the group said that the Muslim Brotherhood “does not depart from its principles, especially peaceful principles. This is not a matter of politics or activism, but is based on the principles of religion and legitimacy.”
The statement called for “the continuation of peaceful resistance against the bloody military coup” on the grounds of “constitutional legitimacy,” in reference to the ousted president Mohamed Mursi. “We are confident that the peaceful will of the people will prevail over force, oppression and injustice, attempts to obscure the facts, lies and fabrications, and military dictatorship,” the statement added.
Hussein Ibrahim, the general secretary of the Freedom and Justice Party—the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood—stressed that “The [Freedom and Justice] party strongly and categorically rejects any use of violence to express the rejection of the military coup.”
“Our peaceful resistance of the military coup . . . will be victorious in restoring freedom,” Ibrahim added.