Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, prominent Egyptian Islamist Magdi Salim revealed that talks have taken place between Egyptian state apparatus, Salafist jihadist groups operating out of Sinai and Egyptian al-Jihad group leaders in order to put an end to the bloodshed in the peninsula. The Egyptian military has been conducting operations targeting jihadist groups operating out of the Sinai Peninsula following an attack on the Rafah Border Crossing. Magdi Salim was a prominent member of Egypt’s al-Jihad group, he was detained by the Egyptian authorities following the assassination of President Anwar Sadat.
Commenting on the Egyptian army’s attempts to target members of Islamist groups in Sinai, Salim stressed that “they are not responsible for the Rafah attack which claimed the lives of 16 Egyptian officers and soldiers last month”. He added that the leadership of these jihadist groups believe that the Rafah attack aimed to drive a wedge between the Islamist trend in Sinai and the new Egyptian political authorities in Cairo, particularly newly elected president Mohamed Mursi. Salim claimed that the Rafah attack was carried out by a “minority” that “has nothing to do with these [Sinai Islamist] groups.”
Security sources in Sinai also informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the presidential delegation to the region “did not negotiate with the dangerous takfirist elements that are wanted there” and that there have been no instructions regarding a ceasefire or truce between the security forces and the jihadists. The source stressed that “the terrorist cells [in Sinai] are fragmented; they do not have a unified leadership to negotiate with” adding “the army would not negotiate with the killers of its soldiers.”
This comes as Islamist radicals continue to target Egyptian checkpoints, despite reports about the presence of a truce.
For his part, Egyptian Army Chief of Staff General Sidqi Subhi announced that Defense Minister General Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s visit to Sinai has been postponed due to presidential commitments.
Salim also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “al-Jihad group leaders visited the leadership of the jihadist groups in Sinai to mediate talks between them and the state apparatus, with the objective of putting an end to the bloodshed there, particularly as the security campaign launched by the Egyptian armed forces in Sinai following the Rafah attack has affected the jihadist groups there.”
He also revealed that the jihadist groups in Sinai are divided between the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah group, and Salafist Jihadist groups. Salim said “these groups have issued statements rejecting the Rafah attack and confirming that they support the current legitimacy with the objective of protecting stability.”
The Egyptian Islamist leader also informed Asharq Al-Awsat that 12 al-Jihad group leaders had travelled to Sinai to carry out talks with Islamist groups and state apparatus with a view to ending the bloodshed. He added that the Sinai crisis is in the process of being resolved, and that the al-Jihad group leadership “had no choice but to get involved so that we do not see a return to the practices against Islamic groups that took place during the era former president Mubarak.”
Salim revealed that talks took place between approximately 50 senior Islamist leaders in Sinai, adding that these talks lasted one full day.
As for who was present in the meetings, he revealed that this included Sheikh Abu Luqman of the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah group, as well as Abu Omar Suleiman, Abu Faseel and Ahmed Zaid Abu Assem Abdullah of the Salafist Jihadist leadership. Salim also said that these Islamist leadership figures all condemned the Rafah attack, adding that this attack was not in line with their ideology and that they support the Egyptian state and new regime to preserve the security of the state. Salim stressed that during the talks, the jihadist groups in Sinai expressed their cooperation with Egyptian state apparatus to maintain security and stability in the region. He also asserted that these Islamist leaders had confirmed that the Egyptian armed forces were not their enemy, and even pledged to assist the Egyptian military in their different missions in Sinai.