Egypt: Islamists Roam Sinai Waving The Black Flag Of Al-Qaeda, Residents And Police Hide In Fear
By Tamim Elyan, “(Reuters) – They came in Toyota pick-up trucks, dozens of heavily armed masked men, firing machineguns and waving the black flag of al Qaeda as terrified residents and police huddled indoors, and then disappeared again, melting away into the mountains and remote villages of Egypt’s Sinai desert.
The raid on the town of al-Arish in July 2011 was the first warning Egypt had of the strength of the jihadis in North Sinai. It was a warning largely unheeded until suspected Islamist militants killed 16 Egyptian border guards this month and drove a stolen armored car across the Israeli border before it was destroyed by Israeli forces.
Egypt is now pouring in troops to try to restore stability, and the sophistication of the border attack has finally set alarm bells ringing about the militant threat in the Sinai.
‘Sinai is ideal and fertile ground for al Qaeda,’ said Khalil al-Anani, a Middle East specialist at Durham University in England. ‘It could become a new front for al Qaeda in the Arab world.’
Diplomats and analysts say there is no evidence as yet of formal links between al Qaeda and the Sinai militants – made up of Bedouin aggrieved at their treatment by Cairo, Egyptians who escaped prisons during last year’s uprising against Hosni Mubarak, and Palestinians from neighboring Gaza.
They blend a toxic mix of smuggling, gun-running and human trafficking with the ‘takfiri’ ideology of al Qaeda – which declares all Muslims who do not follow their purist, Salafist interpretation of Islam as ‘kafirs’ – infidels. Crime and religion are soldered by ferocious opposition to Israel.
‘The Sinai has become a base for all kinds of extremist groups,’ Yitzhak Levanon, former Israeli ambassador to Egypt, told Reuters. ‘Their overarching objective is to hurt us, to expel us, to set up a caliphate and shock the Middle East.’” Read more.
Flashback: Al Qaeda’s New Sinai Front Could Deepen Arab-Israeli Conflict – “The terror group’s allies have opened a new front in the Sinai Peninsula, gateway to Israel and Gaza from Egypt. With the region a tinderbox after last week’s Palestinian attack on Israel, adding Al Qaeda to the mix could be explosive, says Bruce Riedel… pamphlets were circulated announcing a ‘Statement From Al Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula.’ The statement called for creating an Islamic emirate in the Sinai, implementation of Sharia, breaking the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty …” Read more.