BREAKING NEWS: Egypt Bombs Islamic State Targets In Libya Hours After The Militant Group Releases Video Showing The Beheading Of 21 Egyptian Christians
Egypt joined in the fight against the Islamic State overnight, as Egyptian warplanes conducted at least eight airstrikes against Islamic militant strongholds/camps in Libya near the town or province of Derna. Egyptian state television said “the dawn strikes had targeted camps, training sites, and weapons storage areas being utilized by the Islamic State.
The Egyptian airstrikes come in the aftermath of this weekend’s gruesome be-headings of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians by the Islamic State — after the militant group kidnapped the men in December and January near the Libyan own of Sirte in eastern Libya — a town believed to be under the control of the militant group. According to Egyptian State Television, “eight strikes have been conducted so far, (in Derna). The plan is to target all Islamic State locations in the country, wherever they are.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi gave a public address over State Television, MENA, saying that Egypt “had the right to respond? to respond against the Islamic State, whom he described as “inhuman, criminal killers.” “Egypt and the whole world are in a fierce battle with extremist groups, carrying extremist ideology, and sharing the same goals,” he added, Egypt has declared seven days of national mourning to honor those who were brutally murdered over the weekend by the Islamic State.
Egyptian Military Being Increasingly Targeted In Deadly Sinai Attacks
The addition of Egypt to the fight against the Islamic State is yet another indication that the burning alive of the Jordanian pilot was a tipping point in the war against the Islamic State. I wrote at the time that I thought the incident would be looked back upon as an historical turning point; and, I see no reason so far, not to continue to believe that notion. The latest airstrikes by Egypt — against Islamic State targets in Libya, comes after the gruesome be-headings of 21 Coptic Christians this weekend; and, several recent militant strikes against against Egyptian military personnel and facilities in the Sinai.
The BBC wrote this weekend that “at least 26 people, mostly soldiers, have been killed in a series of recent attacks by Islamic militants in the Sinai region.” I have written and posted a few articles on these incidents on my blog last week. The Sinai-based militant group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, ws originally inspired by the rise of al Qaeda; but, recently pledged its allegiance to — and changed its name to — the Islamic State.
The paper noted that “North Sinai has been under a state of emergency, and curfew since October, when an attack at a [heavily guarded, and patrolled] checkpoint killed dozens of soldiers. Last month, The Christian Science Monitor, reported that a coordinated attack that killed 40, and injured 100 others, “shocked even close watchers of guerrilla warfare in that region.”
“This attack is unparalleled, in scale and impact,” said Mokhtar Awad, who researches Islamic movements for the Washington D.C.-based think tank, Center For American Progress. “The military has done well to export an image outside world that it was winning; and indeed, up to this point — it seemed if that were true,” he added.
Echoes Of Sinai ‘Collapse’ In 1967
“This is a wake-up call for everyone,” said Mr. Awad, at the Center for American Progress. “There is almost a certain 1967 type twang to this, of how the military fed stories of great success that no one could easily verify — only to have such attacks happen.” Known to Egyptians as the “naksah,” or collapse, Egypt’s brief 1967 war with Israel ended in humiliating defeat — including the loss of the entire Sinai Peninusla — despite bellicose rhetoric from Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nassar.
How To Measure The Militant’s Strength
“In late October 2014, the Egyptian military began destroying homes in the border town of Rafah, making way for a kilometer-wide buffer zone. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced,” Ms. Loveluck writes, “and photos circulating on social media appear to show that the State of the Sinai has distributed charitable donations to stricken families,” something that the Hezbollah group in Lebanon has been doing for decades.
“Questions of what all this means, hang uncomfortably over the heads of Egypt’s top brass — as the Army licks its wounds. According to Zack Gold, a Visiting Fellow at The Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, State of the Sinai’s likely future operations, as well as the strengths of its links with its Islamic State overlords — will be better assessed in terms of frequency — than size.” “Sporadic, major attacks — the last being three months ago — are not out of the ordinary,” he says. “If the group….resumed major attacks across the country on a monthly basis, this would likely indicate greater assistance by the Islamic State.
Mr. Gold concluded that Thursday’s attack, “revealed a fundamental flaw in Egypt’s security and counter-insurgency policies in North Sinai. “if no one loses his job for this latest attack — it would show a shocking lack of accountability.”
Islamic State Pledge Raises The Stakes For Egypt
A November 20, 2014 article on the Al Monitor, discussed the recent pledge by the State of the Sinai to the Islamic State and what it might portend. According to the publication, “a Sinai tribal sheikh close to the Armed forces, the largest city in the North Sinai, told the Al Monitor — on the condition of anonymity — that “one of the main challenges currently faced by the Egyptian government; and, one that is preoccupying Egypt’s President, is that thousands of Egyptians are losing faith in the information regularly published by the Army on the progress on the war on terrorism in the Sinai.” “The problem got worse after Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis posted a video showing the group attacking the military base at Karam zl-Kawadis October 24, 2014, south of Sheikh Zuweid, which claimed the lives of 32 Egyptian Army members, and wounded about a dozen others,” the sheikh said,
“The video caused anger at the Army General Command, as it showed disastrous details, especially that military unit, equipped with advanced combat equipment, did not confront the terrorists; and, didn’t even fire a single shot, not to mention that a tank withdrew in the middle of the battle,” he said.
A researcher in security affairs and jihadist groups in the Sinai, which also requested anonymity from Al Monitor, said “the time of the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis’ decision to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State, — is fatal in light of Sisi’s — until now — successful attempts to convince the United States and Israel of his progress in eliminating the group. This progress, in terms of elimination of the threat to Israel’s security by establishing a buffer zone in Rafah, in exchange for the United States and the international community turning a blind eye on the violation of freedoms and human rights — and the practices of his repressive regimes.”
“The researcher said the video of Karam al-Kawadis confirms the battle in the Sinai is becoming highly complicated. The reality showed that there were small groups of terrorist working hard together; and, moving according to pre-calculated steps — with great confidence and planning — that must not be underestimated.”
“The researcher said defeating terrorists in the Sinai required “forces knowledgeable of the landscape of the place — trained in guerrilla tactics and, most important, on combat elements,” he said. “The problem is not in armament, since the military unit had two U.S.-made M-60 tanks, which have highly protective armor against [many of the] existing weapons in the Sinai — in addition to two armored half-track [vehicles] and a significant number of rockets and mortar systems, as well as heavy weapons. These weapons fell into the hands of Ansar bayt al-Maqdis, which will be used against them in the future — as the battles intensify.”
“A source sympathetic to the jihadists, in the border region, who also requested anonymity from Al Monitor, said “the announcement of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis to join the Islamic State — was the result of attractive offers of supplies and weapons from [ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi]. These will be given in return for Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis expanding its attacks in Egypt. This allegiance also aims to boost the morale of the fighters, as it reflects their spread into neighboring countries, and confirms they are not affected by violent coalition airstrikes.”
Clearly, Egypt’s Sisi has a “tiger by the tail,” and the Islamic State is metastasizing. The Arab Spring could morph into a cauldron of instability in the heart of the Arab world. Striking back against the Islamic State in Libya, shows the militant group that Sisi — doesn’t intend to give up and go quietly into the night — without a fight V/R, RCP