Egypt continues fighting terrorist threats in 2019 as the terrorists alter tactics and targets
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During 2018, Egypt observed a decline in terrorist attacks compared to the last four years, as recent researches showed, however the danger is still ever present, as militant groups in North Sinai are updating their tactics and targets to seize state efforts’ pillars.
Almost a year ago, the Egyptian armed forces launched a massive military operation named ‘Sinai 2018’ aimed to combat terrorism, insurgency, and criminal elements in central and north Sinai, the Nile Delta region, and the Western Desert. The operation involved the army, navy, air force, border patrol and the police.
Through 30 statements till the moment, the army declared that hundreds of suspected terrorists were killed or arrested, and large amounts of ammunition and heavy weapons were confiscated, as well as hundreds of explosive devices were defused. The military also announced the thwarting of dozens of “aggressive” attacks targeting its officers and military camps, security checkpoints, as well as civilians.
Meanwhile, the foreign ministry also stated the killing and arrest of suspect militants in different fire exchanges and raids across the country, affirming the prevention of dozens of planned aggressive attacks from taking place.
Since the toppling of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, Egypt has been fighting the insurgency led by the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group’s branch in Sinai. IS militants claimed most of the terrorist attacks which hit the country since then, killing hundreds of security officers, Christians, and even Muslims.
The Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis has been active in the Sinai Peninsula since 2011. In November 2014, the group changed its name to Wilayat Sinai (the governate of Sinai) after it pledged allegiance to the IS. The group expanded its attacks outside the peninsula to Cairo and other governates, focusing its targets on security forces.
Outside Sinai, dozens of dangerous and high profile attacks have taken place in recent years including the Farafra checkpoint attack which killed 22 soldiers in July 2014, the assassination attempt of Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim in May 2013, and the killing of the country’s Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat in a car bomb in June 2015.
However, in 2018, the massive attacks allegedly decreased, and Egypt could eventually breathe a sigh of relief, after the Libyan National Army announced the arrest of Hisham Al-Ashmawy in Derna, in Libya last October—the most wanted militant who Egyptian authorities accused of orchestrating the previous attacks.
Al-Ashmawy was the leader of the Al-Qaeda-aligned militant group, Al-Murabiteen, and a former Egyptian Special Forces commander who was fired from the army in 2011 after he displayed radical tendencies.
Egypt has declared war against militants to fight terrorism in its hideouts in the heart of the country and its borders. However, security forces are still mostly depending on security measures, sometimes pre-emptive strikes, but is the security solution enough rid Egypt from terrorism?
“There’s an enduring debate among political scientists about the best approach to fight terrorism. Most scholars believe that democracies are at a disadvantage because they cannot crush political dissidents,” Max Abrahms, a professor of Political Science at North-eastern University, and author of the new book Rules for Rebels: The Science of Victory in Militant History, informed DNE.
Abrahms reported that his own research suggests that “democracies are better at counterterrorism precisely because they do not overreact to terrorists as overreaction helps them to thrive by breeding a new generation of terrorists.”
“My research also shows that terrorism tends to strengthen authoritarian leaders, empowering them by convincing the public to support more hardline policies against terrorists,” Abrahms noted.
Abrahms added, “in that sense, terrorism is politically counterproductive. Economically, though, terrorism is quite effective especially at harming the tourism sector. Egyptians know this first-hand.”
On the other hand, Colin Clarke, a senior research fellow at The Soufan Centre in New York City, believes that “the best-case scenario is mitigating the threat, which entails not only a kinetic approach to counter-terrorism but also a focus on providing services to marginalised populations that might lend support to groups espousing radical ideologies or promoting political violence,” Clarke informed DNE.
Source: Daily News Egypt