CAIRO: “There is a lot to worry about when it comes to safety and security in Rafah city and North Sinai in general, because people live surrounded by armed conflicts and chases between militant groups and security forces,” North Sinai-based journalist Mohamed Hussein explained in statements to The Cairo Post Sunday.
This comes amid news that a new alleged Sinai-based militant organization has forged its way to media news, as Youm7 reported Saturday that some citizens of Rafah left the city after being threatened by a group referring to itself as the “Liberated of Sinai.”
Accordingly, the situation in North Sinai is alarming, as military sources report almost on daily basis the killings and arrests of ‘takfiri members’, or ‘terrorists’, the seizure of significant amounts of weapons and ammunition, in addition to the attacks on security checkpoints targeting military personnel and other security forces, which have become frequent in the past year.
On the other hand, security experts continued to undermine those sorts of groups, strongly stating that their power is restrained by the security system. “Such groups only want to distract security forces, but all they are capable of is a few individual operations,”a retired major army commander and military expert told The Cairo Post Saturday.
“The security system is in control and that is why you have separate and small militant groups operating now, because the organization as a whole is over, it has been destroyed,” the source added.
In unusual circumstances, citizens were reported to have found print leaflets in a popular marketplace in Rafah city, with threats to specified people, of killing them if they “continued to cooperate with security forces,” Youm7 reported on Aug.13.
Some of those whose names were mentioned actually moved away looking for a safer place to stay, Hussein had reported. When asked if they had considered taking other procedures, such as coordinating with security forces to ensure their protection, Hussein told The Cairo Post there was nothing they would be able to do if extremists decided to “eliminate them.”
About the group, Hussein identified them as the “mafia of the tunnels” in reference to the hundreds of border tunnels destroyed by the army following the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi, which were the trade hub in the city, the source many depended on in making a living by exchanging goods.
However, the military cleared out most of the tunnels, convinced that the tunnels were used for smuggling arms into Egypt, and providing extremist groups with weapons to use against the army, police, and state institutions.
Morsi and his allies are accused of a conspiracy with Hamas and Hezbollah, allowing them to enter Egypt, amid accusations that those foreign elements were the ones who “liberated” thousands of prisoners during the security chaos which surrounded the incidents of the January 25 Revolution in 2011.
AnsarBayt al-Maqdis, another Sinai-based group, is more established.AnsarBayt al-Maqdis have supposedly claimed responsibility for a number of operations in which security men were killed in armed attacks, mostly in North Sinai. The group denied links to the ‘liberated’.
Security officials had also underestimated the organization, at least in the media, when online statements, one after the other grabbed media attention. The group had claimed responsibility for a number of deadly attacks such as the explosions of Cairo and Dakahlia security directorates.
In the beginning, security experts challenged the group and claimed it did not exist. North Sinai Chief Security SamehBashady stated on Al-Tahrir Channel last April that the group was “not real, and security forces are making their best efforts to fight outlaws.”
Most security experts claimed that operations in Sinai were carried out by remaining cells of the MB, namely the militias of Deputy Supreme Guide of the MB, Khairat al-Shater. “They call themselves Bayt al-Maqdis, but in reality they are nothing but the Brotherhood’s armed wing taking revenge on security forces,” strategic expert Sameh Seif al-Yazal said on Al-Hayat TV last January.
“A war of ideologies is what we are dealing with, through various factions derived from the same organization, which is the Muslim Brotherhood,”the former army commander said.
Those groups mainly target police and military soldiers and officers, whom they accuse are the source of the killing of many innocent civilians, namely since the dispersal of the Raba’a al-Adaweya Muslim Brotherhood sit-in by force and the arrest of many Islamists following Morsi’s removal.
“Those groups are in psychological warfare with the regime. Their aim is to spread panic, which is why the first step to face them is the responsibility of the media to not give them more attention than they deserve,” a former State Security official and counter-terrorism affairs expert stated to The Cairo Post Saturday.
“The Egyptian security system is competent enough to break into those organizations and demolish them before they conduct terrorist operations,” the expert added.
But more than a hundred security personnel have been killed in what security sources consider “minor operations in a period of one year.