Urges Egypt, Regional Actors to Cooperatively Address Growing Militant Threat
Washington, D.C. – The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) denounces the attack against a military post that took place in Egypt’s New Valley province on Saturday, killing 22 military soldiers and wounding four others. TIMEP extends its condolences to those injured and the families of those killed.
Saturday’s attacks underscore the growing threat of terrorism facing Egypt and the region. Although Egyptian officials have repeatedly extolled the country’s efforts to address the threat of terrorism, it has not been able to curtail such attacks so far. In July alone, Egypt has seen 35 deaths resulting from seven terror attacks, according to data compiled by TIMEP that will be released later this week.
According to reports, a rocket-propelled grenade launched during an exchange of fire between suspected weapons smugglers and Egypt’s military blew up a weapons storage facility, killing and injuring the soldiers. Reports on the number of attackers killed have varied, with sources putting the number at either two, three, or four dead (out of at least a dozen). The same military post targeted on Saturday was attacked two months ago in an assault that killed six soldiers. Saturday’s violence resulted in the highest death toll in an attack on army personnel since last August, when 25 police draftees were killed in North Sinai.
In response to the deaths of the soldiers, the government of Egypt has declared a three-day mourning period as well as a state of emergency in border area where the attack occurred, while Egypt’s National Defense Council promised to respond to what it called “a despicable terrorist act.” In an interview, the father of one of the killed soldiers (AR) demanded accountability for the killings, expressing his view that inadequate protections were in place to prevent such an attack. Prime Minster Ibrahim Mehleb, Secretary General of the Arab League Nabil El-Araby, Egypt’s Grand Mufti Shawky Allam, and Egypt’s Churches Board, which includes Egypt’s five largest Christian denominations, all condemned the killings.
Threats posed by militant groups engaged in weapons smuggling operations along Egypt’s borders has raised concerns in recent years. Smuggling operations from Libya have been of particular concern, as the number of weapons making their way into Egypt from Libya has reportedly increased. According to a United Nations report released earlier this year, “ineffective security systems and border controls remain primary obstacles to countering arms proliferation” coming from Libya. Egyptian and Libyan officials have disagreed about the nature of the threat on the border, hampering efforts to combat this problem. Additionally, Libya is now at risk of becoming a “failed state,” according to that country’s foreign minister, further limiting its ability to counter militia activities along its border with Egypt.
The government of Egypt should conduct an immediate investigation into this attack and hold the perpetrators accountable, while providing transparent reporting on the security situation in the country. It is also imperative that the government of Egypt work closely with regional partners to develop a strategic dialogue aimed at strengthening existing border control and effective counterterrorism measures. These measures should incorporate specialized training for more capable border security forces. As Egypt continues to address the increasing threat of terrorism, the government should also provide adequate support to economically- and socially-oppressed groups within the country to minimize their susceptibility to the influence of both domestic and foreign terrorist groups.
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The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness of democratic transitions in the Middle East through analysis, advocacy, and action.