WASHINGTON, D.C. – TIMEP denounces the deadly terrorist attacks in Egypt yesterday claimed by Islamic State affiliate Wilayat Sinai, and extends its deepest condolences to those injured and the families of those killed. The attacks were executed against a dozen military and police targets, including an army base and several security checkpoints, as well as a hotel and the office of Egyptian state newspaper al-Ahram. Militants reportedly used mortar rounds and “car bombs” in the attacks, demonstrating a level of coordination unseen until now. An estimated 40 civilians and security personnel were killed, and dozens more were reportedly injured. Officials expect those totals to rise as rubble is cleared from damaged buildings.
In response to yesterday’s attacks, the Egyptian military has pledged to intensify raids in Sinai and “uproot and eliminate” terrorism. The attacks took place in el-Arish, the provincial capital of Sinai, as well as the towns of Sheik Zuwayid and Rafah (which borders Gaza). These areas have been under a curfew and heightened state of emergency since October, in the wake of another violent attack in Sinai’s Karm al-Qawadis that resulted in the deaths of at least 28 soldiers. In recent months, the Egyptian government has also relocated Rafah residents in order to create a buffer zone meant to deter militants and arms smugglers from entering Egypt from the Gaza Strip.
“The Sinai peninsula has been subject to terror attacks for years, to which the government has typically responded with a very heavy-handed approach, often to the detriment of local civilian populations,” said TIMEP Executive Director Nancy Okail. “The ability of terror groups to sustain their attacks at an increasing rate and with such unprecedented coordination requires a reassessment of the government’s counter-terrorism strategies, as evidently, the current approach has been unsuccessful in addressing this increasing threat to Egypt’s security and stability.”
According to data collected by TIMEP, terrorism in Egypt has increased significantly over the past four years, particularly in North Sinai, which saw approximately 380 terror attacks in the past two years—a nearly seven-fold increase over attacks in 2011 and 2012. Terrorist attacks in North Sinai have continued unabated over the past three months, despite statements by Egypt’s military spokesperson that the government has allegedly killed 127 alleged terrorists and arrested 1,337 more in North Sinai during that time.
To combat the increasing terrorism in the Sinai peninsula, the Egyptian government must engage in targeted counter-terror operations, rather than overly broad and indiscriminate security campaigns that risk harm to civilians. The government must also evaluate the effectiveness of its counter-terrorism strategies and adopt a comprehensive policy that include social solutions, such as education, employment, and infrastructure development, particularly in areas where terrorist groups rely on illicit trade economies and exploit residents’ frustrations with the state.
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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.