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Free Fire | | CounterJihad Campaign, Counterterrorism, Middle East

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  • Islamic State-affiliate bombards Sinai Peninsula with attacks; Egyptian forces respond

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  • What happens when the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and the Islamic State all work together?

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The Sinai Peninsula region has been under bombardment this week. As previously discussed in the Free Fire Blog on Monday June 29, Egyptian Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat was killed as a result of a car bomb on his convoy in Cairo. Barakat was a member of the Egyptian Judiciary, which has made great strides and efforts to “defeat the Muslim Brotherhood’s terrorist violence”.

Yesterday, militants with the Wilayat Sinai (formerly named “Ansar Bait al-Maqdis”), the Islamic State’s Egyptian affiliate, conducted a number of coordinated attacks on Egyptian military checkpoints in North Sinai. It was reported that more than 100 militants and 64 Egyptian soldiers were killed in the attacks. 13 soldiers were also wounded.

According to security sources, the militants were also targeting two towns in particular, Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah. The militants had closed in around Sheikh Zuweid and placed bombs in and around the town. Egyptian forces were able to thwart the militants’ attempt of a siege there.

Reports out of Israel suggest a growing cooperation between Hamas-the Palestine branch of the Muslim Brotherhood- and the Islamic State.

According to Haaretz news, “Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip have been maintaining close ties with operatives of Wilayat Sinai, the radical jihadist group identified with ISIS”. This indicates that Hamas, the IS-affiliated Wilayat Sinai group in the Sinai Peninsula, and the Islamic State proper all work together at least on some scale, on some occasion. Granted, there is conflict, tension, and attacks between the three groups. But it must be acknowledged the jihadist groups are able to work together, when it works for them.

The cooperation between Hamas and the Islamic State is a reminder that while jihadist terror groups may have disagreements, they are also capable of cooperating to achieve shared goals.

Late yesterday, after security forces reportedly declared that the Northern Sinai situation was under control, Egyptian forces killed a number of Muslim Brotherhood members while attempting to affect an arrest. The exact details of this incident are yet to be confirmed. At this point in time, there seem to be three main versions of the story.

First, an Egyptian security official reported that 13 Muslim Brotherhood members were gathered in a flat in Cairo’s October 6 suburb. The security forces were presumably still searching for individuals responsible for or connected to the vicious attacks from earlier in the day, however there is no confirmed motive behind the officials’ entering of the building. Officials claim that then men inside the flat were armed, and fired on them. Then, as a result the Egyptian security returning fire, 13 Muslim Brothers were killed.

Second, the Interior Ministry (of Egypt) has reported slightly different facts. The Ministry has claimed that 9 Muslim Brotherhood members were killed, and that the leader Abdel Fattah Ibrahim “was leading a meeting…to discuss ‘plots’ to carry out ‘terrorist’ attacks. It is confirmed that Ibrahim was indeed one of the individuals killed in the confrontation. Reportedly, there was previous information that “indicated that this group has supported all recent ‘acts of violence and assassinations’”, which could also shed light on the initiative of police investigating the flat. Police claimed that they were shot at first, and the member deaths resulted from police’s returned fire.

The final version of this incident is reported from Muslim Brotherhood sources and spokesmen. Mohamed Montaser, one of the spokesmen, has said, “The leaders that were executed in the flat were in a meeting [discussing] supporting the orphans of martyrs. They were unarmed, and talk about them clashing with the security is a lie”. The Muslim Brotherhood has released a statement, holding Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi responsible for the “assassinations” of the “members of a legal, humanitarian, and psychological support committee”. The statement went on to further berate President Sisi, as well as issue continued threats against the Egyptian government.

The overthrow in 2013 of previous Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi (a prominent actor in the Muslim Brotherhood group) by current Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has resulted in the rise of violent actions and threats against the Cairo government. These sentiments stem primarily from the Muslim Brotherhood, who have “called for an ‘uncompromising jihad’ against the Egyptian government”.

While many media outlets have ignored the significant role played by the Muslim Brotherhood in the backing of terrorism, it’s important for U.S. security to back the Egyptian effort against the Brotherhood, as Michael Rubin, an expert analyst on the Middle East noted yesterday:

“As broader violence erupts between Sisi on one hand and the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic State proxies on the other, it’s crucial to back the former and a definitive U.S. interest to seek the defeat of the latter”.

It would be wise to take Mr. Rubin’s advice.

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