News / Middle East

Egyptian Sinai Engulfed in Post-Revolution Lawlessness

Egypt's Sinai Engulfed In Post-Revolution Lawlessnessi
May 16, 2013 9:22 PM
Egypt's Sinai peninsula has grown increasingly lawless since the revolution, with officials bringing new accusations the region is home to terrorist training camps. VOA's Elizabeth Arrott has more from Cairo.
Elizabeth Arrott
Egypt's Sinai peninsula has grown increasingly lawless since the revolution, with officials bringing new accusations the region is home to terrorist training camps.

Egypt's Sinai Peninsula has long been a country apart. It has its share of foreign tourists seeking sun and sand on the Red Sea. But for residents, life is hard.

The Bedouin have long felt disenfranchised and excluded from the tourist wealth in southern Sinai. Now, in northern Sinai, jihadists, smugglers and common criminals are finding that post-revolution lawlessness makes the desolate landscape a perfect hiding place.

Egypt's Volatile Sinai PeninsulaEgypt's Volatile Sinai Peninsula
Egypt's Volatile Sinai Peninsula
Egypt's Volatile Sinai Peninsula
The region is awash with arms, smuggled from Libya and Sudan and with some - but not all - passing through tunnels to Gaza.

Sameh Seif el Yazal is a retired general and security expert.

"Some of it goes there, maybe to Syria after that, I don't know. But some of it is still in Egypt, used by whom, this is the question, and used when, that's another question," said el Yazal.

Egyptian authorities say they recently disrupted a terror cell that received part of its training in northern Sinai camps, in preparation for attacks on domestic and foreign interests in Egypt.

Yet enforcing security in Sinai is difficult because troop movements are limited by international agreement. Professor Christian Donath of American University in Cairo.

"They have to bring sort of military assets into the Sinai, and this is a real problem from the standpoint of the treaty with Israel," said Donath.

Even if authorities could act, some believe the current government has yet to take a stand that would hurt fellow Islamists in Gaza. El Yazal says efforts to close the tunnels are a case in point.

"They damaged it very nicely and softly - in the sense that a couple of days after it was working again," he said.

Yet some Islamists say they are trying to be part of the solution, pointing to their efforts to temper jihadi and other extremist views in Sinai.

Safwat Abdel Ghani is with Gama'a al-Islamiya. The group renounced terror in the 1990s.

"If it had not been our role and that of other Islamic movements that belong to the Salafis and the Brotherhood, such thoughts would have spread widely," said Ghani.

But Abdel Ghani argues that “reasoning” with extremists is not enough to bring peace.

Egypt's government must commit to greater political engagement as well as economic development to bring the people of northern Sinai back into the fold, he says. With resources countrywide stretched thin, Sinai is likely to remain beyond reach.

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Comment Sorting
by: Samuel Prime from: Canada
May 17, 2013 2:41 AM
I think that Israel has on occasion allowed the Egyptian military to go into certain areas of the Sinai banned by the Peace Treaty in order to quell militants and terrorists in the Sinai. The lines of communication between Israel and Egypt's military are open for just such eventualities, as well as the interception of arms smuggling from Sudan, Iran, Syria and other rogue states whose aim is to destabilize the region and arm terror groups, including Hamas.

by: ali baba from: new york
May 16, 2013 9:03 PM
hungry man is an angry man. Egypt has no food .islamist want the power to rub the country .Using religion as a cover up of the corruption .this policy will not work and eventually the starvation in Egypt make the harsh correction .thanks to the American policy maker whom they make the worst blunder in the history of politics by supporting Muslim brotherhood

by: Nazarene Church from: USA
May 16, 2013 6:28 PM
the Egyptian wanted the Sinai as an act of humiliation for Israel... after having gotten their a s s kicked... Israel gave them the Sinai back because of American pressure... now the Sinai has become the dagger that cleaved the Egyptians heart... here is a beautiful poetic justice... and you did not believe in G-D... now the Egyptians are killing Christians... what will G-D have for them next I wonder...

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