Jihadist Groups Reappear Openly in Sinai; Challenge Police and Army in the Heart of Al-Arish City

By Coptic Solidarity

Extremist groups in Sinai exploit the absence of security to recruit more youngsters from Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid cities. People in Sinai confirm Jihadist connections to Palestinian groups.

 The Sinai extremists groups reappeared in public in Al-Arish. On March 23 evening, a masked and armed group driving Suv’s without license plates attacked cigarette sellers in the middle of Al-Arish city. Security sources and witnesses confirmed that the masked people burned some of the cigarette sellers’ shops and kiosks in the heart of Al-Arish city.

As well, they shot randomly into the air spreading fear and panic among citizens, and causing stores to close. Security forces chased those armed ones who escaped from the region.

In Rafah, witnesses said that since the outbreak of the revolution some individuals related to the extremist groups burned a number of cafeterias in Al-Ahrash and Al-Nour suberbs in Rafah, the latest of which were two last week, claiming that those cafeterias were playing porno movies and offering drugs to customers after midnight.

 Witnesses also said that since the fall of the previous regime, those Islamists groups have spread in North Sinai attracting the youngsters, showering them with money, and also getting them married.

A number of Islamist groups is widely spread in Sinai, the most famous being those that raise the Jihad’s banner against Israel. Most of these groups are linked doctrinally or organizationally to Palestinian Jihadist groups that are adopting the concepts of Al-Quaeda but are not linked to it organizationally. Their ideas are close to the Islamist groups in terms of the Jihad, considering it as the missing pillar of the Moslems’ lives. The objective of Jihad is establishing the Islamic Ummah (nation) and then proceeding to reestablish the Islamic Caliphate.

 The Jihadist groups in Sinai do not have one organizational shape. Several groups exist, with a variety of names and objectives. The largest and most famous are “Al-Jihad Wal-Tawheed,” “Ansar Al-Jihad” and “Al-Salafeya Al-Jihadeya.” The most recent are “Mojahedeen Shoura Council” and “Aknaf Bayt Al-Makdess.” Members of these groups are armed, and they obtain military training almost regularly by some members of the Palestinian Jihadist groups, who escape the (Gaza) siege to desert areas in the middle of Sinai, away from scrutiny. In addition, Palestinian Jihadist groups cooperate with their Egyptian peers in smuggling weapons to Gaza through the tunnels, and in concealing their members whenever the circumstances in Gaza become tense.

 As for the “takfiry” groups (militant groups accusing others, including some Moslems, of being infidels), which adopt even more radical doctrines, they are centralized at the borders, especially in Rafah and Al-Sheikh Zuweid areas, in addition to the mid-Sinai area. These groups’ ideology is based on fighting the "infidels," classified as those who do not follow Islamic Sharia. They consider the ruler, his regime and the society as infidels if they do not adopt the "Law of Allah."

These groups became active in Rafah and Al-Sheikh Zuweid after the outbreak of the revolution, amid the absence of security. The ideologies of the Takfiry groups are similar, but they do not belonging to one organization. They are spread along the border areas, in the middle of Sinai, as well as some areas in Al-Arish where one of these groups made itself openly known after the January revolution, making use of the absence of security, which Sinai suffered from.

 This group, which calls itself the "Black Banners" organization, went on a ferocious war with the police, and had no qualms targeting civilians (being the offspring of an infidel society who do not comply with the Law of Allah). They caused horror in different areas in Rafah in the past months, terrifying citizens and storeowners, supporting the head of one family in Rafah in his personal conflict with others, and trying to impose Sahria by force. As a result, such groups do not get much sympathy from the people of Sinai.

Most groups have weapons, but are not organized. They tend to be self-locked and are not linked to any other Islamist organizations. Their doctrines clearly consider police and army forces as infidels working for an infidel ruler as his tools to support his rule that is against the Law of Allah (according to them), but they did not announce their responsibility about the operations that targeted the army and police forces at the borders in the past months, though fingers of accusation pointed to them in some cases.

 There is also another kind of Islamist groups that can be described as the "Sleeping Cells.” These have no specific ideology, but follow a blend of the Salafist, Jihadist and Takfiry ideologies.

 These groups captured the pulpits of the mosques by force, especially in the villages, and threatened the Imams of these mosques to the extent that they assaulted one of them and kicked him out of his mosque and his place of residence. Some of the members of these groups filled the vacancies of the Imams of some mosques and kept spreading their ideas legally through the pulpits of the private mosques, which are not integrated under official supervision (of the Ministry of Endowment and Islamic Affairs) in the north of Sinai. Among these mosques are Al-Nour, Abu-Bakr Al-Seddik, Quabaa, Al-Rahmna, Al-Tawba, Al-Madina, Masjed Al-Rahman, and some other village mosques.

 A local source said that some Jihadist elements began to appear in Rafah and Al-Sheikh Zuweid, and are rushing to recruit many radical youngsters before the re-establishment of security in Sinai, pointing out that those groups in Sinai are still limited. They embrace the ideology of Jihad, and include people involved in the explosions that took place in Sinai (in 2004 - 2006) who escaped prison after the revolution in the beginning of 2011.

 Some politicians say that tension in Sinai and the existence of some armed militias are of the best interest of Israel to fulfill its claims about insecurity in Sinai.

 Some strong rumors point that Jihadist elements from Rafah and Al-Sheikh Zuweid traveled to Syria to wage Jihad against Bashar Al-Asad whom they describe as the tyrant of the Arabs.

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Translated by H. Hanna from the original Arabic article: http://dostorasly.com/news/view.aspx?cdate=23032013&;id=813327b7-f536-4360-b1cd-257955bb9848

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