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Egypt’s President Struggles with Islamic State in Sinai

This photo posted on a file sharing website in January 2017, by the so-called Islamic State Group in Sinai, shows a deadly attack by militants on an Egyptian police checkpoint that month. (Islamic State Group in Sinai, via AP)
Egypt's President Struggles with Islamic State in Sinai
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As Egypt prepares for a presidential election, the country continues to struggle with security in the Sinai Peninsula.

The election will take place from March 26 through March 28. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is expected to easily win a second term in office.

However, Egypt’s military remains in a campaign against extremist groups in the Sinai including the Islamic State group.

The IS is suspected in a December attack against the Al-Arish air base. Officials believe Egyptian government ministers were the targets. Reuters news service reported that the attackers used a laser-guided missile to destroy a helicopter.

Military and police officials say a Russian-made missile was fired from a house near the base.

The ministers were not hurt.

The military noted the attack in December but officials did not comment on it since then.

Islamic State remains in the Sinai

The Islamic State is using the Sinai area as a hiding place. The group has been forced out of Libya, Iraq and Syria.

In January, the United Nations released a report that spoke of the “resilience” of the Islamic State in Egypt.

Reuters reports that the Egyptian military has said it had killed more than 1,800 rebels in the area since 2014.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi is expected to win the presidential election in March.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi is expected to win the presidential election in March.

In February, the army launched an offensive in the Sinai. It said it killed may suspected rebels and detained hundreds of others.

The military said the army, navy and air force cooperated in a new way in the campaign.

Sisi’s supporters say the security situation now is better than it was in the years after the Arab Spring uprising of 2011. Sisi’s office did not answer requests for comments on the current security situation.

A new Sinai campaign against militants

The attack on the helicopter took place three weeks after Sisi ordered his generals to use, in his words, “brute force” against jihadists.

Egypt’s military is using warplanes, tanks and troops that have fought Islamists in the Sinai for years. Some experts say the army should use more effective methods that are less likely to anger civilians in the area.

One Western diplomat said Egypt should employ more targeted, intelligence-based tools for fighting extremism.

However, a military official told Reuters that Egypt’s security forces are succeeding. He also said civilians would be paid for material damages caused by the fighting.

The army says more than 10 soldiers have died in the recent Sinai operation and that hundreds have died in recent years.

The Islamic State has said that it killed many soldiers in the last month in roadside bomb attacks. The group is said to have released an unconfirmed video of the attack on the airbase.

The governor of Sinai announced after the attack that a secure area would be extended around the base. But people Reuters spoke to questioned whether the measures would help, saying they would only make people angry.

I’m Mario Ritter.

Reuters News Agency reported this story. Mario Ritter adapted it for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.


Words in This Story

resilience –n. the ability to regain strength or previous abilities

brute –adj. violent

jihadists –n. Muslims who support “holy” war

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