9 Mar 2013

Egypt raises alert level in Sinai over jihadist fears

Egypt’s interior ministry tells police in the Sinai peninsula to raise a state of emergency after obtaining intelligence that jihadists might attack their forces there.

An Egyptian soldier guards a checkpoint at Rafah city (pic: Reuters)

Officials have expressed growing worries about security in the desert region which borders Israel and is home to a number of tourist resorts.

“The Minister of Interior has raised the level of emergency in North and South Sinai after receiving information that jihadist groups intend to attack police buildings there,” interior ministry official General Osama Ismail said.

In August last year Islamist militant gunmen killed at least 15 Egyptian policemen in an assault on a police station at the border between Egypt and Israel, before seizing two military vehicles and attempting to storm the border.

It was the deadliest incident in Egypt’s tense Sinai border region in decades. Israel has accused Palestinian militants in Gaza of involvement in militant activity in Sinai, where insecurity has grown since Hosni Mubarak was toppled in Egypt’s 2011 revolution.

Pledged to improve security

Musri has pledged to get a grip on security in Egypt but struggled to assert control over an entrenched security establishment. Last week thousands of riot police and conscripts across the country went on strike over a variety of grievances.

In September, President Mohamed Morsi launched Operation Sinai, a military campaign to combat terrorist groups and restore safety and stability in the peninsula.

Ismail also said that all security services are working in northern and southern Sinai except for the Central Security Forces (CSF) camp in the northern city of Al-Arish, who went on strike.

About 60 police stations and 10 CSF camps are on strike nationwide calling for sacking the interior minister and protesting what they describe as the “brotherhoodisation of the ministry.”