Political tensions ahead of next year’s presidential election is coupled with an ever growing armed uprising in the Sinai Peninsula and even in Egypt’s mainland.
President (or dictator) Abdel Fattah al-Sisi promised after his 2014 coup against the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohammed Morsi, that his government will bring much needed economic reform and political stability to the country. Thus far, neither has come about.
New terrorist organisations, linked but not officially attached to the IS-Sinai, surfaced and have recently carried out operations in Sinai and in the mainland.
The Islamist Hasm movement (Arms of Egypt Movement), founded in 2016 has risen to become the main armed opposition group against the central government outside of the Sinai. On the 14th of July 2017, five policemen were killed in the Giza province (south of Cairo) when their checkpoint came under attack. No one has claimed responsibility to the attack. Different terrorist cells in the mainland are on the rise: in May gunmen killed 29 Christian Copts travelling to a remote monastery south of Egypt and suicide bombers have attacked Christian religious sites as well all over Egypt. More than a 100 Christian Copts have been killed since December and most of them have fled the Sinai.
There, the war rages on as well.
Beginning of July 2017, 23 Egyptian soldiers were killed in North-Sinai when their post came under attack from suicide vehicles. Monday 17th of July 2017, a roadside bomb killed five officers in the same region. As a response, Egyptian forces raided and killed a “prominent IS militant” in Sinai and two militants from the Hasm movement in Cairo in a firefight. The government’s air force regularly launches attacks all over the country.
The instability caused by home-grown terrorism is taking a toll economically as well. Tourism in Egypt has been picking up pace, as the Egyptian pound has drastically weakened since the 2016 IMF loan. Thed 14th of July 2017, attacker in Hurghada left two German tourists dead and injuring several other.
Without stability, there can be no economic revival in Egypt. The government’s policy has so far failed. Meeting armed resistance with violence will just further alienate the population, especially in the resistive upper-Sinai.
Will the government realise that the policy it has conducted since 2014 has been an utter failure? Is the army ready to upper the stakes to keep its hold on power? How far are they ready to go?