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In February 2018, Egypt’s security forces launched a major anti-militant operation aimed at rooting out terrorism in Sinai and other areas across the country. A year later, the battle against Islamic insurgency is far from over.
In February 2018, security forces launched a major anti-militant operation, Comprehensive Operation Sinai (COS) 2018, aimed at wiping out terrorism. The operation came two and a half months after President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi appointed Lt. Gen. Mohamed Farid Hegazi as Army Chief-of-Staff and issued instructions to eliminate terrorist organizations in Sinai within three months. Hegazi’s appointment was made three days after an attack on Al-Rawda Mosque in the Bir al-Abd district, west of Arish, which claimed the lives of more than 300 civilians. The operation also coincides with Libyan National Army’s strikes against terrorist strongholds around Derna, which have driven the terrorists based there closer to Egypt’s western border.
Egypt has for years been battling an Islamist insurgency, which expanded following the ousting of Islamist President Muhammad Morsi in 2013. The attacks have been mainly concentrated in the restive northern Sinai Peninsula but have also spread to the mainland, including the capital Cairo.
President El-Sisi held a meeting with military and security top ranks after performing Friday prayers, on March 9, 2019, at Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi Mosque in New Cairo. He discussed with the army and police leaders, notably the ministers of defense and interior, the latest developments at the domestic, regional and international levels. Also, they reviewed army and police efforts within the framework of the ongoing military Operation Sinai 2018, in addition to tightening border security. The president lauded tasks undertaken by police and army forces to preserve the country, as well as their efforts to support the pillars of stability and development across the nation.[i]
On March 11, 2019, in the 32nd statement on the latest developments related to Operation Sinai 2018, the Egyptian armed forces announced that 46 terrorists were killed following shootouts in northern and central Sinai. Three army soldiers were martyred in those operations, the statement said.[ii]
The statement added that around 15 hideouts and four vehicles used by the terrorists in the north-east were destroyed by the air forces. The timeframe of events was not specified.[iii]
Egypt experienced two deadly terrorist attacks in February 2019, one in El Arish and the other in the Darb Al-Ahmar district near Al-Azhar. The attacks could have been timed to coincide with the first anniversary of the launch of COS 2018, and with el-Sisi’s visit to Germany to take part in the Munich Security Conference.
[i] "Egypt's Sisi meets top military, security ranks on Friday,” Ahram Online, March 9, 2019.
[ii] “46 militants killed in Egypt’s anti-Daesh campaign in Sinai,” Arab News, March 11, 2019.
[iii] “46 'dangerous terrorists' and 3 soldiers killed in Sinai operations - Egypt's military,” Ahram Online, March 11, 2019.