The United Nations Security Council-imposed sanctions on the Libyan Islamist militant group Ansar Al Sharia should be seen as a positive push in an attempt to curb terrorist activities in Libya, which are spiralling out of control.
The United Nations Security Council-imposed sanctions on the Libyan Islamist militant group Ansar Al Sharia should be seen as a positive push in an attempt to curb terrorist activities in Libya, which are spiralling out of control.
A Sinai tribal sheikh close to the armed forces intelligence services in al-Arish, the largest city in North Sinai, told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that one of the main challenges currently faced by the government, and one that is preoccupying the president personally, is that thousands of Egyptians are losing faith in the information regularly published by the army on the progress of the war on terrorism in Sinai.
“This problem got worse after Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis posted a video showing the group attacking the military base of Karam al-Kawadis on Oct. 24, south of Sheikh Zuweid, which claimed the lives of 32 Egyptian army members and wounded about a dozen others,” the sheikh said.
“The video caused anger at the Army General Command as it showed disastrous details, especially that the military unit, equipped with advanced combat equipment, did not confront the terrorists and didn’t even fire a single shot, not to mention that a tank withdrew in the middle of the battle,” he said.
A researcher in security affairs and jihadist groups in Sinai, which requested anonymity for security reasons, told Al-Monitor, “The timing of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis’ decision to pledge allegiance to IS is fatal in light of Sisi’s until now successful attempts to convince the United States and Israel of his progress in eliminating the group.
The progress is in terms of elimination of the threat to Israel’s security, by establishing a buffer zone in Rafah, in exchange for the United States and the international community turning a blind eye on the violation of freedoms and human rights and the practices of his repressive regime.”
The researcher said the video of Karam al-Kawadis confirms that the battle in Sinai is becoming highly complicated. The reality showed that there were small groups of terrorists working hard together and moving according to precalculated steps with great confidence and planning that must not be underestimated.
“The confidence of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which appears in the video, stems from the high familiarity of its fighters with the rugged Sinai landscape. This is in addition to their experience, reflected in their on-target operations. In the meantime, the army is busy torturing civilians and disseminating false information and data to the public about exaggerated operations targeting Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and its leaders,” the researcher said.
“The evidence for this is the appearance of two prominent figures from the organization in the execution of the Kawadis attack: Abu Osama al-Masri, a spokesman for Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and field leader Shadi al-Menei, who have already been declared dead more than once in previous campaigns,” the researcher said.
“The plan to surprise the army unit was highly developed. Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis started by penetrating the army position with a truck loaded with more than two tons of highly explosive TNT to kill some of the soldiers in the vicinity with a huge explosion. This aimed at creating imbalance and shock among the survivors who saw the violent explosion. Then they attacked with infantry forces equipped with various arms,” the researcher added.
The researcher said defeating terrorists in Sinai required “forces knowledgeable of the landscape of the place, trained in guerrilla tactics and, most important, on combat elements.” He said, “The problem is not in armament, since the military unit had two US-made M-60 tanks, which have highly protective armor against [many of the] existing weapons in Sinai, in addition to two armored half-tracks [vehicles] and a significant number of rockets and mortar systems as well as heavy weapons. These weapons fell in the hands of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which will be used against them in the future, as the battles intensify.”
A source sympathetic to the jihadists in the border region, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Al-Monitor, “The announcement of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis to officially join IS was the result of attractive offers of supplies and weapons from [IS leader Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi. These will be given in return for Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis expanding its attacks on Egypt. This allegiance also aims to boost the morale of the fighters as it reflects their spread into neighboring countries and confirms that they are not affected by the violent coalition strikes.”
He said Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis accepted the offer after the Egyptian army in past months aggressively targeted the group’s weapons depots and dried up its trade sources in Sinai.
The pro-jihadist source continued, “The attack on the Karam al-Kawadis military site had been planned for a full month and the condition was that the attack would be filmed in a way that affects public opinion, in particular to attract angry youths from other Egyptian governorates to use them in bomb attacks.”
The source warned of drastic changes in the combat mechanisms of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis after joining IS, especially in terms of expanding unexpected bomb attacks against civilians in the capitals of Sinai and the region’s security headquarters, as well as in the heart of Egyptian provinces outside Sinai.
The risk of IS reaching Sinai comes as Israel tightens security measures on its side of the border, including the deployment of additional forces, according to Salmi Tarabin, a resident of the Egyptian Sinai border area.
Tarabin confirmed that Israeli reconnaissance drones have entered Egyptian territory to prevent any danger that might threaten it.
Massaad Abu Fajr, member of the 50-member committee charged with writing the new constitution, commented on his Facebook account about the pledge of allegiance by Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis to IS. He said, “The war against Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis would not last for two weeks if there was a rational state.
Today, the only hope is that the government stops killing hundreds of civilians, imprisoning thousands of innocent people and blowing up their homes. It must return the army to its barracks and replace its troops with forces specialized in fighting terrorism operating under the [rule of] law.”
He said if this did not happen, there would be more violence and no victory for Sinai.
The U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions Tuesday on the Libyan Islamist militant group Ansar al-Sharia, which took part in the 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, for its ties to al-Qaida and other terrorist groups.
The council committee monitoring sanctions against al-Qaida added its two Libyan branches – Ansar Al-Sharia in Benghazi and Ansar Al-Sharia in Derna – to the sanctions blacklist and ordered all countries to freeze their assets, and impose travel bans and an arms embargo.
France, Britain and the United States sought the sanctions and council members had until 3 p.m. EST (2000 GMT) on Wednesday to object. There were no objections so the committee listed the two branches, saying both are associated with Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and other groups.
The United States has already imposed sanctions on Ansar Al-Sharia for its role in the Benghazi consulate attack that led to the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond welcomed the council’s action saying both groups “are responsible for acts of terror in Libya, including bomb attacks, kidnappings, and murder.”
“The decision sends a clear message that the international community will take action against extremist groups in Libya who pose a threat to peace and security,” Hammond said in a statement. “It is incumbent on all Libyans to reject these groups and all they stand for.”
He urged all parties in Libya to stop fighting immediately and support mediation by U.N. envoy Bernardino Leon, an appeal echoed by France’s U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre.
“This is an important decision because it draws a clear line between, on the one hand, jihadists with whom there can be no dialogue, and on the other, those Libyan groups – Islamist and others – that must take part in talks launched by special envoy Bernardino Leon,” Delattre said.
Libya is currently mired in the worst fighting since dictator Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown and killed in a 2011 uprising against his four-decade rule. Islamist-allied militias, who have been battling forces loyal to the internationally-recognized government, now hold the capital Tripoli and the country’s second-largest city Benghazi, where the warring parties agreed to a 12-hour humanitarian truce on Wednesday. The militia fighting has killed hundreds and displaced tens of thousands.
In their Nov. 4 proposal seeking sanctions, France, Britain and the US said both branches of Ansar Al-Sharia participated in the Benghazi consulate attack and conducted many terrorist attacks and assassinations against local security forces between 2011 and 2014. It said the attacks caused “hundreds of victims,” though neither branch has ever claimed responsibility.
The three countries said the Benghazi branch may also have participated in the first suicide bombings targeting Libyan forces at the end of 2013 – and the Derna branch is suspected of cooperating in preparations for the attack. It said the Benghazi branch may also have participated in a double suicide attack against Libyan forces on July 22.
The three countries said Ansar Al-Sharia in Derna, led by veteran Afghan fighter Sofiane Ben Goumo, publicly pledged allegiance in October to the Islamic State terrorist group, which now controls a large swath of Syria and Iraq.
Three French fighters in the Islamic State (IS) urged the Muslims among their fellow countrymen to travel to Iraq or Syria to join the group, and told those unable to do so to carry out lone-wolf attacks in France, suggesting to poison food and water and to drive over victims.
The 7 minute, 19 second, English-subtitled video, entitled, “What Are You Waiting For,” was produced by the group’s al-Hayat Media Center, and was distributed on Twitter and jihadi forums on November 19, 2014.
“The calls from these fighters—particularly those for lone wolf attacks—echo Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al-‘Adnani’s September message in response to coalition airstrikes,” says SITE Director Rita Katz. “The spokesman’s speech is especially relevant as France was among the countries suggested by him to attack, along with America, Australia, and Canada.”
Footage shows the men burning their passports and then sitting together as they give speeches. The three speakers are identified as Abu Osama al-Faranci, Abu Maryam al-Faranci, and Abu Salman al-Faranci.
Each of them implore Muslims to come join the IS under its “Caliphate,” and to make this travel before they are unable. If they cannot come, one of the men, Abu Maryan, suggested carrying out attacks at home, in France.
The Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, hailed Tuesday’s assault on a Jewish synagogue, dubbing the move “a normal reaction” to Israel’s mounting terrorism against Palestinians and Islamic sanctuaries in the Occupied Palestinian territories.
Baghdadi’s words were part of an audio recording titled, “Despite the Disbelievers’ Hate” (Law Kariha l Kafiroun), and it was issued on Thursday [Nov. 13] by al-Furqan Association, which is IS’ central media arm.
The recording came to prove the news wrong only a few days after media reports of his possible death by a US airstrike. Baghdadi talked about events that took place after the news of his death spread, like the collective “pledges of allegiance” he got from Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. He also commented on Washington plans on sending a new group of soldiers to Iraq.
As-Safir had cited a source close to IS in a report published last Wednesday [Nov. 5], saying that the collective “pledges of allegiance happened in coordination with the organization’s command,” and that they were paving the way for a step that was being planned to face the “American deceit.” The source did not rule out a possible audio recording for one of the IS leaders in the next few days.
Baghdadi’s speech was divided into two main parts. The first one took around two-thirds of the time of the recording and lasted 17 minutes. Baghdadi tackled the failure of the international alliance’s operations, which he called “Crusade campaign,” and he mocked the Arab participation in them. In the second part, which was the most dangerous, he announced that IS is expanding and new provinces are rising in several Arab countries. Both parts were under Baghdadi’s main headline, which stated that jihad would persist and would target all people and lands at all times.
Baghdadi began, “God has commanded all people without exception to be jihadists. He ordered us to fight until the last man.” Baghdadi wanted to assert that his soldiers “will never leave the fight” and that they are “divinely aided.”
Then, he talked elaborately about the Crusade campaign against him. Although he acknowledged that this campaign carried out by the international alliance was one of “the fiercest and most intense,” he described it as “a failure and disappointment.” He said that the United States and its alliance were “stumbling in fear, weakness, impotence and failure.”
He believed that the United States and Western states were afraid, and the first indicator was that they “did not dare start their campaign before gathering their slaves and dogs of Muslim rulers.” He mocked the participation of Arab states in this alliance, which he described as a “media act.” Another indicator of their fear is “the participation of the Jews (Zionist entity) in this campaign, secretly and stealthily.”
Baghdadi seemed to respond to US President Barack Obama when he reiterated almost verbatim the provisions of Obama’s strategy for the war against IS, including shelling locations, stopping IS advancement, arming and recruiting soldiers and regaining cities. Baghdadi said that this strategy failed. He said, “Despite the air raids and continuous shelling, IS advancement did not stop.” With his statement, Baghdadi hit a nerve, as Obama was also being criticized by his Republican opponents and some strategic analysts.
In his past speech, Baghdadi expected Washington to wage the battle against him after discovering that “its advocates that are fighting a war by proxy won’t be useful.” In yesterday’s speech, Baghdadi said that Washington “will be obliged to put boots on the ground.” Baghdadi said Obama’s decision to send 1,500 new soldiers to Iraq constituted a start to that plan.
It was not enough for Baghdadi to declare the failure and impotence of the US plan to deter IS; he went as far as threatening to enflame the region “and erupt the jihad volcanoes everywhere and set fire to the earth with its tyrants.” He announced the largest expansion of his organization since its establishment by accepting the recent collective “pledges of allegiance” from factions scattered in several Arab countries, mainly Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis in Sinai, Egypt. The other pledges are also important, especially those declared in Saudi Arabia.
“We announce to you the expansion of the Islamic State to new countries, to the countries of the Haramayn [Saudi Arabia], Yemen, Egypt, Libya and Algeria,” Baghdadi said. It is noteworthy that the collective pledges of allegiance came from these countries last Monday [Nov. 10]. Baghdadi declared accepting them and specified the procedures that follow this acceptance, like canceling the names of the groups, declaring them new provinces under IS and appointing “walis” for them. This means that IS has expanded its provinces to seven Arab countries.
It was remarkable that Baghdadi specifically threatened Saudi Arabia, which he called “Bilad al-Haramayn” (the country of the custodian mosques), with an elevated tone. He called its rulers “the Saloul family, the serpent’s head and the stronghold of the disease.”
He called on his advocates to draw their swords, because “there shall be no rest or security for the Salouls and their soldiers from now on.”
In a statement that asserted the interest of IS in deepening the strife and manipulating it, Baghdadi urged his advocates in Saudi Arabia to start fighting the rawafid (rejectors of Islamic authority, in their opinion), then al-Saud family and its soldiers before reaching the Crusaders and their bases.
Perhaps the most dangerous element in Baghdadi’s speech was his noting that the vanguards of the state would soon be sent to meet their backers in Saudi Arabia.
“Chop them to pieces, make their lives a living hell, and God willing, soon the vanguards of IS will arrive,” he said.
Baghdadi also called on the soldiers of Yemen to attack Houthis, whom he described as infidels, and he called on the “Unification Lions” (an expression used by Baghdadi to describe those seeking to unify the Islamic nation) in Libya, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco not to hand over the country to seculars. He also praised Sinai inhabitants for starting jihad against what he called the “dictators of Egypt.”
The expansion declaration is a clear threat to the mentioned countries, which are on the chaotic agenda that IS has in store for the region. But at the same time, this declaration constitutes a huge challenge for the organization and its leader, Baghdadi. How far can he keep the commitments that accepting the pledges of allegiance and expanding to five countries at the same time entail, and can he bear the subsequent financial, organizational and military burdens?
A primitive bomb exploded in an underground metro station in Cairo, which resulted in 15 passengers being injured in the panic that followed, according to official data, and not the explosion, which was small.
Another terrorist attack has targeted Egypt, yet outside the border this time, when a car bomb exploded near the Egyptian Embassy in Libya. The embassy was empty at the time and there were no losses. The incident was considered retaliation against Egypt for its alleged involvement in the air strikes on Libya and support for the forces of Gen. Khalifa Hifter and the official government against armed groups.
This raises questions on the limits of the potential reprisals and whether they will reach the Egyptians in Libya or go beyond the Egyptian-Libyan border into Egypt’s internal scene.
It should be noted that the attacks that were carried out in the past two days do not indicate coordination between the perpetrators. The Sinai attacks are always conducted in the same way, and Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS), often claims responsibility for them. As for the bomb in the metro station, it is a familiar attack that does not suggest that a real group is behind it. This is while the waterborne attack is totally new for the Egyptian arena, and may suggest that there are new terrorist groups operating in Egypt.
The only link between all of these attacks is the broad security crackdown by the state against armed groups in multiple places in Egypt, particularly in Sinai, on the western border, in Cairo, and a number of other provinces.
These terrorist attacks seem to be a reaction to the state’s security policy. At the same time, they raise the question of the effectiveness of the state’s mechanisms in the face of terrorism, and whether or not they need to be reviewed.
The Sinai attack in particular was carried out during unprecedented security measures, in which the Egyptian state has mobilized both the armed forces and public opinion, and through which it has taken several measures, most notably the evacuation of the border line with Gaza, and has used all of its tools to confront terrorism in the Egyptian peninsula.
In this context, Gen. Adel Suleiman, head of the Strategic Dialogue Forum told As-Safir, “The state is dealing with terrorist incidents with security tools alone, which is not enough. What is needed is a comprehensive vision to counter terrorism, taking into account the political, preaching, developmental and social dimensions, including caring for the people’s development needs in Sinai and to provide them with services and facilities to build a real support” in the war on terrorism.
Suleiman said, “The recent attacks cannot be linked to each other. For instance, the attack in Karam al-Kawadis, which resulted in dozens of soldiers being killed, was planned with great potentials, while the attack in the underground metro station was limited and may be individual.”
“There are terrorist incidents indicating the involvement of external forces and the presence of real groups and individual attacks. Yet, the overall situation suggests that there is a permanent attempt to create unrest and insecurity,” Suleiman said. “On the other hand, there is misconduct; security members in Sinai are targeted by terrorist groups and they know it. Yet, they are moving without sufficient caution, and the Egyptian state does not take the necessary precautions when transporting them on their way home.”
Suleiman said, “One could not predict the nature of the attack on the Mediterranean coast, nor the parties involved unless the sufficient information is available. The nationality of the detainees has not been announced, and any talk on the involvement of parties, such as Turkey in response to the rapprochement between Greece, Cyprus and Egypt, is unfounded.”
Regarding the bombing that targeted the Egyptian embassy in Tripoli, Suleiman said, “Any disturbance in a neighboring state affects Egypt’s security, not only in terms of the Egyptian interests in Libya or the Egyptians there, but also the Egyptian-Libyan border, which extends to more than a thousand kilometers. In all cases, there must be an integrated vision to counter terrorism, instead of contenting oneself with just security campaigns.”
The incidents that took place in the past two days show most importantly that the confrontation with violence is not ephemeral, and will not be resolved by a broad security crackdown no matter how strong it is, and that there is a need to re-examine the motives and reasons behind violence.
On the other hand, some argue that what the Egyptian state is doing is designed to find the optimal way to confront terrorism.
In this context, strategic expert Maj. Gen. Mohyi Nouh told As-Safir: “The attacks were the direct result of the successive blows dealt by the state to terrorist groups.
“For instance, the extreme pressure on terrorism in the Sinai may have pushed terrorists to work through the sea, and we can say that this is an important qualitative leap. Yet, one cannot underestimate the efforts carried out by the armed forces to combat terrorism,” he said. “The attacks are mainly designed to undermine the armed forces and what they are doing, and represent an attempt by terrorist groups to prove their existence, which is a sign of weakness, not of strength, proving the success of the crackdowns” carried out by the armed forces.
On the situation in Libya and to what extent it affects Egypt, Nouh said, “The authorities in Libya are making progress in terms of regaining control, and Gen. Hifter is dealing powerful blows to terrorism. Besides, the armed forces are tightening their grip on the western border, either through the aircraft, al-Saiqa special forces, paratroopers and other tools.”
He said, “I do not think that there is a great danger for the Egyptians in Libya, and in all cases, the best way to secure the Egyptians there is by restoring security and the state in Libya.” He expressed his optimism regarding the performance of the Egyptian armed forces, and anticipated that “the coming period will witness extended and deadly blows against terrorists in the Sinai and everywhere in Egypt.”
The Egyptian state is actually dealing powerful blows against terrorism on the internal scene, and cooperating seriously to combat terrorism abroad. Nevertheless, the experiment has proved that the crackdowns alone do not eliminate terrorism, but can lead to its spread and the creation of new cells.
Source: As Safir
The Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar has revealed that Hezbollah is seeking to “recruit Christian, Sunni Muslim, and Druze youth, as well as providing them with training and weapons to confront the danger of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria [ISIS] and sister groups.
” Hezbollah is addressing the youth by claiming that they share one destiny, a slogan “more attractive than that of confronting the Israeli enemy, because the danger ISIS poses is closer [than that of Tel Aviv],” the newspaper reported.
It also revealed that the recruiting process is not limited to Lebanon, but takes place in Syria as well, yet not under the label of “resistance.” Young people there are being “directly recruited with large salaries by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.”
The report said that “those arriving in Lebanon tell of dozens of cases of relatives fighting unemployment and defending their existence [in Syria] for monthly salaries ranging between 1,500–2,500 US dollars.” This recruiting process certainly means blackmailing and buying mercenaries, as organized crime gangs do.
But this is not the end of the story. The report reveals two significant issues. First, it points to Hezbollah’s predicament in the region and Syria. Clearly, the militia now realizes that the lie of “resistance” has been exposed, and that Iran’s efforts to reach a nuclear deal with the US require it to soften its denunciations of Israel.
If Iran reaches a deal of any kind with the Americans, this means that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah will turn into a guardian of the Israeli border with Lebanon, just as Bashar Al-Assad is, and his father Hafez was before him.
This predicament, which has pushed Hezbollah to recruit mercenaries, is not due to Iran alone; rather, it is also an indication of the heavy losses in lives the militia has suffered in Syria. Moreover, it suggests that Hezbollah now requires a sectarian cover to justify its presence there.
By doing this, Hezbollah wants to say that it is not the only side defending Assad, nor is it implementing Iran’s sectarian agenda, claiming instead that its presence there is part of an array of forces defending the whole of Syria. Obviously, Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guard drew inspiration for this idea from the US-led international coalition against ISIS, built under a Sunni Arab umbrella.
On the other hand, the recruitment operation confirms Assad’s predicament, particularly after The Washington Post reported that Syria’s Alawites are growing restless and disillusioned with their president.
The second issue underscoring the stupidity of Hezbollah in recruiting mercenaries is that it can lead to two things: first, the Lebanese militia could be infiltrated by several intelligence agencies.
Second, it means that Hezbollah is nurturing a dangerous animal that will eventually turn on it, a familiar scenario facing any side that uses violence and terror for its own ends.
Therefore, the recruitment process Hezbollah has turned to is a foolish step that will prove to be a disastrous mistake in the future. Then, of course, no one will feel sorry for the sectarian, terrorist Hezbollah or its officials.