In the absence of police and government security forces, al-Qaeda-sympathetic movements, including al-Shabaab al-Islam (The Youth of Islam), have formed in the Sinai Peninsula. The demands of these Salafi-Jihadist groups reflect both local and regional concerns. Among their demands are calls for a full implementation of Shari’a, the revocation of Egypt’s treaties with Israel, the establishment of an Islamic Emirate in the Sinai and Egyptian military intervention against Israel on behalf of the Palestinians in Gaza. Despite a statement proclaiming the establishment of al-Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula, core al-Qaeda has not yet acknowledged this new chapter of the movement. Sinai-based militants have repeatedly targeted a natural gas pipeline to Israel in a show of distaste for Arab-Israeli relations and to strike a symbol of the corruption of Mubarak’s regime. These attacks and the recent storming of a police station by armed militants in the regional capital of al-Arish have alarmed Cairo, which has lost control of the region since security forces fled Bedouin attacks in the January revolution. In response to these developments, Egyptian security forces have returned to the Sinai, though there are conflicting accounts of whether their mission will be solely defensive or directed at eliminating the militant threat. The size and armament of the deployment is limited by restrictions imposed by the Camp David Accords signed with Israel. The long standing alienation of the Sinai Bedouin from the rest of Egypt and the growth of a radical Salafist movement influenced by like-minded groups in Gaza have combined to pose a serious challenge to a regime that is handcuffed in its response.
1. The video was posted to YouTube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYuKeeIVFzM ) on July 27, but has since been removed “as a violation of YouTube’s policy on depiction of harmful activities.”