In a recent conversation, a senior Egyptian security official stated that Egypt needs the technological tools to monitor the borders, especially the western borders, “that is where large numbers of recruits and terrorists come. We have to monitor people and arms smuggling. Tunisia is the largest recruiter of the Mujahedeen,” he said. Tunisians make up the largest group of foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria, estimated at about 3,000.
Egypt is surrounded by instability in the region with ISIS in Libya on the western border, ISIS in north Sinai on the eastern border and Sudan to the south. The war in Yemen is also destabilizing the region and the recent terrorist attacks in Tunisia are concern for greater instability in Tunisia. ISIS recently vowed in a video message to expand its activities in Algeria. In a statement saying, the “jihadi war will expand in Algeria.”
The State Department approved a possible Foreign Military Sale with Egypt for Border Security Mobile Surveillance Sensor Security System and associated equipment, according to a News Release issued by the Department of Defense.
The proposed sale will cost around $100 million and “will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country that has been and continues to be an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East,” according to the DOD News Release. The surveillance equipment will be used in protecting Egypt’s borders, in particular the western border with Libya, according to the Department of Defense.
Egypt has experienced an increase in terrorist attacks with the assassination of top prosecutor Hisham Barakat on June 29th. On July 1st, 17 Egyptian soldiers were killed in North Sinai from simultaneous attacks from Sinai Province, an ISIS affiliate, formerly Ansar Bait al-Maqdis. On July 11th, Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack at the Italian Consulate in downtown Cairo that killed one person.
Last Wednesday, the Egyptian armed forces said they thwarted an attempted attack on a military post between Cairo and the Red Sea. Fox News reported that the “driver of a car carrying 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) of dynamite refused to stop at the checkpoint, drawing fire from troops, the military said in a statement. The car went off the road and the driver was killed outside the checkpoint, according to the statement.”
On Thursday, Sinai Province, an Islamic State affiliate in Egypt’s north Sinai, carried out an attack on an Egyptian Navy vessel. This was the first time in a two-year insurgency that militants have struck at sea. No causalities occurred according to Egyptian army spokesman Gen. Mohammad Samir, reported CNN.
On Saturday, July 11-13, U.S. Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Jonathan Greenert visited Alexandria, Egypt to “reaffirm the United States’ commitment to partnering with Egypt and to enhance regional security,” according to a Press Release issued by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.
“I’m in Egypt to build a stronger relationship with my counterpart Rear Admiral Ossama,” said Greenert. “I was honored to meet him and his staff today and visit several Egyptian Navy ships in Alexandria,” the Embassy statement stated.
In conversation with Egyptian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Ambassador Badr Abdel Atti, he stated that Egypt is on the forefront of combating terrorism, “We are not only doing this to defend ourselves, but we are defending the civilized world.”
He said that the recent attacks came in the framework of the other attacks in France, Kuwait and Tunisia, saying, “We are all in the same boat and are fighting the same enemy. It is a global phenomenon and no single country is immune from this threat. No single country is able to defeat terrorism alone.”
He stated that it is a “must for the international community to work together and fight this phenomenon together. If we don’t be serious and act swiftly, we will all pay a heavy price.” He emphasized that Egypt has been continuously warning that this phenomenon is a global one and “it is clear we are all united and the world is united in fighting terrorism.”
The Spokesman added that Egypt is open to cooperating with their friends and the international community in various areas in fighting terrorism. Key areas of cooperation he stated are in the exchange of information, intelligence information sharing and high tech equipment machinery to fight and detect terrorism. Another area of cooperation is cutting off the funding from terrorist organizations.
He emphasized the need for the international community to understand and start to address the various terrorist groups as the same entity, even though they have different names. “This is the most important fact,” he noted. “We differ with the Western and international community on this, they are all the same.”
“It is sending the wrong message to fight a specific terrorist organization in a specific area,” he commented. “We call them Daesh in Syria or Iraq, this is not serious. There is Boko Haram, ISIS, Daesh, we have to deal with all terrorist organizations because they all share the same ideology and the same tactics. We must fight them all the same.”
He also called on the international community, especially the United States and Western countries, to close some websites that are linked to terrorist organizations. “Some are being used to recruit foreign fighters-teaching on how to manufacture bombs, this has nothing to do with freedom of expression,” he emphasized. He also highlighted some satellite channels that are airing incitement and promoting killing.
MEMRI reported on July 8th that in a “May 17 address on the Muslim Brotherhood TV channel Al-Sharq, broadcasting from Turkey, former Egyptian MP Dr. Atey Adlan said that the Quran teaches the Muslims how to fight and tells them to ‘strike [the infidels] on their necks, and chop off all their fingers.’”
A retired senior Egyptian security official commented to this reporter that the U.S. and Western move of supporting “moderate Islamists” is a failed policy. “A message to anybody who previously supported letting the so-called ‘moderate Islamists’ gaining territory in the Middle East, what happened in supporting such a viscous idea was we have replaced former regimes with much more dictatorial Islamist regiments,” he stated. “This change helped in the large deployment of terrorist organizations in the Middle East.”
He highlighted that there are “no countries that are quite safe of the grip of terrorist organizations, including the Western countries. That is why we call upon the people that originally supported such an idea, to review or think twice about their support that they provide to those so-called ‘moderate’ Islamists because the threat is going to reach them.”