Today, several heavily armed gunmen launched an attack on several military checkpoints in Sinai, killing 15 soldiers and two civilians. The attack also injured 17 security personnel and 13 civilians; security personnel on site managed to counter attack and kill 15 of the militants. There has been no claim as to the perpetrators of the attack but it is extremely likely that Wilayat Sinai carried out the attack. It was the deadliest attack in the region since the bombing of the military base in El-Arish this January. Even though the Egyptian military and security forces have mounted a considerable counter-insurgency campaign against the Islamic State-affiliated forces, today’s attack suggests that Wilayat Sinai is still very much capable of conducting large scale attacks on military outposts.
This past week has seen an outbreak of terrorist activity in the Sinai Peninsula. Back on March 24th, a roadside bomb killed two Egyptian soldiers and wounded six others on a routine patrol in Sinai. Sinai is the home to the terrorist organization Wilayat Sinai, previously known as Ansar Bait al-Maqdis before they swore allegiance to Islamic State back in November. February and March saw multiple bombing attacks on police stations and military patrols in the Sinai Peninsula, and on April 1st there was a mortar attack on a Bedouin village which killed one and injured three.
The northwestern part of Sinai is a major hotbed of Islamist activity ever since Mohamed Morsi was deposed from the Egyptian presidency. In response to the outbreak of attacks since Morsi’s downfall, the Egyptian military and law enforcement have conducted a series of raids and air strikes in an attempt to crush Ansar Beit al-Maqdis/Wilayat Sinai. President al-Sisi has even gone so far as to establish a unified military command for the 2nd and 3rd Egyptian Army divisions, in order to focus on counter-insurgency operations in the Sinai region in the wake of the El-Arish attack.