A conflict that has raged since the beginning of 2011, with little sign of ending in the near future, the Sinai Insurgency has pitted the military forces of Egypt against militant Islamist insurgents across the Sinai Peninsula. Over the years, the war has cost an unclear number of lives and livelihoods, as nearly six years of suicide bombings and insurgent attacks have rocked the region. Here are 10 facts about the Sinai Insurgency and its effects on the region:
- According to the nonprofit Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, the insurgents have launched over 800 attacks solely in the region of Wilayat Sinai since late 2014.
- Though the number of attacks in 2017 has decreased from previous years, the deadliness of the attacks has increased. In mid-September, 18 members of Egypt’s security forces were killed in a suicide bomber attack near the Sinai city of Arish. This attack followed a July attack that claimed the lives of 23 policemen.
- At least 1000 members of security forces have been killed in combat or in terrorist attacks since mid-2013. In 2017 alone, more than 200 members of Egypt’s forces have been killed.
- The continued conflict has also led to increased tension between Egypt and its neighbors, as Egypt has closed borders along the Gaza strip after accusing Hamas of harboring some of the insurgents it is battling in Sinai.
- The downing of a Russian airliner in 2015 has led to immense pressure on Egypt’s economy, as Russia, a major trade partner, has ceased all civilian flights into Egypt, while many other nations have blacklisted cities that comprise a large portion of Egypt’s tourism revenue.
- The Tahrir Institute estimates that over 2500 militants have been killed since the struggle ramped up in intensity in 2013. Many media outlets report militant casualties far higher than that, though their numbers are unofficial and suspect.
- Islamist insurgents have continually targeted the Coptic Christian population of Sinai in their attacks, particularly their churches and gathering places. Successful attacks have stirred resentment against the Egyptian government for failing to protect the minority population.
- Though the vast majority of insurgent attacks are concentrated in the northeastern corner of the peninsula, attacks have been reported across the length and breadth of Sinai. Some have even been reported as making their way into other areas of Egypt.
- Many of the Islamist insurgents aim to remove the unpopular president of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, but others, such as the Bedouin tribesmen native to Sinai who are barred from the Egyptian army and many jobs, have joined the conflict as a way of violently addressing other grievances at the hands of the Egyptian government.
- In August, the U.S. cut $100 million dollars worth of aid to Egypt and continues to withhold hundreds of millions more. The decision, according to State Department statements, was motivated due to concerns over the state of human rights in Egypt.
Though a mere 10 facts about the Sinai Insurgency is hardly enough to encapsulate the entire conflict, the above facts can help foster a better understanding of the scope and motivations behind the conflict, particularly in regards to the tense political situation that cloaks the region, and how that relates to the U.S.
– Erik Halberg