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The latest policy paper from the Henry Jackson Society’s Centre from the New Middle East highlights the enduring threat posed by Islamic State’s Sinai province. As this paper reveals, with assistance from Hamas’s military wing in Gaza, Islamic State militants in the Sinai have been able to evade the Egyptian military. In mid-2000s we saw Jihadist elements in the Sinai have target western tourists at Red Sea resorts. A decade on it was Islamic State linked militants that carried out the bombing of the Russian passenger jet from Sharm el-Sheikh. That attack came the same year that an Islamic State directed cell carried out a series of high profile mass casualty attacks in Paris.
As this paper notes, the danger is that if the international community only focuses on destroying Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, then we could see a continuation and even an escalation of retaliatory attacks from IS groups in places like the Sinai. That is why the Western strategy for dealing with Islamic State must take a comprehensive look at also confronting IS in places like Libya and the Egyptian Sinai.
The areas covered by this paper include:
Tom Wilson, Research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society’s Centre for the New Middle East, commented “Islamic State’s branch in the Sinai has been one of the most overlooked elements in the war against ISIS, this has had devastating consequences, as seen with the downing of the Sharm el-Shaikh passenger jet. The Sinai remains an important base of operations for Islamic State and even if we see the eventual defeat of IS in Iraq and Syria, the group will continue to pose a threat the region as well as to the West and western civilians from the Sinai. One of the reasons why it is proving so difficult for the Egyptian military to defeat the militants is on account of the way that Hamas’s military wing appears to be sheltering the group’s members in Gaza, where they are safe beyond the reach of Egypt’s security forces. Nevertheless, failing to adequately address the challenge posed by Islamic State’s Sinai Province is likely to put western lives in danger in the coming years.”
Read the full paper here.