Hugh Roberts: Single group appears to be targeting Sinai's resorts


The latest bombing in Egypt's Sinai is as likely to add to the mystery surrounding bombings in Egypt as to resolve it.

Monday's attack in Dahab resembled those at Sharm el-Sheikh last July, and at Taba in October 2004. That the same organisation was responsible for all three is suggested by the targets (resorts on Sinai's east coast) and techniques (multiple bomb attacks on civilians without warning), and the fact that they have all occurred on or near important Egyptian anniversaries: the annual celebration of the 1973 war (Taba), the anniversary of the 1952 revolution (Sharm el-Sheikh) and now on the eve of Sinai Liberation Day.

Before 2004, Sinai had seemed entirely insulated from jihadi violence throughout the insurgency of the 1980s and 1990s which climaxed with the massacre at Luxor in November 1997.

Long before the Taba attack, the main jihadi movements, the Gama'a al-Islamiya (Islamic Group) and Tanzim al-Jihad (the Jihad Organisation) had ended their campaigns against the Egyptian state. The Gama'a had renounced its violent strategy, and members of the Jihad Organisation outside the country who had stayed in business had redeployed to al-Qa'ida's global jihad against the West.

None of the attempts to explain these attacks has really done so. Claims that the Sharm attacks were the work of previously unheard of movements, the so-called Abdallah Azzam Brigades or the Holy Warriors of Egypt, were generally discounted by Egyptian experts. The official claim that the Taba bombings were the work of an isolated Palestinian, Iyad Said Saleh, who had won over a small network of locals to his Islamist sympathies,failed to explain why the security services felt it necessary to arrest several thousand Sinai residents at the time and keep many of them in custody to this day, or how this network was able to carry off the Sharm (and now Dahab) attacks after Saleh's death.

The authorities' reluctance to accept that al- Qa'ida may have been behind these events is understandable given the effect this admission could have on the tourist trade. But the comparative sophistication of the terrorist organisation and its ability to survive security crackdowns is hard to square with the notion that disgruntled locals are behind these incidents.

However, there is no doubt that these repeated attacks are symptomatic of two factors specific to Sinai.

The first is the fact that, under the 1979 Camp David Agreement which secured the return of the peninsular to Egypt, the Egyptian state has less than full sovereignty over Sinaiand its security forces are accordingly constrained in their attempts to control it or pursue terrorists, especially on the eastern side of the peninsula. The second is that the region's population remains to be properly integrated into the Egyptian nation.

The problem is that, at present, the Egyptian state is badly placed to address either of these factors which lie under Sinai's current propensity to generate, or to host, the latest brand of terrorism to plague the country.

Hugh Roberts is North Africa director for the International Crisis Group

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Graduate / Junior C# Developer

£18000 - £25000 Per Annum + bonus and benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

IT Project manager - Web E-commerce

£65000 Per Annum Benefits + bonus: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: If you are...

Teaching Assistant - Shropshire

Negotiable: Randstad Education Chester: Teaching Assistants needed in Shropshi...

Junior/Trainee Buiness Intelligence (BI) Consultant

£30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Junior/Trainee Business Intelligen...

Day In a Page

Read Next

i Editor's Letter: Take a moment to imagine you're Ed Miliband...

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside  

Autumn’s subtle charm is greatly enhanced by this Indian summer

Michael McCarthy
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits