Sinai terrorists were educated Egyptians, not Bedouins

Area of cross-border attack

Area of cross-border attack 2 weeks ago

To the surprise of many people, it now turns out that the terrorists who initiated the cross-border attack at the Israel-Egypt border a couple of weeks ago did not fit the usual profile of Sinai terrorists: they were well-educated middle-class Egyptians, rather than local Bedouins.

Members of the terror cell behind last month’s lethal cross-border ambush on IDF soldiers were educated middle class Egyptians, not local Beduin as previously assumed, Egyptian media reports said.

According to reports in the Egyptian press, the two men, 31-year-old Ahmad Wajieh and his cousin, 25-year-old Bahaa Abdel Aziz Zaqzouq, were part of three-man terror cell.

Twenty-year-old Cpl. Netanel Yahalomi of the IDF Artillery Corps was shot dead while engaging the terrorists. He and his unit were giving water to African migrants who had arrived on the border when the ambush began. IDF soldiers killed all three terrorists within 15 minutes of the attack.

According to Egyptian daily al-Masry al-Youm, the two men hailed from the Mitkhakan village in Egypt’s Nile Delta.

Zaqzouq, who was married with two children, graduated from the Faculty of Arts at Minoufiya University, and was the only son of a family of four daughters.

His family was religious, according to another report in the al-Ahram daily.

Wajieh was a married father of two daughters, worked as an engineer and was a religious singer in a group in Qesna, which is also in the Minoufiya district. He gave recitals at concerts and weddings, the report said.

Wajieh’s friends told reporters that he did not belong to any political or religious movement.

However, a report in al-Ahram claimed that Wajieh had surprised his family after the Id al-Fitr holiday with a change in his religious ideology.

Some time before the attack, the report said, the two men left the village and their families did not hear from them.

One villager, named as Fathi Mahmoud, said that before he left Zaqzouq he talked about his love of jihad, his anger over abuses against the Prophet Muhammad and the struggle of Muslims in Syria.

The al-Aharam report said that neighbors of the two men in Mitkhakan were saddened and horrified after hearing the news that their fellow villagers had taken part in the terror attack.

The report questioned how the men, who had lived quietly in the village, had somehow been converted to jihadist ideas.

[...]

Ansar Bayit al-Muqaddas (“Supporters of Jerusalem”) a Salafi jihadist group linked to al-Qaida, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in a statement that they aimed to “punish Jews” for the anti- Islam movie Innocence of Muslims.

The Times of Israel tells us more about this new terror group that has taken responsibility for the attack and  which seems to be yet another group upon whom Israel needs to keep a close eye:

The majority of the attacks along the Egyptian border in the past year were the work of a single terror network, made up of Islamic extremists who identify with the ideology of Al-Qaeda, Israeli intelligence sources said Tuesday.

The sources told Hebrew media that Ansar Bait al-Maqdis (Arabic for Partisans of the Holy Temple) is headquartered in the Sinai desert and enlists local Bedouins to its ranks, but that many of its members are citizens of Egypt proper and other Arab countries.

An analysis by intelligence officials of terror attacks emanating from the Sinai desert over the past year has revealed a common denominator, all pointing to one Jihadist network based in the Sinai, the sources said. These attacks include the Sept. 21 attack at the Egypt-Israel border fence that killed IDF Cpl. Netanel Yahalomi, the deadly strike on August 5 against an Egyptian military installation in Rafah, in which 16 Egyptian soldiers were killed, the August 2011 cross-border infiltration that killed eight Israelis at Ein Netafim and several incidents of rocket and mortar fire.

According to Channel 10 senior defense correspondent Alon Ben David, the group used to have close ties to terror groups in Gaza, but has recently taken an independent track. Israeli intelligence officials no longer see the Sinai as the “back yard” for Gaza activists.

Egyptian media reported that two of the terrorists involved in the Sept. 21 attack were from the Egyptian delta, and not Sinai Bedouins as initially believed. The two were reportedly well-to-do family men, who until recently had not shown any indication of religious fanaticism. One was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, the party of new president Mohammed Morsi, and the second recently joined the hard-line Salafi Front. Both left their homes in August, telling their families that they had gone to join the rebel forces in Syria.

Israel and Egypt coordinate security arrangements along the southern border, and Egyptian forces have taken steps against extremists operating inside the Sinai desert, including the introduction of thousands of troops, armored vehicles and gunship helicopters.

According to this Hebrew Ynet report (no English translation I’m afraid), the revelation that these terrorists were normative Egyptian citizens is causing some embarrassment to the new regime in Egypt under President Morsi.

העובדה שהמחבלים הגיעו מלב מצרים ולא מסיני גורמת מבוכה גדולה למשטר החדש במדינה ואמורה להטריד מאוד את ישראל. פרופ’ יורם מיטל, מזרחן מאוניברסיטת בן גוריון המתמחה במצרים, טוען שכעת מוטלת על המודיעין המצרי החובה לפעול בעומק המדינה, במרכז הדלתא. “מאז נפילת מובארק התמוטטו מערכות הביטחון והסדר הציבורי”, מוסיך פרופ’ מיטל. “זה גרם לכל מיני קבוצות של פעילים קיצוניים, שקודם לא הייתה להם מסגרת, למצוא כר חופשי לפעילות. “.

[...]

 לדבריו, מאז בחירתו מנסה מורסי לשדר שחרף העובדה שהשלטון נמצא בידיה של תנועה איסלאמית, אין בכוונתו לתת חופש פעולה לקבוצות ג’יהאד. “עכשיו המודיעין מנסה להחזיר לעצמו לאט לאט את השליטה, אבל מדובר במערכה קשה מאוד”, מוסיף פרופ’ מיטל. “כבר רואים את ההתחלה של התהליך בענישה של בתי משפט ובפיקוח של המודיעין שהופך הדוק יותר,

אבל ייקח להם הרבה זמן להתמודד עם התופעה”.

עד נפילת מובארק, וחרף הלחץ של השלטון הצבאי, פעלו הקיצונים המוסלמים במדינה תחת ארגונים היררכיים כגון “הג’מעה איסלאמיה”. אבל מאז ההפיכה עברו פעילים מקומיים וזוטרים להשתמש ברטוריקה של ג’יהאד. על רקע זה, טוען פרופ’ מיטל, מסתמנת תופעה של יחידים שמחליטים לעשות מעשה. “וג’יה וזקזוק הם בעלי משפחות ולא נערים בני 18 שפועלים מכוח התלהבות של רגע”, הוא מדגיש. “ההתמוטטות של הסדר הקלה על אנשים בעלי עמדות קיצוניות לפעול, ואת הזנבות של התופעה אנחנו רואים עכשיו”.

Rough translation:

The fact that the terrorists came from the Egyptian heartland and not from Sinai is causing great embarrassment to the new regime and ought to greatly disturb Israel. Prof. Yoram Meital, a Mideast and Egypt expert from Ben Gurion University, asserts that now the Egyptian intelligence will have to work deeper into the country, in the centre of the Delta. “Since Mubarak fell, all the security and public order systems fell too”. Prof. Meital adds, “This has enabled all kinds of extremists, who didn’t have any kind of framework beforehand, to find freedom of activity.

[...]

According to him, since Morsi was elected he has been trying to show that despite heading a regime made up of an Islamist movement, he has no intention of allowing freedom of movement to Jihadist groups. “Now the intellgience services will try to regain control, but it is a hard battle” adds Prof. Meital.

[...]

Until Mubarak fell … Muslim extremists acted under hierarchical organisations like the Jama’a Islamiya. But since the revolution local activists have begun using jihadi rhetoric [...]

Against this background, Prof. Meital explains, we see how individuals decide on action. Wajieh and Zaqzouq are family men, not hot-headed 18-year olds acting out of a moment’s enthusiasm. “The collapse of public order has enabled people with extremist views to act, and the tail end of this phenomenon is what we are seeing today”.

This does not make for comfortable reading.  I also wonder if Morsi is genuinely embarrassed by this revelation, or is it only plausible deniability? Let’s hope our intelligence and military are on top of the situation.

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10 Responses to Sinai terrorists were educated Egyptians, not Bedouins

  1. Rob Harris says:

    “One villager, named as Fathi Mahmoud, said that before he left Zaqzouq he talked about his love of jihad, his anger over abuses against the Prophet Muhammad and the struggle of Muslims in Syria.”

    Yet more evidence (if any was needed) that this is a religious conflict rather than the crap people in the West constantly spout about “Settlements” that are oft described as Israeli rather than “Jewish”.

    BTW Anne, don’t let the crap from the commenters that came from Broadsheet make you angry. Its basically just an Irish news website that has an inbuilt bias against Israel. The below-article commenters post some pretty shocking stuff on the site which shouldn’t get past the moderation.

    • cba says:

      “The below-article commenters post some pretty shocking stuff on the site which shouldn’t get past the moderation”

      I just went and had a look. If you think THAT’S “pretty shocking stuff” then obviously you’ve never read any of the comments on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s websites on any story that could in any way have any remote connection to Israel or to Jews.

      The lies and distortions and foaming-at-the-mouth hatred of Jews (some of it not even disguised–that was where I first saw someone write “the Zionists killed Jesus”) of the majority (the VAST majority) of the commenters on the website of Canada’s national broadcaster are quite sickening.

    • anneinpt says:

      Yet more evidence (if any was needed) that this is a religious conflict rather than the crap people in the West constantly spout about “Settlements” that are oft described as Israeli rather than “Jewish”.

      Bingo! You’ve hit the nail on the head. Now to convince several hundreds of millions of people who won’t let the facts confuse them.

      Re the Irish commenters, angry is too strong a word. I found them irritating, especially because I will not let such lies stand unanswered. So the solution was either to delete them (in which case I’ll be accused of censoring) or answer them. So I answered 3 comments, and then decided that life is too short so I closed the thread to comments. And also the ISPC-bullying thread that is linked to in that post.

      I read through most of the comments on the Broadsheet site, and while some of them are pretty nasty, a lot of them strike me as simply snarky. I’ve read much worse in my time unfortunately.

      • Rob Harris says:

        To CBA and Anne,

        I wasn’t commenting on a particular article. I read Broadsheet articles now and again in the past, and have to say there were some pretty bad things allowed into the comments section. Maybe they weren’t representative of the norm, and maybe they weren’t much worse than the norm (e.g. Yahoo allow some very nasty stuff too) but I still thought it was bad moderation. YMMV (Your milage may vary) of course.

        Anne, I saw a level of anger in your words but must have read too much into it. I’ve been bloody furious with commenters in the past (e.g. Builderman on the blog Gubu World) so can hardly preach but in a way I regret not taking the opportunity to calmly challenge them on their notions. Wouldn’t likely make a difference but just occasionally it may. Of course time is a factor and one shouldn’t allow them to stray off-topic too much (as they are wont to do), and fire out questions unrelentingly as if we are all Mark Regev proxies.

        BTW I posted up an article http://eirael.blogspot.ie/2012/10/exporting-extremism-irish-parliamentary.html related to developments in the proposed Irish boycott of settlements.

        • anneinpt says:

          Rob, I admire your fortitude if you wade through some of that rubbish on the Broadsheet site. However I don’t find it worse, and in some ways it’s better, than some of the bigotry and outright anti-Semitism and racism that is found on the Guardian and Independent.

          You weren’t wrong about seeing “a level of anger” in my words at the commenters on the Foley’s Bar thread. I was definitely angry at their deliberate misrepresentation of events. But by the 3rd comment I was just p**d off rather than angry. A subtle difference I suppose.

          Thanks for the link to your latest post. I shall go and read it now. You really must get a twitter and/or facebook account to publicise your blog more widely!

          • Rob Harris says:

            Hi Anne,

            I haven’t read “Broadsheet” in a while so I could have been thinking about a similarly titled publication for all I know! :/ Thanks very much for putting my article on Twitter! You can Twitter my stuff instead! :p Seriously though, I definitely made a point of seeing what to do re. account names etc. I just keep putting it off as I have little time on my hands at the mo’.

  2. cba says:

    “the crap from the commenters that came from Broadsheet”
    I thought they were hysterically funny–lecturing us about being “blinkered” and such, when they’re completely brainwashed by anti-Israel [to be polite] hatred. They’re the epitome of “My mind is made up, don’t confuse me with facts.”

    • anneinpt says:

      Agreed. But the “slow genocide” meme has to be the funniest ever. How slow can a genocide get before it’s called population growth? LOL!

      • cba says:

        I know, it’s hysterical, isn’t it? The only one that I think is funnier is the one that goes, roughly:
        “Well, the Palestinians have suffered, so obviously they’re going to lash out and behave worse than other people. But you Jews have suffered, so we expect you to behave *BETTER than other people.”

        *And “better” means “better than any other people in the history of the universe, and if you don’t meet these impossible standards (which we don’t demand of anyone else), then clearly you’re the most evil beings to walk the earth.”

  3. peteca1 says:

    Practically speaking … what is a problem is that these men were educated. Therefore, they are better able to understand attack plans and carry them out. Their higher level of thinking also means that they are more adapatable – if conditions change during a terrorist attack then they may be able to change their own attack pattern and still press on towards a goal. I wonder if terrorist groups in Egypt have realized that it is an advantage to have members with better educations? We will see. I am sure your own Intelligence organizations are thinking hard about this.

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