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News Analysis: Sinai security poses big challenge to Egypt's new leadership

(Xinhua)

13:17, August 09, 2012

CAIRO, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) -- The terrorist attack in Egypt's Sinai which killed 16 soldiers on Sunday has uncovered a critical security challenge for Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi, given Egypt's relations with Palestine and Israel.

In reaction to the attack on a military checkpoint, Egyptian troops have started an operation to crack down on rising terrorist activities. Early Wednesday, 20 militants were killed as the army, using military helicopters, raided a village where militants were hiding.

"No one is sure about who is behind the incident, if they are Jihads Islamic groups or other groups like al-Takfeer wal Hijra, but no doubt it's terrorist action which shows the security situation in Sinai is very critical as it fell into the danger of becoming a weapons warehouse", Noha Bakr, political studies professor at American University in Cairo, told Xinhua.

"Sinai becomes easy to be infiltrated and to be a seat of weapons smuggling because of the security vacuum," she added.

Egyptian military forces said in a statement "terrorism came back with its ugly face but in new dress during this attack which killed 16 Egyptian soldiers".

Since Egypt's turmoil early last year, the security situation in Sinai has deteriorated. Militants attacked police stations while local Bedouins committed some kidnappings of foreign tourists. The pipeline, which exports natural gas to Israel and Jordan, was attacked more than 10 times. In late July 2011, dozens of armed men attacked a police station in Arish, capital of North Sinai, leaving six policemen dead and more than 10 injured.

Akram Hossam, political analyst with the Middle East Center for Political Studies,said the security deterioration had something to do with Ayman al-Zawahri, an Egyptian who took over the al-Qaida after Osama bin Laden's death.

"Zawahri said several times al-Qaida needed to turn to other places in the Middle East, and now Egypt's Sinai Peninsula is now a suitable place to be penetrated as it's a desert inhabited by Bedouins and has a small population ", Hossam said.

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