Southern Sinai Security and the MFO Mission
Scholar and director of the languages and regional studies program at the Middle East Institute, Mohamed Elmenshawy answered the following question on security in the Sinai. You can find a full bio of Mr. Elemenshawy here.
Participant’s question: I recently returned from a deployment to Egypt’s Sinai region in support of the Multinational Force and Observers mission. Militant Bedouins in the northern region of Sinai (near the North Camp operating base for MFO) were extremely and openly hostile toward MFO. I understand the complexity of the area and what Hezbollah & AQAP/AQSP are doing to militarize young Bedouins in N. Sinai. What I don’t fully understand is why they haven’t carried out attacks in the southern areas of Sinai.
Any ideas as to why they’re hesitant to attack southern Sinai region areas? Bedouins have successfully carried out attacks in S. Sinai in the past (hotel bombings in Dahab and Sharm for example). So why has S. Sinai been so quiet? Any thoughts?
Elmenshawy: On October 7, 2004, three bomb attacks targetted hotels in Taba killing 34 people and injuring 171.
On July 23, 2005, a series of bomb attacks rocked Sharm el Sheikh, killing 88 people and injuring over 150.
On April 24, 2006, bombs exploded in Dahab. At least 23 people were killed and around 80 people were injured.
After these three major attacks, the Mubarak regime ensured that for the benefit of the the tourism industry, the Southern Sinai should be off limits for local or foreign terrorists. The Southern region is small and in that sense, “easier to control” with the use of stringent security measures including limiting access to the area, soft targets in tourism, as well as the MFO.
It was under Mubarak’s instruction that Sharm el Sheikh became like an alternative “capital” where he built a large facility inside one of the more famous hotels. He spent over half of his time in Sharm el Sheikh during his last few years in office, which added to the incentive for ensuring that the city and Southern Sinai as a whole was increasingly more secure.
Additionally, the private sector, including owners of hotels and shops spent a lot of money on security as well.
All these circumstances are not available to the Northern part of the peninsula, and there was never the same incentive to ensure that these measure were made available to the people living there. Furthermore, the proximity to Gaza adds to increased crime and insecurity as it is easier to smuggle people and arms and to conduct operations in the North.
For more information on security in the Sinai, see our most recent update on the subject here.