The Islamic State-affiliated group Sinai Province published a new video Monday evening revealing that its militants killed two police officers who were reported missing in March following an attack against El-Safa security checkpoint in Al-Arish.
The video titled Laheeb El-Sahraa (Flames of the Desert) also included footage of several encounters between the Armed Forces and Sinai Province.
The two missing men were a police officer and a police conscript. They were part of a police force that was struck by a deadly attack from Sinai Province militants, which resulted in the death of 15 police officers at the time.
Following the attack, the Ministry of Interior’s media office told Daily News Egypt that the missing police officer, Mohammed Abdelrahim, was believed to be among the 15 killed, despite his brother‘s denial.
“Interior Ministry officials have not taken any official action regarding my brother and the solider. If he were among the 15 killed, his body would have turned up,” the brother of the officer told Daily News Egypt earlier in March.
Furthermore, the ministry did not release any information regarding the conscript who went missing. Instead, it later asserted in a clear contradiction to previous statements that a “security sweep” is ongoing to find both the missing men.
Sinai Province’s half-hour video also showed a great number of its attacks against the North Sinai-based Army Forces, including direct confrontations, detonations of improvised explosive devices (IED), sniper attacks, and the use of anti-aircraft guns and anti-tank grenade launchers.
Despite numerous statements recently issued by high-ranking army officials regarding restoring stability and safety in North Sinai and frequent successful strikes against militants, the released video indicates an immense failure by the Armed Forces to confront attacks.
Apache escapes scene
In one clip in the video footage, an army-owned Apache helicopter was subject to heavy fire by Sinai Province militants using an anti-aircraft gun. But instead of confronting the group, the Apache chose to escape.
In another clip, a number of police conscripts and officers using a tank appear to be failing to successfully confront several Sinai Province infantry. A conscript tried to use the artillery mounted on the tank but failed, so he and the driver of the tank decided to immediately escape the area in the tank.
Al-Arish-based journalist Ahmed Al-Rafhawy told Daily News Egypt Tuesday: “The attacks shown in the video took place this year. The most dangerous attack shown was a clash in January—militants confronted a counter-army campaign in the village of El-Toma, Sheikh Zuweid.”
Armed Forces’ M60 tank raises Islamic State flag
An army campaign targets to establish a new security checkpoint in El-Toma—considered a stationing point for Sinai Province militants. The campaign was met by heavy resistance from the province’s militants who used missiles to destroy several tanks, Al-Rafhawy said.
Scenes from the released video show how Sinai Province confronted the campaign and succeeded in capturing an M60 tank and a bulldozer that army personnel abandoned due to heavy fire, he added.
Moreover, the footage showed snipers from the militant group targeting army personnel who were stationed at army checkpoints distributed across different areas of Al-Arish, Rafah, and Sheikh Zuweid in the North Sinai governorate.
Militant propaganda designed to lower morale
Contrary to this, former assistant to the minister of interior Mohamed Nour El-Deen told Daily News Egypt Tuesday that the army is still conducting successful operations against Sinai Province militants through air strikes and ground military campaigns.
Everything shown in the recently released video has been “photoshopped”, he claimed.
“Criminals who are financed by Qatar and Turkey in North Sinai published this video to lower morale. They have simply used old footage of previous attacks before the formation of the unified command of the area east of the canal which now directly targets terrorists,” Nour El-Deen explained.
Regarding the performance of the Armed Forces’ media office, Nour El-Deen called on the official spokesperson to publish photos of recent army campaigns that show the successful advance against Sinai Province.
“The media office does not publish photos of Islamic State affiliates who were killed in clashes, owing to the rules it follows based on religious principles,” he added.
Chief of the unified command of the area east of the canal, Osama Askar, recently said that the Sinai peninsula is completely under the army’s control, noting that terrorists are being dealt knockout blows by the Armed Forces.
Questionable effectiveness of MRAP vehicles
Despite these claims by officials, several clips from the video footage raised questions regarding the effectiveness and efficiency of Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles—which were recently exported to Egypt by the United States—as militants have succeeded in detonating these armoured vehicles with IEDs, something these vehicles are specifically designed to withstand.
In May, the US embassy in Egypt announced in an official statement that the first shipment of MRAP vehicles had arrived at the port of Alexandria “for delivery to the Egyptian military as the first batch of a total of 762 MRAP vehicles that will be used to combat terrorism”.
Sinai’s joint military command
The Armed Forces in North Sinai have achieved great success in combating terrorism and have dealt harsh blows against militants, the former commander of the Third Field Army said at the inauguration of the tree-planting initiative in Sahel El-Tina.
Al-Sisi formed the joint military command following deadly attacks in North Sinai that left at least 30 security personnel and civilians dead in January 2015.
Military insurgency against army and police forces in North Sinai is still on the rise despite intensive military operations targeting Sinai Province.
Sinai Province, formerly known as Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, is a major hurdle for Egypt’s current regime in regaining control of the peninsula as the militant group continuously targets army and police members whom they consider “apostates” that must be killed.