East Africa

IS-affiliated terror group hunts Coptic Christians at checkpoint 

Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis a jihadist terror group active in the Sinai peninsula, inside North Sinai’s city of Al-Arish, in Sinai Province has posted photos online of militants controlling the streets, raising
fears that IS-affiliated terrorists have taken charge and will continue their killings of Coptic Christians.

Many social media outlets on Sunday evening in Egypt are questioning the efficiency of the Egyptian government ‘s efforts of protecting Christians in the region following the killing of Coptic Christians and the exodus of hundreds of others earlier this month.

The Islamic terror group has posted pictures, possibly taken last week of the jihadists  inside North Sinai’s city of Al-Arish setting up checkpoints and a number of masked militants inspecting civilians’ vehicles in a street near El Faleh Square in central Al-Arish. The photos show militants carrying different types of guns, with one carrying a rocket-propelled grenade [RPG], in addition to other military hardware and hand grenades.

The posts showed masked militants checking the IDs of several civilians inside their vehicles “to arrest those cooperating with the army and police forces,” according to captions written below the photos. One of the photos showed a civilian being detained after his ID showed he was an army or police officer.

A 15 minutes video seems to prove that the terror group is active in the city despite intensive security measures by the Egyptian government after attacks on Coptic Christians.

A member of parliament (MP) representing Al-Arish Hossam El Refaay in a report, said the Islamic terror group simply use a “hit-and-run strategy” for media propaganda just to imply an absence of security presence.

“As parliament representatives, we have regularly called on the government to revise the current security measures it applies in Al-Arish and other North Sinai cities. Militants are heavily armed, and this requires a full presence of the armed forces in the city and not only around its gates,” he said.

He argued that the police alone can not eliminate the threats  posed by the terror group in Al-Arish. He suggested that the current coordination between the police and the army must be heightened.

Residents, he argued, will refuse any inspection by the terror group.

El Refaay explained away the  militants online posts saying they are hiding between civilians in Al-Arish and only appear when they are sure that police forces are far away. “The security presence in the city of Al-Arish is weak. It is necessary that the army be present in the city and not only on its outskirts,” he declared.

A North Sinai-based journalist told Daily News Egypt that “Five militants believed to be members of ‘Sinai Province’ practised a type of Islamic police authority by creating a checkpoint at El Faleh Square in the centre of Al-Arish city. They left 30 minutes later—after kidnapping two citizens over charges of cooperation with security apparatuses and following the arrival of the police,” he said.

The journalists who wanted to remain anonymous said he believed the checkpoint was targeting Coptic Christian residents, as the militants checked pedestrians’ IDs, he added.

In 2014, the group declared its affiliation to so called Islamic State and has launched deadly attacks on army and police checkpoints.

The Egyptian armed forces has been trying , in the last two years, to curb the rising Islamic terror group across the Sinai Peninsula, in the cities of Sheikh Zuweid, Rafah, and Al-Arish but in the last couple of weeks, the group openly declared and published names of Christians and their business interests it swore to destroy.