Massive controversy surfaced on numerous social media outlets on Sunday evening in Egypt on the efficiency of the currently followed security measures inside North Sinai’s city of Al-Arish following the circulation of photos of militants from the IS-affiliated group of “Sinai Province”, while carrying out a checkpoint inside central Al-Arish.
The published photos showed a number of masked militants inspecting civilians’ vehicles in a street near El Faleh Square in central Al-Arish.
Moreover, the militants had different types of guns, and one of them was carrying a rocket-propelled grenade [RPG], in addition to other military equipment and hand grenades.
The militants appeared for nearly fifteen minutes with the aim of showing that they are still alive despite intensive security measures. Their emergence necessitates strict reviews to the security measures currently applied in North Sinai, member of parliament (MP) representing Al-Arish Hossam El Refaay told Daily News Egypt.
Regarding the method militants use to appear in the city, El Refaay noted that they are following the hit-and-run strategy and depending on the media war 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.
Police forces alone will not be able to eliminate the threats militants pose in Al-Arish. The current ongoing coordination between the police and the armed forces should reach higher levels. Residents of the city will not accept to be inspected from militants, he added.
On the situation of militants’ adhoc checkpoints, El Refaay clarified that the militants 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 stressed.
The photos published through the “Sinai Province” group also showed the 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.
Meanwhile, one of the photos showed the militants detaining a civilian after checking his ID and suspecting that he is an army or police operator.
The aforementioned checkpoints dates back to last week. At that time, a North Sinai-based journalist told Daily News Egypt on condition of anonymity that a number of militants established a checkpoint in central Al-Arish, where they stopped many pedestrians and checked their IDs. Moreover, they kidnapped two citizens from the city.
“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.
They created the checkpoint to prove their presence in the city; however, once police arrived, they fled the scenes. Also, the checkpoint aimed at targeting Coptic residents, as the militants checked pedestrians’ IDs, he added.
Since 2013, state security forces represented by both the army and the police, have been engaged in violent clashes with ‘Sinai Province’, known previously as Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis. In 2014, the group declared its affiliation to IS and has launched deadly attacks on army and police checkpoints.
Over the course of the last two years, the Egyptian armed forces launched counterattacks against militant stationing points across the Sinai Peninsula, where the group is based, particularly in the cities of Sheikh Zuweid, Rafah, and Al-Arish.