ISIS affiliate ‘Sinai Province’ enforces checkpoints in Al-Arish amid questions about efficiency of security measures

The efficiency of the currently followed security measures inside North Sinai’s city of Al-Arish has been a controversial issue on social media outlets in Egypt following the circulation of photos of militants from the ISIS-affiliated group of “Sinai Province”, while carrying out a checkpoint inside central Al-Arish.

Photos published on the social media showed a number of masked militants inspecting civilians’ vehicles in a street near El Faleh Square in central Al-Arish.

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.

Sinai Province militants reportedly appeared for fifteen to thirty minutes with the aim of showing that they are still strong despite intensive security measures.

In this context, member of parliament (MP) representing Al-Arish Hossam El Refaay said,”Their emergence necessitates strict reviews to the security measures currently applied in North Sinai.”

El Refaay also noted that the method militants use to appear in the city are “the hit-and-run strategy” and depending on” the media war “to imply an absence of security presence.

He said,“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 also added that the 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.

Regarding the situation of militants’ adhoc checkpoints, El Refaay stated that the militants are hiding between civilians in Al-Arish and only appear when they are sure that police forces are far away.

He stressed,“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.”

Furthermore, the photos published through the “Sinai Province” group also showed their militants while 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.

In this context, one of the photos showed the militants detaining a civilian after checking his ID as he was suspected that he is an army or police operator.

In fact, the mentioned media reports about checkpoints dates back to last week.

A North Sinai-based journalist, on condition of anonymity, said at that time that a number of militants established a checkpoint in central Al-Arish, where they stopped many pedestrians and checked their IDs. In addition, they kidnapped two citizens from the city.

He said, “Five militants believed to be members of ‘Sinai Province’ practiced 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 added that 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.

It is worth to mention that Sinai Coptic residents were targeted by ISIS group recently.

As a result, dozens of Coptic families in Egypt’s North Sinai left their home and fled away.

Last month, the Islamic State (IS) posted a video in which it threatened the Christians in Egypt and vowed to launch attacks against them, saying that  “Cairo will soon be liberated” (from Christians).

The video showed Abu Abdullah Al-Masry, the man responsible for the deadly attack Coptic Cathedral bombing in Cairo which killed nearly 30 people.

A few days following the attack, ISIS claimed responsibility for it.

The attack was the largest by ISIS against civilians in Cairo.

In the new released video, a narrator described Christians as ISIS’s“favorite prey” and said that they do not enjoy the status of “dhimmis”, non-Muslims who were traditionally protected inside medieval Islamic empires.”

Instead, Christians are described as “infidels”.One of the jihadists featured in the video,“God gave orders to kill every infidel.”

As a result, the new released video infers that the militants are planning to carry out more terrorist attacks that will target Christians.

Violence and unrest have escalated in Northern Sinai as the Egyptian military and police forces have been the target of ongoing attacks which have increased after the ouster of Egypt’s first democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi by a military coup in 2013.

Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, the militant group responsible for a majority of attacks on military personnel, aligned with the Islamic State group in November 2014, changing its name to “Sinai Province”.

Sinai Province has targeted Egypt’s security forces in various attacks, mostly roadside bombings, and ambushes, as well as operations against security checkpoints.