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Monday, August 15, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Egypt deploys thousands of troops to the Sinai

CAIRO — Egypt has reported a major counter-insurgency campaign in the Sinai Peninsula.


Officials said the Egyptian Army and security forces have deployed thousands of troops in Sinai. They said the deployment, the largest since Egypt agreed to demilitarize most of the peninsula in 1979, marked a CI operation against Al Qaida-aligned fighters in eastern Sinai next to the border with the Gaza Strip.

"This will take several weeks, but there will be significant improvements on the ground," an official said.

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The Egyptian Army crackdown, dubbed Operation Eagle, was said to include hundreds of armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, Middle East Newsline reported. Officials said the operation was led by hundreds of commandos in such cities as El Arish as well as the border towns of Rafah and Sheik Zawiyed.

Egypt has been under pressure from Israel and the United States to halt insurgency strikes in Sinai. In 2011, Bedouin fighters linked to Al Qaida attacked the Arab Gas Pipeline, which supplies Israel and Jordan, at least five times. Nobody has been arrested.

Egypt's state-owned daily Al Ahram said Operation Eagle was imminent and would include a large number of military and security forces. On Aug. 13, Al Ahram said the offensive would target the insurgency cells that have been blowing up the gas pipeline as well as other infrastructure in Sinai.

Egypt's media have reported the deployment of dozens of U.S.-origin main battle tanks and armored personnel carriers in northern Sinai. Armored convoys were said to have entered Sinai on Aug. 12 as security measures were imposed on the Suez Canal.

So far, the military regime has deployed more than 2,000 police and security forces in El Arish, the focus of Al Qaida-aligned attacks. Another 1,000 troops were sent to search for insurgents in central and eastern Sinai. On July 30, at least six people were killed in an attack by 100 gunmen on the police headquarters in the capital of the North Sinai governorate.

"They [2,000 troops] would reinforce security around state security buildings and not be sent on combat missions in the mountains," North Sinai Gov. Brig. Gen. Abdul Wahab Mabrouk said.

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