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Despite pressure in Egypt, IS still able to strike

November 04, 2018

CAIRO: The Islamic State group’s latest deadly attack in Egypt shows it still has the ability to launch bloody strikes in the country despite pressure from a military offensive in the Sinai Peninsula.

Egypt’s army has since February waged a major operation dubbed “Sinai 2018” aimed at neutralising jihadists in the desert region. But after several months of calm, IS on Friday claimed an attack in central Egypt that killed six Coptic Christian pilgrims and one Anglican worshipper.

Gunmen opened fire on the devotees as they headed home on a bus from the Saint Samuel monastery in Minya province south of the Egyptian capital.

“At a time when IS is weakened in the Sinai, it is trying to launch operations elsewhere in Egypt,” said Mustapha Kamel al-Sayyid, political science professor at Cairo University.

Copts, a Christian minority that make up 10 percent of Egypt’s 97 million people, have been repeatedly targeted by IS in recent years.

And Minya province, said Sayyed, provides “fertile ground” for jihadist operations.

The latest attack was preceded by a nearby assault in May 2017 also claimed by IS, when masked gunmen ordered Christians travelling to Saint Samuel to get off buses and recant their faith.

The pilgrims refused and were shot one by one, leaving 28 people dead.

“The Islamists are rooted in central and upper Egypt, particularly in Minya and Asyut — it is not difficult for IS to recruit in this region,” said Sayyed.

The jihadists’ goal is to show that “Egypt is not stable, even as (President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi) tries to give this impression,” he added.