Al Qaeda has firmly planted a base in Sinai and established a regular route via the peninsula from Sudan and western Saudi Arabia to Jordan and, from there, to Iraq or Syria.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military and counter-terrorism sources report that a worried Washington has warned Egypt and Israel that al Qaeda is bracing for attacks against an Israeli or Egyptian city, possibly with chemical or biological weapons. Sinai is shaping up as the terrorist group’s next launching pad for such operations.
The first al Qaeda cells began striking camp in the rugged mountains of southern Sinai ahead of the October 7 bombing attacks against Taba and other resorts popular with Israelis in which 34 people were killed. Every effort Egyptian security forces have made since then to rout them out of their fastnesses has been unavailing. They have not been able to hamper the terrorist cells in lending their installations permanent features complete with manpower complements and weaponry.
An alarming aspect of this development is Egypt’s strenuous effort to cover up what is going on in Sinai. On November 24, our military sources report that al Qaeda combatants were able to shoot down an Egyptian commando helicopter pursuing them in the Jabal Faran region of the Sinai Mountains. This was the first time an Egyptian military helicopter has been downed in counter-terror warfare. The heavy weapon used has not been identified. The pilot managed to avoid crashing into the mountains and came down for an emergency landing in the flat land around the Faran Wadi. But all the 20 troops and crewmen aboard were seriously injured and rushed by helicopter to Egyptian military hospitals.
Egypt’s inability to crush al Qaeda and eradicate its presence in the Sinai desert indicates that its security agencies are still completely at sea after two months of fruitless searches on the true identities of the perpetrators who struck its resorts last October, despite official claims to have solved the case. There is little to stop the fundamentalists settling into their new base and going forward with their plans.