ISIS-Sinai Fights in Battalion Formation, Bolstered by Euphrates Valley Jihadists

The Islamic State’s latest attack on an Egyptian command convoy in northern Sinai on Sept.11, which killed 18 soldiers of the Egyptian 2nd Army, including a brigadier general, is causing extreme alarm, because it was the first to be conducted by the terrorists in orderly military battalion formation. It also succeeded in blowing up guaranteed bomb-proof American armored vehicles.
This is reported by DEBKA Weekly’s military and counterterrorism sources.
The convoy was attacked while driving on the highway linking the northern Sinai town of El Arish to another Mediterranean coast town, Bir al-Abed on the banks of Lake Bardawi. It consisted of four US-made mine-resistance ambush-protected vehicles (MRAP), designed specifically to protect soldiers from IED blasts, landmines and other types of attack.
The ambuscade consisted of two IED traps hidden on the highway. They were rigged to blow up at the same time fore and aft of the Egyptian convoy and created a ball of fire that consumed the vehicles at both ends of the convoy.
At that point, jihadists sprang out of hiding behind wayside sand dunes. Viewing the carnage, they then shot to kill any of the wounded Egyptian soldiers who had escaped the flames. The terrorists made sure all the survivors were dead, before slinking off into the desert without leaving a trace.
Egyptian and Western bomb analysts examining the debris discovered the most powerful explosive materials ever so far employed by terrorists in the Middle East. Until now, ISIS was not known to be capable of destroying heavily armored US MRAP vehicles with IEDs
An attack of the intensity witnessed this week in Sinai against a regular army convoy is unprecedented – even in Syria and Afghanistan.
Egyptian military and intelligence officials, who passed their findings on to American anti-terror agencies and allied intelligence services in the region, stressed that the Sinai perpetrators were new arrivals from the Euphrates Valley which straddles the Syrian-Iraqi border. They could not determine from which of the two countries they had come, but believed they could chart the itinerary through which they were smuggled to the Egyptian peninsula,
Disguised as Shiites, they may have traveled from Anbar in western Iraq to the Shiite-dominated south and boarded vessels on Iraq’s Shatt al-Arab, or Arvand Rud Swift River (formed at the confluence of the Euphrates and Tigris in the southern Iraqi government of Basra). From there, they could have sailed to the Gulf of Suez or the Gulf of Aqaba, whence Bedouin smugglers’ boats carried them to the shores of Sinai.
Other DEBKA Weekly counterterrorism sources sketch a different route, conjecturing that the jihadists infiltrated Jordan from Syria, travelled south to the Red Sea port of Aqaba. There, they hired boats or simply caught the twice-daily passenger ferries to the eastern Sinai coastal town of Nuweiba.
Whatever their routes, the arrival of these fugitives from the battlefields of Syria and Iraq is the worst possible news for Egypt, after years of an unending, almost hopeless military struggle to uproot the Islamist terrorist plague from the peninsula.
The Egyptian army will no doubt conduct a painful post mortem to find out how the American APCs came to be savaged by IEDs, although they were designed to withstand them, and why this important army convoy was on the move without air cover or escorts of helicopters or drones.

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