Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Insurgency Takes Root in Sinai Morsi Ouster Triggers Outburst of Violence

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Insurgency Takes Root in Sinai Morsi Ouster Triggers Outburst of Violence

Article excerpt

EL-ARISH, Egypt -- More than three weeks after the military coup that ousted this nation's first democratically elected -- and Islamist -- president from power, the roots of a violent insurgency are burrowing fast into the sands of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

The rapid thud of machine-gun fire and the explosions of rocket- propelled grenades have begun to shatter the silence of the desert days and nights here with startling regularity, as militants assault the military and police forces stationed across this volatile territory that borders Israel and the Gaza Strip.

The emerging Sinai crisis gives Egypt's military a pretext to crack down on Islamist opponents across the country, including in Cairo, where at least 72 people were killed over the weekend when security forces opened fire on demonstrators rallying in support of ousted President Mohammed Morsi.

Egypt's interim government issued a decree Sunday that granted the military the power to detain civilians, state media reported. Analysts and rights activists said the decree suggested that a state of emergency, a tool that the regime of now-deposed autocrat Hosni Mubarak had used for decades to silence opponents, might soon follow.

But in the Sinai, where the reaction to Mr. Morsi's ouster turned deadly within days of the coup, such state-sponsored violence and repression is likely to only feed the conviction of militants, who see themselves as waging a war against a despotic and irreligious military regime.

In the Sinai, long Egypt's most elusive and neglected region, a familiar cycle of repression has already taken hold.

The military has clamped down hard on all routes in and out. And Saturday, the armed forces launched Operation Desert Storm in the peninsula, according to the state-run al-Ahram newspaper. The operation got underway after millions of Egyptians took to the streets Friday to heed the military's call to give it the popular "mandate" to crack down on violence and "terrorism."

Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said Egypt's security forces have been given permission to confront those who threaten the state's "stability."

"The people have given the army and the police a popular mandate to stand firmly against anyone who shakes the stability of the nation with terrorist or criminal acts," Mr. …

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