In Egypt, ex-military men fire up Islamist insurgency

Reuters reports: A small but highly dangerous succession of former Egyptian army officers are joining Islamist militant groups, complicating President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s efforts to counter what he calls an existential threat from extremism.

These men are raising the stakes in an insurgency that has killed hundreds of soldiers and police since the army toppled Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in 2013.

They pose a danger to U.S. ally Egypt with their knowledge of the Arab world’s biggest army, provide militants with training and strategic direction, and even carry out suicide bomb attacks against government officials.

Since Mursi was ousted some officers have joined the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM) Islamist group and planned and participated in attacks on the army and other facilities, particularly in the Sinai, said Khalil al-Anani, adjunct professor with the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

“We can’t talk about a mainstream or a large scale defection toward extremism. We are talking about individual cases that could escape and find a safe haven in Sinai. Yet their attacks are fatal and costly.”

As former army chief and head of military intelligence, Sisi is well aware of the Islamist threat from within the military. [Continue reading…]

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