While credible statistics are difficult to come by, fighting in North Sinai this year has been fierce. Between January and June of this year, 120 Egyptian security forces personnel were killed in counter terror related operations, according to open source investigations of Egyptian army and Interior Ministry statements. The majority of those killed were operating in Sinai.

Killing top terrorists ineffective

Sinai 2018 has led to some successes for the Egyptian government, particularly in the targeting of key individuals within Wilayat Sinai. In the video it released on 15 November, the group confirmed the death of its former leader Abu Osama al-Masri in what was likely an air-strike. Al-Masriʹs predecessor, Abu Duaa al-Ansari was killed in August 2016 in an air-strike conducted by Israeli forces.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Sameh Shukri, Egypt’s foreign minister, give a joint press conference on 12.02.2018 (photo: picture alliance/AP/K. Elfiqi)
Human rights trumped: Western governments supplying arms to Egypt can only benefit from the country doubling down on military force. The U.S. was particularly keen to resume military aid to Egypt, re-starting Operation Bright Star, a major joint military training exercise involving the two countries, in 2017. "Egypt’s human rights record has been swept aside," says Issandr al-Amrani, director of the International Crisis Groupʹs North Africa Project. "Regional stability, countering IS and – in the case of the Europeans – migration mean that human rights issues are not brought up"

"There have been intelligence achievements for the Egyptians in high-level targeting of key leaders of Wilayat Sinai, but the question is what impact does killing the groupʹs leaders really have?" said Zack Gold, an analyst at the Centre for Naval Analyses and an authority on militancy in the Sinai.

"Does killing the top leaders really decapitate the group or affect its long term capacities? I frankly canʹt determine any difference in way the group operates after these killings – why is it still able to lay down roadside IEDs on a near daily basis?" queried Gold.

While Wilayat Sinai is still active in North Sinai, Islamic-State linked jihadists are also staging attacks in the rest of Egypt. A string of attacks, particularly on Christians, have been staged across Egypt and members of IS-linked cells have been arrested across the country.

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