February 6, 2014 | Quote

Islamists Spread Terrorism in Chaos of Egypt, Target Military to Seize Control

Islamist militants in Egypt’s volatile Sinai Peninsula have increased the number and range of their attacks on military targets as they push to undermine Egypt’s top army official, and ultimately pursue an Islamist state.

Terrorist attacks throughout and beyond Sinai increased after newly promoted Field Marshal Abdel Fatah el-Sissi won the military’s endorsement to run for president, analysts note. Because of the field marshal’s widespread popularity, he likely would win the election, which must be held by mid-April, and would have a good chance of reuniting Egypt’s fractious population of 85 million.

Jihadists have been taking advantage of Egypt’s political and economic chaos, which they see “as their opportunity” to undermine the interim government, said David Barnett, who researches Sinai militant groups at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“You’re going to see an increase in the rate of attacks in the mainland,” he said.

Violence in Sinai and elsewhere in Egypt has increased steadily since the military-led coup against Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July. Mr. Barnett said fresh recruits were influenced by the failure of political Islam and the interim government’s violent crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.

Still, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis has demonstrated “increased levels of sophistication and coordination,” Mr. Barnett said, and more of its attacks in recent weeks have been outside Sinai.

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