The Al-Tarabeen tribe’s announcement of cooperation with the army is vitally important towards making their stance clear against Sinai-based militants, a tribe member, Mousa Al-Delh, told Daily News Egypt Monday.
Al-Delh added that “it’s expected that ‘State of Sinai’ or Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis will decrease their operations, and they have already decreased”.
North Sinai tribes held a conference Sunday to announce their stance against “Islamic State” affiliates in the region, known as “State of Sinai”, and their support for the Egyptian army. They formed a Tribes’ Union involving North Sinai’s renowned tribes, notably Al-Tarabeen and Al-Sawarka.
Sinai-based militants have been targeting security personnel since the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. Their reach has extended to killing civilians for being “army informants”.
The armed group has since been calling for North Sinai residents to join their side against the armed forces and the Egyptian state through distributing threatening leaflets to residents.
In response to the insurgency in North Sinai, the armed forces have taken several security measures. These have included the creation of a 5 km buffer zone along the border leading in and out of the Gaza Strip to avoid the infiltration of “terrorists”. A curfew in North Sinai has also been ongoing since 25 October, following a major attack by the group that killed at least 30 security personnel.
However the insurgency in North Sinai persisted.
In late April, “State of Sinai” killed an Al-Tarabeen member and burned down the house of another, prompting the tribe to announce its stance, along with other tribes.
Al-Delh said the conference is mainly to pledge support to the Egyptian state and the armed forces in their “war” against North Sinai’s militant group.
He added that all families of civilians killed at the hands of “State of Sinai” are to be compensated, given pensions and honoured as army “martyrs”.
A North Sinai resident previously told Daily News Egypt that deaths among civilians are a “daily occurrence”, and that they are either found shot or decapitated. “State of Sinai” has released more than one video featuring the decapitation of residents for allegedly collaborating with the army.
“Bedouins generally are armed as the nearest police station is too far away – if there was a personal attack, it’s very likely that we would defend ourselves,” he added.
The tribal union released a joint statement following the conference, calling on “regional powers” to provide support to stop the militant group. It also called for those involved in the Gaza Strip in supporting the militant group to “close the tunnels” from their side, and stop providing the militants with a “safe haven”.
The union vowed for people involved in the militant group, whose “hands are not contaminated with blood”, to stand with them and support them financially, morally, and to protect them and their families, providing them a safe place to live and work.
The union further called for state institutions to reward any one of the tribes cooperating with it as armed forces personnel and vow to provide tribal members with all facilities required in their war on terrorism, in coordination with the armed forces
Al-Delh said that “some tribal members” are involved in the militant group. The families of the members are asked either to hand him over to justice, or else the protection provided by the tribe to its members will be lifted on the individual.
He added that some of airstrikes have hit civilian targets accidentally, so the announcement will serve as a way to announce the tribes’ stance for the army to be directed to militants’ hideouts and headquarters.
A member of the North Sinai Al-Sawarka tribe confirmed to Daily News Egypt that almost all the tribes have secretly coordinated with the army previously.
Al-Delh said, however, that the announcement of “our cooperation” with the army is important for them to distinguish who is on their side among the members and who are not. This would, in turn, help in avoiding the arrests and the killing of civilians.