Egypt captures Islamist mastermind behind Sinai terrorism

The border between Egyptian Sinai and Israel near Eilat. (Flash 90)

JERUSALEM (JWN and agencies)—Egyptian security forces have captured members of a radical Islamist cell responsible for a terrorist rampage near Eilat that killed eight this summer, as well as a series of attacks on the pipeline supplying natural gas from Egypt to Israel and Jordan.

Egypt’s official MENA agency reported the capture of the head of the extremist Al-Takfir wan Hijra organization, Muhammad al-Tihi, on Sunday. Another 16 of his followers, including lieutenants Abdel Karim Muhammad Ahmed and Ahmed Salem Awad, were captured Monday. All were arrested in the northern Sinai town of El Arish.

Tihi has been identified as the mastermind behind the triple terrorist attack along the border with Israel in August in which eight Israelis and six Egyptians were killed. His organization is an Al-Qaida inspired group that operates in the Sinai.

Tihi is also considered responsible for numerous bombing attacks on the pipeline—the seventh of which occurred last week—and for fatal raids on Egyptian police stations in northern Sinai, an Egyptian security official said.

According to the Palestinian news agency Ma’an, one of the crimes Tihi is to be charged with is detonating by remote control an explosive belt worn by one of the Eilat attackers that caused the deaths of six Egyptian soldiers.

Egyptian security forces began a crackdown on Islamist terrorists in the Sinai Peninsula in October. The army and police are also searching for those behind the kidnapping of women and children in El Arish.