Egypt Halts Sinai Crackdown After Secret Talks with Jihadists

Article Summary
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi sent a secret delegation to meet with Salafist jihadists in the Sinai, scene of the August 5 border attacks. Security sources said the militants agreed to stop terrorism operations for one week, in exchange for the release of prisoners and a halt to the army's "Operation Eagle" counterinsurgency.

Security sources in the North Sinai governorate revealed that a high-level presidential delegation held secret meetings on August 26 with hard-line elements from the cities of Rafah and Sheikh Zuwaid.

"The delegation met with a number of Salafist figures in two mosques in Sheikh Zuwaid, and they reached an agreement to stop terrorist operations for a week, in return for the release of prisoners and the halt of Operation Eagle that is being implemented by the armed forces with the aim of cleansing the Sinai of terrorists," the sources said.

"The period (of respite in terrorist operations) has been agreed upon pending the arrival of the chief of presidential staff who will hold meetings with the jihadist Salafist leaders in order to develop a program for dialogue and stability in the region," the sources added.

They continued, "The presidency had notified the security services in the governorate that a high-level presidential delegation would arrive in North Sinai on August 25 on an official visit to inspect the Rafah border crossing. Three presidential cars arrived and entered the cities of Rafah and Sheikh Zuwaid at 7 p.m. and then were later seen on the highway outside the city at 11 p.m. en route to Cairo."

"The delegation met with members of jihadist groups in the cities of Rafah and Sheikh Zuwaid under the auspices of Bedouin Salafist mediators," the sources confirmed. The sources believe that the presidency has concluded a deal with jihadist groups in the Sinai following threats by these groups to expand their terrorist operations to a number of Egyptian governorates should the Egyptian army continue with Operation Eagle, aimed at cleansing the Sinai of Jihadists.

Eyewitnesses from the city of Sheikh Zuwaid said they saw cars belonging to the delegation in the village of Jura in Sheikh Zuwaid, a village which has seen numerous clashes between the army and "terrorist" elements.

A source that attended the meeting that was held by the presidential delegation said that the negotiations began after a high-ranking military official arrived in the Sinai. The source said that it is due to these negotiations that Operation Eagle was stopped 48 hours ago.

Tribal leaders in Sheikh Zuwaid said that concluding deals was not the goal of the visit, stressing that the delegation included religious scholars and that it paves the way for future delegations of scientists and advocates, who plan to visit the region in order to correct parents’ misunderstandings regarding Islam and transfer their demands to the presidency.

Hamdeen Abu Faisal, a Sunni Islamic official in Sheikh Zuwaid, said that the delegation arrived in Sheikh Zuwaid on Saturday evening under the supervision of the presidency, and the visit comes within the framework of preparation for future visits on the part of scientists and advocates with the aim of fact finding and correcting misunderstandings.

In similar news, independent jihadists launched an initiative to stop the bloodshed between the Egyptian army and jihadist groups in the Sinai. This initiative was introduced during their meeting with Jihadi Salafist leaders on Sunday, a meeting aimed at calming the situation following Operation Eagle.

The delegation included Nizar Ghorab, Magdy Salem, Mohammed Ghazlani and Mohammed Boraie, who established contacts with state officials and Jihadi Salafists leaders in the Sinai to reach an agreement to stop the bloodshed in Egypt and to uphold the principle of fairness of trials faced by the people of the Sinai.

Found in: sinai, salafi-jihadi groups, rafah

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