According to The Los Angeles Times, heavily armed Egyptian forces converged on a suspected militant arms cache and IED factory on Wednesday (March 19), triggering an exchange of gunfire that lasted several hours.
When it was over, the prolonged exchange left two senior-ranking Egyptian military officers dead. Both men were there because they were experienced explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) technicians.
At least five insurgents belonging to Ansar Beit al-Maqdis AKA Champions of Jerusalem were killed during the lengthy firefight that occurred just north of Cairo.
Four members of the Partisans were also arrested, according to the Interior Ministry.
COMMENT: Hopefully, the interrogation of those arrested will produce valuable intelligence on the group’s next targets.
According to the BBC, the al-Qaeda-inspired terror group claimed responsibility for the January 24, 2014 bombing on the police headquarters in Cairo.
Initially, the group was known for launching attacks on Israeli targets and interests, but after the ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, it began targeting Egyptian security forces.
Sinai-based Ansar Beit al-Maqdis actually began operations immediately after the January 2011 uprising that led to the fall of the country's decade-long ruler Hosni Mubarak.
In July 2012 claimed responsibility for the blowing up of a pipeline that exports gas to Israel and Jordan.
A month later, the group took credit for rockets fired from the Sinai into the southern Israeli resort of Eilat. In September 2012 Ansar Beit al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for attacking an Israeli border patrol.
The group has been involved in suicide bombings, drive-by shootings and assassinations:
In one of its most high-profile attacks, the group failed to assassinate Interior Minister Muhammad Ibrahim in September 2013, when his motorcade in Cairo was targeted by a car-bomb attack.
Others include an assault on South Sinai's Security Directorate in October 2013, and an attack the same month on the military intelligence building in the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya.
Brotherhood Without Violence, a movement which includes alleged Muslim Brotherhood dissidents, claims Ansar Beit al-Maqdis is the Brotherhood's "military wing,” although such allegations have not been confirmed.
Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has its roots in the restive Sinai Peninsula, where it has been battling Egyptian troops. Yet, it has also demonstrated a growing resilience to carry out attacks in major Egyptian cities.
Militants have declared war on Egypt’s military-backed government in the eight months since former Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi was overthrown.
Moreover, the shooting down of a military helicopter in the Sinai and an IED attack in February on a tour bus in the Sinai transporting some 30+ South Korean tourists, two of whom were killed and nine other injured.
Yesterday’s confrontation and the rare deaths of two senior officers in a military raid, is likely to spur an even harsher crackdown by the interim government, which has enacted a series of repressive measures during its months in power.
I continue to discourage all but ESSENTIAL travel to Egypt, as it is unknown where terrorists will strike next or the tactics they will use, as eventually the luck of foreign tourists will run out.