Contrary to local newspaper reports claiming Sinai’s Tarabin tribe declared “war” on the Islamist militant group, “Province of Sinai,” some local sources say recent attacks were not sanctioned by tribal leaders. Others suggest they were.
Late Monday night, local media reported that members of the Tarabin tribe, from areas south of Rafah in Northern Sinai, attacked and burned several hideouts of the militant North Sinai group “Province of Sinai,” formerly known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdes. The group changed its name after pledging allegiance to the Islamic State in November 2014.
The privately owned Shorouk newspaper reported that the attacks were in response to members of the militant group killing a Tarabin tribe member and burning prominent Tarabin businessman Ibrahim al-Argani’s cars and property.
The privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper reported that tribal leaders were seeking a permit from security forces in Rafah to carry weapons in order to fight “Province of Sinai” forces. Al-Shorouk added that the Tarabin paraded 120 SUVs through areas occupied by “Province of Sinai,” along with burning some of their hideouts.
The Tarabin released a statement last week, according to local newspapers Al-Shorouk, Al-Masry Al-Youm and privately owned Masrawy, declaring their intention to fight “Province of Sinai.” However, Mohamed Sabry, a freelance journalist in Northern Sinai told Mada Masr that the conflict between the Tarabin tribe and “Province of Sinai” was led by Argani and based on a personal vendetta over the destruction of his property by the militant group, not sanctioned by tribal leaders.
Sabry, who said his information came from locals in the area, reported that “Province of Sinai” members posted notices on Friday, warning people to stop cooperating with the military. On Saturday, they killed a Tarabin tribal member, who was allegedly cooperating with the military, and blew up Argani’s home.
“They want to kill anyone involved with the military. They hijacked his [Argani’s] car, but couldn’t find him,” explained Sabry.
Argani, who is currently in Cairo, posted a statement to his Facebook page, saying “Province of Sinai” have covered themselves with a “cloak of religion,” but have crossed many red lines and have innocent blood on their hands. He declared, “We are a peaceful people, but we will wage war against those who attack us.”
The statement cited by Masrawy is the same as the one released by Argani on his Facebook page. Argani owns the Misr-Sinai Investment and Contracts company, in partnership with the Egyptian military, according to Sabry.
Another source, Saed Etaik, from the North Sinai Sawarka tribe and a friend of Argani, told Mada Masr that Tarabin sanctioned actions against “Province of Sinai” and coordinated with other tribes to target them. He was unclear about the details of what happened, as he is currently in Cairo and says communications are down in Sinai. However, he claims no one was hurt or died in the attacks.
Etaik was not sure if there will be any future action against “Province of Sinai,” but said that tribes from the area want to have a conference in coordination with the Armed Forces in order to combat terrorism in Sinai.
Argani doesn’t have a lot of influence on the tribe as a whole and hired several members to fight with him, Sabry said. “His only influence is because of money. He’s a capitalist … but he isn’t a leader. He’s young, only in his 40s or something.”
Sabry added that he hadn’t heard of any coordinated action against the militant group.
The Sinai-based militant group “Province of Sinai” claims to have perpetuated a series of high profile, deadly assaults against police and military personnel in Sinai and Cairo since former President Mohamed Morsi’s ouster in 2013. The Cabinet declared it a terrorist entity in April 2014.