The latest execution of two men accused of spying for the Egyptian army in Sinai was the latest atrocity by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) branch in Egypt.
Political analysts view the crime as proof of the perseverance of the terrorist organization, despite deadly blows by the Egyptian army and police against it over the past four years.
Egypt has succeeded in significantly weakening ISIS Sinai, destroying almost all its capabilities. This caused a sharp drop in the number of attacks the terrorist organization was able to stage.
“The security establishment was able to remarkably undermine ISIS Sinai,” said Khaled Okasha, the head of local think tank Egyptian Center for Strategic Studies.
Egypt continues to raise the security alert level in Sinai, maintaining a huge troop presence in the territory that shares borders with Israel and the Palestinian Gaza Strip.
However, the fear in Cairo is that potential interference by Turkey in neighboring Libya will give a boost to ISIS Sinai and intensify security threats on Egypt’s joint border with Libya.
Egypt has 1,200 kilometers of borders with Libya. It has borne the brunt of securing this border solely in the absence of a functional state in the neighboring country.
In July 2018, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi revealed that his country had sent special combat troops to the joint border with Libya to secure this border. On another occasion, Sisi said Egyptian fighter jets patrol the border with Libya every day in order to ensure that terrorist organizations active in Libya would not be able to cross into Egypt.
Egypt’s eyes are turning to its joint border with Libya, now with Turkey preparing to deploy regular army troops in the North African state to aid the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).
Turkey has already sent battle-hardened mercenaries from Syria to Libya, according to a number of organizations, including the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights which revealed recently that Ankara had already sent hundreds of these mercenaries to Libya.
In Egypt, observers are warning that Turkey-sent jihadists will soon be at Libya’s border with Egypt in preparation for attacking the populous Arab state.
This is particularly true, they say, if the GNA, the Islamist militias operating under its command and the jihadists sent by Turkey to Libya succeed in repelling the advance of the Libyan National Army (LNA) towards Libyan capital Tripoli and even defeating this army.
“Turkish presence will open a very dangerous front for Egypt on its joint border with Libya,” said political analyst Mohamed Hamza. “This is why we should not keep waiting for diplomatic efforts aiming at settling the Libyan crisis to bear fruit.”
Turkey will send troops to Libya in the light of a security cooperation deal it signed with the GNA on November 28. The deal gives Ankara the right to send troops to the North African state at the request of the GNA, according to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The GNA demanded military support from Turkey on December 19. On December 2, the Turkish parliament approved a bill that allows Turkey to send troops to Libya.
Egypt has rejected this security cooperation deal, along with another one between the GNA and Turkey for the delimitation of maritime boundaries between Libya and Turkey.
Apart from the diplomatic efforts, Egypt is making to keep Turkey away from Libya, Egypt is also taking special measures to secure itself against the destabilizing effect of the Turkish presence in Libya.
It has already formed a high-level panel that contains the highest security and intelligence officials in the country to consider the effects Turkish presence in Libya will have on its national security.
The panel will refer a report to Sisi about the situation on the border with Libya on a daily basis.
“Egypt will be ready to prevent any attempt for infiltrating its border with Libya,” said retired army general Nagui Shohoud. “It will not allow any country to threaten its national security, regardless of the strength of this country.”