A tribal leader and his son in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula were shot dead Monday by militants, two days after Bedouin tribal chiefs extended cooperation to the Egyptian security forces to restore normalcy in the lawless border region along Gaza and Israel.
Tribal chief Khalaf Al-Menahy and his son were returning from a conference organized by tribal leaders to denounce militancy when they were attacked by a group of gunmen, an Egyptian security source told Reuters.
The attack occurred during the Egyptian security offensive in the region in response to the attack by jihadists on the Egyptian security check post August 5 which killed 16 guards.
Along with the security sweep, the government forces are implementing plans to destroy an elaborate network of underground tunnels used to smuggle weapons, militants and goods between Sinai and the Gaza Strip. The military has deployed extra troops and has closed the Rafah border with the Gaza Strip.
Bedouin tribal leaders, during the talks with Egyptian Interior Minister Ahmed Gamal al-Din Friday, supported the government plans to destroy the tunnels leading to Gaza.
An unnamed source close to the militants told Reuters that they had a secret meeting Sunday night to plan a harsh retaliation against the killing of six militants by the Egyptian soldiers on the same day during raids on hideouts in a village near al-Arish town in the north of the region.
The chief of the Tarabeen and the top tribal chief in Central Sinai, Abdallah Gohama, in an interview published August 7 in the London-based newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, said the tribal chiefs warned about the "precarious security situation" in Sinai several months ago.
Gohama said that Sinai chiefs "warned Armed Forces leadership more than four months ago about the dangers of the spread of extremist groups in Sinai and told authorities that the situation is critical."
He said Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi's decision to open border crossings in Sinai to Palestinians and to relax security measures helped the spread of militants in Sinai and facilitated their travel between Gaza and Sinai.
Gohama said advanced weapons in Sinai came from Libya, Sudan and Palestine, echoing reports that the security vacuum created following the Arab revolution contributed to the lawlessness in the peninsula.
The operations carried out by the insurgents revealed that new weapons had entered Sinai, particularly from Libya where illegal arms dealers had been thriving since the fall of Moammar Gadhafi, reported the Egypt Independent.
The report said the flow of weapons to Sinai doubled following the revolution, quoting Saeid Ateeq, an activist who lives in the town of Sheikh Zowaid, six miles from the Gaza Strip.
"It is clear that the Muslim Brotherhood president wanted to insinuate that the intelligence apparatus was to blame for the 'security failure,' which resulted in the soldiers' deaths," a commentary published on Palestine's Al-Ayyam newspaper noted, after Morsi sacked intelligence chief Gen Murad Mowafi. "It is not as if he had not opened the Rafah border crossing (with Gaza) following his meeting with Ismail Haniye, Hamas' prime minister. Hence, Morsi has managed to kill two birds with one stone; he is no longer under suspicion of a security failure and, on the other hand, he has tightened his grip on the reins of power."
Morsi fired two top generals Sunday and quashed a military order that had curbed the new leader's powers, asserting his authority over the military.
Morsi's spokesman called it a "sovereign" decision by the head of state, and aimed at "pumping new blood" into an army, reported Reuters.
Morsi later said his decision was not to send a negative message. "The decisions I took today were not meant ever to target certain persons, nor did I intend to embarrass institutions, nor was my aim to narrow freedoms," he said. "I did not mean to send a negative message about anyone, but my aim was the benefit of this nation and its people."