The recent terrorist attacks on Egyptian churches in different provinces are motivated by the decline of the Sinai-based affiliates of the Islamic State militant group in the Sinai Peninsula due to massive security campaigns, Egyptian security and political experts have said.

As the Christian minority worshippers were marking the Palm Sunday in the Muslim-majority state earlier during the day, a blast and a suicide bombing at two churches in Gharbiya and Alexandria province northern Egypt killed at least 44 and wounded over 120. Egypt has been fighting a terrorist wave that killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers since the military removed former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013 and blacklisted his Muslim Brotherhood group as “a terrorist organization.”Mostly claimed by a Sinai-based group loyal to the Islamic State (IS) regional militia, the terrorist attacks focused on security forces in restive North Sinai in the beginning, but after massive security raids that killed hundreds of militants and arrested a similar number of suspects, they started to target the Coptic minority in the most populous Arab country. “Targeting Copts proves the failure of terrorists in confronting the security forces in the northern part of Sinai Peninsula. They focused on Sinai in the beginning but their influence and existence eventually declined,”security expert Salah Samak told Xinhua.

Egypt’s military intelligence chief, Gen. Mohamed Farag al-Shahhat, said during a military-held symposium in February that at least 500 terrorists have been killed since a massive anti-terror campaign, known as “The Martyr’s Right,” started in September 2015. The military forces in cooperation with the police have recently announced eliminating terrorists at Central Sinai’s Mount Halal area, a part of North Sinai province bordering Israel and the Palestinian Gaza Strip. “Despite the terror blasts, terrorism in Egypt in general and in Sinai in particular is declining, which shows success of the security forces in their anti-terror war, and this is why the terrorist moved to target Copts,” said the security expert, noting that there is no such a thing as 100-percent security against a suicide bombing in any state across the world. “Those bombers who target churches are marginal members of the terrorist group who have been newly recruited to be easily convinced to kill Christians,” he continued, stressing that fresh militant recruits could easily be mislead to kill innocent civilians of other religions.

Sunday’s blasts have been claimed by the IS, which also claimed the responsibility for a previous church blast in Cairo in December 2016 that left at least 28 worshippers dead, mostly women and children.Mokhtar Ghobashy, deputy chairman of the Arab Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said that two church bombings on Sunday came in response to the military operations in Sinai that cleared Mount Halal area of terrorists. “Through the two church blasts, the terrorist groups want to prove that they still exist and that they are able to target different places across the country,” Ghobashy told Xinhua. After presiding over a meeting of the country’s national defense council later on Sunday evening, President Sisi declared in a televised statement a three-month state of emergency in the Arab country. He also announced the formation of a supreme council for fighting terrorism and extremism in Egypt as per a new law to give it sufficient authorities to do the job.

Constituting to about 10 percent of Egypt’s Muslim-majority 94 million people, the Copts are believed by experts to be a new target of the terrorist groups as anti-Christian attacks draw world attention to pressure the Egyptian administration. “Sunday’s blasts represent one of the episodes of the conflict between terror groups and the Egyptian state and they are meant to largely pressure the Egyptian administration and weaken the country’s national unity,” Ghobashi told Xinhua.

Source: Mahmoud Fouly, Xinhua/NewsGhana.com.gh