Dozens of militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group have entered Egypt from Libya in recent months, security and military officials warn.
Salaheddin Abdul Kareem, a Libyan military adviser, told Asharq Al-Awsat that a recent Libyan army crackdown on the coastal city of Derna, an Islamist stronghold, has forced dozens of ISIS members to flee to neighboring countries, including Egypt.
Derna lies nearly 185 miles (300 kilometers) from Egypt.
The official did not rule out that Libya’s militants may have been involved in the attacks that shook Egypt last week.
At least 50 people were killed on Wednesday after the Sinai Province, Egypt’s ISIS affiliate, launched a series of coordinated attacks in North Sinai. The Egyptian military responded by launching a series of airstrikes on Islamist militants’ positions in the restive peninsula, killing at least 100 insurgents.
Earlier this week, Egypt’s top judicial official Hisham Barakat was killed by a bomb targeting his motorcade in central Cairo.
Although claimed by an unknown group, the attack, analysts argue, bears the fingerprints of ISIS.
When asked whether the explosives used in the recent attacks in Egypt have been smuggled from Libya, the official said: “Everything is possible. We are facing terrorists who support each other, from Syria to Libya to Egypt.”
“We are facing an integrated system of terrorism [whose member groups] exchange expertise, weapons and even suicide bombers,” he added.
Islamist groups have established strong presence in Libya since the NATO-backed removal of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
The Egyptian government has increased security presence in the areas along the border with Libya, Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdel-Atty told Asharq Al-Awsat.
The governor of Matruh, which borders Libya, said in an earlier interview with Asharq Al-Awsat that Egypt maintains strict control on its side of the border from land, sea and air.
Egypt’s air force has orders to strike any 4X4 vehicles it spots trying to enter Egypt in an illegal manner, Alaa Abu Zeid said.
But security sources on both sides of the border have reported recently an increase in breaches and smuggling activities.
By Abdul Sattar Hatita