The Associated Press reported on Wednesday morning that Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi is using former jihadist militants as intermediaries in dealings with radical Islamists currently operating in the Sinai Peninsula. The AP report follows Egyptian military reports of expanding the anti-terror campaign in Sinai.
The move to use former jihadists as intermediaries is part of Morsi's overall efforts to put an end to the violence on the part of global jihad groups and radical Sinai Bedouin against Egyptians. In exchange for an end to violence, the Egyptian military would suspend its anti-terror operation in Sinai. According to reports, the dialogue started with the global jihad groups has fueled suspicions that negotiations would serve as de-facto recognition for jihadists.
The AP report stated that the Egyptian military had performed some raids at the beginning of the operation, but since then, has mostly engaged in activities that merely display a presence on the ground, such as checkpoints. Egyptian security officials told AP that at one point, the military received information about a meeting of radical militants in Sheik Zayed, but did not raid the area or arrest the militants.
At the same time, there has been a substantial decline in shooting incidents at Egyptian military checkpoints. Egyptian media outlets also reported on meetings that took place last weekend between the leaders of Sinai jihadist groups and delegates sent by Morsi, with the former Islamists activists serving as intermediaries.
One of the participants at the meetings, Hamdin Salman Sa'ad, a well-known Islamist in the Sinai Peninsula, told the AP that "the sides reached an agreement that will permanently calm the situation." According to Sa'ad, the agreement stipulates that the Egyptian security forces will not attack the Jihadists, the Jihadists will not attack the Egyptian military, and non-Egyptian militants that attempt to harm Egypt will be arrested.
Another participant at the meeting added that the jihadist militants will also turn in their weapons, as part of the agreement.
On Sunday, it was reported that the Al-Brahama tribe turned in an anti-aircraft weapon to the Egyptian military. According to the participants, the framework of the agreement also includes an Egyptian commitment to open the Rafah border crossing with Gaza. During the last few days, Hamas has begun to prepare land near the Rafah crossing to be used as a free commercial area.
Egyptian security forces were apparently not involved in the deal, as senior Egyptian military officers stated that they were unaware of the delegates' mission to negotiate until the group of representatives sent by Morsi reached areas like Sheik Zayed and Egyptian Rafah.
The delegation was led by Magdi Salam, a well-known former Islamist who served 18 years in an Egyptian prison for being part of a jihadist group that attempted to execute a series of attacks against Egyptians in the 1990s. For the most part, Salam and his organization attempted to assassinate the Egyptian president.
Aside from other former militants from similar organizations, an attorney loyal to the Salafi movement, Nizar Jourb, also participated. The meeting included roughly 40 leaders of various Jihadist militant groups active throughout the Sinai Peninsula. A member of a Salafi group in Sinai, Ahmed al-Jihayini, told the AP that he appreciated Morsi's efforts to reach out and "build trust" with the people of Sinai.
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