Inaccuracies in BBC backgrounder on Sinai terrorists

An article by Kevin Connolly published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on May 20th under the title “EgyptAir crash fuels fears and theories” tells readers that:

“Egypt sees itself as a regional power in the front line of a war against global jihadism and its strong-man President, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, portrays himself as the hammer of political Islamism at home.

Privately many Egyptians appear to worry that might make their country an obvious target for jihadists – the fear being that a long-bubbling Islamist insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula might escalate elsewhere in Egypt.”

The link provided leads to a backgrounder produced by BBC Monitoring titled “Sinai Province: Egypt’s most dangerous group” which tells readers that:Sinai province

“Sinai Province started by attacking Israel with rockets, but after the removal of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013 it focused on Egypt’s security services, killing dozens of soldiers.

It has been involved in suicide bombings, drive-by shootings, assassinations and beheadings.”

Sinai Province (formerly known as Ansar Bayt al Maqdis) emerged in 2011 after the ousting of the former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.  Its activities began with attacks on the oil pipelines running between Israel and Egypt and on July 30th of that year it attacked a police station in El Arish, killing six people. On August 14th 2011 the Egyptian army launched ‘Operation Eagle’ to tackle the insurgency and four days later a combined terror attack took place along the Israeli-Egyptian border resulting in the deaths of eight Israelis.

On August 5th 2012 – just over a month after Mohammed Morsi became president of Egypt – an Egyptian army post near Rafah was attacked and more than 15 Egyptian security personnel were killed. The terrorists proceeded to the Kerem Shalom crossing in stolen vehicles and briefly breached the border. Two days later the Egyptian army launched ‘Operation Sinai’. On September 21st Ansar Bayt al Maqdis launched a terror attack on the Israeli-Egyptian border in which an Israeli soldier was killed.

In other words, the BBC’s claim that “Sinai Province started by attacking Israel with rockets” is not accurate: serious cross-border attacks also took place. The claim that attacks on Egypt’s security services began “after the removal of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013” is also clearly inaccurate.

The backgrounder gives typically scant information on the topic of collaboration between Sinai Province and Hamas.

“The border with Israel and the Gaza Strip has been a scene of tension over the past few years. The Egyptian authorities have created a buffer zone, demolishing houses and digging a trench to prevent smuggling between Egypt and Gaza – which they say is a source of weapons for the militants.”

Were that BBC backgrounder more accurate, perhaps Kevin Connolly would have been in a position to tell his readers that Egypt has been tackling the issue of Sinai-based terrorists since before its current president came to power, that attacks “elsewhere in Egypt” have already taken place and that Egypt was a “target for jihadists” even when it had a president in the “political Islamism” camp.  

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4 comments on “Inaccuracies in BBC backgrounder on Sinai terrorists

  1. I no longer believe anything political from The BBC. It is a sad state of affairs. Still, Cameron’s government might bring change.

  2. If anyone is expecting truth and accuracy on Mid-Eastern affairs from the BBC World Service, he/she should go back to sleep.

  3. The BBC ‘which they say’ sneaks in again. “The Egyptian authorities have created a buffer zone, demolishing houses and digging a trench to prevent smuggling between Egypt and Gaza – which they say is a source of weapons for the militants.”

    Is there any doubt that weapons were smuggled in? Did Connolly take the trouble to check for himself?

    BTW I’ll bet the Egyptians did not say ‘militants’. BBC guidelines say that the word ‘terrorist’ can be used in a direct quote.

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