Egypt – ‘Tribal’ Coalition

An organisation of tribes in the North Sinai, in cooperation with the army, aims to counter the Islamist threat.

In the North Sinai, a number of ‘tribal’ groups have taken up arms against the so-called Islamic State (ISIS aka Daesh), after Islamist militants attacked the Tarabin, a key Sinai tribe, which prompted them to form a coalition in collaboration with the Egyptian army.

In mid April ISIS reportedly attacked two pick up trucks belonging to the Tarabin, and abducted two people. The following day the Tarabin besieged Rafah’s Al-Barth market and arrested two members of the group.

A week later ISIS attacked Tarabin youths killing four, subsequently prompting the Tarabin to capture and burn alive an ISIS member.

On April 29th the Tarabin invited North Sinai tribes to meet, where they formed the Sinai Tribes Union (STU), led by tribal chief Abdul-Majeed al-Mene’I from the Sawarkeh, the largest tribe in the Sinai region.

Other tribes include the Rumeylat, the Tiyaha and the Fawalhriyeh. Since the formation of the STU both sides have engaged in attacks, and a young Tarabin businessman named Salem Abu Lafi was killed.

However, some warn of negative consequences in the long run. “All expected scenarios of Sinai tribes carrying arms are dangerous, because the confrontation with Daesh could turn into revengeful armed conflicts among tribes… and this could get out of the Egyptian state’s control,” security expert and former intelligence officer Mahmoud Zaher told Qatari Al-Arab daily.


North Sinai Map

Further, an Egyptian appeals court overturned on May 4th death sentences for 25 people over deadly tribal clashes in the country’s south, ordering a retrial. The men had been convicted of taking part in 2014 clashes in the southern Aswan province that killed 28 people.

Tribal reprisals are common in the rural south. In 2014 a long-standing rivalry between the Bani Hilal, an Arab tribe, and the Dabudiya, a Nubian tribe, flared after a man from one sexually harassed a woman from the other.

The two sides had sought to resolve tensions with a reconciliation meeting, but it degenerated into a firefight that killed three Bani Hilal members. (© AFP 4/5 2017; BBC Monitoring 17/5)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

EGYPT: Church Bombings
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 4, Pp. 21401C–21402C

EGYPT: Christian Exodus
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 3, Pp. 21364C–21365B

EGYPT: Military Gains, Militant Retaliations
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 1, Pp. 21292B–21293B.

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