Is the once-prominent ISIS on the brink of total failure? - analysis

The theory is that ISIS now has only remnants of the terror cells it once had and that it is trying to prove it can still carry out attacks in areas of Egypt.

A container ship sails at the Suez Canal, in Ismailia, Egypt March 31, 2021. Suez Canal Authority/Handout via REUTERS (photo credit: REUTERS)
A container ship sails at the Suez Canal, in Ismailia, Egypt March 31, 2021. Suez Canal Authority/Handout via REUTERS
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Egyptian security forces say they foiled a terror attack on a security checkpoint in North Ismailia governorate on Friday. The reports from Egypt said that the incident resulted in an exchange of fire between the security forces and the terrorists. Three Egyptian police were killed in the attack and others were wounded.  

Two cars approached the checkpoint and a gun battle resulted, according to a report by the AFP. This is apparently a terror attack and it is also rare that such attacks penetrate areas outside of the Sinai peninsula. There has been no claim of responsibility, yet. Most reports note that ISIS has been waging attacks on Egypt for years and that ISIS could be behind it.  

Al-Ain media in the UAE provided a deeper look into the attack. It says that the incident happened in a residential neighborhood called Al-Salam. Daily News Egypt said the incident happened near the El Saliheen Mosque. While one attacker was killed and another reportedly wounded, the others fled.

“The security services in Ismailia continue to pursue the perpetrators of the attack, and combed the area to search for the rest of the perpetrators who fled to the adjacent desert areas, while the entrances and exits of the governorate were closed,” Al-Ain media said. 

“The security services in Ismailia continue to pursue the perpetrators of the attack, and combed the area to search for the rest of the perpetrators who fled to the adjacent desert areas, while the entrances and exits of the governorate were closed.”

Al-Ain media

Sources told Al-Ain that the operation and the thwarting of the attack appear to show that security forces are doing a good job preventing terrorism and that extremist groups like ISIS are suffering from failure and frustration. This analysis believes that terrorism in Egypt is “breathing its last breath.”

An Iranian naval ship travels through the Suez Canal near Ismailia, some 120 km (75 miles) north of Cairo February 22, 2011. (credit: REUTERS)An Iranian naval ship travels through the Suez Canal near Ismailia, some 120 km (75 miles) north of Cairo February 22, 2011. (credit: REUTERS)

The theory is that ISIS now has only remnants of the terror cells it once had and that it is trying to prove it can still carry out attacks in areas of Egypt. If ISIS were successful it could “awaken” others. However, it has not been successful.

According to the report, the choice of Ismailia as a target was designed to influence other “sleeper cells” in the area. ISIS members may also be fleeing Sinai, having been defeated there, and they wanted this attack to be a kind of propaganda victory. The fact that gunmen in the cars were stopped illustrates they were not successful, this report says.  

Other questions

There are other questions. The report notes this took place on the eve of the New Year’s Holiday. This is an attempt to show that terrorists can still penetrate populated areas of Egypt. The reports want to portray these terrorists as desperate and leaderless, operating with only a few weapons.

"The ISIS organization, after its defeat in Sinai, needs a process to raise morale and reduce security pressures on the organization, whether at home or abroad, so that its elements can restore their offensive capabilities,” one expert told Al-Ain news.  

These differing interpretations, whether this attack represents a failure of ISIS or an attempt to make it relevant once again, are important because it remains to be seen if the group will carry out more attacks.

Egypt has been waging a difficult struggle against the extremists in Sinai for many years. It is never entirely clear if this campaign has been totally successful, because terrorists continue to carry out attacks and clash with the security forces. However, it does appear that there have been fewer clashes in the last year.

This is a contrast to several years ago when there appeared to be many more incidents in Sinai and the extremists threatened northern Sinai, attacked energy infrastructure and shrines, and carried out massacres.