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Egypt arrests hundreds of ISIS-linked operatives over al-Sisi assassination plots

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Egyptian officials announced yesterday that almost 300 members of an ISIS-affiliate in Sinai have been arrested over involvement in 17 terror attacks, including two plots to assassinate Egypt’s President.

According to the official MENA news agency, Egyptian state prosecutors announced that 292 people were arrested, following a year-long investigation. Sixty six of the suspects have reportedly confessed to involvement in a variety of terror attacks.

They include an attempt to assassinate President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, along with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. In another plot, seven cell members are said to have planned to attack al-Sisi’s convoy in Egypt’s capital Cairo.

The suspects, who are members of the ISIS-affiliated Sinai Province Islamist terror group, are also accused of carrying out numerous attacks in the Sinai Peninsula, which borders Israel. They include the bombing of a tourist bus approaching the Taba border crossing with Israel in 2014, in which two South Koreans and a bus driver were killed.

Since al-Sisi ousted the Muslim Brotherhood in a military coup in 2013, Sinai Province has been persistently attacking Egyptian military forces in Sinai, inflicting serious casualties.

Although the Cairo government has been the primary target for Sinai Province, the group has also made clear that it is committed to attacking Israel. In July 2016, it was responsible for firing three Grad rockets into Israel. In 2013, two rockets were fired by the group on Eilat, Israel’s southernmost city.

Israel and Egypt are thought to work closely on security-related matters, especially over combatting Islamist terror groups. Both have deep concerns over cooperation between Sinai Province and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, who are thought to aid each other via smuggling tunnels beneath the Gaza-Egypt border.

At yesterday’s cabinet meeting, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recalled the 39th anniversary of former-Egyptian President Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem, which paved the way for the existing peace treaty between the two countries.