As ISIS loses ground in Sinai, it has changed tactics to target Upper Egypt. Upper Egypt is one of the poorest regions in Egypt with weak security. ISIS has been very successful in Upper Egypt with recruitment and movement of supplies using these resources to attack the Coptic Christian population where it is most vulnerable, in churches. Egypt doesn’t have the resources to combat this new threat on its own and intelligence sharing with Europe has stalled inexplicably. Unless Egypt can find a way to improve its security forces and intelligence gathering, the Coptic Christian population will continue to be vulnerable to attack.
06/27/2017 Egypt (Al-Monitor) – The Egyptian Interior Ministry announced June 22 the killing of seven people it believed were involved in recent attacks against Copts, including church bombings and shootings in which about 100 people were killed. The ministry said in a statement it was “certain that a group of individuals had been stationed in some areas in the Western Desert, where they received military training on how to use weapons and assemble explosive devices in order to carry out more terrorist attacks.”
The latest terrorist attack in Minya governorate May 26 that killed 29 people, mostly Copts, raised questions about the Islamic State’s ability to establish cells with armed elements and a safe network to recruit fighters in Upper Egypt.
Najah Ibrahim, a freelance researcher and writer on armed groups, told Al-Monitor over the phone that IS’ choice of Upper Egypt as its new refuge and target was a not a spur-of-the-moment decision; IS had already tried to launch a new branch two years ago in Upper Egypt through a failed terrorist attack on June 10, 2015, near Karnak Temple in Luxor.
Ibrahim said IS has a safe network to recruit fighters in Upper Egypt, especially in Qena. “Upper Egypt provides a fertile environment for this group to prosper since it is the poorest and least educated area [in Egypt], is marginalized by politicians and lacks security,” he said.