ISIS-affiliated terrorists in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula are digging up Nazi munitions that were buried in the sand during World War II and using them as material for bombs and other weapons, Newsweek reported this week.
An estimated 17 million land mines are still present in northwest Egypt around the site of the 1942 Battle of El Alamein between the Axis powers and Allied forces. The Egyptian military has been clearing the minefield since 1981 removing nearly 3 million mines, however since 2004, terrorists in the Sinai Peninsula – now formally aligned to ISIS – have been harvesting the mines to use in their battle against Egyptian forces.
The Sinai Province group, formerly known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, killed 34 people at the resort city of Taba in 2004 using explosives harvested from mines. In March this year, there was an attack on an Egyptian army convoy near the Red Sea that killed five soldiers, which was blamed on explosives scavenged from the old mines.
Since the rise in mine based attacks the Egyptian army has only had limited success in fighting the Sinai-based insurgency group, even with the recent deployment of 700 mine-resistant vehicles from the United States. Fathy el-Shazly, a former Egyptian ambassador to Saudi Arabia who recently ran the mine clearing operation said :“We’ve had at least 10 reports from the military of terrorists using old mines… Even now, these things trouble us in different ways”.
Experts say weapons from World War Two continue to circulate in the Middle East and they pointed out one Syrian rebel group was using a 70-year-old howitzer.
N R Jenzen-Jones, an arms consultant said : “We’ve seen several dozen British Webley revolvers previously or presently for sale, and then some Italian cavalry carbines, some Mausers, Bren guns”.
In July 2015, over 100 people were killed after ISIS-linked terrorists in the Sinai Peninsula coordinated a wave of suicide bombings and battles on Egyptian army outposts. Egypt has long accused Hamas of smuggling weapons to Salafist militants in the volatile Sinai Peninsula, where scores of soldiers and policemen have been killed since the army overthrew former President Mohammed Morsi in July 2013.