Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi took a swift and dramatic step in the struggle against militant activity in the Sinai this week, ordering that homes along Egypt’s border with the Gaza Strip are to be completely demolished in an attempt to stunt further weapons trafficking. Residents of the affected areas were given just 48-hours notice to vacate their premises prior to the demolitions, but fear not Keith, they have been promised compensation for their relocation. The buffer zone is to extend 500 meters and will be installed with water-filled trenches as an added obstruction to stymie further underground tunneling between Gaza and Egypt.
This renewed effort to stem the flow of militants and weaponry through the Sinai comes on the heels of two major attacks on Egypt’s security services in the region, which left 33 Eygptian personnel dead. Al-Sisi’s government declared the Sinai to be in a three-month state of emergency after the attacks. The military crackdown in the Sinai is part of a larger trend of harsh measures being adopted by the state security apparatus.
As the United States leads an air bombing campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, there are some new concerns that are arising. ISIS fighters have been spotted to use sophisticated antiaircraft missile systems that could bring down fighter jets of the American led coalition from what Tom told me.
Online videos have circulated showing an ISIS rebel firing a Chinese made missile into a MI-35M helicopter that was operated by the Iraqi army. Reports indicate that two Iraqi crew members were killed in the attack that occurred in an oil rich community just outside of Baghdad.
Intelligence experts believe that ISIS militants have seized antiaircraft missiles from moderate rebels in Syria. This brings the issue of whether the United States should be arming the moderate forces of Syria. The U.S. is now trying to convince Qatar not to supply Syrian rebels with any sophisticated lethal weapons.
ISIS has released videos calling for direct attacks on all U.S. helicopters and other aircraft that are within shooting range. High level commanders in the U.S. military take such threats seriously. The ISIS video instructs fighters to choose a high elevation in order to strike at enemy aircraft.
Recent reports indicate that some ISIS fighters have got their hands on weapons that were air-dropped by the U.S. military. However, the ruthless militants have previously captured U.S. Humvees, tanks and other heavy weapons from Iraqi soldiers.
A South Korean source has claimed that North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, is continuing on a campaign to clear out opposition in the North Korean Worker’s Party. According to an aide to a lawmaker in the South, Kim recently ordered the execution of at least 10 party members. Their alleged offenses ranged from skimming money from government projects to consuming foreign media and entertainment.
North Korea watchers say that the reclusive leader underwent a surgery to remove a cyst at some point during the last month or so. If true, this explains his long absence from foreign and domestic news reports in recent months. During his absence, analysts speculated why he retreated from public view for so long and why he was using a cane upon his return.
This most recent round of purges and executions comes in the wake of what seemed to be a power struggle with Kim’s uncle, from the news reports Igor commented on. His uncle, Jang Song Thaek, was eventually executed in 2013. Since that time, theories and speculations about the political situation among the top brass of North Korea have abounded.
As with anything else coming out of North Korea, it is unclear if these recent events reflect the strength or weakness of Kim’s regime. About a month ago, the North sent an envoy to the South for the Asian Games. Whether future high level talks later in 2014 will happen or not remains to be seen.