Egyptian sources say that Osama Bin Laden’s former doctor is in the Sinai Peninsula, where he is training militant groups that have the goal of establishing an “Islamic emirate.”
Ramzi Mowafi has been providing military training to about 40 operatives whose ages range between 15 and 40, the Egyptian daily independent al-Masry al-Youm quoted sources as saying this week.
The militants trained by Mowafi carried out two weeks ago an attack on a police station in al-Arish, the capital of the North Sinai governorate, and were seen afterwards distributing leaflets announcing their intention to establish an Islamic emirate in the peninsula.
According to the sources, the paper said, the training sessions were guarded by 13 SUV’s, five of which carried anti-aircraft missiles. Around 15 armed men oversaw the training sessions from the top of a nearby hill and were equipped with military binoculars and automatic weapons.
Mowafi, 59, arrived in Sinai after fleeing from prison, where he was serving a life sentence for terrorist activities, on January 30 during the security vacuum that followed the withdrawal of police forces in the wake of the protests that led to the revolution, said Major Yasser Attia.
“Investigations have uncovered several alarming facts,” Attia said. “Al-Qaeda is financing militants in Sinai.”
According to a source from the Egyptian intelligence, Mowafi contacted militants from the Egyptian Islamist movement al-Takfir wa al-Hijra and the Palestinian militant group Jaish al-Islam.
Mowafi, nicknamed “the chemical” by his fellow militants, was the private doctor Bin Laden when he was the head of al-Qaeda and was in charge of manufacturing chemical weapons for the group.
A security source, however, denied the presence of Mowafi in Sinai and argued that it is not logical that someone who tops the list of the most wanted in the country would show up in a place as volatile as and as monitored as Sinai.
“Talk about his arrival in Sinai could be a rumor Israel is propagating to spread chaos,” he said.
The source, however, admitted to the presence of extremist groups in the area between Sinai and Gaza in seven camps across the peninsula.
“Those groups are closely watched and their meeting places are known.”
According to security sources, a clampdown on militant groups in Sinai is imminent. The same sources said that extremist groups in Sinai, whose members are usually native to the peninsula, were joined by external operatives from Gaza.
Those groups, the sources added, were also joined by Egyptians from all over the country in response to a statement they issued in March calling for reinforcements to aid in the creation of an Islamic state in Sinai.
Based on testimonies by local sources, the newcomers brought their families with them to the peninsula.
However, a high-level security source downplayed the number of militants in Sinai and underestimated the danger they pose.
When asked about specific numbers, the source said it would be hard to estimate because the peninsula is a tourist destination and Egyptians from different areas are always seen there.
“What we know for sure is that the number of militants is limited.”
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)