An American citizen, who worked for the Apache Oil Corporation in Egypt, was killed in an apparent car jacking in Egypt’s western desert as he traveled between production facilities on the highway between Egypt and Libya this week. Witnesses said men in Bedouin dress stopped the US citizen, forced him from the car, shot him and drove off.
“An employee was the victim of an apparent car jacking during which he was fatally shot on the road,” Patrick Cassidy, a spokesman for the Apache Oil Corporation based in Houston, Texas told The Media Line. “Apache is working with the authorities and a full investigation is underway. The victim was a long-time Apache employee, and we are deeply saddened by his death. Notifications to family members are being made.”
It was not clear if the attack was meant to be only a robbery or if it was a jihadist attack. Sources at Apache said there are fewer than one hundred US employees at the company’s facilities in Egypt, but there are thousands of local Egyptians employed there.
The shooting comes as the Egyptian military may be preparing to confront Islamists in neighboring Libya who are threatening Egypt’s stability. As the largest Arab country, Egypt see itself as a regional power, and the new government of military leader Abdel Fatteh al-Sisi is determined to impose stability on Egypt.
Earlier this week, an Egyptian police captain and two of his aides were shot and killed in a drive-by shooting at the entrance gate to the luxury resort of Marina in Egypt’s North Coast. The Egyptian army declared the entire 400 mile north coast strip from Alexandria to the Libyan border a closed military zone. Sources in the Egyptian army told The Media Line that soldiers pursued the attackers and killed four Libyan citizens in a car. Two of them were commanders in the Libyan army.
Residents along the Egyptian-Libyan border say there has been a buildup of Egyptian tanks and troops in the past 48 hours. Last month, 22 Egyptian border guards were killed when the ammunition room at the checkpoint exploded after it was hit with a grenade. In a statement on their website, the Islamic State (IS) took responsibility and said it was in retaliation for “arresting jihadists and torturing them in prisons.”
“There has been an increased security awareness and surveillance after the attack at Farafra oasis,” an Egyptian military official who asked to remain anonymous because he is not authorized to speak to the media told The Media Line. “There is no intention to have conventional troops enter and fight inside Libya; the terrain is different, and we will be fighting ghosts we don’t know.”
Egypt has signed a mutual defense agreement with several Arab states which it chairs in Cairo. While Egypt can take action legally to enter Libya, the military official said that there is only cooperation on the level of intelligence gathering, and information sharing. Several sources have claimed that Egypt is only maintaining the status quo by protecting its borders from infiltration by extremist groups inside Libya.
Egyptian military officials deny that there is any intention to invade Libya to fight jihadist forces there.
“There is no talk about an intervention by the armed forces in Libya,” Egypt’s Armed Forces Spokesman Brigadier General Mohamed Samir told The Media Line. “We have announced several times that there are constitutional regulations that the armed forces have to go through before taking such action. There is no parliament in session now to take such a decision.”
He also said that Egypt’s goal is clear.
“The Egyptian army is only tasked with protecting the borders of the Egyptian state, and there is a continuous re-evaluation and increase in forces regardless of the attacks. The Egyptian armed forces are completely capable of protecting its borders.”
A Libyan official told The Media Line that intelligence about Islamists movements in eastern Libya and near the Egyptian – Libyan borders were conveyed to the Egyptian government. He said that extremists will be using tactics similar these used by IS in Iraq.
“We told the Egyptians to take the matter seriously and told them that the Islamists are able to cross the borders with ease.”
Amr Moussa, the former head of the constitutional committee and former minister of foreign affairs, said recently that Libya’s deteriorating security situation could force Egypt to launch a military intervention. A statement from Amr Moussa’s office in Cairo claimed that the situation in Libya is increasingly a cause for concern in Egypt and other neighboring countries, and Egypt might have to resort to self-defense measures in light of the often fatal attacks on Egyptians in Libya.
The growth of sectarian militia groups on the other side of the border threatens Egypt’s stability, Moussa continued, and poses a “direct threat to Egypt’s national security.” He called for a halt to all attacks on Egyptian expatriates.
Saudia Arabia is also concerned about the infiltration of IS gunmen coming from Iraq. The Saudi kingdom announced in May that it had foiled a plot to assassinate senior Saudi officials and religious figures by terrorists linked to IS. Pro-IS graffiti has begun to appear around the kingdom and residents in parts of Riyadh woke in June to find jihadist leaflets on their car windscreens.
Abdel Satar Hetieta, an Egyptian strategic analyst, says that Egypt could decide to send troops to Saudi Arabia. However, officially Egypt cannot announce this now publicly since there is no parliament in session. Egypt’s armed forces spokesman denied that there are any troops in Saudi Arabia, but said that Egypt and Saudi Arabia are in constant communication about the terrorist threats.
“The security of the Gulf impacts on the security of the entire Middle East,” he said. Saudi government spokesmen could not be reached for comment.
Article written by Sherif Elhelwa
Reprinted with permission from The Media Line