Egypt: Sinai ‘top priority’ for new military intelligence head

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi expects Egypt’s new military intelligence head to make the Sinai Peninsula his “top priority”.

General Khaled Megawar – who was appointed as head of Egypt’s military intelligence on 22 December – is expected to focus on the ongoing security situation in the Sinai Peninsula, in Egypt’s east, after his predecessor failed to calm the region, French website Intelligence Online reported.

According to the website, Megawar is well-acquainted with the situation in the Sinai, having led Egypt’s Second Field Army which is stationed in Ismailia, north of Suez at the entrance to the peninsula. He is said to have good relations with figures from various factions in the Sinai, including MPs, businessmen, politicians, tribal sheikhs and government officials, which has enabled him to recruit a number of informants to work for the military intelligence, according to Al-Arabi Al-Jadeed.

Megawar was also previously the deputy head of military intelligence and worked as a military attaché at the Egyptian embassy in Washington. This is important at a time when Cairo is looking to strengthen ties with the US, Intelligence Online added.

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Al-Sisi’s pressure on Megawar is particularly acute in light of his predecessor General Muhammad Al-Shahat’s failure to calm the Sinai region. Al-Shahat – who served three years in the position – was sacked following a meeting of Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces in November, during which Al-Sisi expressed his impatience with the military intelligence’s inefficiency in northern Sinai.

The Egyptian army is still struggling to contain the situation in the Sinai, despite using foreign intelligence and military tools, including satellite images taken by French satellites and Israeli air strikes and drones.

Egypt claims to be waging a war on terror in the peninsula against local Daesh affiliate “Sinai Province”. Since 2013 this has led to a violent crackdown, which intensified earlier this year when the Egyptian government launched Sinai 2018 ahead of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s deadline to “restore stability and security” to the region.

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