In a switch from the past, the military has begun arming Bedouin tribesmen like Abu-Sefira and having them patrol in operations against the IS jihadists deep in the peninsula’s interior, where their local knowledge gives them an advantage, Abu-Sefira and other Bedouin say.
“We have to do it, it’s our duty to make the people feel safe from the terrorists who were killing us,” Abu-Sefira told The Associated Press by telephone from a checkpoint he was manning along with a dozen other men from the area, near the Halal mountains where the IS affiliate has been known to stockpile weapons and equipment.
The military has not publicly acknowledged arming and using the Bedouin as a fighting force, saying only that they cooperate and provide intelligence. In the past, security forces have been wary of giving weapons to the Bedouin, given the long history of tensions with the tribesmen. The shift appears to be an attempt to bring the Sinai population more onto the government’s side in the fight.