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Tangential battles
Published in Ahram Online on 31 - 03 - 2020

Two armies are on the march in Egypt today. One is the “white army”, the convoys of medical personnel in hospitals, healthcare and research centres and other facilities who are working round the clock in the fight to contain the coronavirus. The other is the Egyptian Armed Forces which are engaged in two simultaneous battles.
The first is also the battle against Covid-19 to which the army is contributing with the production of disinfectants and hygienic substances and products in Nasr Company, military production factories and the Arab Manufacturing Organisation, and by means of the countrywide sanitisation and disinfection campaigns in major thoroughfares, government buildings, schools and universities, Al-Azhar buildings, the Coptic Cathedral and other vital public institutions.
The army's second battle takes on conventional enemies, terrorism and drug trafficking which frequently serves as a means to fund terrorist activities.
Local sources in Sinai have confirmed an Air Force strike against a terrorist convoy in the vicinity of Bir Al-Abd, killing and wounding a number of terrorist operatives. According to the sources, the operation targeted four SUVs transporting terrorists who attempted to take advantage of the government's current preoccupation with the coronavirus pandemic. The Air Force succeeded in taking out the four vehicles and the army followed through with combing, surveillance and targeted operations which were still in progress as of the writing of this story.
The Armed Forces, in collaboration with the Ministry of Interior, also launched an extensive drive to wipe out drug crops in central and southern Sinai. Members of the Border Patrol, the law enforcement forces of the Third Field Army, the civil police and the Air Force, took part in the sweeping campaign to discover and destroy hundreds of poppy and cannabis farms in the difficult-to-access ravines and hollows in the rugged mountainous terrain in St Catherine, Wadi Al-Nadiya, Wadi Al-Akhdar, Wadi Al-Abar, Wadi Matakha, Wadi Silaf, Wadi Maain, Wadi Fran, Wadi Sahb, Wadi Saal and El-Sheikh.
In addition to unearthing and destroying dozens of marijuana and poppy farms, the army confiscated tons of marijuana and hundreds of kilogrammes of cannabis seeds, poppy seeds and hashish powder. It also raided nine laboratories for the manufacturing and processing of hashish, as well as an unlicensed motorcycle used for smuggling activities.
According to a statement by the Armed Forces, the campaign was carried out in tandem with actions to tighten security and control over national borders in all strategic directions, a process that led to the seizure of vast quantities of narcotic substances.
The government has stepped up its fight to combat drug trafficking and prevent illicit drugs from entering the country in light of the serious threat they pose to the security and well-being of the Egyptian people, the statement said.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 2 April, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly


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