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By Perry Chiaramonte, ,
Published January 12, 2017
Jihadists in Egypt's lawless Sinai Peninsula are using U.S. weapons to carry out attacks against the temporary government in the wake of the military's ouster of President Mohammed Morsi, according to the embattled nation's Interior Ministry.
The government office posted an official statement on its Facebook page along with images of an exploded missile that hit the third floor of a building in the city of el-Arish last week. The post said terrorist forces targeted the North Sinai Security Directorate office with a ballistic missile that struck the third floor facade of the building, leaving three soldiers injured. While attacks in the Sinai, which borders Gaza and is a haven for terrorist activity, have become commonplace, the prospect that militants have U.S. weapons typically fired from helicopters at their disposal is especially alarming.
Three photos of the missile posted by the government agency shows that it appears to be an AGM-114F with a label written in English and the letters “U.S.” stenciled on the side.
“If, and that is a big if, it was a AGM-114, as in the report, that's not a ballistic missile, which conjures Cold War images of something massive and long range, but a Hellfire, which is of the type carried on helicopters,” Peter Singer, of the Brookings Institute’s Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, told FoxNews.com.
Egyptian security forces apprehended three suspects at the scene, including one Palestinian citizen.
A request for comment to the U.S. Department of Defense was not immediately returned.
Reports of U.S.-made weapons turning up in the Sinai date back to at least January, when six U.S.-made missiles were found in a cache of weapons bound for Gaza. And in February, FoxNews.com reported exclusively that weapons left over from the revolution in Libya were being sold at clandestine auctions is the Sinai Peninsula. The U.S. has repeatedly denied arming the Libyan rebels, though it did assist them in other ways with the overthrow of longtime Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi.
Egypt's military has been trying to rout terror cells across the Sinai Peninsula for several weeks. A recent attack on a military outpost left six Egyptian soldiers dead. Some 17 security force members and five civilians have been killed in the region since Morsi’s ouster on July 3. Egyptian intelligence estimates that there are at least 500 armed extremists operating on the Sinai Peninsula. As many as 30 attacks have been carried out against security forces in the region in the past two months.
The Muslim Brotherhood has denied playing any role in the escalation of violence.
While most reports focused on the unrest in Cairo leading up to Morsi being removed from office, the Sinai Peninsula has seen a large amount of civil unrest. Dozens have been killed in the past month during skirmishes between the military and guerrilla fighters.