EL-ARISH, Egypt — More than three weeks after the military coup that ousted this nation’s first democratically elected — and Islamist — president from power, the roots of a violent insurgency are burrowing fast into the sands of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
The rapid thud of machine-gun fire and the explosions of rocket-propelled grenades have begun to shatter the silence of the desert days and nights here with startling regularity, as militants assault the military and police forces stationed across this volatile territory that borders Israel and the Gaza Strip.
The emerging Sinai crisis gives Egypt’s military a pretext to crack down on Islamist opponents across the country, including in Cairo, where at least 72 people were killed over the weekend when security forces opened fire on demonstrators rallying in support of ousted president Mohamed Morsi.
Egypt’s interim government issued a decree Sunday that granted the military the power to detain civilians, state media reported. Analysts and rights activists said the decree suggested that a state of emergency, a tool that the regime of now-deposed autocrat Hosni Mubarak had used for decades to silence opponents, might soon follow.