In the early hours of 7 July in 2017, Egyptians woke up to a state of mourning, but also saw and heard the extraordinary brave tale of the 103 battalion in Egypt’s second army. The story began when a widescale militant attack that took place against a checkpoint for Al-Sa’ak’a forces (Egypt’s Special Forces) based in the North Sinai’s city of Rafah. The attack was implemented by members of Islamic State’s (IS) affiliate group Sinai Province, which led to the death of 26 army personnel.
The 103 army battalion members of the checkpoint faced a violent and unprecedented attack that depended on suicide bombers and car bombs, and despite this, they kept engaging the militants till the last breath and with unique courage.
On the 2nd anniversary of the 7th July battle, Daily News Egypt is revisiting the attack and the resistance of the military personnel, shedding light on some stories of members of the 103 battalion which was headed by Colonel Ahmed El-Mansy.
The confrontation against Islamist militants on that day was an important chapter in Egypt’s fight against militancy in Sinai since 2013.
Stories of members of the 103 battalion who were killed during the confrontations of that day were then now highlighted throughout Egypt, in the press, and social media.
The attack took place in the Northern Sinai city of Rafah, specifically in the district of Al-Barth, which is considered a strategic point where the logistic support for militants passes. In these areas, the well-known tribes of Al-Tarbyeen, Al-Swarka and Al-Romylat reside.
On the dawn of Friday, the 7 July 2017, a large bombed vehicle penetrated a security point located before a checkpoint set up by the members of the battalion. The aim of the bombed vehicle was to distract the attention of the forces located inside.
The explosion allowed militants to infiltrate the checkpoint, and the result was a widescale explosive wave of militants which led to losses among the members of the checkpoint.
The militants avoided direct confrontations with the battalion members in the checkpoint, as they used a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) and suicide attackers to curb any chance for direct confrontations with members of the battalion.
The suicide tactics used by the militants against the army members of the battalion were followed by a comprehensive attack through a number of four-wheel-drive vehicles loaded with tens of militants with different types of weapons.
In this attack, it was obvious that the heavy presence of militants in the checkpoint site after the suicide attacks aimed to achieve full control on the checkpoint and to shoot a video on the attack to show how they managed to achieve rapid control over the area.
However, they failed to show control of the checkpoint as the support from neighbouring battalions and reinforcements arrived at the site of the attack.
Who is Ahmed El-Mansy?
He is the commander of the 103 battalion that is affiliated to Al-Sa’aka forces. He was born in Minya El-Qamh, one of the biggest towns in the Sharqeya governorate. He graduated from the Military Academy in 1992 which qualified him to serve as a Special Forces officer in Unit 999.
El-Mansy had been subjected to strict Special Forces training known as ‘SEAL’ in 2001, then he travelled in 2006 to the United States of America to take a similar course.
In October 2016, after the death of Ramy Hassanein, the former commander of 103 battalion in a militant attack that targeted his patrol, the commandership of the second field army that is authorised to secure north Sinai decided to assign the commandership of battalion to Colonel Ahmed El-Mansy.
The good reputation of El-Mansy and his good deeds with the residents of north Sinai are widely popular among Egyptians even after his death. According to several of his colleagues, he arranged regular meetings with the residents of north Sinai in the cities of Al-Arish, Sheikh Zewaid ,and Rafah to get details of their demands.
Also, he kept paying visits to North Sinai’s schools to meet students and teachers.
Prominent personnel from the 7 July attacks
Captain Ahmed Al-Shabrawi
Ahmed Al-Shabrawi was born in the village of Al-Shabrawi in Zagazig city located in Sharqeya governorate. He was 30-years-old, married, with a child. Al-Shabrawi visited his family 10 days before his death. He served in Rafah for four years and returned to service in Al-Arish three years ago.
Lieutenant Ahmad Shahin
Lieutenant Ahmed Shahin was born in the city of Al-Khader Manouf in Fayoum governorate in 1994. He was a graduate of the 110th class from Egypt’s Military Academy. According to several of his colleagues, he asked to be deployed to Sinai.
Captain Mohammed Salah
He was born in the village of Nazlet Abdullah in Assiut governorate and graduated from the Military Academy, and served as an Artillery Officer. He joined the 83 Sa’aka battalion. He was married. He died in the Al-Barth attack in Rafah in July 2017,
Conscript Ahmed Al-Arabi
Ahmed Al-Arabi was born in Zarqa, Damietta, and was about to end his military service. He was the eldest son of his family.
Conscript Mohammed Mohsen
Mohammed Muhsen Mohsen was born in the village of Kafr al-Na’im, Mit Ghamr in Dakahlia governorate. He was 22-years-old. He was chosen to serve in the 103 battalion in Rafah.