The ongoing violence in Egypt took a troubling turn over the weekend following reports that Islamic militants in the Sinai Peninsula shot down an Egyptian military helicopter with a portable surface-to-air missile.
Extremist group Ansar Beit al-Maqdi has claimed responsibility for the strike that killed all five soldiers on board. The Long War Journal posted video showing a militant holding a shoulder-mounted missile and shooting down the helicopter, marking the first time extremists have employed such technology.
Security experts have expressed grave concerns about whether this signals new dangers for nearby Israeli airports and other vulnerable facilities, as well as how it may influence the ongoing domestic strife in Egypt.
The Egyptian revolution turns 3 years old at the end of January, celebrating the uprising that began on Jan. 25, 2011, and led to the ouster of autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak. The country has been stricken with violence since then after the overthrow of democratically elected Mohammed Morsi last summer.
At least 50 people died in the most recent clashes, signaling the deepening divide between those loyal to the new government, formed under interim President Adly Mansour, and those who support Morsi's conservative Muslim Brotherhood political party.
Mansour said Sunday that Egypt would hold elections for a new president before selecting a parliament. Increasingly powerful leader Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who orchestrated the July coup that overthrew Morsi, may run for the nation's highest office following news that he had been promoted to the top military rank.
El-Sissi would likely sweep any vote due to his growing popularity among a wide swath of the Egyptian public for toppling Morsi's increasingly Islamic government, reports The Associated Press, despite the ongoing and violent turmoil there. An increasing number of Egyptians support the reinstatement of the strong central military that existed under the rule of Mubarak, hated at the time for abuses of power.
Reuters has more information on el-Sissi's steady and calculated rise to power, from growing up in a poor district in Cairo to holding his new rank of field marshall.