Libmonster ID: U.S.-1333


Graduate student

Institute of Africa, Russian Academy of Sciences

Keywords: Sinai Peninsula, terrorism, non-State actors, "Arab spring", international security

Terrorism has been on the rise in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region for a long time since the beginning of the Arab Spring. Some international political scientists and experts have concluded that the" revolutionary " breakdown of 2011 in this region created fertile ground for the activation of Islamist radicals who sow violence and terror, including al-Qaeda organizations.1 Others expressed concern that the imminent "awakening" of old and new radical forces would lead to another wave of military and political conflicts and a new period of instability in the countries where the former regimes had fallen.2

Modern international relations are characterized by the growing role and influence of non-State actors (NGA). Their special category is "aggressive" non-state actors. Consider the ANDES that are currently experiencing an increase in terrorist activity, particularly in the north of the Sinai Peninsula, which is a geopolitically important region due to the Suez Canal, through which a huge number of international ships pass*.

The magazine "Asia and Africa Today" has already published an article about ANGA in "Islamic" Africa 3. A number of scientific studies, including domestic ones, describe them as "network criminal and terrorist formations that have become more active since the beginning of the events of the Arab Spring, radical armed groups" 4, "liberation armies" and "movements" that have emerged or revived, extremist political structures that are engaged in aggressive expansion, etc. 5

North Sinai today, in our opinion, is one of the areas of extremist and terrorist threat in the Middle East. A considerable number of radical Islamist groups, which have hundreds and thousands of fighters in their ranks, have become more active there. In July 2015, due to the growing number of terrorist attacks, the then Prime Minister of Egypt, Ibrahim Mahlyab, issued an official statement in which he acknowledged that the country is now "at war" with North Sinai.6

There are regular attacks by radicals on police and government security forces, roadblocks and state facilities. The militants are based in sparsely populated areas of the province.

It should be noted that both local criminal elements and radical Bedouins actively interact with Islamic extremists, who are engaged in smuggling various goods, construction materials, weapons and ammunition to the Gaza Strip. After the events of the Arab Spring in 2011, its volume increased dramatically through a network of underground tunnels, through which jihadists also moved freely. In particular, large quantities of weapons were sent to the peninsula from the depots of Gaddafi's army looted in Libya.

In addition, the number of sabotage and explosions of pipelines increased, which disrupted gas supplies to Jordan and Israel. Heavily armed Bedouins clashed with local police and police-

The article was prepared with the support of the Russian State Scientific Foundation. Project N 14 - 07 - 00028 "Aggressive non-state actors in geostrategic rivalry in 'Islamic Africa' and some aspects of Russia's security after the 'Arab Spring'".

* In 1967, the Sinai Peninsula was occupied by Israel as a result of the Six-Day War. In 1979, after the signing of the Camp David Accords, the peninsula was returned to Egypt, but the Israeli presence remained until 1982. author's note).

page 26

Thepolicy of marginalizing Bedouins under the Mubarak regime affected their standard of living and was one of the factors that led to the rapid radicalization of this part of the Egyptian population. The situation worsened in 2004-2006 due to a series of bombings in the resorts of Taba, Ras Shaitan, Nuweiba, Dahab and Sharm el-Sheikh, which killed a large number of tourists, and two attacks on the peacekeeping mission of the Multinational Forces and Observers (MNF-
Bedouin tribes and clans (about 15)). and they make up the majority of the peninsula's population. The most famous of them living in North Sinai are savarka, masaid, rumaila, tarabin, tiyakha, davaghra. Multinational Force and Observers/MFO)* On the border with the Gaza Strip. Bedouins were denied access to jobs in tourism and manufacturing. Egyptian authorities blamed Savark, Masaid and Tarabin, who were allegedly linked to Palestinian Islamist groups, for the attacks. The police then arrested about 3,000 Bedouins.7 Many of them, who served time in prisons ,were "imbued" with Islamist ideology there. An important factor in the marginalization of the Bedouins of Sinai, as well as the development of the smuggling "tunnel business", was the subsequent events - the withdrawal of Israel from the Gaza Strip in 2005, the coming to power of the Islamist organization Hamas in Gaza in 2007, and the Israeli blockade of these territories in the same year8.

security forces set fire to police stations, and attacked prisons where their fellow tribesmen were serving prison sentences.


After the 2011 revolution in Egypt, new al-Qaeda cells were actively created on the peninsula by extremist Salafists who escaped from Egyptian prisons during the riots in the country or were released under an amnesty under the rule of M. Mourey. Extremists from other countries - fighters from Yemen, Somalia, Algeria, Libya, etc. - also rushed to Sinai. 9

In July 2011, a police station was attacked in the administrative center of North Sinai province, El - Arish, and the attackers identified themselves as Al-Qaeda in Sinai Peninsula (AQAP). In a statement distributed on jihadist websites, they called for the establishment of an Islamic emirate in Sinai, an end to discrimination and infringement of the rights of Bedouins, and the annulment of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.10

According to some sources, it was Al-Tawhid wa-l-Jihad in the Sinai Peninsula ("Monotheism and jihad in the Sinai Peninsula"), founded in northern Sinai in 2000. It is responsible for a series of explosions in resort towns in 2004 and 2006. "Monotheism and Jihad in the Sinai Peninsula" - a cell of the Egyptian-Palestinian Islamist organization " At-Tawhid wa l-Jihad "("Monotheism and Jihad"), which is based in the Gaza Strip 11. It is believed that the latter is involved in The number of rocket attacks, which has increased markedly since 2011, on the territory of the Jewish state, in particular, the southern resort city of Eilat on the Gulf of Aqaba, and also makes regular attacks near the Israeli border12.

According to other sources, AQAP is the Ansar al-Jihad fijazirat Sina' (AJFS) group formed in December 2011 ("Supporters of jihad in the Sinai Peninsula"), which also has another name-Tanzim Al-Qaeda fi Shibhjazirat Sina ("Organization of Al-Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula").13.

A number of international researchers note that the greatest threat is the jihadist-Salafist group Jaish al-Islam** ("Army of Islam"), which is also based in the Gaza Strip and is known for its links with the Palestinian movement Hamas. 14

According to Avi Issacharof, an Israeli expert on Middle Eastern issues, the "Army of Islam" is distinguished by its combat capability and is quite numerous, training militants for Sinai and supplying weapons there. It coordinated its actions with a major terrorist group in Northern Sinai, Ansar al-Bayt al-Maqdis, which in November 2014 pledged allegiance to the powerful extremist organization Islamic State (IS) and announced a change of name to Wilayat Sinai ("Sinai Province").15. According to news agencies, these groups were able to establish the production of explosives near El-Arish. Egyptian security forces repeatedly stopped trucks loaded with explosives and ammunition, including those bound for South Sinai.16

* ISN is a peacekeeping mission in the Sinai, established in 1981, which includes military personnel and civilians from more than 10 countries. The mission monitors the implementation of the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace Treaty. - (author's note).

* * The group is believed to have been involved in the bombing of the Al-Kidisin Coptic Church in Alexandria on the night of January 1, 2011. The relevant charges were made by the then Interior Minister of Egypt Habib al-Adly (approx. author's note).

page 27

Since the overthrow of President Morsi in July 2013, Egyptian authorities have regularly accused Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, of supporting jihadists operating in northern Sinai. In late January 2015, an Egyptian court recognized the movement's military wing, the Izeddin Al-Qassam Brigades, as a terrorist organization.17

Other active ANAS in North Sinai include the Al-Qaeda-affiliated association of various Islamist groups Majlis Shura al-Mujahidin fi Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis ("Mujahideen Shura Council in the Vicinity of Jerusalem"), established in 2012. The Shura Council rejects secular values and democracy in Muslim countries. The Group claimed responsibility for several gas pipeline bombings in Sinai and the killing of Israeli workers in June 2012, during the construction of the security wall on the border with Egypt.* There is a possibility that the Mujahideen Shura Council also has ties to the Islamist organization Monotheism and Jihad and uses similar tactics to fight.

The Sinai-based jihadist group Kataib al-Furqan (Furqan Brigades) attracted the attention of the Egyptian security services after attacking container and cargo ships in the Suez Canal with hand-held anti-tank grenade launchers in July and August 2013. In both cases, there was only minor damage to the vessels.

The group is believed to adhere to the ideology of al-Qaeda and has only a few dozen jihadists in its ranks.18 According to The Cairo Post, which cites the statements of Egyptian military experts, Kataib al-Furqan is associated with the military wing of the Muslim Brotherhood and actually reports to its leadership. It also claimed responsibility for the shelling of a satellite communications station in the Maadi district of Cairo in October 2013.19

It should be noted that in July 2009, according to news agencies, representatives of other groups attempted to attack sea transport in the Suez Canal using mobile detonators. Egyptian police arrested about 30 suspected al-Qaeda operatives and 20 who planned these terrorist operations.

According to a number of international observers, sabotage in the Suez Canal is primarily aimed at causing damage to the country's economy (as, for example, in the case of blowing up gas pipelines)21.

A serious threat is the group formed in 2011 - Ansar al-Bayt al-Maqdis ("Supporters of Jerusalem"), now-Wilayat Sinai ("Province of Sinai"). It is believed to be an IS cell in North Sinai. Wilayat Sinai is responsible for most of the terrorist attacks, mostly in the north of the peninsula.

For the most part, these include attacks on government agencies, security forces, and police, car bombings, and sabotage of pipelines. It carried out a number of attacks on the territory of Greater Cairo and the territory of the Nile Delta.

American researcher Brian Fishman emphasizes the fact that the tactics of fighting this group are very similar to those of the IS militants in Syria and Iraq - the use of large-caliber machine guns, mortars, combat coordination and controllability of the militants. It is also a simultaneous attack in several locations and a barbaric beheading of the victims.22

It also includes rocket attacks on the territory of Israel, in particular the cities of Sderot and Eilat. In most cases, the missiles were shot down by the Iron Dome missile defense system. In addition, it has stated its intentions to seize the Gaza Strip. In February 2014, the militant group booby-trapped a bus carrying Korean tourists in the resort town of Taba (South Sinai). Three foreigners were killed. In its message, Wilayat Sinai threatened all tourists with death if they did not leave Egypt. There were concerns that the group could launch new operations in other resort towns in South Sinai.23

A major terrorist attack took place in late October 2014 at a checkpoint in Sheikh Zuweid in northern Sinai, a few kilometers from the border with the Gaza Strip. The explosion of a car packed with explosives claimed the lives of about 30 soldiers, dozens were injured. Three hours later, another attack was carried out near El-Arish.

By order of President Al-Sisi, the Rafah crossing was closed, a state of emergency was imposed and a curfew was imposed in a number of areas where jihadists regularly attacked security forces. 24 On 1 July 2015, Wilayat Sinai militants again attacked checkpoints in the cities of Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah, and also to police stations. More than 20 soldiers and policemen were killed.

According to Zak Gold, an analyst on Middle East issues, the group did not give up hope of occupying the city of Sheikh Zuweid

* The construction of the fence has been accelerated by Israel since the fall of 2011 in order to combat terrorism, as the threat of Palestinian extremists entering its territory has significantly increased after the events of the Arab Spring, as well as to control illegal immigration (author's note).

page 28

and it followed the tactics of not "strike and leave", but the tactics of the IG - "take over the territory"25. It was also assumed that the aim of the attack was to establish control over the road connecting the border town of Rafah with El-Arish.

In addition, the "Wilayat Sinai" is trying to diversify the methods of warfare and carry out attacks on Egyptian warships in the Mediterranean Sea. According to international media reports, in November 2014 and July 2015, radical Islamists from the coast fired a rocket at a sea vessel, which led to a fire. There is a version that the group could have used anti-tank guided missiles 26.

In our opinion, the activity of Wilayat Sinai is related to the aggravation of the situation in the Sinai Peninsula, in particular after July 3, 2013, and the strengthening of the Islamic State in the region.


Despite the fact that a large number of special operations of the army and security forces of Egypt since the beginning of 2011 against jihadists in North Sinai have detained and eliminated several hundred militants, destroyed tunnels discovered under the border, it was not possible to completely suppress the growth of terrorism in this region. Moreover, the negative aspects, of course, should include accidental losses among the civilian population.

Operation Eagle

Military Operation Eagle was launched in North Sinai in mid-August 2011 to fight extremists and restore order in the province. Over the past few months, terrorists have repeatedly attacked a major gas pipeline, and on the eve of the operation, an attack was carried out on a police station in the city of El-Arish (see above. - K. M.). Later, militants on behalf of Al-Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula distributed leaflets in Rafah, in which they threatened new attacks on government officials and the police.

Egypt has sent two additional units of the armed forces, Apache combat helicopters and armored vehicles to North Sinai. It is worth noting that the deployment of an additional military contingent was allegedly carried out in compliance with the Camp David Agreements of 1979 ("Framework for the conclusion of a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel"), according to which the peninsula remains a demilitarized zone, but within the framework of a new treaty on military cooperation with Israel, as representatives of this state also stated 27. This position was later confirmed in an interview with The Economist magazine by then Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak28. Thus, judging by the further development of events, Tel Aviv de facto approved the partial remilitarization of this part of the peninsula.

According to the Egypt Independent, members of the Palestinian radical organization Islamic Jihad were also among the militants detained during the operation.29

Many analysts, noting the success of this military campaign, drew attention to some of its consequences - a series of coordinated terrorist attacks on August 18, 2011 in southern Israel, near the border with Egypt. Several civilian vehicles were shelled and explosive devices planted near the road were detonated. The attacks resulted in human casualties. It was reported that the terrorists were wearing stolen Egyptian military uniforms 30.

Operation Sinai

The military operation "Sinai" was launched a year later, in August 2012 Provoked an already tense situation in North Sinai when militants attacked a checkpoint near the Egyptian-Israeli border on August 5, killing approximately 20 Egyptian border guards. The Egyptian army announced a retribution operation.

It is believed that one of the targets of the military campaign was the mountainous area of Jabal al-Halal (60 km south of Al-Arish), where large forces of terrorists, their bases and weapons stocks are concentrated. However, most of the movement routes are militant-

page 29

kov passes in the mountains in hard-to-reach places, which made it difficult for the military to act.

Egyptian forces also conducted raids in villages near the cities of Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid in search of terrorists and weapons depots, and air strikes were carried out on the locations of extremists. Several tunnels between the Gaza Strip and Egypt were again destroyed.

At the end of July 2013, a 48-hour operation Desert Storm was also conducted in North Sinai. All roads connecting the peninsula with mainland Egypt were closed. According to former Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim, another escalation of the situation in Sinai was a direct consequence of the political crisis in the country. It is noteworthy that protests organized by Islamists and their supporters against the overthrow of M. Morsi took place in Cairo on the eve of 31.

Meanwhile, since October 2014, large-scale operations have been taking place periodically in North Sinai as part of the "War on Terror" campaign announced by President Al-Sisi.32

So, in early September 2015, the Egyptian army launched another operation "Martyr's Right" against the militants of the Wilayat Sinai group in the cities of Rafah, Sheikh Zuweid and El-Arish, as well as in a number of areas in the central part of the peninsula. According to the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram, citing army sources, it involved army special forces and the Interior Ministry's rapid reaction forces using armored vehicles, combat aircraft, and artillery.33

It is obvious that Egypt has made a bet on the military suppression of radical Islamism in North Sinai. Meanwhile, the Wilayat Sinai group continues to be quite active, especially in the north of the peninsula. In 2015 it has carried out a large number of attacks on the police and military.


As a counter-terrorist measure, the authorities of Egypt decided in October 2014 to create a buffer zone along the border with the Gaza Strip. The main goal is to prevent the movement of militants and the transfer of weapons through the tunnels. At the first stage of construction of the zone, more than 1 thousand residential buildings and structures were demolished.

Many analysts believed that the actions of the Egyptian authorities were justified in terms of countering extremists and ensuring the safety of civilians who accidentally die during military operations or are used as "human shields"by radicals. 34 Meanwhile, human rights activists, such as Amnesty International, criticized the policy of forced eviction of local residents and their families. demolition of their homes, despite material compensation promised to the displaced 35.

In January 2015, President Al-Sisi issued a decree establishing a unified military command and a unified counterterrorism center to further suppress Islamists in the Sinai.36 In August 2015, the President of Egypt signed a new expanded anti-terrorist law, which, however, immediately caused a lot of controversy and discussion among human rights organizations and lawyers, as it significantly expands the rights and powers of the police and security forces.

* * *

Taking into account the difficult situation in North Sinai, it should be noted that the fight against terrorism here seems to require other measures, and possibly a whole range of measures.

In particular, this primarily concerns socio-economic transformations and the development of the region as a whole, negating the consequences of long-term discrimination against Bedouins and changing the political strategy of the central government.

The opening of the second channel of the Suez Canal in August 2015 is certainly an effective step towards the restoration of natural resources.-

page 30

Egypt's former influence in the Middle East region remains intact, but terrorist activity on the peninsula may greatly hinder al-Sisi's efforts to bring the country out of the state of instability following the events of the "Arab Spring". In particular, if we talk about the crash of a Russian airliner over Northern Sinai on October 31, 2015 and the subsequent closure of air traffic to Egypt by a number of countries, including Russia. The fact that it was a terrorist act, at the end of the official investigation, was announced by the head of the FSB of the Russian Federation A. Bortnikov in late November. Domestic experts also expressed their assessments about the possible involvement of the IS cell Wilayat Sinai in this crime37.

In our opinion, the" Sinai problem " will remain one of the main problems for Egypt in the foreseeable future.

Hoffman B. 1 Al Qaeda's Uncertain Future // Studies in Conflict and Terrorism. Vol. 36, Issue 8, 2013, p. 636.

Robert. F. W. 2 Jihadists' Surge in North Africa Reveals Grim Side of Arab Spring // The New York Times, 19 January 2013 - b-spring.html?_r=0

3 See: Fituni L. L., Abramova I. O. Aggressive non-state participants of geostrategic rivalry in "Islamic Africa" / / Asia and Africa Today. 2014. N 12. (Fituni L.L., Abramova I.O. 2014. Agressivnye negosudarstvennye uchastniki sopernichestva v "islamskoi" Afrike // Aziya i Afrika Segodnya. N 12) (in Russian)

4 There are also terms in the scientific literature - "terrorist" NGA or "combat" NGA. See, for example: Korteweg R., Ehrhardt D. 2005. Terrorist black holes. A study into terrorist sanctuaries and government weakness; Roberto W.M., Melos A.C. 2014. The situation regarding non-state military actors in the Middle East // United Nations Security Council. Vol. 2, p. 247 - 293.

5 See, for example: Fituni L. L., Abramova I. O. Non-state and quasi-state actors of the Greater Middle East and the problem of "Eurojihadism" / / Asia and Africa Today. 2015. N 11. (Fituni L.L., Abramova I.O. 2015. Non- and Quasi-State Actors of the Greater Middle East and the Phenomenon of Eurojihadism // Aziya i Afrika segodnya. N 11) (in Russian); Dalacoura K. 2011. Islamist Terrorism and Democracy in the Middle East. Cambridge University Press; Miller B. Between Warm Peace and Hot War: The "Arab Spring" and the Post-Cold War International Order // Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago, August 29 - Sept. 1, 2013, p. 5 - 6 -

6 Egypt Officially Announces 'State Of War' // Egyptian streets, 01.07.2015- f-war/

Nicolas Pelham. 7 Sinai: The Buffer Erodes // Chatham House, September 2012, p. 4 - am.pdf.

8 For more details, see also: Ermakov A. A., Ryzhov I. V. When peace will come to the West Bank of Jordan / / Asia and Africa today. 2014. N 8. (Ermakov A.A., Ryzhov I.V. 2014. How soon peace will come to the west bank // Aziya i Afrika segodnya. N 8) (in Russian)

Riedel B. 9 Al-Qaeda grows in Sinai // The National Interest, 10.02.2012 -

Siboni G., Ben-Barak R. 10 The Sinai Peninsula threat development and response concept // The Saban center for Middle East policy, January 2014, p. 7 - 20Siboni%20%20Ben-Barak_corrected.pdf

11 The effects of the Arab Spring' on Israel's geostrategic and security environment: the escalating jihadist terror in the Sinai Peninsula // Israel Affairs Journal, June 2014, p. 9.

Zohar E. 12 The arming of non-state actors in the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula // Australian Journal of International Affairs, February 2015, p. 12.

13 Partisans of Jihad on the Sinai Peninsula [AJFS] // Cerus Terrorism analysis project -

Zohar E. 14 Op. cit., p. 13.

Issacharoff A. 15 Egypt's ire raised as Hamas harbors Sinai jihadists // The times of Israel, 22.08.2013 -

16 Egyptian forces seize Sinai weapons depot // Ma'an news agency, 17.08.2011 -

17 Egypt brands Hamas a 'terrorist' group // Daily Mail UK,

28.02.2015 - roup.html

Starr S. 18 Attacks in the Suez: Security of the Canal at Risk? // Combating Terrorism Center Sentinel, January 2014.

Magdy M. 19 Military & security sources state Al-Furqan Brigades are an empty threat // The Cairo Post, 09.10.2013 - gades-are-an-empty-threat

20 Egypt arrests 25 in 'Suez plot' // BBC News, 09.07.2009 -

Johnson K. 21 Egypt's Sea of Troubles // Foreign Policy, 03.02.2014 -

22 Sinai Province: Egypt's most dangerous group // BBC News, 10.08.2015 -

23 Egypt Militants Warn Tourists to Leave Country or Face Attack // Haaretz, 18.02.2014 -

24 Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis posts video of deadly attack that killed 30 in Sinai // The Jerusalem Post, 15.11.2014 - illed-30-in-Sinai-381854

25 Islamic State affiliate claims deadly attacks in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula // The Telegraph, 01.07.2015 - -launch-deadly-attacks-in-Egypts-Sinai.html

26 Islamic State Sinai Affiliate Claims to have Hit Egyptian Ship with Missile // Foreign Policy, 16.07.2015 - hip-with-missile/

27 Spokesman confirms Cairo coordinating with Israel on crackdown // The Times of Israel, 08.09.2012 - -terror-attack-says-egyptian-army/

28 Springtime in Sinai // The Economist, 27.08.2011 -

29 Sinai contested: Outlaws, Islamists, Israel and army // Egypt Independent, 21.08.2011 -

30 Ibidem.

31 Insurgency takes root in Egypt's Sinai // The Washington Post, 28.07.2013 - 3e01da-f7a4-lle2-a954 - 358d90d5d72d_story.html

32 Egypt army kills 134 militants // Muslim Mirror, 11.09.2015 -

33 Egypt's army starts North Sinai Operation 'The Martyr's Right'; reports 29 'terrorists' killed // Ahram Online, 08.09.2015 - rth-Sinai-Operation-The-Marty.aspx

34 Zack Gold The Egypt-Gaza Buffer Zone: More Harm than Good for Sinai Security // The Institute for National Security Studies, 20.11.2014 -

35 Egypt: End wave of home demolitions, forced evictions in Sinai amid media blackout // Amnesty International, 27 November 2014 - evictions-sinai-amid-media-blackout/

36 Sisi creates unified military command to combat terrorism in Egypt's Sinai // Ahram Online, 31.01.2015 - y-entity-to-combat-terrorism.aspx

37 The Sinai Disaster: from a malfunction to a terrorist attack. Live streaming. Vesti, 17.11.2014 -


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