A representative of al Salafiyya al Jihadiyya in Sinai has announced the formation of a new front in the wake of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s ouster, according to the SITE Intelligence Group. The front is called, “Ansar al Sharia in Egypt.”
The group is getting ready for a fight, saying it will “make preparations and acquire means of power such as weapons and training.”
The group says “all the sects and tendencies have for a long time been gathering weapons and storing them, until churches became fortresses and weapons depots, and all declare their preparations to end any features in Egypt, and with the force of weapons,” according to SITE’s translation. “Here are signs of this criminality that are apparent in attacking Muslims everywhere, so shall we leave ourselves that weak to let massacres happen to Muslims in Egypt and let it turn to another Andalusia???”
Al Salafiyya al Jihadiyya in Sinai portrays recent events as part of a conspiracy against Islam, saying the Egyptian Army has implemented “unprecedented procedures against the Islamic current with all its factions.” These procedures started with “detentions and gagging of mouths and closing of [television] channels, and reached the point of attacking the demonstrators in the streets and carrying out massacres against them by thugs with the help of elements from the army and the police.”
In this perceived context, the group says it will work to “implement the Sharia of the Lord of the Worlds,” but not “the alleged democratic Sharia,” which is a “system that cannot deliver us to the implementation of the Sharia of Allah and the removal of the submission to the West over the necks of Muslims in any way.”
There will be no elections for this group.
As we’ve documented many times here at The Long War Journal, there is already at least one group calling itself “Ansar al Sharia in Egypt.” The group is run mainly by former members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), a terrorist organization headed by Ayman al Zawahiri that merged with al Qaeda. Mohammed al Zawahiri, Ayman’s younger brother, stars at the group’s events. And one of its co-founders, Ahmed Ashush, himself a former EIJ member, says he is “honored to be an extension of al Qaeda.” As we’ve reported, there are many other similar connections worth keeping in mind.
So, is al Salafiyya al Jihadiyya in the Sinai’s “Ansar al Sharia in Egypt” really a new group, or simply a branch of the aforementioned one? I don’t know the answer yet. The statement translated by SITE was not signed by any named ideologue, as far as I can tell. Nor was it released by Al Bayan Media Foundation, the propaganda arm of the already established Ansar al Sharia Egypt. I do know that Ashush’s Ansar al Sharia in Egypt has roots in the Sinai. Propaganda from other groups in the Sinai has featured Ashush, and Mohammed al Zawahiri has been active in the Sinai as well.
Furthermore, here is an intriguing lead: Muhammad Jamal revealed in his letters to Ayman al Zawahiri that he had set up operations in the Sinai. US intelligence officials previously contacted by The Long War Journal say that Jamal, also a former EIJ commander, made a significant amount of progress prior to his capture in late 2012. At least some of the violence in the Sinai can be traced to Jamal’s efforts, these officials say.
Jamal was a leader of the so-called Nasr City Cell, which Egyptian authorities say was plotting terrorist attacks inside Egypt and abroad. The group also has reported ties to the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. Some of Jamal’s trainees were directly involved in the attack, according to multiple published reports.
Ashush’s Ansar al Sharia Egypt and Mohammed al Zawahiri have forcefully defended the Nasr City Cell and Jamal.
Perhaps the Sinai’s Ansar al Sharia Egypt is a new front with the same name. Or, perhaps it is a new brand for an effort that was already in the works. Time will tell.