In a statement released to jihadist forums yesterday, the Sinai-based Salafi jihadist group Ansar Jerusalem (Ansar Bayt al Maqdis) took responsibility for the suicide attack on the South Sinai Security Directorate in el Tor on Oct. 7, which killed three people and injured more than 45.
The group’s statement, translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, began by complaining that Egyptian Muslims have lived for over 60 years under “agencies of oppression” that have sought to “to push aside the Islamic Shariah, fight the religion, spread disbelief and atheism, and crush these Muslim people without mercy and make them beg for their freedom, dignity and livelihood.” According to Ansar Jerusalem, “the head of these agencies that enslaved these people and fought their religion and creed is the criminal police.”
The overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood and subsequent attacks at places like the Rabaa al Adawiya Mosque showed that the security forces are a “group of people that fights Allah, His Messenger and the Muslims, and that kill them and violate their honors, it must be deterred and killed,” Ansar Jerusalem declared.
As result of the continuing attacks by Egyptian security forces, Ansar Jerusalem claimed, its fighters “rose to support the weak and wage war on the arrogant tyrants who fight the religion of Allah.” The jihadist group further stated that its fighters “will not abandon fighting those who fought Allah.”
The attack on the security building in el Tor, described as a place “of oppression and enslavement,” was carried out by one of the group’s “martyrdom-seekers,” Ansar Jerusalem said. According to the statement, the unidentified jihadist succeeded in passing through “three security checkpoints with his explosives-laden vehicle, then succeed in penetrating the building guards and enter into the lower part of the building,” where he detonated his bomb.
The Sinai-based jihadist group further claimed that its fighters “did their best in terms of monitoring and planning so as to avoid injuring any innocent Muslim in this operation.” “[N]o innocent Muslims were hit,” Ansar Jerusalem alleged.
The statement concluded by saying that Ansar Jerusalem wants “to liberate our Ummah and Muslim people from the slavery of the oppressive, apostate regimes, and establish justice, dignity and freedom for them, and that is only through servitude to Allah alone and implementing His proper Shariah.” It argued that “an army of Muslims that helps the Ummah and the religion is the way to liberate Jerusalem and the rest of Muslim lands and live in freedom, dignity and honor under the shade of the Shariah of the Lord of the Worlds.”
Yesterday’s claim of responsibility came a little over a week after Ansar Jerusalem released a video that included footage from some of its recent attacks on Egyptian security forces in the Sinai Peninsula. The Salafi jihadist group had previously taken credit for a number of attacks on Egyptian security personnel in the Sinai Peninsula, in a statement released to jihadist forums on Sept. 10.
The suicide bombing of the security facility in el Tor is at least the second such attack by Ansar Jerusalem. In its claim for the failed assassination attempt on Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim, the jihadist group said a suicide bomber was used.
There have also been other recent suicide bombings in the Sinai. On Sept. 12, a group calling itself Jund al Islam took credit for two suicide car bomb attacks in the Sinai that killed at least six people and wounded over a dozen on Sept. 11. And on Aug. 27, a suicide car bomber targeted “a security facility” in the Sinai, according to Al Monitor.
Since the ouster of Mohammed Morsi on July 3, there have been near-daily attacks by Islamist militants in the Sinai Peninsula, which have left dozens dead. On Aug. 23, the Egyptian army claimed that recent operations by Egyptian security forces in the Sinai Peninsula have led to the deaths of 78 militants; 32 of those killed were said to be non-Egyptians. On Sept. 15, an Egyptian army spokesman claimed that over 300 Islamist militants had been arrested in the Sinai since July. He also said that Egyptian forces have raided hundreds of homes, taken control of a number of weapon caches, and seized a variety of weaponry including RPGs, mortars, and antiaircraft missiles.
Jihadist statements regarding crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood
Along with the increase in attacks in the Sinai, there has been a plethora of statements from jihadists in response to the ongoing crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. For example, Harith bin Ghazi al Nadhari (also known as Muhammad al Murshidi), an official in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), charged on Aug. 25 that the Egyptian government was seeking “to return Egypt to the era of oppression, tyranny and the domination of the security and intelligence agencies.”
On Aug. 17, jihadist ideologue Abu Sa’ad al ‘Amili posted a series of tweets to his Twitter account urging Egyptian Muslims to prepare for an “open war.” Likewise, Abdullah Muhammad Mahmoud of the jihadist Dawa’at al-Haq Foundation for Studies and Research warned Egyptian Muslims, in an article posted to jihadist forums on Aug. 14, that “if you don’t do jihad today, then only blame yourselves tomorrow.”
Similarly, on Aug. 15, Abu Hafs al Maqdisi, the leader of the Gaza-based Jaish al Ummah (Army of the Nation), called on Egyptians to wage “jihad” against Egyptian army commander General Abdul Fattah el Sisi. Four days later, Shabaab, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia, urged Egyptian Muslims to “pick up arms and defend yourself.” In addition, on Aug. 30, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant called on Egyptians to wage ‘jihad’ against army.
And on Aug. 22, al Salafiyya al Jihadiyya in Sinai released a statement that called on Muslims to fight the “apostate” Egyptian army. The communiqué was particularly notable as last fall the group said: “[T]he army and the police are not our targets and that our weapons are directed at the enemies and the enemies of our Ummah the Jews.” More recently, in mid-May, the jihadist group said: “[T]he target of the Salafist Jihadist current in Sinai is the Zionist enemy and its operations are directed to them, and the Egyptian soldiers are not a target for us.”
More recently, on Sept. 10, Ansar Jerusalem declared that “it is obligatory to repulse them [the Egyptian army] and fight them until the command of Allah is fulfilled.” Similarly, on Sept. 15, the Salafi jihadist group declared: “We in Ansar Jerusalem and all the mujahideen in Sinai in Egypt as a whole stress that the blood of innocent Muslims will not go in vain.”
In addition, on Sept. 22, the Ibn Taymiyyah Media Center (ITMC), a jihadist media unit tied to the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem, called for jihadists to strike the Egyptian army. Now is the time for the “mujahideen to hit without fail so as to thwart those criminals from among the Egyptian army,” the group said. And on Oct. 4, al Salafiyya al Jihadiyya in Sinai threatened to kill anyone found aiding Egyptian security forces.
Ansar Jerusalem is thought to be behind most of the recent attacks originating from the Sinai, according to Israeli intelligence. The group, which is said to recruit within Egypt and abroad, has claimed credit for a number of attacks against Israel over the past year, including the attack on Sept. 21, 2012.
The deadliest attack was the Aug. 18, 2011 assault on a bus traveling near the border with Egypt in Eilat, which resulted in the deaths of eight Israelis and at least seven terrorists. Three Egyptian security personnel were also accidentally killed in the crossfire. In addition, Ansar Jerusalem has taken credit for a number of attacks against the Arish-Ashkelon natural gas pipeline as well as a number of rocket attacks against Israel.
On Oct. 15, 2012, the group threatened to attack Israel for the targeted killing of Abu al Walid al Maqdisi, the former emir of the Tawhid and Jihad Group in Jerusalem, and Ashraf al Sabah, the former emir of Ansar al Sunnah. The two men were said to be leaders of the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem.
On Jan. 11, a video released by Ansar Jerusalem stated: “Here in Egypt, the fortress of the Ummah, the light of victory has begun to shine, and the light of dawn has appeared in the horizon. The Ummah has begun preparing for the moment to attack the occupying entity and get rid of its evil.”
In March, the group issued a statement during President Obama’s visit to Israel, which it called a “cancerous tumor.” The jihadist group said that the visit’s timing “has important implications” and accused “America and the Crusader West” of intervening in the so-called Arab Spring “to change the natural direction of these blessed revolutions, and prevent[ing] the Muslim peoples from achieving their true freedom and implementing their Islamic Shariah.”
More recently, on Aug. 9, four members of Ansar Jerusalem who were preparing to fire rockets towards Israel were targeted and killed. On Aug. 10, Hussein Ibrahim Salem al Tihi, from the Tiyaaha tribe, and Yusri Muhaareb al Saraarkah, Ibrahim Khalaf al Munei’I, and Muhammad Hussein al Munei’i, all from the Sawaarkah tribe, were buried following an extensive funeral procession. Some of the slain jihadists were wrapped in al Qaeda flags, while vehicles in the procession had the black flags attached as well.
In a statement posted to jihadist forums on Sept. 8, Ansar Jerusalem, which is estimated to have 700 to 1,000 members, took credit for the Sept. 5 assassination attempt on Egypt’s interior minister, Mohammed Ibrahim. The statement also threatened retaliation against Egyptian security forces. It specifically noted that the group was prepared to target Mohammed Ibrahim and Abdel Fatteh el Sisi, and urged Egyptian Muslims “to stay away from the installations and headquarters of the Ministries of Defense and Interior, so as to preserve their souls and proper.” The Sinai-based jihadist group further called on Egypt’s Muslims “to come together around their mujahideen brothers in their war against those criminals.”