Ansar Jerusalem (Ansar Bayt al Maqdis), the main Sinai-based jihadist group, yesterday released a video about its Oct. 7 suicide bombing attack on the South Sinai Security Directorate in el Tor. The Salafi jihadist group had previously claimed responsibility for the attack, in a statement on Oct. 8.
In the new video, which features clips from al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri and former al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Omar al Baghdadi, Ansar Jerusalem identifies the bomber in the attack as Abu Hajer Muhammad Hamdan al Sawarka.
In a speech prior to the attack, the baby-faced al Sawarka explained that “my feeling when I am off to the martyrdom-seeking operation is the feeling that I am going to Allah,” according to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group. “I only chose this operation so as to support the religion of Allah and to have vengeance for our brothers the mujahideen who were killed at the hands of those criminal disbelievers,” al Sawarka further stated.
Text in the video claims that the attack shows Ansar Jerusalem “is going forward in our jihad.” “[W]e will not tire nor get bored until the banner of Tawhid [oneness in God] is raised on high and that the word of Allah is supreme and the word of those who blasphemed is the lowest,” the text continues.
Ansar Jerusalem explains that it was unable to film the actual bombing of the South Sinai Security Directorate because of “security reasons.”
Since the ouster of Mohammed Morsi on July 3, there have been at least 251 reported attacks in the Sinai Peninsula, most of which were carried out against Egyptian security forces and assets, according to data maintained by The Long War Journal. Since July, the number of attacks has declined each month. November, which has already seen 27 attacks, is currently on pace to surpass October’s total, however.
Ansar Jerusalem has also conducted a few attacks outside of its normal base of operations in North Sinai in recent months. On Sept. 5, the jihadist group carried out an assassination attempt in Nasr City on Egypt’s interior minister, Mohammed Ibrahim. A month later, an Ansar Jerusalem suicide bomber unleashed a blast at the South Sinai Security Directorate in el Tor, which killed three security personnel and injured more than 45. Then, on Oct. 19, the Sinai-based jihadist group targeted a military intelligence building in the city of Ismailia. More recently, Ansar Jerusalem claimed responsibility for the Nov. 17 shooting attack on Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Mabrouk, a senior national security officer, in Cairo.
In the face of continued Egyptian military operations in the Sinai, Ansar Jerusalem has shown that it is adapting rather than folding.
Ansar Jerusalem, which was founded by Egyptians, 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 two years, including an 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 numerous 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.
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.” In the same statement, the group took credit for a number of attacks on Egyptian security personnel in the Sinai Peninsula. 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.” And on Sept. 28, Ansar Jerusalem released a video that included footage from some of its recent attacks on Egyptian security forces in the Sinai Peninsula.