Ansar Jerusalem claims Cairo assassination and Sinai pipeline attack
In two statements released to jihadist forums today, the Sinai-based jihadist group Ansar Jerusalem (Ansar Bayt al Maqdis) claimed responsibility for an overnight gas pipeline attack in the Sinai as well as the assassination of an aide to Egypt's Interior Minister in Cairo.
General Mohamed Saeed, who worked in the country's Interior Ministry, was killed outside his home early today by gunmen on a motorcycle, Reuters reported. In its statement claiming the assassination, Ansar Jerusalem called Saeed an "apostate criminal." The attack was reminiscent of the group's November killing of Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Mabrouk, a senior national security officer, in Cairo.
In its latest communique, the group further warned that a similar fate may be forthcoming for army chief Abdel Fattah el Sisi and Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim, as well as their aides. In September, Ansar Jerusalem carried out a suicide car bombing in the Cairo area that was an attempt to assassinate Ibrahim. In an October video about the attempted assassination, the jihadist group warned the "leaders of the war against Islam," specifically Abdel Fattah el Sisi, Sedki Sobhi, and Mohammed Ibrahim: "We brought you slaughter, so feel your necks."
Despite Ansar Jerusalem's claim for the assassination of Mohammed Saeed, Egypt's army spokesman alleged today that elements of the Muslim Brotherhood were responsible. Ansar Jerusalem did not comment on a separate attack today near a church in the Cairo area that killed one policeman and injured two others.
Along with claiming the Cairo assassination, Ansar Jerusalem took credit for an overnight gas pipeline attack in the Sinai. Similar to its claim for a Jan. 17 pipeline attack, the group's statement today said that it was targeting economic interests tied to the army and that such attacks would continue.
Since July 3, there have been more than 280 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. A good number of these attacks, including the Nov. 20 car bombing that killed 11 Egyptian security personnel, have been claimed by Ansar Jerusalem. This past weekend, Ansar Jerusalem released video of its fighters using a surface-to-air missile to take down an Egyptian helicopter operating in North Sinai. Five Egyptian soldiers were killed in the attack, which has yet to be officially acknowledged by the army, despite the video.
In addition to yesterday's attack, gas pipelines appear to have been attacked only three other times since July 3: on July 7, Dec. 31, and Jan. 17. On July 23, Egyptian media outlets reported that a gas pipeline was attacked, but Egypt's Petroleum Ministry denied the allegations.
Since February 2011, a Sinai gas pipeline that supplied Israel and Jordan with gas has been attacked more than a dozen times. In February 2012, al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri lauded "the heroes who blew up the gas pipeline to Israel," in a message released to jihadist forums.
Approximately five months later, Ansar Jerusalem released a video in which it took responsibility for 13 of the attacks. In the video, Ansar Jerusalem showed its fighters preparing and planting explosive devices along the gas pipeline, while audio from Zawahiri's February speech played.
Attacks by Sinai-based jihadists, Ansar Jerusalem specifically, have also taken place in the Egyptian mainland. On Sept. 5, the jihadist group used a suicide car bomber in 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. On Oct. 19, the Sinai-based jihadist group targeted a military intelligence building in the city of Ismailia in another car bombing. And on Nov. 19, the group claimed responsibility for the shooting attack on Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Mabrouk, a senior national security officer, in Cairo. In late December, an Ansar Jerusalem suicide car bombing attack outside the Daqahliya security directorate in Mansoura killed over a dozen people and injured over 130 more. Most recently, Ansar Jerusalem took credit for a series of bombings in Cairo, including a car bombing at the Cairo Security Directorate, on Jan. 24, 2014, that left at least six people dead.
The al Furqan Brigades, which are not believed to be based in the Sinai, have also claimed responsibility for a number of shootings and rocket attacks in the Egyptian mainland since Morsi's overthrow. In contrast to Ansar Jerusalem, the group has yet to claim responsibility for any large car or suicide bombings.