In a statement released to jihadist forums today, the Sinai-based jihadist group Ansar Jerusalem (Ansar Bayt al Maqdis) claimed responsibility for the recent bombing of a natural gas pipeline in the Sinai Peninsula. The pipeline was attacked on Dec. 31 and more recently on Jan. 17.
The targeted pipeline supplies gas to a cement factory linked to the Egyptian army. According to Ansar Jerusalem, the factory provides millions to army chief General Abdel Fattah el Sisi and his generals that are used to kill Muslims and arrest women.
Ansar Jerusalem further warned the army and those cooperating with it that its fighters will continue to target their economic interests in response to army operations in the Sinai that have destroyed the homes of residents as well as farms, among other offenses.
Since July 3, there have been more than 275 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. Gas pipelines appear to have been attacked only three times during that period, 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. “[I]f you [the Egyptian government] continue exporting gas to the Zionist enemy [Israel] and continue in your betrayal, then we will resume bombing the pipelines once again, but bigger this time,” an official said in the video, according to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group. 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.
In April 2012, Egypt ended a deal that saw it provide gas to Israel, according to press reports.
Ansar Jerusalem, which was founded by Egyptians, is the dominant jihadist group operating in the Sinai Peninsula today. The group, whose fighters are often seen with the al Qaeda flag, has claimed credit for a number of attacks against Israel and Egypt over the past two years. For example, the group took responsibility for the Dec. 24 suicide car bombing in Mansoura that killed more than a dozen people and injured over 130.
In September 2013, Ansar Jerusalem, which releases material through the jihadist forums of Al Fajr Media Center, al Qaeda’s exclusive media distribution outlet, declared that “it is obligatory to repulse them [the Egyptian army] and fight them until the command of Allah is fulfilled.” Recent reports in the Egyptian media have suggested that Ansar Jerusalem may have links to Muhammad Jamal and the Muhammad Jamal Network [MJN], which were added to the US government’s list of designated terrorists and the UN’s sanctions list in October 2013.
Jamal, whose fighters have been linked to the Sept. 11, 2012 Benghazi terror attack, is said to have established “several terrorist training camps in Egypt and Libya” with funding from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
In late November, in response to a Long War Journal query on whether the State Department believes there is a connection between the Muhammad Jamal Network (MJN) and Ansar Bayt al Maqdis, a State Department spokesman said: “We have no comment on the inter-relationships between MJN and the other Sinai groups.”