In a statement released to jihadist forums today, the Sinai-based jihadist group Ansar Jerusalem (Ansar Bayt al Maqdis) claimed responsibility for the bombing of a tourist bus in Taba yesterday. At least three South Korean tourists and the bus’ Egyptian driver were killed in the attack, which officials now believe was carried out by a suicide bomber.
In the statement, which was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, Ansar Jerusalem boasted that “one of its heroes” carried out the attack. “This comes within our assault in the economic war on this traitorous agent regime,” the jihadist group declared.
Ansar Jerusalem had recently warned that it would retaliate against economic targets for Egyptian military operations in the Sinai. On Jan. 19, the group took credit for a recent gas pipeline bombing in the Sinai and warned the Egyptian army and those cooperating with it that the group’s fighters would continue to target their economic interests in response to army operations in the Sinai that have destroyed homes as well as farms, among other offenses. In the past, Ansar Jerusalem has declared it obligatory to fight the Egyptian army.
Ansar Jerusalem’s latest statement concluded by warning: “We will target [the Egyptian regime’s] economic interests everywhere to paralyze its hands from what they do to the Muslims.”
The attack in Taba is at least the fourth since September 2013 in which Ansar Jerusalem has used a suicide bomber. All previous suicide attacks, however, were suicide car bombings.
Yesterday’s attack in Taba was the first to directly target tourists since the overthrow of former President Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader who was deposed by the military in July 2013. In 2004, 2005, and 2006, suspected jihadists carried out a number of attacks in traditional tourist destinations, including Sharm el Sheikh and Dahab.
Since July 3, 2013, there have been more than 305 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, 2013, car bombing that killed 11 Egyptian security personnel, have been claimed by Ansar Jerusalem. On Jan. 26, 2014, 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.
Attacks by Sinai-based jihadists, Ansar Jerusalem specifically, have also taken place outside North Sinai. On Sept. 5, 2013, 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, 2013, the Sinai-based jihadist group targeted a military intelligence building in the city of Ismailia in another car bombing. And on Nov. 19, 2013, the group claimed responsibility for the shooting attack on Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Mabrouk, a senior national security officer, in Cairo. In late December 2013, an Ansar Jerusalem suicide car bombing attack outside the Daqahliya security directorate in Mansoura killed over a dozen people and injured over 130 more. Five days after the attack in Mansoura, Ansar Jerusalem carried out a car bombing outside a military intelligence building in Anshas in the Sharkiya governorate.
More recently, Ansar Jerusalem took credit for a series of bombings in Cairo, including a car bombing at the Cairo Security Directorate, on Jan. 24, that left at least six people dead. On Jan. 28, the group said its fighters were responsible for the assassination of an aide to Egypt’s Interior Minister in Cairo.