The Sept. 5, 2013 assassination attempt on Egyptian Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim is an operation that becomes more interesting the more we learn about it. Ansar Jerusalem celebrated the operation in an Oct. 26, 2013 video featuring the suicide bomber who executed the attack, a former major in the Egyptian army named Walid Badr.
The Cairo Post and Youm7 report that the list of suspects, in addition to Badr, “includes Egyptians and two Palestinians who joined the Free Syrian Army and Al-Nusra Front,” which is al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria. A “judicial source” explains that Egyptian authorities arrested the suspects in recent weeks while “targeting Syrian suspects.” In addition, an unnamed source said the “suspects returned from Syria because the jihad in Egypt became a duty particularly after the toppling of ousted President Mohamed Mursi.”
The ties between the jihad in Syria and the attack have been obvious since Ansar Jerusalem released its video. Badr himself had fought in Syria, after already fighting in Afghanistan and attempting to fight American forces in Iraq. Conspicuously, Ansar Jerusalem did not say which groups Badr fought for in these theaters of war, but obviously al Qaeda’s global network has a significant presence in each of them.
Now Egyptian judicial sources are connecting additional suspects to the Al Nusrah Front, which answers to al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri.
The Cairo Post and Youm7 reports also repeat a claim that has been previously made in the Egyptian press: “According to the National Security investigation, defendant [Muhammad Jamal al Kashef] acknowledged that the bomber was trained for a year and a half in the Sinai.” (At least one previous report said the training took place in Jamal’s camps in Libya.)
Muhammad Jamal, who founded his own al Qaeda network after being released from prison in 2011, was in direct contact with Ayman al Zawahiri in 2011 and 2012. In one of his letters to Zawahiri, Jamal revealed that he had sworn bayat (an oath of allegiance) to Zawahiri. This makes sense because Jamal was a commander in Zawahiri’s Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ). According to the State Department and the United Nations, Jamal’s network coordinated its operations with, and received assistance from, al Qaeda’s senior leadership, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
In late October 2013, Egyptian security forces arrested Nabil al Maghraby, whom they described simply as “a key al Qaeda operative.” Al Maghraby is one of the old school jihadists let out of prison in the wake of the Egyptian revolution. He had been imprisoned for the 1981 assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and was also accused of being a member of the Vanguards of Conquest, a wing of Zawahiri’s EIJ. In addition, a human rights organization headed by a man the US Treasury Department accuses of being an al Qaeda financier lobbied for al Maghraby’s release from prison in 2010.
Egyptian authorities have described al Maghraby as “a close associate” of Badr.
Ansar Jerusalem’s martyrdom video for Badr opens with an audio clip of Zawahiri and closes with a video of the al Qaeda master. In the closing clip, Zawahiri says that the conflict in Egypt is not “a struggle between political parties, but a struggle between Crusaders and Zionists on one side and Islam on the other side.”
You can guess which side of the fight Ansar Jerusalem is on. The reported details of the Sept. 5, 2013 assassination attempt — the ties to Syria and the Al Nusrah Front, Badr’s international jihad, Muhammad Jamal’s alleged involvement, Badr’s alleged ties to al Maghreby, the martyrdom video featuring Zawahiri — are all indications that Ansar Jerusalem is operating as part of al Qaeda’s global network.