The Sinai-based jihadist group Ansar Jerusalem (Ansar Bayt al Maqdis) released a new video to jihadist forums today. In the approximately 19-minute video, the group shows damage caused by Egyptian military operations in North Sinai, a confession from someone accused of working with Israel’s Mossad, and footage of Ansar Jerusalem fighters patrolling the streets of North Sinai looking for people who work with the Egyptian army.
The video, translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, opens by showing destruction caused by Egyptian military operations in North Sinai. An onscreen message describes Egypt’s armed forces as “the army of Camp David” and says the Egyptian military is trying to displace the people of Sinai in order “secure the Zionist enemy by creating a buffer zone.”
According to Ansar Jerusalem, Egypt is using Apache helicopters and coordinating with Israel, which is using drones in the Sinai. Women and children have been killed in the recent bombings, the jihadist group charges. Egyptian security personnel are “demolishing and burning mosques, houses, and cars, and looting money and properties,” Ansar Jerusalem further claims.
After showing footage of various sites targeted by the Egyptian military, Ansar Jerusalem says that agents of Israel’s Mossad are spying on families in the Sinai. An interview with an alleged spy, Muhammad Suleiman Musalam (a.k.a. al-Zaghlool), is aired. According to Musalam, those who recruited him asked “about everything.”
He states: “They ask us about the tunnels. They ask us about the rockets in the area. They ask us about the practicing Muslims. They ask us about everything in the area, anything that is going on in the area.” Ansar Jerusalem censored parts of Musalam’s responses, specifically when he was asked to name specific individuals wanted by the alleged Mossad operatives.
At the end of the interview with Musalam, a message appears calling on other “spies” to repent. “The door of the repentance is open to whoever wants to repent. We will not ask about what he has done before that and how much he did. This is before we are able to get him. Otherwise, their fate will be the same as mine,” Ansar Jerusalem warns.
In another segment of the video, Ansar Jerusalem, which has previously challenged army claims, calls Egypt’s army spokesman a “liar.” After “killing the innocent,” Ansar Jersalem charges, the spokesman “announces the killing of tens of the mujahideen.” The terror group accuses the army spokesman of “flipping the facts and belittling the minds and abasing the souls and blood.” The group does concede, however, that “the war between us and our enemies is a competition.”
“They get us and we get them, but there is a difference, in that our killed are in Paradise and their killed are in Hellfire, and Allah is our protector and they have no protector,” an onscreen message says.
The last segment of the video shows Ansar Jerusalem fighters operating a checkpoint on the Rafah-el-Arish international road in order “to arrest the spies and the agents, the traitors.” The fighters, who are dressed in full military fatigues and travel in a pickup truck, are seen with guns and RPGs as well as a black al Qaeda flag. Ansar Jerusalem does not say when this checkpoint was operated.
Threats against those suspected of working with the Egyptian army are not new. For example, in October 2013, al Salafiyya al Jihadiyya in Sinai threatened to kill anyone found aiding Egyptian security forces. Like Ansar Jerusalem’s latest message, the group said that: “The door of repentance is open to all who were tainted with agency, and we accept it from him no matter what his past actions.”
More recently, in early February 2014, a leaflet circulated in North Sinai threatening the killing of individuals suspected of working with Egypt’s armed forces.
In some cases, Sinai residents have been killed. For example, in a 48-hour period in mid-December 2013, some six to eight Sinai Bedouins were killed on the suspicion of having collaborated with Egypt’s security forces.
According to Ansar Jerusalem, Ibrahim Oweidah Nasser Bereikat, who participated in an attack on an Israeli bus near Eilat that killed eight Israelis on Aug. 18, 2011, was killed by Israel’s Mossad with the aid of Egyptian “spies.” In November 2012, an Ansar Jerusalem video showed the interrogation and confession of Meneizel Muhammad Suleiman Salamah, one of the “spies” allegedly involved in Bereikat’s assassination.
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 since 2011.
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 August, Ansar Jerusalem was lauded by an AQAP official as “our mujahideen brothers in Sinai.”
The nascent insurgency
Since July 3, 2013, there have been more than 315 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, 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.
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 July 2013. In addition, a group calling itself Ajnad Misr has claimed responsibility for seven attacks in the Cairo area in recent months.