In a statement released to jihadist forums on March 23, Ansar Jerusalem (Ansar Bayt al Maqdis) confirmed the deaths of six of its fighters in clashes with Egyptian security forces on March 19. Egypt’s Interior Ministry had originally said that the raid, which took place about 20 miles north of Cairo, resulted in the deaths of five Ansar Jerusalem members and two Egyptian security personnel, as well as the arrest of four jihadists; the ministry later stated, however, that six jihadists had been killed and eight arrested.
The six members of Ansar Jerusalem who were killed in the clashes were identified by the jihadist group as: Fahmi Abdul Raouf Muhammad (Abu Dujana), Samir Abdul Hakim (Abu al Bara), Muhammad Mohsen Ali Muhammad (Abu Musab), Muhammad Sayed Mahmoud Ahmad (Abu Musab), Osama Saeed Abdul Aziz (Abu Omar), and Abdul Raouf Fahmi Abdul Raouf (Abu Mu’adh). At least two of those named had previously been identified by Egyptian authorities as suspects in recent attacks in Egypt.
So far, Ansar Jerusalem has confirmed dead only 25 named members, according to a tally maintained by The Long War Journal. Earlier this month, the jihadist group confirmed the deaths of two of its members, including a top commander, Tawfiq Mohammed Freij.
According to yesterday’s statement, Fahmi Abdul Raouf Muhammad and Samir Abdul Hakim had fought in the ongoing conflict in Syria. They are the third and fourth confirmed members of Ansar Jerusalem to have fought in Syria before returning to Egypt, according to a tally maintained by The Long War Journal.
Previous Ansar Jerusalem statements have disclosed that Walid Badr and Saaed al Shahat fought in Syria before returning to Egypt, where they died. And on March 10, Egypt’s Interior Ministry announced the arrest of Mohammed Durri Ahmad al Taliawi, claiming that he was involved in the January bombing of the Cairo Security Directorate and that he had fought in Syria. Ansar Jerusalem has not confirmed that Taliawi was a member, however.
In its latest statement, Ansar Jerusalem said that those killed had fought admirably against Egypt’s security forces on March 19 as they were outnumbered and outgunned. Ansar Jerusalem’s fighters “taught the tyrants a lesson they will never forget,” the communique declared. The jihadist group further claimed that its fighters could have detonated explosives that would have blown up the area of the clashes but chose not to for the sake of residents.
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. And most recently, a group calling itself Kataeb Ansar al Sharia fi Ard al Kinanah (Brigades of Ansar al Sharia in the Land of Egypt), claimed responsibility for a slew of recent shooting attacks in the governorates of Sharkiya, Beni Suef, and Giza.