In a statement released to jihadist forums today, the Sinai-based jihadist group Ansar Jerusalem (Ansar Bayt al Maqdis) said that it would not stand idly by as Egyptian authorities build a wall around the city of el Arish in North Sinai.
Earlier this week, Egyptian media outlets reported that authorities had begun the construction of a wall around el Arish to help stop the infiltration of militants.
In its statement, Ansar Jerusalem said that since June 30, 2013, Egyptians, in particular those in the Sinai, have been living through a period of oppression and tyranny at the hands of the current regime. The jihadist group also reiterated that it is “in a state of war” with the Egyptian army, which it described as the “puppet army of the Zionist enemy.”
Ansar Jerusalem concluded its latest statement by warning those who may help with the construction of the wall around el Arish that its fighters “will not relent in targeting you” and “will spare no effort in deterring and preventing you.”
On March 12, Ansar Jerusalem released a video showing Ansar Jerusalem fighters patrolling the streets of North Sinai looking for people who work with the Egyptian army.
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 March 12 message, the October message also advised repentance: “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. More recently, on March 24, Ma’an News Agency reported that three Sinai Bedouins had been killed by Islamist militants for allegedly collaborating with Egyptian authorities.
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” said to have been 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.”