In a statement released to jihadist forums and social media sites yesterday, 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. In total, 28 security personnel were targeted in more than a dozen separate shooting attacks, the group claimed.
A group under the same name appeared on March 4 when it released a founding statement that circulated on jihadist forums and social media sites. In the statement, the group called on Egyptian Muslims to fight and defend their honor, and said its fighters were prepared to target security personnel. After releasing the statement, the group said on its now defunct Facebook page that it would release another statement claiming responsibility for recent shooting attacks.
While there is a strong possibility the two statements are coming from the same group, the image version of the two statements does contain notable differences as well as some similarities.
In yesterday’s statement, the group, which is active on Twitter and Facebook, said its attacks were part of “the first phase of a campaign to punish traitors,” the Associated Press reported. While most of the attacks took place in February and March, at least one of those claimed occurred in late January.
The Long War Journal has matched nearly all of the names mentioned in the communique to shooting incidents within the past two and half months. According to the group, a couple of the incidents noted in its statement were either not announced by Egypt’s Interior Ministry or were reported to be a car accident.
It is unclear whether this new Ansar al Sharia has any connections, aside from its similar name, to the Ansar al Sharia that threatened attacks in early July or the Ansar al Sharia that was founded by Ahmed Ashush.
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 (Ansar Bayt al Maqdis). 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.