In a statement released to his official Facebook page, Egypt’s army spokesman said security forces operating in North Sinai managed to killed Nour Hamdeen, a wanted Islamist militant. Security forces “set up an ambush” and “chased and clashed with” Hamdeen, a security source told Xinhua.
Security officials told media outlets that Hamdeen was a leader in Ansar Jerusalem (Ansar Bayt al Maqdis), the dominant jihadist group in Egypt today. According to Ma’an News Agency, Hamdeen has links to Mohammed Hussein Muhareb (also known as Abu Mounir), who was killed in November by Egyptian security forces. The Telegraph reported that Abu Mounir, known as the “Sheikh of the Takfiris,” was linked to Takfir wal Hijra as well as Ansar Jerusalem.
In a video released in mid-September 2013, Ansar Jerusalem showed footage of the mosque where Abu Mounir was known to preach. The mosque was attacked by Egyptian forces “from the air one time and with tank shells another time,” the group said.
Ansar Jerusalem, which was designated on April 9 as a foreign terrorist organization by the US, has yet to comment on Hamdeen’s alleged death.
Since 2011, Ansar Jerusalem has confirmed dead only 25 named members, according to a tally maintained by The Long War Journal. On March 23, the jihadist group confirmed the deaths of six of its fighters in clashes with Egyptian security forces on March 19.
The nascent insurgency
Since July 3, 2013, there have been more than 330 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. In mid-February, the group took credit for a suicide attack on a tourist bus in the South Sinai city of Taba.
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 about a dozen 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.
On April 6, a spokesman for Egypt’s Interior Ministry said that Islamist militants were using various names of groups “to distract police attention,” according to Egyptian state-run news agency MENA.