Egyptian security officials are telling the press that Shadi el Menai, who is suspected of being a leader in Ansar Jerusalem (Ansar Bayt al Maqdis, or ABM), has been killed in the northern Sinai. The details of his purported death are murky, with some accounts saying he was killed in a drive-by and others saying he was killed during a clash with security forces. As BBC News points out:
Unnamed officials were quoted by AFP news agency as saying security forces opened fire on the men as they were about to carry out an attack on a gas pipeline in central Sinai.
A different account came from officials who told the Associated Press that Shadi el-Menai and at least three associates were killed by 15 attackers in revenge for the killings of tribesmen by Ansar Beit al-Maqdis.
Egyptian security officials targeted el Menai in a December 2013 raid, but he survived.
The circumstances of el Menai’s reported death (which remains to be confirmed) are not the only thing murky about Ansar Jerusalem. We are not even certain of his precise role in the group. Indeed, little is publicly known about Ansar Jerusalem’s leadership structure, how the group is financed, or the extent of its connections to al Qaeda’s senior leadership and/or official branches.
As I explained during congressional testimony earlier this year, however, there is abundant evidence showing that the group is tied to al Qaeda’s international network. There are credible reports, for instance, that Ansar Jerusalem has received assistance and training from the Muhammad Jamal Network (MJN), which is itself part of al Qaeda’s network.
During an interview with CBS News late last year, Shadi el Menai’s brother, Haitham, said he didn’t know about Ansar Jerusalem’s ties to al Qaeda. “It is possible” the two are tied, Haitham added, however.
Ansar Jerusalem was designated a terrorist organization by the US State Department in April.