Sinai-based jihadist group rebranded as Islamic State’s official arm

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On Nov. 10, an unidentified jihadist from Ansar Bayt al Maqdis (ABM), otherwise known as Ansar Jerusalem, declared his group’s allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, who leads the Islamic State. As The Long War Journal reported at the time, ABM quickly began marketing itself on its official Twitter feed as the Islamic State’s wilayat, meaning province (or state), in the Sinai.

The group’s Twitter feed was subsequently taken down, but quickly replaced as part of a regular cat and mouse game played by the social media company and the jihadists.

Earlier today, the Sinai jihadists returned to Twitter with a new video that shows the group again marketing itself as the Islamic State’s official wilayat. The banner shown above was used to advertise the video on Twitter.

The video, which is nearly 30 minutes long, shows the Islamic State’s clear influence in terms of branding and production style. It is possible, if not likely, that Islamic State media operatives created the video.

Little is known about the ABM faction that swore allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi earlier this week. And the organization’s latest production does not offer any additional details on how the relationship is actually organized.

According to credible reports, while an ABM faction in the Sinai has been itching to join the Islamic State since earlier this year, another ABM group in the Nile Valley remains loyal to al Qaeda’s senior leadership.

Baghdadi and the Islamic State are attempting to usurp the authority of any non-aligned jihadists by claiming that, once the group’s “caliphate” has spread into new a territory, existing jihadist organizations are nullified. This is the significance of the Sinai jihadists being rebranded as the Islamic State’s official arm inside Egypt. According to Baghdadi and his supporters, now that the Islamic State has a presence inside the Sinai, all other jihadists and even all other Muslims who live there owe their loyalty to Baghdadi’s representatives.

In an audio message released earlier this week, Baghdadi said that his group would identify a leader for each one of its so-called provinces, including in the Sinai. It is not immediately clear if any such leader is shown in the video.

Towards the beginning of the new video, as well as in scenes thereafter, the Sinai jihadists execute alleged spies in a brutal fashion. For some unknown reason, however, the group decided not to show scenes from a previous video produced this past summer in which the Sinai jihadists beheaded several men accused of being spies. ABM’s beheading video was likely influenced by the Islamic State, which had decapitated an American journalist shortly beforehand. [See LWJ report, Ansar Jerusalem beheads 4 Egyptians accused of being Israeli ‘spies’.]

Much of the Sinai jihadists’ new video focuses on the group’s attacks against Egyptian security forces, using mortars, grenades, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other weapons in its assaults. Special effects have been added to highlight the devastation wrought by some of the jihadists’ attacks.

The video highlights the jihadists’ animosity for the US (showing a clip of President Obama), Israel, as well as the Egyptian government and military.

A screen shot of the Twitter page on which the video was first posted can be seen below. Also shown are various pictures taken from scenes in the video.

A Twitter feed representing ABM in the Sinai reappeared online earlier today:

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The video shows Sinai jihadists firing mortars:

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Multiple scenes show IEDs destroying Egyptian security vehicles and other targets. This scene showed a vehicle immediately after an IED was detonated:

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The scene immediately above was replayed in slow-motion and backwards to emphasize the devastation caused by the jihadists’ attack:

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A jihadist is shown with his face obscured to protect his identity. He is wearing a shirt that is made to look like the Islamic State’s flag:

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A jihadist raises an Islamic State black banner over a tank:

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A jihadist speaks, kneeling before arms and ammunition, for a couple of minutes towards the end of the video:

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A short clip of President Obama is shown in the video:

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The Sinai jihadists have launched attacks against Israel and the group’s animosity for Israel is made clear once again in the new video:

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Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for The Long War Journal.

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  • Joseph says:

    The Great Jihadis Schism? Could that be what this event, which will no doubt in my mind unfold for years to come, is called? The debate between the philosophies of Osama Bin Laden and those who came after him will be a highly interesting aspect of this war.

  • Tom says:

    Well we lost this war.
    Then again, this war is about western hypocrisy to begin with so it was never winnable. In the end, either Iran or IS will win. There is no other winner to be had.

  • Karen Strickholm says:

    Appreciate this reporting. The impact on other jihadist groups when one of them in a territory becomes an “affiliate” is something I’d like to hear more about in future reporting. Also, the graphics are great. I like the video being summarized in a series of stills with captions. Thanks!

  • Arjuna says:

    So ABM’s most lethal Sinai Chapter declares allegiance to the Islamic State and promptly launches a large attack against the Egyptian army killing 30 soldiers AND a four boat attack (40 miles offshore) against an Egyptian Navy vessel setting it on fire and leaving eight Egyptian sailors MIA. That’s a hell of a way to announce your merger.
    If I’m not mistaken, these are the biggest operations to date for the IS or its affiliates outside Syria or Iraq. The seaborne one is a first against the Navy, post-Morsi. Egypt has taken 32 prisoners who are currently being questioned, so hopefully they’ll soon have actionable intelligence. The Egyptians are keeping a lid on the amount of damage to the vessel and the search for the missing sailors. Apparently ABM used fishing boats and small arms only. Still, the trendline in Egypt is worrying.
    Tom, your comment is mistaken. The long war against global jihad is still in its early stages and America’s going to help the human race win against the animals. It may take awhile, but we are not going to stand by and let a bunch of religious fanatics sabotage the world’s peace and security. I promise you. The world will win.

  • Ansar al-Zindiqi says:

    This is a bit like how criminal enterprises start up and jostle around with rival factions. Both IS and AQ are watching to see how their respective “striker clubs” perform in their skirmishes. They encourage their little “friends” to take part in bigger and bloodier operations in order to out-flank each other.


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