The Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot that controls large portions of Iraq and Syria, and its supporters are marketing the Sinai as a destination for young recruits seeking to wage jihad.
On Nov. 10, the Sinai-based faction of Ansar Bayt al Maqdis (ABM), also known as Ansar Jerusalem, swore allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, who heads the Islamic State. Shortly thereafter, ABM began marketing itself as the Islamic State’s province in the Sinai.
The Islamic State does not really control the Sinai, but it is aggressively trying to marginalize competition from other jihadists in the area. And the group’s supporters are calling on jihadists to help Baghdadi’s organization build up its presence in the Sinai even further.
Two online jihadist propagandist shops, the Al Battar Media Establishment and the Media Front in Support of the Islamic State, have posted a six-page article on Twitter. The article is written by a jihadist known as “Abu Musab al Gharib.” The cover of the article is shown above.
“O Muslim youths,” Gharib writes, “hurry to consolidate the Islamic caliphate’s province in Egypt starting from Sinai.”
Gharib claims that the establishment of the Islamic State’s Sinai province will lead to the unification of jihadists across Libya, Egypt, and the Levant. And this will supposedly make it easier for the jihadists to advance on Jerusalem. According to Gharib, this will also facilitate the “liquidating” of the Jews in Egypt, Golan, Jordan, and Lebanon.
In reality, the Islamic State’s announced expansion has served only to further exacerbate tensions between Baghdadi’s group and other established jihadist organizations. Baghdadi and his supporters claim that the Islamic State’s “caliphate” has usurped the authority of jihadists in Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. The most powerful jihadist groups in these countries have refused, however, to acquiesce to Baghdadi’s demands.
Gharib claims that residents of the Sinai have repelled invasions from “Crusaders” in the past and survived the Israeli occupation after the Six-Day War in 1967. But he denounces the Camp David Accords, agreed to by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1978, as the agreement supposedly only serves to protect Israel’s borders.
The propaganda piece relies on standard jihadist motifs, including calls for attacks against both the “apostate” Egyptian Army and the “infidel Jews.” For example, Gharib lauds the Aug. 18, 2011 cross-border attack outside of Eilat, Israel, during which jihadists attacked a bus and other civilian and Israeli security targets. Eight Israelis were killed in the multi-pronged attack.
Credible reports indicate that foreign fighters from the Levant, North Africa, Yemen, and elsewhere have traveled to the Sinai for training and other purposes. But the Sinai has not been thought of as a major jihadist destination, as the fighting has been much more intense in other hotspots, especially in Iraq and Syria, where the Islamic State is based.
It appears, however, that some of the Islamic State’s supporters are trying to take advantage of ABM’s announced allegiance to Baghdadi. Abu Musab al Gharib’s article is likely aimed at both Egyptians and foreigners, as the Islamic State’s supporters want the Sinai to be more of a destination for jihadists than it has been in the past.