Earlier today, the Islamic State’s so-called Sinai “province” attacked a hotel where a number of judges were staying as they oversaw elections. According to initial casualty reports, four people were killed.
Two “martyrdom” operatives were responsible for the assault. One of the two drove a vehicle laden with explosives into the security forces protecting the hotel. The second, armed with an assault weapon and a suicide belt, then followed.
The Islamic State’s Sinai “province,” which officially joined the “caliphate” in November 2014, quickly posted a statement on social media claiming responsibility. The message, seen on the right, is formatted in the same fashion as most other claims of responsibility issued by the Islamic State’s “provinces,” with white text, a blue body, and a red header. A watermark in the upper right hand corner makes it clear that the statement is on behalf of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s global organization.
The statement was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.
Interestingly, the group attempts to justify the attack using the same rationale as pro-al Qaeda jihadist groups in Egypt. “This operation comes as a response to the arrest by the apostate Egyptian army of the Muslim women and the insulting of them at the checkpoints of the apostate army,” the claim of responsibility reads, according to SITE’s translation.
This is essentially the same rationale offered by Ajnad Misr (“Soldiers of Egypt”) for some of its terrorist attacks in Cairo and elsewhere. In November 2014, for instance, Ajnad Misr said that it bombed policemen near a university in Cairo after supposedly witnessing female students being harassed and dragged off by security forces.
Ajnad Misr was once part of Ansar Bayt al Maqdis (ABM), which evolved into the Islamic State’s Sinai “province.” But Ajnad Misr did not go along with ABM’s defection to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s camp and refused to swear allegiance to the Islamic State. Ajnad Misr has claimed only a few operations inside Egypt this year.
The Islamic State’s Sinai “province” remains a prolific jihadist force. And its operations further illustrate that there is no firm dividing line between the jihadists’ insurgencies and their ability to carry out high-profile terrorist attacks.
The Islamic State’s branch has repeatedly claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian airliner on October 31. The first claim of responsibility was issued just hours after the airplane crashed, killing all 224 passengers and crew on board. On several occasions since then, both the Sinai “province” and other parts of the Islamic State’s international network have issued statements and videos saying the “caliphate’s” soldiers were responsible. The latest issue of the English-language Dabiq magazine includes a photo of the bomb that allegedly ripped the plane’s fuselage apart midair.
On November 19, the Sinai “province” released a video tallying the results of its insurgency operations against the Egyptian government. The video was also translated by SITE. The group claimed to have destroyed more than 25 Egyptian military and security vehicles, killed more than 100 members of Egypt’s security forces and taken various spoils between October 14 and November 13. These operations were in addition to the bombing of the Russian airliner.
The figures cited could not be independently verified. Even if the jihadists are exaggerating, however, there is no doubt that the Sinai “province” continues to wage a systematic campaign against Egyptian forces. Dozens of jihadists representing the “caliphate” launched a coordinated assault across the Sinai in early July. The Islamic State arm has launched rockets at Israel, struck an Egyptian naval vessel off of the coast of the Sinai, and hit targets inside Cairo as well.