Ansar Jerusalem claims credit for Sinai attacks, challenges army claims
In a statement released to jihadist forums yesterday, Ansar Jerusalem (Ansar Bayt al Maqdis) took credit for a number of recent attacks on Egyptian security personnel in the Sinai Peninsula. The statement did not claim responsibility for today's suicide car bomb attacks that killed at least six people; it was released a number of hours before the morning attacks.
In the statement, translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, the Sinai-based jihadist group contended that the army and police in Egypt are "spearhead[ing]" an "all-out war against Islam in Egypt." According to the statement, the "true aim" of current Egyptian operations in the Sinai "is to secure the border area with the Zionist side, and create a safe zone that protects the Jews from any threats from the mujahideen in Sinai, and prevent the strikes of the mujahideen against the Jews, and secure the so-called Zionist border area completely."
Notably, Ansar Jerusalem claimed that it knew what the security forces were going to target in their recent operations. "[We] had learned of the targets of this campaign from the way it was launched and the formations of the forces in it and through information they received," the communique stated. As a result, "the mujahideen ... undertook a studied evacuation operation that would make this operation lose its goal."
Later in the statement, the jihadist group said that "the evacuation of the brothers succeeded" and "contrary to the lies that were promoted by the lying military spokesperson ... no mujahid was captured." In addition, the group said that army claims that tens of jihadists have been arrested or killed are "inspired from [the] sick imagination [of the army's spokesman] and a directive from the heads of betrayal and agency in whose name he speaks."
Despite this, the jihadist group did announce the death of one fighter, Nasser Abu Juhayni, in recent clashes with the army. Juhayni was described in the statement as "one of the heroes of the jihadi groups in Sinai."
The operations of Egyptian security forces, the jihadist group charged, did not target "the mujahideen specifically, but it is a terror campaign for the families of the area in general." It claimed that the security forces knew the villages they were targeting were empty of "mujahideen" but attacked anyway.
In the statement, which was accompanied by a number of photos, Ansar Jerusalem said that a number of the homes hit by Egyptian security forces in recent operations "belonged to families that have no religious leaning and belong to no organization." In addition to destroying homes, the jihadist group accused security forces of burning a number of cars and damaging wells used for "drinking water and agricultural irrigation." Additionally, the security forces were denounced for allegedly pillaging goods from homes that they raided.
In response to the "crimes" of Egyptian security forces, Ansar Jerusalem said that its fighters took a "fast, painful response," which included at least three attacks. In one attack, six security personnel were killed, while "a number of officers and soldiers" were allegedly killed in another.
The new statement from Ansar Jerusalem, which made no mention of the group's recent claim of responsibility for the Sept. 5 assassination attempt on Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim, concluded by declaring that "it is obligatory to repulse them [the army] and fight them until the command of Allah is fulfilled."
Ansar Jerusalem is thought to be behind most of the recent attacks originating from the Sinai, according to Israeli intelligence. The group, which is said to recruit within Egypt and abroad, has claimed credit for a number of attacks against Israel over the past year, including the attack on Sept. 21, 2012.
The deadliest attack was the Aug. 18, 2011 assault on a bus traveling near the border with Egypt in Eilat, which resulted in the deaths of eight Israelis and at least seven terrorists. Three Egyptian security personnel were also accidentally killed in the crossfire. In addition, Ansar Jerusalem has taken credit for a number of attacks against the Arish-Ashkelon natural gas pipeline as well as a number of rocket attacks against Israel.
On Oct. 15, 2012, the group threatened to attack Israel for the targeted killing of Abu al Walid al Maqdisi, the former emir of the Tawhid and Jihad Group in Jerusalem, and Ashraf al Sabah, the former emir of Ansar al Sunnah. The two men were said to be leaders of the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem.
On Jan. 11, a video released by Ansar Jerusalem stated: "Here in Egypt, the fortress of the Ummah, the light of victory has begun to shine, and the light of dawn has appeared in the horizon. The Ummah has begun preparing for the moment to attack the occupying entity and get rid of its evil."
In March, the group issued a statement during President Obama's visit to Israel, which it called a "cancerous tumor." The jihadist group said that the visit's timing "has important implications" and accused "America and the Crusader West" of intervening in the so-called Arab Spring "to change the natural direction of these blessed revolutions, and prevent[ing] the Muslim peoples from achieving their true freedom and implementing their Islamic Shariah."
More recently, on Aug. 9, four members of Ansar Jerusalem who were preparing to fire rockets towards Israel were targeted and killed. On Aug. 10, Hussein Ibrahim Salem al Tihi, from the Tiyaaha tribe, and Yusri Muhaareb al Saraarkah, Ibrahim Khalaf al Munei'I, and Muhammad Hussein al Munei'i, all from the Sawaarkah tribe, were buried following an extensive funeral procession. Some of the slain jihadists were wrapped in al Qaeda flags, while vehicles in the procession had the black flags attached as well.
In a statement posted to jihadist forums on Sept. 8, Ansar Jerusalem, which is estimated to have 700 to 1,000 members, took credit for the Sept. 5 assassination attempt on Egypt's interior minister, Mohammed Ibrahim. The statement also threatened retaliation against Egyptian security forces. It specifically noted that the group was prepared to target Mohammed Ibrahim and Abdel Fatteh el Sisi, and urged Egyptian Muslims "to stay away from the installations and headquarters of the Ministries of Defense and Interior, so as to preserve their souls and proper." The Sinai-based jihadist group further called on Egypt's Muslims "to come together around their mujahideen brothers in their war against those criminals."