Egypt's army claims 20 Islamist militants killed in recent Sinai airstrikes
On Jan. 25, the Sinai-based jihadist group Ansar Jerusalem (Ansar Bayt al Maqdis) said its fighters fired a surface-to-air missile at an Egyptian helicopter operating in North Sinai. The following day the group released video of the attack that killed five Egyptian soldiers.
Since the attack, the Egyptian military has claimed that subsequent airstrikes in North Sinai have killed at least 20 Islamist militants. The army has been using Apache helicopters for these strikes, which have also targeted the militants' suspected hideouts, among other sites, the Associated Press reported.
Ansar Jerusalem, the dominant jihadist group in the Sinai and the only one to have claimed responsibility for more than one attack in the area since July, has yet to say whether any of its fighters were killed.
Both Ansar Jerusalem and media reports have previously suggested that the Egyptian military exaggerates the success of its operations. For example, following the August 2012 attack that killed 16 Egyptian soldiers at a military outpost in Rafah, Egyptian forces claimed to have carried out massive operations against jihadists in the Sinai. Reports soon emerged of the falsity of much of what the military was claiming, however.
As one NPR reporter stated: "We found that a lot of that huge military operation was actually quite fictional. We couldn't really find evidence of these major attacks. A lot of the reports of militants being killed were really exaggerated."
Since July 3, there have been at least 295 reported attacks in the Sinai Peninsula, most of which were carried out against Egyptian security forces and assets, according to data maintained by The Long War Journal. A good number of these attacks, including the Nov. 20 car bombing that killed 11 Egyptian security personnel, have been claimed by Ansar Jerusalem.
Attacks by Sinai-based jihadists, Ansar Jerusalem specifically, have also taken place in the Egyptian mainland. On Sept. 5, the jihadist group used a suicide car bomber in an assassination attempt in Nasr City on Egypt's interior minister, Mohammed Ibrahim. A month later, an Ansar Jerusalem suicide bomber unleashed a blast at the South Sinai Security Directorate in el Tor, which killed three security personnel and injured more than 45. On Oct. 19, the Sinai-based jihadist group targeted a military intelligence building in the city of Ismailia in another car bombing. And on Nov. 19, the group claimed responsibility for the shooting attack on Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Mabrouk, a senior national security officer, in Cairo. In late December, an Ansar Jerusalem suicide car bombing attack outside the Daqahliya security directorate in Mansoura killed over a dozen people and injured at least 130 more. Most recently, Ansar Jerusalem took credit for a series of bombings in Cairo, including a car bombing at the Cairo Security Directorate, on Jan. 24, 2014, that left at least six people dead. On Jan. 28, the group said its fighters were responsible for the assassination of an aide to Egypt's Interior Minister in Cairo.