In a statement released to jihadist forums today, Sinai-based Ansar Jerusalem (Ansar Bayt al Maqdis) claimed responsibility for the Oct. 19 car bombing near a military intelligence building in the city of Ismailia. In the statement, obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence group, the group said it executed the attack, which wounded at least six soldiers, as a response to the continued “repressive practices carried out by the Egyptian army against our people.”
Ansar Jerusalem strives “to cleanse Egypt from all dens of criminality and agency,” the group declared. “[W]e reiterate our advice to our people in Egypt to stay away from all military and police headquarters, for they are legitimate targets for the mujahideen,” the jihadist group further warned.
In a separate statement released today, Ansar Jerusalem announced that it was not operating any social media accounts and that any purporting to be the group’s account was unofficial. “[T]he only source of our statements and productions are the jihadi forums from al-Fajr Media Center (Shumukh al-Islam Networking and al-Fida’ Islamic Network),” the group said.
The attack on the military intelligence building in Ismailia came 12 days after Ansar Jerusalem carried out a suicide attack on the South Sinai Security Directorate in el Tor, which killed three people and injured more than 45. In its claim of responsibility for the el Tor attack, the Sinai-based jihadist group said it wants “to liberate our Ummah and Muslim people from the slavery of the oppressive, apostate regimes, and establish justice, dignity and freedom for them, and that is only through servitude to Allah alone and implementing His proper Shariah.” It further argued that “an army of Muslims that helps the Ummah and the religion is the way to liberate Jerusalem and the rest of Muslim lands and live in freedom, dignity and honor under the shade of the Shariah of the Lord of the Worlds.”
While most of the attacks carried out by Ansar Jerusalem have been in the Sinai, the group has also carried out attacks in the Egyptian mainland. 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, in the Nasr City area. In its claim of responsibility for the attempted assassination, the group said it 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.”
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 an 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.
On Sept. 10, Ansar Jerusalem declared that “it is obligatory to repulse them [the Egyptian army] and fight them until the command of Allah is fulfilled.” In the same statement, the group took credit for a number of attacks on Egyptian security personnel in the Sinai Peninsula. Similarly, on Sept. 15, the Salafi jihadist group declared: “We in Ansar Jerusalem and all the mujahideen in Sinai in Egypt as a whole stress that the blood of innocent Muslims will not go in vain.” And on Sept. 28, Ansar Jerusalem released a video that included footage from some of its recent attacks on Egyptian security forces in the Sinai Peninsula.