In a recent interview with David Ignatius of the Washington Post, General Mohamed Farid el Tohamy, the head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Service, admitted that eradicating jihadist cells from the Sinai Peninsula “could take some time.” He further warned that “some of the jihadist cells had infiltrated Cairo, the Nile Delta and upper Egypt,” the report stated. He claimed, however, that these cells were being monitored by Egyptian authorities.
El Tohamy’s acknowledgment that eliminating the jihadist threat from the Sinai “could take some time,” contrasts with previous statements from Egyptian officials who have contended that the “Sinai will be announced free of terrorism soon.”
With regard to Ansar Jerusalem (Ansar Bayt al Maqdis), the main jihadist group in the Sinai, el Tohamy said there was no evidence yet that the group was in “‘direct communication’ with core al-Qaeda or its Egyptian-born leader, Ayman Zawahiri.” However, according to the report, el Tohamy acknowledged that the jihadist group was in “communication … through Internet sites and social media.”
On Oct. 21, 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.
Al Fajr Media Center is a key distributor of al Qaeda’s propaganda online. “Al-Fajr maintains communication with representatives of all the affiliates, and therefore, it can facilitate the rapid transfer of information between these groups and pass on information it has gathered,” according to the SITE Intelligence Group.
Since the ouster of Mohammed Morsi on July 3, there have been at least 238 reported attacks in the Sinai Peninsula, most of which were against Egyptian security forces and assets, according to data maintained by The Long War Journal. Since July, the number of attacks has declined each month. November, which has already seen 14 attacks, is currently on pace to surpass October’s total, however.
Additionally, Ansar Jerusalem has carried out a few attacks outside of its normal base of operations in North Sinai in recent months. On Sept. 5, the jihadist group carried out an assassination attempt on Egypt’s interior minister, Mohammed Ibrahim, in Nasr City. 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. And on Oct. 19, the Sinai-based jihadist group targeted a military intelligence building in the city of Ismailia.
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