Egyptian security forces yesterday launched a raid in the North Sinai village of al Mahdiya near Rafah. Authorities had received information that two key Ansar Jerusalem (Ansar Bayt al Maqdis) members were in the village. It is unclear whether the tip came from locals, one of the Islamist militants recently arrested, or a foreign intelligence service.
According to Egypt’s army spokesman, upon arriving in the area Egyptian forces came under heavy fire. In the ensuing clashes, two soldiers were killed and eight injured. The army spokesman further claimed that three terrorists were killed. However, Shadi el Menai and Kamal Allam, the original targets of the raid, appear to have survived.
The Long War Journal had reported on Dec. 4 that el Menai, last seen in September, was still in North Sinai.
As clashes subsided today, jihadists in the area were seen “parading the corpse of one of two soldiers killed through the streets while it hung from a pole,” the Associated Press reported. The body of the slain soldier was retrieved after it was dumped by jihadists outside a mosque in a nearby village.
Ansar Jerusalem has yet to comment on today’s events, which took place in a village previously identified by the Egyptian army as a stronghold for the group.
Since the ouster of Mohammed Morsi on July 3, there have been more than 260 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.
Attacks by Sinai-based jihadists, Ansar Jerusalem specifically, have also taken place in the Egyptian mainland. On Sept. 5, the jihadist group carried out 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. And on Nov. 19, the group claimed responsibility for the shooting attack on Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Mabrouk, a senior national security officer, in Cairo.
Ansar Jerusalem, which was founded by Egyptians, is the dominant jihadist group operating in the Sinai Peninsula today. The group, whose fighters are often seen with the al Qaeda flag, has claimed credit for a number of attacks against Israel and Egypt over the past two years.
In September 2013, Ansar Jerusalem, which releases material through the jihadist forums of Al Fajr Media Center, al Qaeda’s exclusive media distribution outlet, declared that “it is obligatory to repulse them [the Egyptian army] and fight them until the command of Allah is fulfilled.” Recent reports in the Egyptian media have suggested that Ansar Jerusalem may have links to Muhammad Jamal and the Muhammad Jamal Network [MJN], which were added to the US government’s list of designated terrorists and the UN’s sanctions list in October 2013.
Jamal, whose fighters have been linked to the Sept. 11, 2012 Benghazi terror attack, is said to have established “several terrorist training camps in Egypt and Libya” with funding from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
In late November, in response to a Long War Journal query on whether the State Department believes there is a connection between the Muhammad Jamal Network (MJN) and Ansar Bayt al Maqdis, a State Department spokesman said: “We have no comment on the inter-relationships between MJN and the other Sinai groups.”
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