Egypt announces arrest of Ansar al Sharia members linked to shooting attacks

Egypt’s Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim today announced the arrest of members of Kataeb Ansar al Sharia fi Ard al Kinanah (Brigades of Ansar al Sharia in the Land of Egypt). The jihadist group, which first announced itself in early March, had taken credit for more than a dozen separate shooting attacks in the governorates of Sharkiya, Beni Suef, and Giza in a statement released on March 17.

During the press conference, Ibrahim said that the group “included military cadres,” Aswat Masriya reported.

Ibrahim also noted that Ahmed Abdul Rahman Abdu Hassan, also known as Abu Basir, was a member of the group. According to press reports, the jihadist was killed during clashes with Egyptian security forces on March 9. In its March 17 communique, Ansar al Sharia identified him as one of its commanders and asked that “Allah accept him.”

A video confession aired during today’s press conference had one of the Ansar al Sharia members saying he had been tasked by Abu Abdullah of Ansar Jerusalem (Ansar Bayt al Maqdis) to form the new group. The only known Ansar Jerusalem member with the name Abu Abdullah is Tawfiq Mohammed Freij, who died on March 11.

Prior to his death, Freij oversaw a number of Ansar Jerusalem’s attacks in the Egyptian mainland, including the attempted assassination of Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim on Sept. 5, 2013.

It is still unclear whether this new Ansar al Sharia has any connections, aside from its similar name, to the Ansar al Sharia that threatened attacks in early July or the Ansar al Sharia that was founded by Ahmed Ashush.

Meanwhile, one soldier was killed and three policemen were wounded when their bus traveling in North Sinai was attacked by gunmen earlier today. Separately, Egyptian media reports said that Ansar Jerusalem fighters had started to target people suspected of being associated with the planned construction of a wall in the el Arish area of North Sinai.

On March 27, the Sinai-based jihadist group warned those who may help with the construction of the wall around el Arish that its fighters “will not relent in targeting you” and “will spare no effort in deterring and preventing you.” Egyptian security officials have told AFP that reports of a full wall being built around el Arish are misleading as authorities are only planning “to build a wall south of the town to secure the airport and nearby agricultural fields used by militants as hideouts.”

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