Ajnad Misr, or the “Soldiers of Egypt,” has claimed credit for a terrorist attack on a police post near Helwan University in Cairo earlier today. Initial accounts say that five policemen were injured in the bombing, and several other bystanders were wounded as they fled the scene.
Ajnad Misr released its claim of responsibility on its official Twitter feed, and the claim was also picked up by other jihadist websites. The group first claimed attacks earlier this year. In a statement issued on Jan. 24, Ajnad Misr said it was responsible for two attacks that occurred in November 2013, as well as subsequent attacks in January. The jihadist organization then executed a string of additional attacks in Cairo and elsewhere in the months that followed, mainly focusing on Egyptian security personnel.
The bombing outside of a university is consistent with Ajnad Misr’s modus operandi, as it has targeted security personnel in and around universities in the past. The jihadist organization struck Cairo University in October, and its justifications were nearly identical to those offered for today’s bombing.
“This blessed operation comes after a rise in killing and maltreatment incidents against students,” Ajnad Misr said in a statement released after the bombings last month. “And we have been avoiding targeting the criminal apparatus near universities … til it was proven that they are carrying out systematic crimes [against students] without justification,” the statement reads.
In its statement claiming responsibility, Ajnad Misr justified today’s attack by saying that it witnessed female students being dragged away by security forces.
A Twitter feed that claims to serve as Ajnad Misr’s media arm posted an image of women being dragged away, saying today’s attack was revenge for the “sisters” who were assaulted. The image can be seen above.
Ajnad Misr has repeatedly stated that it is attempting to avoid civilian casualties as it lashes out at Egyptian officials. In April, for instance, the group said that it delayed the detonation of one of its bombs near Cairo University because it wanted to avoid striking the civilians in the area. Ajnad made the same claim in October, saying that it used less powerful explosives in order to avoid innocent citizens.
Another Egyptian jihadist group, Ansar Bayt al Maqdis (ABM), or Ansar Jerusalem, is headquartered in the Sinai, and a faction from the group has sworn allegiance to the Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot that controls large portions of Iraq and Syria. ABM has rebranded itself as the Islamic State’s province in the Sinai.
In the past, ABM has described Ajnad Misr as “our brothers,” but it is not clear what, if any, relationship there is between the two organizations currently. Ajnad Misr has not sworn allegiance to the Islamic State, and many details about the group remain unknown.
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It seems to be common knowledge in Egypt that the Ajnad Misr is a student movement that has an open hatred for the Egyptian deep state, mainly for the heavy-handed abuses of the police against civilian activists, especially student activist groups. It is felt by many, maybe by most people, that if there were accountability imposed on the police, this Ajnad Misr movement would cease to carry out acts of violence, and return to public protests against the Egyptian security state.
Ansar Jerusalem was the salafist corps of al-Qaeda which formed around militant leaders who were in control of the weapons trade with Hamas from the Egyptian side of the tunnels. It was the deal Hamas made with these al-Qaeda militants to allow them safe haven inside Gaza after staging attacks aginst Egyptian security forces, that led to the intensive collaboration between Israel and Egypt which shut down the tunnels and put Hamas in a desperate position earlier this year, leading to the war with Israel to re-open the borders. Ansar Jerusalem is cash-rich from the flow of weapons into Gaza, which they largely control, and seeks to turn that power into ‘action’ against Egypt, and ultimately Israel, that gain them notoriety within the Jihadist world. They lack competent leadership, and lack the full support of the Sinai bedouin community, who has been disenfranchised by Ansar Jerusalem’s incursion into the Sinai smuggling trade. Only the lack of integrity of their leadership has prevented them from attracting more support from the al-Qaeda network. And the tireless effort of Israeli and Egyptian security forces have denied Ansar Jerusalem the use of the Sinai for training areas and force development.
Recent moves by Egypt to enforce a DMZ along the Gaza border, razing structures and flooding the ground to ruin the smuggling tunnel industry, have finally begun strangling off the smuggling trade income which supports Ansar Jerusalem, and they now seek to become part of IS, hoping to sell their location to enlarge their purpose and survive as a relevant Jihadist force. It does not appear to have prospects. As long as Israel and Egypt continue to pursue this group aggressively, they will continue to decline in relevant activity as the smuggling trade declines.