Islamic State supporters advertise Sinai as jihadist destination

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The Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot that controls large portions of Iraq and Syria, and its supporters are marketing the Sinai as a destination for young recruits seeking to wage jihad.

On Nov. 10, the Sinai-based faction of Ansar Bayt al Maqdis (ABM), also known as Ansar Jerusalem, swore allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, who heads the Islamic State. Shortly thereafter, ABM began marketing itself as the Islamic State’s province in the Sinai.

The Islamic State does not really control the Sinai, but it is aggressively trying to marginalize competition from other jihadists in the area. And the group’s supporters are calling on jihadists to help Baghdadi’s organization build up its presence in the Sinai even further.

Two online jihadist propagandist shops, the Al Battar Media Establishment and the Media Front in Support of the Islamic State, have posted a six-page article on Twitter. The article is written by a jihadist known as “Abu Musab al Gharib.” The cover of the article is shown above.

“O Muslim youths,” Gharib writes, “hurry to consolidate the Islamic caliphate’s province in Egypt starting from Sinai.”

Gharib claims that the establishment of the Islamic State’s Sinai province will lead to the unification of jihadists across Libya, Egypt, and the Levant. And this will supposedly make it easier for the jihadists to advance on Jerusalem. According to Gharib, this will also facilitate the “liquidating” of the Jews in Egypt, Golan, Jordan, and Lebanon.

In reality, the Islamic State’s announced expansion has served only to further exacerbate tensions between Baghdadi’s group and other established jihadist organizations. Baghdadi and his supporters claim that the Islamic State’s “caliphate” has usurped the authority of jihadists in Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. The most powerful jihadist groups in these countries have refused, however, to acquiesce to Baghdadi’s demands.

Gharib claims that residents of the Sinai have repelled invasions from “Crusaders” in the past and survived the Israeli occupation after the Six-Day War in 1967. But he denounces the Camp David Accords, agreed to by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1978, as the agreement supposedly only serves to protect Israel’s borders.

The propaganda piece relies on standard jihadist motifs, including calls for attacks against both the “apostate” Egyptian Army and the “infidel Jews.” For example, Gharib lauds the Aug. 18, 2011 cross-border attack outside of Eilat, Israel, during which jihadists attacked a bus and other civilian and Israeli security targets. Eight Israelis were killed in the multi-pronged attack.

Credible reports indicate that foreign fighters from the Levant, North Africa, Yemen, and elsewhere have traveled to the Sinai for training and other purposes. But the Sinai has not been thought of as a major jihadist destination, as the fighting has been much more intense in other hotspots, especially in Iraq and Syria, where the Islamic State is based.

It appears, however, that some of the Islamic State’s supporters are trying to take advantage of ABM’s announced allegiance to Baghdadi. Abu Musab al Gharib’s article is likely aimed at both Egyptians and foreigners, as the Islamic State’s supporters want the Sinai to be more of a destination for jihadists than it has been in the past.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • blert says:

    The survival rate for such recruits can’t be good.
    Anyone with a foreign accent will be outed in short order.
    If the past is prologue, any volunteers will become suicide ordnance, probably driving VBIEDs into the Nile valley and delta.
    The Egyptian army is now super active in the Sinai, using tanks, APCs, and attack helicopters. (Apache)
    All ‘safe’ houses are being flattened by bulldozers, especially at the Gazan border.
    It’s my understanding that smuggling at Rafah is being made impossible. All structures near the border are scraped flat; an inverted ‘wall’ extends down ten meters below the surface. The whole area is being sown with sound and motion detectors.
    Consequently, no-one can make any money smuggling weapons into Gaza. As you might imagine, all of the locals had become dependent upon smuggling. Now everyone is sitting on their hands with nothing to do. The fanatics now have access to ‘talent’ in abundance. It’s just that suicide is no way to make a living.

  • I believe that this is a start of the aim of Islamic state to get into position to attack Jerusalem and Isreal as Sanai borders Isreads

  • Rhonda says:

    I doubt they will be able to form anything substantial, because the Egyptian military is building a 5 KM buffer zone. It started with 500 meters, and then they qill expand it to 1 kilometer, and keep adding 500 meters to the buffer zone until it is 5 KM. It will run all along the Gaza border, and extend 40 kilometers beyond the end of the border.
    The one thing different about Egypt, is they have a strong army, so good luck with that IS!

  • The Sinai has been in turmoil since the Egyptian revolution in early 2011. I toured the attack site just north of Eilat shortly after that terrorist attack and was struck by the planning and coordination shown by the terrorists. This is more than some Bedouins attacking something for money or trying to settle a score. ABM is a real threat and whatever the US may think of the political goings-on in Cairo, el-Sisi seems to have the will to clean up the Sinai. There’s a concise article laying out events there at

  • Arjuna says:

    Good piece. Widening the aperture, I see the unification of jihadists going on all over the place, eg Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq. This internal leadership tension is making them better killers as they try to score bigger hits.
    As another LWJ reader who knows more about Sinai jihadists than I do, Eric wrote, As long as Israel and Egypt continue to pursue this group aggressively…” [progress can be made.] yes, indeed. Tireless efforts, declining smuggling profits, etc., etc. Maybe we’ll see a decline in violence in 2020. IS and AQ need to be subjected to total war, nothing less. Now, with the UN in the lead.
    The problem is the Islamists (AQ, IS et al.) are all working from the same playbook. Hit the infidels (and apostates), take hostages, mix your targets. Looks like they were at it again. Look at the details…. so similar to Karachi Dockyard.
    They may fight at the top over geography , methods and “spoils” but they are getting disturbingly good at sharing their dark arts and tactics all across the jihadi spectrum at the operational level where the rubber meets the road.
    To wit:
    Abu al-Insaari, a journalist acquainted with Islamic State, said that the hijackers were looking to achieve two goals: “To attack a ship transporting 200 Egyptian soldiers to northern Sinai, and to attack an Israeli ship in order to kidnap its crew for use as leverage in negotiations with Israel for the release of Palestinian prisoners.”
    That’s a mean two-pronged op, inside and outside people, four boats, ouch.
    On a related note, I recall that the Benghazi attacks were partly an attempt to grab Ambo Stevens and trade him for Lady Q. And kill some crusaders (US Agency Mercs) along the way. It could have been even worse. So predictable and yet so nettlesome. We need to grab them, not vice versa. Using jihadis for security, SAD? Whose great idea was that?
    I know, let’s use jihadis to fight our enemies in Syria for us! Nothing could go wrong there either. 9/11 wasn’t led by ex-CIA backed terrorists, trained to fight superpowers by US way back in the prehistoric eighties. Shape up, strategists, and choose your battles. The rot keeps dripping down from the top. Our policy goals and our actions are at odds. That’s why we keep losing. Ditch Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and start the healing/winning process there.
    Oh and the great ANA and Iraqi Armies we’ve “trained” and equipped (oops) with their tens of thousands of ghost soldiers and Iranian Air force and auxiliary corps haha. We may not merit inclusion in this take no prisoners game. Americans play checkers while our enemies play chess.
    American bases at home under threat, passenger planes in Europe under threat, Kabul and Kenya firing their top cops. Islamists are marching. While we are building slow, old planes and boats useless against future foes and watching the fuzzies eat our lunch. Not good. Estonia, anyone? Haha

  • irebukeu says:

    I enjoyed your comments but respectfully, I wanted to take issue with two points.
    1. The comment about 9-11 being led by ex CIA trained terrorists.
    The quote;’
    “I know, let’s use jihadis to fight our enemies in Syria for us! Nothing could go wrong there either.
    9/11 wasn’t led by ex-CIA backed terrorists, trained to fight superpowers by US way back in the prehistoric eighties.”
    If by ‘led by’, you mean Bin Laden, I think it would be more accurate to say that it was led by Saudi backed terrorists, The Saudis would have been bleeding out their Jihadis into Afghanistan with or without the United states participation IMO. Bin laden himself went in 1980 not because the Carter and then Reagan administration was calling but because ISLAM was calling him. Bin Laden received no training from the USA.
    Bin laden was part of the Saudi operation and he was not in contact with the CIA.
    According to ex the CIA ‘s Bin Laden hunter Michael Scheuer, the CIA was well aware of Bin Laden in Afghanistan and tried to reach out to him. Bin Laden, as Michael Scheuer pointed out, would have none of it. Scheuer says Bin Laden was always anti western and always disliked America.
    2. The part about Benghazi being in part an attempt to capture Amb Stevens to ransom him.
    The quote
    ‘On a related note, I recall that the Benghazi attacks were partly an attempt to grab Ambo Stevens and trade him for Lady Q. And kill some crusaders (US Agency Mercs) along the way.’
    If indeed that was the plan then it all fell apart when they came across the locked security gate. They could have shot their way through the gate to capture and complete the plan. They could have torn the walls up with the Dishkas they had truck mounted. They decided instead to burn the place.
    What I find interesting about the events of Sept 11, 2012 is that no weapon fire was exchanged inside the compound. I repeat NO WEAPON FIRE EXCAHNGED INSIDE THE COMPOUND. None of the KIA were killed by gunfire, even at the CIA annex building.
    No member of the Benghazi mission staff or diplomatic security fired one shot inside the compound (source-Senate report).
    Two ex CIA contractors who wrote a book on Benghazi (13 hours in Benghazi) and were part of the annex relief force who responded first, claim that they only fired their weapons after retrieving the body of Sean Smith out of the burning building and gathering up all the remaining survivors inside the compound at the main building. That gunfire and rpg fire came from outside the compound and was ineffectual fire but it was at that point they decided to leave ambassador Stevens behind and make good their escape.
    I point this out because it stands in stark contrast to the political distortion and lies that occurred and were fed into by media talking heads and monied interests. One of the first books to be published about the battle in fact claimed that the defenders shot dead up to 100 attackers while they held out out in the vain hope that the president would be sending help. I forget the name of that book. There were people who claimed that this attack had been “pre-planned”, weeks, even months in advance. There is no proof of that.
    There have been many claims about Benghazi that have failed to stand any real test of scrutiny. I suspect that the kidnap theory is another one of those wild stories. I have not seen it in any of the reports published thus far and it is but a new twist on an old postulated (and in my opinion bloviating) kidnap hypothesis. I would not give it another thought as credible.

  • Arjuna says:

    @irebukeu thanks for the detailed responses.
    The CIA backed terrorists refers to the muj writ large to include Pashtuns guerilla, NA types and forerunners of the Taliban and not just bin Laden, his Saudis and the Office of Services Peshawar people around Azzam. You’re right. The only thing old Binnie ever liked about US was our weapons haha
    Then, as now in Syria, we are trying to arm moderates allied with radicals and that’s a losing proposition prone to blowback.
    The plot to kidnap and trade for Aifia is very Zawahiri and Libyan Ansar Al Sharia guy was supposedly tasked w it. This was referenced in some Arab English media reports but drowned by the hype in America. As we are seeing and more and more around the world, they like their hostages. I wouldn’t put this rationale past them. A captured ambassador would have been a big prize.


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