In a statement posted to Facebook today, Egyptian army spokesman Ahmed Ali announced that recent operations by Egyptian security forces in the Sinai Peninsula have led to the deaths of 78 militants. Thirty-two of those killed were said to be non-Egyptians.
Ali stated that in addition to the 78 killed, another 203 have been arrested. Authorities have also successfully destroyed over 340 smuggling tunnels between Egypt and Gaza, the spokesman claimed.
Ali’s statement did not provide much detail regarding the claim that some of those arrested, killed, or injured were non-Egyptians. Reports over the past year have suggested that foreign jihadists with ties to Yemen, Somalia, Algeria, Libya, and Afghanistan, and other countries, are operating in the Sinai Peninsula.
Ali’s comments were issued about two weeks after he said that Egyptian security forces had killed 60 militants in the Sinai since the ouster of Mohammed Morsi in early July. And just last week, more than 20 Egyptian policemen were executed by Islamist militants in the Sinai. No group has taken credit for the attack.
Recent statements by jihadist groups in the Sinai
The army spokesman’s comments also come a day after the militant group al Salafiyya al Jihadiyya in Sinai released a statement, which was obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, calling on Muslims to fight the “apostate” Egyptian army.
Notably, last fall the group said: “[T]he army and the police are not our targets and that our weapons are directed at the enemies and the enemies of our Ummah the Jews.” More recently, in mid-May, the jihadist group said: “[T]he target of the Salafist Jihadist current in Sinai is the Zionist enemy and its operations are directed to them, and the Egyptian soldiers are not a target for us.”
In its recent statement, the Sinai-based group said the army’s crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Cairo was “barbaric.”
“It was a scene the likes of which you will almost never find, except in the Crusader wars,” the statement said. The group then listed a litany of “crimes” by security forces, including the siege on the al Fateh Mosque.
The jihadist group, which has previously accused the Egyptian army of lying about operations, denounced the military for “protect[ing] the interests of the West.” It also alleged in the statement that the United States “controls Egypt.”
The army is “preventing the rise of an Islamic regime in Egypt which rules according to God’s law and takes into consideration the interests of the Ummah, not the interests of America,” the statement charged. The Salafi jihadist group further charged that the army and police are “a sect at war with Islam that has declared loyalty to the enemies of Islam, the Jews and the Crusaders.”
Al Salafiyya al Jihadiyya in Sinai argued that the army “should [be] fought until it submits to the command of Allah.”
“Fighting it has become an obligation to repulse the aggressor who attacks the lives, possessions, and honor of Muslims. They must be fought until they stop their harm stop standing being between the people and God’s law,” the statement continued.
The jihadist group, which issued a statement in November 2012 questioning why the army did not fight Israel during Operation Pillar of Defense, used the recent statement to urge security personnel with “an iota of faith or morality” to leave their organizations or else face the potential of being targeted.
“So men of Islam in Egypt, what are you waiting for before you raise arms in defense of your religion, your lives, and your honor?,” the communique asked, before stating: “Humiliation is in abandoning jihad. Dignity only returns with Jihad.”
Al Salafiyya al Jihadiyya in Sinai, like other jihadist groups, including al Qaeda, also denounced the “futility of the malicious democratic model.”
“Religion was lost because of this approach,” the group said. The statement urged Egyptian Muslims to adopt “jihad, the apotheosis of religion,” in order to protect fellow Muslims and defend Islam.
The group’s statement ended with a warning for members of the Egyptian army and police: “[E]xpect from us what hurts you. Just as we fought the Jews abroad, we will not leave their helpers on the inside.”
“The apostates, the Crusaders, the secularists, and the atheists have raised their banner in a war against Islam. The ranks of the people of faith are now coming together to raise the pure banner of Islam, the banner of ‘there is no god but God.’ Be of the supports of Allah,” it concluded.
The statement from al Salafiyya al Jihadiyya is the latest in a plethora of statements from jihadists in response to the ongoing crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.
On. Aug 17, jihadist ideologue Abu Sa’ad al ‘Amili posted a series of tweets to his Twitter account urging Egyptian Muslims to prepare for an “open war.”
Likewise, Abdullah Muhammad Mahmoud of the jihadist Dawa’at al-Haq Foundation for Studies and Research warned Egyptian Muslims, in an article posted to jihadist forums on Aug. 14, that “if you don’t do jihad today, then only blame yourselves tomorrow.”
And on Aug. 15, Abu Hafs al Maqdisi, the leader of the Gaza-based Jaish al Ummah (Army of the Nation), called on Egyptians to wage “jihad” against Egyptian army commander General Abdul Fattah el Sisi. Similarly, on Aug. 19, al Shabaab, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia, urged Egyptian Muslims to “pick up arms and defend yourself.”