In a statement posted to jihadist forums on Nov. 19, Ansar Jerusalem (Ansar Bayt al Maqdis) claimed responsibility for the Nov. 17 shooting attack on Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Mabrouk, a senior national security officer, in Cairo. According to the statement, translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, the attack on Mabrouk was conducted in response to the arrest and interrogation of Muslim women by Egyptian security forces.
Mabrouk, who was reportedly investigating Islamist extremists, was denounced by Ansar Jerusalem as “one of the top tyrants of State Security.” The attack on Mabrouk is “part of the series of operations entitled ‘Release the Female Prisoners from the Hands of the Tyrants’,” Ansar Jerusalem said.
The Sinai-based jihadist group revealed that its Mu’tassim Billah Battalion was responsible for the attack. The battalion is tasked with attempting “to liberate the female prisoners and to pursue who[ever] participated and contributed in capturing them, from officers and individuals of the Interior Ministry,” the statement said.
According to AFP, the battalion’s name is likely “a reference to a 9th century Muslim caliph who is said to have fought the Byzantine Empire to avenge the capture of a Muslim woman.”
The group further called on Egyptians to act. “What are you waiting for after the arrest of your women and the transgression against your honor[?] Rise to defend your honor even if your lives go with it,” the group said. In late October, Egyptian security forces detained 22 female members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
In its statement, the jihadist group warned that its fighters are “lying in wait [to strike] those like” Mohammed Mabrouk if detained Muslim women are not released. The group said it is prepared to receive “through electronic communications any information that helps us in tracking those tyrant criminals who participated in imprisoning our sisters.”
Last week, General Mohamed Farid el Tohamy, the head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Service, warned that some Sinai jihadists had made it to Cairo, the Nile Delta, and upper Egypt. He claimed, however, that these cells are being monitored by Egyptian authorities.
Since the ouster of Mohammed Morsi on July 3, there have been at least 250 reported attacks in the Sinai Peninsula, most of which were against Egyptian security forces and assets, according to data maintained by The Long War Journal. Since July, the number of attacks has declined each month. November, which has already seen 26 attacks, is currently on pace to surpass October’s total, however.
Ansar Jerusalem has also conducted a few attacks outside of its normal base of operations in North Sinai in recent months. 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. And on Oct. 19, the Sinai-based jihadist group targeted a military intelligence building in the city of Ismailia.
In the face of continued Egyptian military operations in the Sinai, Ansar Jerusalem has shown that it is adapting rather than folding.
Ansar Jerusalem, which was founded by Egyptians, is thought to be behind most of the recent attacks originating from the Sinai, according to Israeli intelligence. The group, which is said to recruit within Egypt and abroad, has claimed credit for a number of attacks against Israel over the past two years, including an attack on Sept. 21, 2012.
The deadliest attack was the Aug. 18, 2011 assault on a bus traveling near the border with Egypt in Eilat, which resulted in the deaths of eight Israelis and at least seven terrorists. Three Egyptian security personnel were also accidentally killed in the crossfire. In addition, Ansar Jerusalem has taken credit for a number of attacks against the Arish-Ashkelon natural gas pipeline as well as numerous rocket attacks against Israel.
On Oct. 15, 2012, the group threatened to attack Israel for the targeted killing of Abu al Walid al Maqdisi, the former emir of the Tawhid and Jihad Group in Jerusalem, and Ashraf al Sabah, the former emir of Ansar al Sunnah. The two men were said to be leaders of the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem.
On Jan. 11, a video released by Ansar Jerusalem stated: “Here in Egypt, the fortress of the Ummah, the light of victory has begun to shine, and the light of dawn has appeared in the horizon. The Ummah has begun preparing for the moment to attack the occupying entity and get rid of its evil.”
In March, the group issued a statement during President Obama’s visit to Israel, which it called a “cancerous tumor.” The jihadist group said that the visit’s timing “has important implications” and accused “America and the Crusader West” of intervening in the so-called Arab Spring “to change the natural direction of these blessed revolutions, and prevent[ing] the Muslim peoples from achieving their true freedom and implementing their Islamic Shariah.”
More recently, on Aug. 9, four members of Ansar Jerusalem who were preparing to fire rockets towards Israel were targeted and killed. On Aug. 10, Hussein Ibrahim Salem al Tihi, from the Tiyaaha tribe, and Yusri Muhaareb al Saraarkah, Ibrahim Khalaf al Munei’i, and Muhammad Hussein al Munei’i, all from the Sawaarkah tribe, were buried following an extensive funeral procession. Some of the slain jihadists were wrapped in al Qaeda flags, while vehicles in the procession had the black flags attached as well.
On Sept. 10, Ansar Jerusalem declared that “it is obligatory to repulse them [the Egyptian army] and fight them until the command of Allah is fulfilled.” In the same statement, the group took credit for a number of attacks on Egyptian security personnel in the Sinai Peninsula. Similarly, on Sept. 15, the Salafi jihadist group declared: “We in Ansar Jerusalem and all the mujahideen in Sinai in Egypt as a whole stress that the blood of innocent Muslims will not go in vain.” And on Sept. 28, Ansar Jerusalem released a video that included footage from some of its recent attacks on Egyptian security forces in the Sinai Peninsula.