A series of attacks today, starting with a car bombing that targeted the Cairo Security Directorate, killed at least six people and injured many more. According to Egyptian authorities, the attack at the security directorate left at least four people dead and dozens more injured. The bombing came only a few hours after the Sinai-based jihadist group Ansar Jerusalem (Ansar Bayt al Maqdis) had issued an audio warning.
In the message, an Ansar Jerusalem official identified as Abu Osama al Masri urged Egyptian security personnel to repent and save themselves. “If you can escape with your weapon then do that. Otherwise, you know that soldiers are dealt with as one bloc. We will target you as we target your leaders,” al Masri said.
Witnesses told Reuters that gunfire was heard following the explosion. Some Egyptian media reports, however, suggested that the gunfire occurred prior as security forces attempted to stop the car from reaching the security directorate. According to McClatchy, “the attackers struck at 6:40 a.m. when officers were changing shifts, creating a security gap.”
After the bombing, which also damaged the nearby Islamic Museum, security forces shut down all roads surrounding the Interior Ministry in Cairo, state-run MENA reported.
The bombing at the security directorate was followed by three other attacks today. A couple of hours after the security directorate bombing, a “crude explosive device” was thrown at security vehicles in nearby Giza, Reuters stated; at least one person was killed and nine others injured. A third explosion was later reported, near a police station in the Haram area of Giza, according to the New York Times. And in the afternoon, a fourth explosion that reportedly killed at least one person took place near a movie theater in the capital.
Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim said the bomber of the Cairo Security Directorate belonged to a jihadist organization and that the bombing would increase the resolve of authorities to continue their efforts to eliminate terrorism, al Masry al Youm reported. Meanwhile, Egyptians who gathered at the site of the main explosion chanted anti-Muslim Brotherhood slogans, including “The people want the execution of the Brotherhood.”
Yesterday, unidentified gunmen killed five Egyptian policemen and wounded two others in a shooting attack in Beni Suef. That attack, as well as today’s bombing in Cairo, has thus far gone unclaimed.
Today’s attack in Cairo comes exactly one month after an Ansar Jerusalem suicide car bombing attack outside the Daqahliya security directorate in Mansoura killed over a dozen people and injured over 130 more. The Mansoura attack came roughly a day after Ansar Jerusalem called on members of the security forces to repent and leave their positions. Ansar Jerusalem concluded its message by warning that those in the security forces who did not leave would have no one to blame but themselves. “[W]e are the most resolute and determined to carry out the command of Allah and His Messenger to do jihad against you and fight you until all the religion is for Allah,” the group declared.
In its claim of responsibility for the Mansoura attack, Ansar Jerusalem said it would continue to fight and reiterated its warning for Egyptian Muslims to stay away from buildings associated with the security forces. The group, which has issued such warnings since at least September, stated in an Oct. 21 communique that police and military headquarters “are legitimate targets for the mujahideen.”
Since July 3, there have been more than 275 reported attacks in the Sinai Peninsula, most of which were carried out against Egyptian security forces and assets, according to data maintained by The Long War Journal. A good number of these attacks, including the Nov. 20 car bombing that killed 11 Egyptian security personnel, have been claimed by Ansar Jerusalem.
Attacks by Sinai-based jihadists, Ansar Jerusalem specifically, have also taken place in the Egyptian mainland. On Sept. 5, the jihadist group used a suicide car bomber in 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. On Oct. 19, the Sinai-based jihadist group targeted a military intelligence building in the city of Ismailia in another car bombing. And on Nov. 19, the group claimed responsibility for the shooting attack on Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Mabrouk, a senior national security officer, in Cairo.
The al Furqan Brigades, which are not believed to be based in the Sinai, have also claimed responsibility for a number of shootings and rocket attacks in the Egyptian mainland since Morsi’s overthrow. In contrast to Ansar Jerusalem, the group has yet to claim responsibility for any large car or suicide bombings.
Ansar Jerusalem, which was founded by Egyptians, is the dominant jihadist group operating in the Sinai Peninsula today. The group, whose fighters are often seen with the al Qaeda flag, has claimed credit for a number of attacks against Israel and Egypt over the past two years.
In September 2013, Ansar Jerusalem, which releases material through the jihadist forums of Al Fajr Media Center, al Qaeda’s exclusive media distribution outlet, declared that “it is obligatory to repulse them [the Egyptian army] and fight them until the command of Allah is fulfilled.” Recent reports in the Egyptian media have suggested that Ansar Jerusalem may have links to Muhammad Jamal and the Muhammad Jamal Network [MJN], which were added to the US government’s list of designated terrorists and the UN’s sanctions list in October 2013.
Jamal, whose fighters have been linked to the Sept. 11, 2012 Benghazi terror attack, is said to have established “several terrorist training camps in Egypt and Libya” with funding from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
In late November, in response to a Long War Journal query on whether the State Department believes there is a connection between the Muhammad Jamal Network (MJN) and Ansar Bayt al Maqdis, a State Department spokesman said: “We have no comment on the inter-relationships between MJN and the other Sinai groups.”