Sinai Province: Egypt's ISIS Affiliate
The Islamic State’s affiliate in Egypt – known as Sinai Province – is one of the most effective ISIS branches, given its small fighting force and the large number of casualties it inflicts. In October 2015, the group claimed responsibility for bombing Russia-bound Metrojet Flight 9268, killing all 224 passengers.
The group is primarily active in Egypt’s North Sinai Governorate, with its stronghold in the town of Jabal Halal. It maintains cells in South Sinai, Cairo, Dakahlia, Matrouh, Qalyubia, and Ismailia. It has between 500 and 1,000 fighters in Egypt.
ISIS’s presence in Egypt stems from the country’s long history of jihadist groups. The Egyptian Islamic Jihad, founded in the 1970s, assassinated President Anwar Sadat in 1981. And al Gamaa al Islamiyya killed hundreds during its insurgency against the government in the 1990s.
But instability and the release of extremists after Mubarak’s ouster in 2011 contributed to the rise of new Salafi jihadist groups. Ansar Bayt Al Maqdis (ABM), or “Supporters of Jerusalem,” was responsible for much of the violence. The group, formerly affiliated with al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attempted assassination of the Interior Minister, the bombing of a military intelligence building in Ismailayya and a police compound in Mansoura, the killing of dozens of soldiers, and many other attacks. ABM group stepped up its attacks on the Egyptian government after President Mohamed Morsi was ousted in 2013, emerging as the most powerful militant group in Egypt. The group escalated attacks in October 2014, prompting the government to declare a three-month state of emergency to deal with the jihadist insurgency.
On Nov. 10, 2014, ABM pledged allegiance to ISIS and changed its name to Sinai Province. The decision reportedly created a rift within the organization, with many of its cells in the Nile Valley defecting to pro-al Qaeda offshoots. The Sinai Province has maintained a rocky relationship with these groups. It has at times accused them of apostasy, but has also occasionally called for reconciliation.
By the end of 2014, the group had killed hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and police, including more than 30 in one particularly deadly attack on an army camp. It often employed the same brutal beheading techniques used by ISIS. Sinai Province has received funding and sophisticated weaponry from ISIS.
Ahmed Salam Mabruk is one of the group’s senior leaders, though his exact role is unclear. A former operative of al Gama’a al Islamiya, another Egyptian jihadist group, he was imprisoned by Egyptian authorities in 1999 and released in 2012. Abu Osama al Masry, an Egyptian cleric, is often described as Sinai Province’s spiritual leader. Shadi al Menaie, a 26-year-old former smuggler from a prominent Sinai family, is one of the group’s military leaders.
Since declaring allegiance to ISIS, Sinai Province has continued to undertake deadly attacks despite the government’s efforts to stamp out the group. In the first half of 2015, the group carried out more than 700 attacks. In July 2015, ISIS-linked militants carried out multiple attacks on security checkpoints in northern Sinai in July 2015, killing 21 Egyptian soldiers.
Jan. 29, 2015: Sinai Province carries out a series of attacks in northern Sinai, killing at least 27 people.
May 20, 2015: Sinai Province reportedly releases a recording calling for violence against judges, blaming them for the crackdown on Islamists since Morsi’s ouster.
July 1, 2015: Sinai Province carries out simultaneous assaults on military checkpoints in Egypt’s northern Sinai Peninsula, killing dozens of soldiers.
July 16, 2015: Sinai Province attack an Egyptian frigate with a guided missile.
Oct. 31, 2015: Sinai Province claims responsibility for bombing a Russian passenger plane over the Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 on board.
Nov. 24, 2015: Sinai Province claims responsibility for a bombing that killed seven people at a hotel in northern Sinai.
Jan. 28, 2016: Sinai Province bomb an armored vehicle in al Arish, killing a colonel and three soldiers.
March 21, 2016: Sinai Province kills 15 policemen in a mortar attack in al Arish.
May 8, 2016: Sinai Province claims responsibility for an attack on a microbus that killed eight policemen.
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"The Islamists" is a book and website on the origins, evolution, and positions of Islamist movements in the Middle East. The movements are redefining the order and borders in the world’s most volatile region. Yet they have diverse goals and different constituencies. Sometimes they are even rivals. Read more