On Monday, Egypt’s most dangerous militant group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, pledged their allegiance to ISIS.
CAIRO — They have slaughtered hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and police officers, recruited experienced fighters and staged increasingly sophisticated raids from the Western desert to the Sinai Peninsula. They have beheaded informants and killed an American in a carjacking, say Western officials familiar with intelligence reports.”
Controversy over the veracity of their new alignment quickly brewed over on social media with various reports suggesting the claims might be false while others confirmed the new allegiance, the latest intelligence confirmed the latter.
Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (ABM), which means Champions of Jerusalem in Arabic (almost every article offered a different interpretation), is the first international jihadist group to declare loyalty to ISIS. The announcement came as a major blow in the ongoing rivalry between ISIS and Al Qaeda.
Elements of the Egyptian militant group still remain loyal to Al Qaeda, which has a long standing history/influence in Egypt. In lieu of their vow to ISIS, which until now had no presence in Egypt, officials anticipate a riff in ABM, citing their pledge as a potential catalyst capable of splitting the group into two separate camps, with the Nile Valley faction remaining loyal to Al Qaeda. Certain ABM leaders argued that ISIS might have a negative effect on their campaign against the military-backed Egyptian government, by isolating youth with its brutal tactics instead of galvanizing support.
ABM is estimated to have anywhere from hundreds to a few thousand fighters in its ranks. And this latest announcement has sparked fear that the militant group will alter its focus from Egyptian military targets to Egyptian civilians, adopting tactics ISIS has implemented in the territory they control in Syria and northern Iraq.
A recent video released by ABM shows the Egyptian militant group beheading four men, identified as civilians, accused of spying for Israel. The footage was similar to beheadings released by ISIS and and comes as a response to Israeli crackdowns on ABM militants in northern Sinai and along its border.
Egypt is the most populous country in the Arab world, and was extremely active during the Arab Spring of 2011. Those protests managed to remove President Honsi Mubarak after 30 years of autocratic rule. In the wake of his ouster, the country experienced its first free parliamentary elections, and elected Muslim Brotherhood leader, Mohamed Morsi, as president. Morsi was ousted in a coup d’etat in 2013, and replaced by former general Abdel Fattah el-Sisi after the 2014 elections.
ABM has revolted against the Egyptian military partly because of its removal of the former Islamist leader by general Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
As ISIS continues to consolidate its reign as the world’s premier jihadist group – accumulating wealth, weapons and resources in its conquests – groups like Ansar Beit el-Maqdis will only be more likely to reach out to establish new sources of financial and military backing.