Egyptian army near AI-Arish in the sinai peninsula _Reuters Egyptian army near AI-Arish in the sinai peninsula _Reuters

‘Sinai State’ dream collapses with death of Baghdadi

Wed, Jul. 12, 2017
CAIRO – 12 July 2017: “We announce to you the expansion of the Islamic State to new countries, to the countries of the Haramayn (Saudi Arabia), Yemen, Egypt, Libya, Algeria,” Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi said in a 17-minute audio message in November 2014.

“We announce the acceptance of the pledges of allegiance of the brothers who swore loyalty to us in these countries... and the appointment governors,” al-Baghdadi added.

He also called on the region’s jihadists to pledge their loyalty to the Islamic State, to “join the state nearest to them,” and to submit themselves to their authority.

Back in November 2014 and before Baghdadi’s message, a number of masked fighters appeared in a video titled “Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM) swears allegiance to IS,” vowing to fight “infidels” in Arab countries and the West.

On April 14, 2014, the Court of Urgent Matters officially labeled ABM a terrorist organization.

Egypt, led by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, launched a counterterrorism campaign. The “Egypt Fighting Terrorism” campaign was initiated by al-Sisi in 2014. Egypt designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group in 2013 after prosecution investigations proved members of the Brotherhood were involved in several terrorist attacks targeting judges, army soldiers and security figures.

Egypt launched many air strikes against militant holdouts in Libya, in coordination with the Libyan authorities. Egypt joined the international coalition combating terrorism led by the United States, in addition to Egypt’s own efforts.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates pledged new measures against Doha following the Gulf country’s refusal of their initial list of 13 demands to resolve the Qatar embargo.

Last month, the four Arab states severed diplomatic ties and transport links with Qatar, accusing the oil-rich Gulf state of supporting terrorism and maintaining close ties with Iran. Doha has denied the accusations.

President al-Sisi vowed to continue fighting terrorism and extremism in the region. The alleged death of al-Baghdadi may affect negatively the cohesion and unity of the militants in Sinai. Usually, terrorist groups suffer from a lack of coordination and cooperation after their leaders are killed.

The al-Qaeda organization lost its strength after the murder of Osama bin Laden. Observers expect IS will suffer the same fate if al-Baghdadi’s death is confirmed.

As a result, militants in the Sinai may flee to other countries, seeking shelter under a new leadership. The IS militants in Iraq, following the complete liberation of Mosul announced by Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Sunday, may flee to other strongholds and look for new leaderships to reunite themselves.

Egypt “has spared no effort” to combat terrorism and extremism in the past three years, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told the U.S.’s most senior military commander in the Middle East last February.

Earlier in May, during the Arab-Islamic-American Summit in Riyadh, al-Sisi said that eradicating terrorism means putting an end to their sources of financial and ideological support.

Al-Sisi said that tackling terrorism thoroughly means confronting “those countries that supply, train, arm and provide political and ideological cover to terrorists.”

On Saturday, Egypt‘s army killed 44 militants in North Sinai, after an Egyptian military camp was attacked and 26 soldiers were assassinated.

Egypt‘s quick retaliation reflects the rapprochement of defeating the extremist ideology. Most probably, extremists get their confidence from their alleged leaders. Accordingly, the murder of al-Baghdadi, as per IS “caliph“, would result in losing faith by his supporters in Egypt.

Therefore, declaring Sinai as an “IS state” is doubtable amid circulated reports about death of al-Baghdadi.

Whatever the case may be, the new stronghold will never be Egypt amid al-Sisi’s sincere endeavors to fight and combat terrorism.
However, we shall illustrate the entire situation so as to judge the importance of al-Baghdadi‘s death as an end of IS in the region.

Terrorist attacks by IS in Egypt
On January 29, 2015, a series of deadly attacks involving car bombs, mortar fire and ambushes targeted several military and police sites in North Sinai. At least 44 people, including military and police personnel, as well as civilians, were killed and 105 others injured in the attacks.

This was the first major terrorist attack carried out by Wilayat Sinai, which had previously been ABM before pledging their allegiance to IS. The group claimed responsibility for the attacks via a Twitter account, saying, “We executed extensive, simultaneous attacks in the cities of Al-Arish, Sheikh Zuwayed and Rafah.”

The group said it was retaliating against a government crackdown on supporters of former President Mohamed Morsi.

On October 31, 2015, Metrojet flight 9268 crashed shortly after taking off from Sharm el-Sheikh on a charter flight to St. Petersburg, Russia. There were no survivors among the 224 passengers and crew aboard the Airbus A321. IS claimed responsibility for that terrorist act.

In the 12th issue of their publication titled “Just terror”, IS revealed how it downed the plane and published a photo of the bomb and passports belonging to some of the passengers, which they said they had collected after the plane fell.

On December 11, 2016, a suicide bomber blew himself up at the St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church in Abasseya, killing up to 25 people, mostly women and children, and injuring many others, according to an IS video recording.

On April 9, 2017, two suicide bombings took place on Palm Sunday at St. George’s Church in the northern Egyptian city of Tanta in the Nile Delta, and Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, the principal church in Alexandria and seat of the Coptic papacy. At least 45 people were reported killed and 126 injured. Amaq News Agency said the attacks were carried out by an IS security detachment.

On May 26, 2017, masked gunmen opened fire on a convoy carrying Egyptian Coptic Christians in Minya, Egypt, killing at least 28 and injuring 26.

On July 7, 2017, IS claimed responsibility for killing 26 Egyptian soldiers in Rafah, North Sinai.

ABM attacks in Egypt before it joined IS
In February 2013, ABM claimed responsibility for a suicide attack in Taba, near the Israeli border, that killed two Korean tourists and their Egyptian bus driver.

On August 31, 2013, authorities in the Suez Canal said that a “terrorist” had staged an unsuccessful attack on a container ship passing through the canal in an attempt to disrupt the flow of ships through the waterway. The attempt failed completely and there was no damage caused to the ship or the containers it was carrying. Had the attempt to block the canal succeeded, it would have had an immediate strategic effect on global energy prices and would have dealt a significant blow to the Egyptian economy and prestige.

On September 5, 2013, Egypt's Interior Minister, Mohamed Ibrahim, survived an assassination attempt when a bomb detonated near his convoy in northeast Cairo. ABM claimed responsibility for the attempted assassination.

On December 24, 2013, deadly bombings hit the Daqahliya security directorate in Mansoura in the Nile Delta, killing 12 people and injuring 134 others in what seemed to be the worst terrorist attack since the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi.
On July 24, 2014, at least 21 Egyptian soldiers were killed and four injured in the New Valley attack, when armed gunmen attacked a border checkpoint in the New Valley governorate.

In August 2014, ABM beheaded four Egyptians, accusing them of being spies for Israel. The group released a video of the slayings, which was similar to IS productions. The IS released a video showing the beheading of James Foley, an American journalist, one week earlier, and it is likely that ABM’s own recording was inspired by the Islamic State’s gruesome display.

On October 24, 2014, a suicide car bombing killed 31 soldiers and left scores wounded at a checkpoint near Al-Arish in Sinai. On the same day, gunmen shot and killed an officer and wounded two soldiers at another checkpoint near the town.

IS ties with Hamas

The Sinai Peninsula may offer the best example of direct cooperation between the Muslim Brotherhood and IS. Hamas, the Palestinian offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Wilayat Sinai have increasingly cooperated against the Egyptian government, which has ramped up military operations against both groups since 2013, Reuters reported on June 6, 2015.

Egypt has flooded dozens of Hamas’s smuggling tunnels beneath the Gaza-Egypt border, and Egyptian courts have debated declaring Hamas a terrorist organization. Following meetings between the Hamas leadership and the Egyptian government in March 2016, Hamas denied any links to the Brotherhood, Doha-based Al-Jazeera reaffirmed.

In February 2015, US Director for National Intelligence James Clapper said IS could muster “somewhere in the range of between 20,000 and 32,000 fighters” in Iraq and Syria. But he noted that there had been “substantial attrition” in its ranks since US-led coalition air strikes began in August 2014.

In June 2015, US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said more than 10,000 IS fighters had been killed. To help mitigate the manpower losses, IS has turned to conscription in some areas. Iraqi expert Hisham al-Hashimi believes only 30% of the group’s fighters are ideologues, with the remainder joining out of fear or coercion. A significant number of IS fighters are neither Iraqi nor Syrian.

In October 2015, National Counterterrorism Center Director Nicholas Rasmussen told Congress that the group had attracted more than 28,000 foreign fighters. They included at least 5,000 westerners, including approximately 250 of them Americans, he said.

Origins of IS
The Islamic State – also known as ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh – emerged from the remnants of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), a local offshoot of al-Qaeda founded by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2004. It faded into obscurity for several years after the surge of U.S. troops in Iraq in 2007. But it began to reemerge in 2011. Over the next few years, it took advantage of growing instability in Iraq and Syria to carry out attacks and bolster its ranks.

The group changed its name to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in 2013. ISIS launched an offensive on Mosul and Tikrit in June 2014. On June 29, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the formation of a caliphate stretching from Aleppo in Syria to Diyala in Iraq, and renamed the group the Islamic State. In August 2014, the United States started to carry out airstrikes against ISIS.

On October 17, 2016, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the mission to retake Mosul.
On July 10, 2017, al-Abadi officially announced the liberation of Mosul.

Death of Baghdadi

IS announced on Tuesday the death of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and that the group will shortly announce his new successor.

The statement continued calling its members to be stable in their strongholds, and not to be dragged behind the sedition, demonstrating the possibility of internal problems inside the group.

This came following arrival of the Iraqi prime minister to Mosul on Sunday to congratulate the armed forces on their victory over IS after eight months of urban warfare, bringing an end to three years of jihadist rule in the city.

The battle of Mosul dragged on for about nine months, causing a lot of damage to the city, the death of civilians and more than 920,000 displaced people.
 
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