EGYPT – Under increasing pressure from the military, Egypt’s deadliest jihadist group pledged allegiance to the Islamic State organisation in a bid to boost recruitment and bolster its fight against the army, analysts say.
Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (Partisans of Jerusalem) has waged an insurgency from its Sinai Peninsula stronghold that has killed scores of Egyptian police and soldiers since the army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last year.
In response, the army has launched a huge operation in Sinai targeting jihadists and last month began building a buffer zone on the border with Gaza to stem the flow of militants and weapons from the strip.
The military announces the arrest or killing of alleged militants in Sinai on a near-daily basis, in claims which are not independently verified.
“(Ansar Beit al-Maqdis) seems to be looking to internationalise their position, perhaps in response to increasing pressure on the ground from the Egyptian security forces,” said Hisham Hellyer, senior fellow in International Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute in London.
The group’s announcement is the most significant show of support for IS in the region outside Iraq and Syria, suggesting its influence now rivals that of its once-dominant Al-Qaeda rivals.
“They (Ansar Beit al-Maqdis) are suffering from lack of resources as Egyptian security forces besiege Sinai,” said Eman Ragab, an expert on regional security at the Cairo-based Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.
“Pledging allegiance to IS would help gain the sympathy of youths who could be recruited from other groups, or help get logistical support from IS itself.” (read more)