In the latest Assynt Report, Stirling Assynt examines the rising risk to Egypt posed by Islamic State-affiliated Ansar Jerusalem.
Egypt’s Army said that it killed the leader of Islamic State (IS)-affiliated Ansar Jerusalem (AJ) group and 45 other militants near the capital of the North Sinai Governorate, al-Arish, on 4 August. The group confirmed his death on 18 August.
As this demonstrates, the Government’s security operations in Sinai continue to undermine AJ’s capabilities and significantly constrain its ability to strike at either civilian or military targets, with several attacks on checkpoints in North Sinai failing to cause significant casualties in recent weeks.
However, the authorities’ ongoing efforts to weaken AJ in the Sinai are likely to only diminish the group temporarily. AJ has a long history of operating on the peninsula, and its strong relationships with local tribes will ensure that it remains a dominant presence.
Moreover, security force operations will continue to fuel grievances among local communities in the Sinai, for instance over the lack of economic opportunities, in ways that feed AJ’s insurgency.
For example, residents in the North Sinai cities of Rafah and Sheikh Zuwaid complained on 13 August that up to 80,000 people were “under siege” due to a military blockade which had prevented food and medicine reaching the town for five days.
In addition, the Army is unlikely to be able to maintain its current surge given the Government’s fiscal challenges, and so AJ will rebuild its capabilities once military operations draw down.
The threat of attacks targeting security forces, and to a lesser extent Westerners, will then increase as AJ seeks to demonstrate its continued strength and respond to the offensive against it.In addition, the death of AJ’s leader raises the possibility of the group seeking to carry out a high profile attack in the coming weeks to take revenge for his death and to demonstrate that the group remains capable.
Stirling Assynt is a global intelligence network headquartered in London and run by a team of professionals with significant government and commercial sector experience.
The Assynt Report offers a predictive, analytical political and security risk briefing service, based on up-to-the-minute monitoring of both open and commercial information sources, including unrivalled reporting on jihadists movements around the world.