An Egyptian militant group inspired by al-Qaeda has claimed credit for a pipeline explosion in the Sinai Peninsula and for the assassination of a senior police officer in Cairo.
Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, or Champions of Jerusalem, says it was behind the pipeline explosion south of the Sinai city of el-Arish early this week, as well as the assassination of Maj. Gen. Mohammed el-Said. The group posted statements claiming credit for the attacks online, but the reports could not be independently verified.
In claiming credit for the assasination, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis said they intended to punish Egypt’s military leaders and that the attack on the pipeline was part of a war against the “Egyptian regime’s economy.”
The most recent attacks come less than a week after Islamist militants downed an Egyptian military helicopter in the Sinai, apparently by using a surface-to-air missile for the first time in that region. The attack raised concerns about the safety of civilian airline traffic around the southern Israeli resort city of Eilat, as the flight approach to the Eilat airport comes close to Sinai foothills on the Egyptian side of the border.
The possibility of militants shooting down a civilian airliner is one of the top concerns for Western and Israeli security officials. Three days after the downing of the helicopter, Gen. David Petraeus, the former commander of U.S. Central Command and head of the CIA, spoke at a conference in Tel Aviv, where he said, “shooting down a helicopter with an apparent shoulder-fired missile is a big deal. As you know, that was always our worst nightmare, that a civilian airliner would be shot down by one.”