Egypt Terror Group Gives Tourists Two Days to Get Out

Based in Sinai and celebrating al-Qaeda, Ansar Jerusalem has emerged as a prolific and lethal force, striking targets across Egypt, including near the Israel border where a tourist bus exploded Sunday.

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Khaled Desouki / AFP / Getty Images

Tourists depart Egypt via the Taba Land Port crossing on Feb. 18, 2014, two days after a tourist bus exploded in the Egyptian south Sinai resort town near the border with Israel.

Ansar Jerusalem, a shadowy but prolific terrorist group based in Egypt’s lawless Sinai Peninsula, has announced it carried out the bombing of a tourist bus near the crossing to Israel on Sunday – and warned tourists across Egypt to leave the country “before it’s too late.”

Ansar, also known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, has emerged as the most formidable and deadliest among a half-dozen extremists groups that announced themselves in the Sinai after the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. The tempo, ferocity and range of its attacks increased sharply after July 3 last year, when Egypt’s military ousted the country’s then President — the Muslim Brotherhood official Mohamed Morsi, an Islamist elected as Mubarak’s successor. In its statement warning tourists to leave Egypt by Thursday (Feb. 20), Ansar said the bus bombing was “part of our economic war attacks on this traitorous hireling regime, which plundered the nation’s wealth.”

Analysts say Ansar Jerusalem, which translates as “Supporters of Jerusalem,” is thought to field a few hundred fighters, drawn mainly from radicalized members of Sinai’s northern Bedouin tribes, who have historically resented Cairo for its neglect of the region. But posts identifying the group’s “martyrs” include Egyptians from the Nile Delta north of Cairo, and its leaders are thought to include militants who escaped Mubarak’s prisons during the chaos of his overthrow. Its videos hark to al-Qaeda, showing the group’s black flag, and dubbing specific attacks “compliments” to Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian physician who has headed the group since the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011. Zawahiri has nodded to Ansar Jerusalem in his own videos, referring to “our people in Sinai.”

The Egyptian government equates Ansar with the Muslim Brotherhood, which it outlawed as a terrorist organization following a traumatic Dec. 24 bombing for which Ansar took responsibility. But the groups appear to be quite separate — Long War Journal notes one Ansar member, Ahmed Waji, saying in a video that he joined because the Brotherhood proved too moderate in power. But both groups seek the removal of the military-backed government which, in driving the Brotherhood underground, has erased the distinctions made by the groups themselves.

What’s clear enough are Ansar’s capabilities. Its earliest operations targeted Israel – including the audacious Aug. 18, 2011 attack that breached the national border and left eight Israelis dead, as well as seven attackers and three Egyptian soldiers. Inside Egypt, Ansar Jerusalem took credit for 14 attacks disabling the pipeline feeding natural gas to Israel. The group also fired rockets at the Israeli resort city of Eilat, on the Red Sea, and a September 2012 attack that killed an Israeli soldier guarding construction of a better border fence. Israel has struck back at least once, killing five Ansar fighters last August in a rare drone strike inside Egypt.

But after Morsi’s removal, the group trained its sights on Egypt. Since the day of the coup, when Ansar issued a fatwa declaring Egyptian soldiers as infidels, Long War Journal counts 305 attacks, “many” carried out by the group. It appears largely unaffected by the arrival of an Egyptian military strike force in late July, posting videos of an Oct. 7 car bombing of a south Sinai police station, the Nov. 20 attack that killed 11 Egyptian security forces in a bus convoy and, in late January downed a military helicopter with a shoulder-fired missile. The implications of that strike on civil aviation were branded “a big deal” by former CIA director David Petraeus. Sinai has long been awash in arms, with Bedouin smugglers ferrying munitions from the Sudanese border to the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian enclave controlled by Hamas. The missile seen in the video of the downed helicopter was presumed to come from the looted armories of Libya, but the New York Times reported this month that it was a more advanced SA-16 seen in Syria and Iraq.

Most immediately worrying for Egyptians is Ansar’s demonstrated ability to reach past government checkpoints to strike in mainland Egypt. The group sent a car bomb that narrowly missed killing Egypt’s interior minister in Cairo on Sept. 5 and has struck in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia and in Mansoura, north of Cairo, killing 16. It attacked an officer who was investigating the group, and on Jan. 24 alarmed the capital by bombing Cairo’s main police building.

By targeting tourism, a leading source of much-needed hard currency, the militants are bruising an industry that’s already in serious trouble. Against a record 14.7 million international visitors in 2010, before the unrest began, Egypt saw a slump to 11.5 million in 2012, and only 9.5 million last year. Between Sunday’s bus bombing and the explicit threat to foreign tourists, it’s hard to see the numbers going anywhere but down.

28 comments
Enrico Satria
Enrico Satria

well its back to the Malay Emergency all over again

Allen Engebretsen
Allen Engebretsen

Islam does teach that "infidels" must be killed in defense of Islam.

btt1943
btt1943

All tourists must get out of Egypt within 2 days? Such insane warning from an insurgent group can only expedite the decadence of an ancient nation. Chaotic Egypt is digging its own economic grave, gradually relegating itself to third world. Unfortunate yet true.  (boontee)

Fatma Magdy
Fatma Magdy

This is a Muslim Brotherhood & Al Quayda affiliated terrorist group. All terrorism started following the ouster of the MB president Morsy. Violence & assassinations is part of their extremist & zealot ideology. As an Egyptian Muslim I am so relieved that our revolution of 30/6 was backed by our army & that we succeeded in ridding Egypt of these terrorists & their affiliated militant groups. They are assassinating our police officers on a daily bases & planting bombs but some how & for some reason the Western media is failing to report these incidences !!

Emma Coleman
Emma Coleman

m­­y c­­o-wo­­rker's si­­ster-i­­n-la­­w ma­­kes... $8­­3 an hour o­­n t­­he inte­­rnet ....... Sh­­e h­as bee­n f­­ire­­d fo­r ni­ne mo­nth­s b­ut la­st mon­th he­r pa­yche­ck was $1­978­2 just wo­rking on the in­ternet for a fe­w hou­rs. look here.............................. w­w­w.­t­e­c­­3­0.­c­o­m

Mohamed Abou Elghiet
Mohamed Abou Elghiet

this group belongs to the Central Intelligence in Egypt(many believe so) in order to justify for whatever illegal government does as far as oppression and human rights violations

Richard Kohli
Richard Kohli

What about our US soldiers that are stationed around Sharm el Shiek, part of the Multinational Forces and Observers?

Haneefah Gayle Gililland
Haneefah Gayle Gililland

Islam does NOT teach believers to kill innocent people. Any Muslim that does will be in hellfire. :(

David James Papa
David James Papa

Too bad would one day love to visit Egypt but this definitely keeps it on the back burner for me ... damaging tourism will ultimately lead to greater poverty and suffering for the majority of non-radical persons in the country

Tony Owusu
Tony Owusu

What lessons can be learned by other "Arab Spring" countries about the challenges they face after ousting their dictators. Are we ready to admit that not every country is ready for democracy? Some countries need dictators to keep them together. Turns out Egypt and Libya are two of them.

Youness Moustaoui
Youness Moustaoui

haha please tell me why al qaida is always bombing Irak,liban, egypte....and never israel. are these "islamofascists" so stupid that they are killing other "islamofascists" ,what is the motive mister Brian ?

Silvana Machado
Silvana Machado

evitar zona de risco,os próprio Povo do Egito pedindo.para que os turista saiam do País.

Brian Shane Byrne
Brian Shane Byrne

No surrender to Islmofascists trying to drag the world back into the 7th century.

Nicole Shipley
Nicole Shipley

It's absolutely terrible that humans threaten, hurt, and kill other humans.