As Egyptian security forces continue to battle Islamic militants in the northern Sinai, the jihadi group known as Ansar Beit al Maqdis purportedly has put out an audio message declaring its loyalty to the Islamic State.
The militant group claims to have vowed support for the IS group’s insurgents and its self-proclaimed caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Some media reports have speculated al-Baghdadi was hit by an airstrike this weekend and may have been injured or killed.
A voice on the recording cites a number of Quran verses to explain Ansar Beit al Maqdis' decision to support the Islamic State, which it says is waging a battle against “Jews and crusaders.”
The recording urges Egyptians to overthrow what it calls their “despotic” regime. It refers to President Abdel Fattah el Sissi as a “tyrant” whom it says has “spilled the blood” of their compatriots.
VOA could not independently confirm the message’s authenticity. It is also not clear if IS leader Baghdadi was hit in a coalition airstrike in western Iraq Saturday.
The Egyptian military, which is locked in a struggle with Islamic militants in the northern Sinai peninsula, said Monday it had killed seven militants in a counter-insurgency operation.
Ansar Beit al Maqdis has carried out a series of attacks on Egyptian security forces in recent months, prompting the Egyptian military to clear a buffer zone with neighboring Gaza. Its width is 13 kilometers or 8 miles.
Khattar Abou Diab, who teaches political science at the University of Paris, told VOA he believes many well-known Islamic militant groups, including Ansar Beit al Maqdis, are part of an international "jihadi" coalition that has both local and more global aims.
Most of the well-known Islamic militant franchises are branches of the same tree of global jihadism, Abou Diab said, linking al-Qaida, Jabhat al Nusra, the Islamic State, Ansar Beit al Maqdis, Ansar al Sharia and Boko Haram. He said each has its own aims and political agenda, acting with no real central authority guiding it.
Abou Diab also pointed out that the Ansar Beit al Maqdis group made its first appearance after the ouster of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. For this reason, he argued, the group is "in some way related to Morsi's overthrow."
Egyptian analysts close to the government have accused the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood group of ties to Ansar Beit al Maqdis. The Brotherhood has denied the charges.
Abou Diab insisted the Brotherhood and the government share an interest, albeit for contrary reasons, in exaggerating the group’s importance. The Brotherhood, he said, “wants to prove that the military cannot stabilize the country,” and the government “would like to prove that it is waging a world-wide battle against terrorism.”