The Islamic State - Sinai Province

FormedJanuary 2011
DisbandedGroup is active.
First AttackJuly 2012: IS-IP claimed responsibility for blowing up a gas pipeline that exports to Israel and Jordan. (No reported casualties). [1]
Last AttackOctober 31, 2015: October 31, 2015: IS-IP claimed that it shot down a Russian charter jet in Egypt because of Russian airstrikes in Syria. This attack was not confirmed, but the Russian government says that a bomb caused the attack and an Islamic State affiliate was responsible. (224 killed) [2][3]
UpdatedFebruary 28, 2016

Narrative Summary

The Islamic State - Sinai Province (IS-IP), is a Salafi jihadist group that formed in Egypt and the Gaza Strip in 2011. [4] After authoritarian president Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power in Egypt in 2011, tribal communities in Sinai, which claimed that they were oppressed by the Egyptian government, drove security forces out of the region. In this power vacuum, members of the region’s active militant population joined the militant group Al-Tawhid wa’al-Jihad to merge and form IS-IP. [5]  IS-IP shares a similar ideology as Al Qaeda (AQ) and declared themselves AQ’s wing in the Sinai in 2011. [6] However, despite sharing similar ideology, IS-IP and AQ were never formal affiliates. [7] [8]

IS-IP first gained international recognition in July 2012 when it attacked an Egyptian pipeline that exported gas to Jordan and Israel. [9]  IS-IP additionally perpetrated two attacks against Israel in August and September 2012. First, IS-IP members fired rockets from Sinai to Eliat, a resort southern Israel. Later, they attacked an Israeli border patrol in response to the release of the American YouTube video titled “Innocence of Muslims” [10]. The IS-IP attack was part of a larger  protest across the Islamic world against the “Innocence of Muslims” trailer for its depiction of the Prophet Muhammad as a bloodthirsty and corrupt ruler. [11]

After the Egyptian military removed the Mohammed Morsi in 2013, IS-IP focused its attacks on the Egyptian police and army in retaliation for the Egyptian security forces’ suppression of Islamist groups. [12] In 2013, the group was responsible for a suicide bombing that targeted the South Sinai Security Directorate, killing three people and injuring 45. [13] IS-IP has also targeted government officials, including a high profile assassination attempt on the Egyptian Interior Minister in 2013. [14]

IS-IP continued to have an active and violent presence in the Sinai in 2014, even being called “Egypt’s most dangerous militant group” by the New York Times for their sophisticated attacks on military camps in eastern and western Egypt. [15] On July 19, an attack in western Egypt killed at least 21 Egyptian soldiers; on October 24, 2014, the organization killed an additional 31 soldiers in a deadly car bombing. [16] These attacks allude to a more skilled and experienced IS-IP fighting force that has been recruited since 2011[if !supportAnnotations][KP1][endif] . [17]  

 In October 2014, the Egyptian military began to crack down on IS-IP in counter-terror operations. To avoid direct contact with the better-equipped Egyptian army, IS-IP turned to attacks via remote targeting and booby-trapping, such as roadside bombs. [18]  In December 2014 alone, IS-IP planted 21 bombs along roads in Northern Sinai, killing four Egyptian security forces and wounding 24 others. [19] 

IS-IP made international headlines in November 2014 when the organization pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) in a nine-minute audio speech released on Twitter. [20] By declaring allegiance to IS, it is believed that IS-IP will receive resources such as weapons, oil, and money, allowing them to perpetrate additional attacks against the Sinai and Gaza Strip. [21]  [22]

Leadership

  1. Kalam Alam (Unknown to January 2014): Alam, the reported leader of IS-IP, was killed in an Egyptian counter-terror operation in January 2014. [23]
  2. Shadi al-Meneai (Unknown to May 23, 2014): A spokesman for the Egyptian Army, Colonel Ahmed Mohammed Ali, announced Meneai was killed by Egyptian forces in May 2014 on his official Facebook page. However, in an official communiqué, IS-IP has claimed both that Meneai was not the leader of the organization and that he is still alive. [24]
  3. Ibrahim Mohammed Farag Abu Eita (2011 to December 2013): Also known as Abu Suhaib, Farag was the first reported leader of IS-IP. He was killed by the Egyptian military in North Sinai in 2013.[25]
  4. Ahmed Salam Mabruk (2012 to Present): Since his release from prison in 2012, Egyptian officials suggest that Mabruk is a senior leader of IS-IP. He has strong ties to Al Qaeda and was a member of al-Gama’s al-Islamiya, an active Egyptian extremist group in the 1990s. [26]

Ideology & Goals

From it’s beginning, IS-IP espoused a similar ideology AQ aiming to liberate Muslims from Western oppression based on radical Islam. [27] While also supporting a Sunni interpretation of Shariah law, IS-IP has never been an official affiliate of AQ. IS-IP generally maintains a local focus in their goals, perpetrating attacks primarily in the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip. A main goal of the organization is to drive the Israeli government from Jerusalem. [28]  After the removal of Muslim Brotherhood candidate President Mohammed Morsi in 2013, IS-IP changed the focus of their attacks to Egyptian security and police forces as revenge for the oppression of Muslim militants during the Morsi regime. [29]

IS-IP is also believed to be attempting to establish an Islamist province in the Sinai Peninsula run by the Islamic State. [30]

Name Changes


Size Estimates

Designated/Listed

IS-IP has not been designated as a terrorist organization by an international body such as the United Nations or European Union.

Resources

It is suspected that the organization receives resources from sympathetic militant organizations outside of Egypt. On the eastern Egypt-Israel border, IS-IP reportedly utilizes smuggling tunnels into Gaza to receive weapons and critical aid; in response to the alleged threat, the Egyptian government evacuated and destroyed the homes of more than 1,100 families in this area in fall 2014. [38] To the west, IS-IP may receive funds from militant organizations in lawless eastern Libya. [39]

Since IS-IP declared allegiance to IS, IS is believed to share resources with IS-IP. IS is well funded from the seizure of oil wells and stolen money and weapons within Iraq. While it is not certain, analyst believe that some of these funds are funneled to help IS-IP with their mission in Egypt. [40] [41]

External Influences

No known external influences.

Geographical Locations

IS-IP is primarily based in the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt with cells of fighters on both sides of the Nile River. [42] [43]

IS-IP has also capitalized on the porous eastern border between Egypt and Israel to conduct attacks within the Gaza Strip. [44] [45]

Targets & Tactics

With the intense counterinsurgency crackdown by the Egyptian government, IS-IP is outmanned and outgunned by the Egyptian Army. [46] As a result, the organization relies primarily on remote targeting and booby-trapping to avoid direct confrontation with the Egyptian army. IS-IP employs tactics such as such as car bombs, suicide bombing, and assassinations, as opposed to armed assault. [47] [48] The sophistication of IS-IP attacks in late 2014, put Egyptian leaders in fear that IS-IP has informants within the Egyptian military.

IS-IP’s main targets lie within Israel and Egypt. Originally, IS-IP targeted Israelis and Israeli interests, stating in an official video that there is “no way Jerusalem will be free without the cleansing of Egypt from the agents of the Jews”. [49]

 [50] However, after Islamist president Mohammed Morsi was ousted, IS-IP shifted its focus to attacks on the Egyptian army and police force. [51]

IS-IP targets these security forces due to crackdowns on Islamist dissidents after the coup that deposed Morsi, and the army’s counterinsurgency operations in Sinai. [52] The organization has also targeted tourists, politicians, and has killed civilians in indiscriminate bombings within Egypt. [53] 

IS-IP consistently targets a gas pipeline that runs between Egypt, Israel, and Jordan. The organization has claimed over ten attacks on this pipeline since 2012. [54]

Political Activities

While IS-IP’s primary targets have been police and soldiers within Egypt, they also engage in political activity with assassination attempts on Egyptian politicians.

The most high profile attempt occurred in September 2013, when IS-IP failed to assassinate Egyptian Interior Minister, Mohammed Ibrahim. [55] While the attempt did not kill Ibrahim, the bomb deployed did kill a police member and 20 civilians. [56] Also in September 2013, the organization attempted to assassinate the Egyptian Police Minister. [57] One month later they succeeded in assassinating Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Mabrouk, a senior counterterrorism official in Cairo. [58]

In December 2013, the organization bombed the Police Headquarters in northern Egypt, killing 19 policemen. [59]

In 2014, IS-IP continued to leverage political assassinations against members of the Egyptian government. In January 2014, IS-IP attacked the Cairo Security Directorate with a car bomb, killing four people, including three policemen. [60]  Four days after this bombing, two IS-IP members on motorcycles assassinated General Mohmmad Said, an aide to the Egyptian Interior Minister.  [61]

Major Attacks

  1. July 2012: IS-IP claimed responsibility for a series of attacks on a gas pipeline between Jordan, Egypt, and Israel. (No casualties).[62]
  2. August 2012: IS-IP fired rockets from the Sinai into Eilat, a resort town in southern Israel. (No reported casualties).[63]
  3. September 2012: IS-IP attacked an Israeli border patrol, claiming that it was a response to a U.S.-produced film that insulted the Prophet Muhammad. (1 killed, 1 wounded).[64]
  4. September 2013: An IS-IP suicide bomber targeted an armored convoy, attempting to assassinate Interior Minister Muhammad Ibrahim. Ibrahim survived. (2 dead, 20+ wounded).[65]
  5. October 2013: IS-IP carried out a suicide bombing of the South Sunai’s Security Directorate in el Tor. (3 killed, 45+ wounded).[66]
  6. October 21, 2013: IS-IP attacked a military intelligence building in the town of Ismailia near the Suez Canal. (11 wounded).[67]
  7. January 2014: IS-IP used a missile launcher to down an Egyptian military helicopter in Sinai. (5 killed).[68]
  8. January 23, 2014: IS-IP claimed a Cairo car bombing and series of grenade attacks that targeted police forces and killed civilians. The truck bomb, which accounted for the vast majority of causalities. (6 killed, 70+ wounded).[69]
  9. February 2014: IS-IP bombed a tour bus in the Sinai Peninsula, killing the driver and several tourists. (4 killed, Unknown wounded).[70]
  10. July 19, 2014: IS-IP attacked a military base in western Egypt. (21 killed).[71]
  11. August 28, 2014: IS-IP released a video depicting the beheading of four Egyptian citizens. (4 killed).[72]
  12. October 24, 2014: IS-IP attacked Egyptian soldiers with a car bomb (31 killed).[73]
  13. December 2014: Throughout the month, IS-IP planted 21 bombs along routes taken by the army and security officials in north Sinai (4 killed, 24 wounded).[74]
  14. October 31, 2015: IS-IP claimed that it shot down a Russian charter jet in Egypt because of Russian airstrikes in Syria. This attack was not confirmed, but the Russian government says that a bomb caused the attack and an Islamic State affiliate was responsible. (224 killed).[75]

Relationships with Other Groups

Analysts have debated the nature of IS-IP’s relationship with several groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, AQ, and IS. Some claim that IS-IP is the militant wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. [76] Other analysts dispute this claim, saying that IS-IP instead is a militant alterative to the Muslim Brotherhood, seeking to draw disenfranchised Brotherhood members away from the group. [77] In their declaration of allegiance to IS in November 2014, IS-IP condemned the Muslim Brotherhood’s attempts at democracy in Egypt by stating, “shameful peace will do you no good, nor will blasphemous democracy, and you have seen how it has claimed its upholders and their masters.” [78]

In November 2014, IS-IP declared allegiance to IS on their official Twitter page. The formal relationship between the groups is still unclear, but it is believed that IS provides IS-IP with weapons, money, and supplies. [79]  

In addition, there is speculation about the relationship between IS-IP and AQ. While the two groups share a similar ideology, they were never formal affiliates. [80] [81] Until Ayman Zawahiri, AQ’s leader, mentioned “our people in the Sinai” in January 2014, there had not even been confirmation that AQ recognized IS-IP. [82] IS-IP’s declaration of allegiance to IS could indicate a split between AQ and IS-IP. Some IS-IP cells in the Nile Valley remain loyal to AQ, which could possibly divide the group into two factions: one that remains loyal to AQ and one that is newly loyal to IS. [83]

Finally, while there has been no confirmation of a link, IS-IP may coordinate with Palestinian groups in Gaza. [84] In September 2013, Egyptian Major General Ahmad Abd al-Halim stated that IS-IP is part of a larger organization working in the same sphere as Hamas. [85] In addition, IS-IP’s alleged use of smuggling tunnels along the eastern Egypt-Israel border is cited as a link with Hamas. [86]

Community Relationships

It is unclear how much the community in the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip support IS-IP. [87]  


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