The Islamic State affiliate in Egypt, the Province of Sinai, pledged allegiance on Wednesday to the group’s new leader via its Amaq publishing outlet.
The pledge comes amid renewed attacks against the Egyptian Armed Forces and the Union of Sinai Tribes in eastern Sinai since last week, following a period of decline over the past months during which the militant group had been subject to a government offensive.
Amaq shared photos of 30 masked Province of Sinai militants carrying various weapons in what it described as an act of “pledging allegiance to the commander of the faithful, Sheikh Abu al-Hassan al-Hashemi al-Qurashi.”
Pledges to the new leader of the militant group started flowing in on March 10, one day after the Islamic State acknowledged through its weekly outlet Al-Naba that its former leader Abu Ibrahim al-Qurashi was killed. Qurashi was killed in Syria a month earlier during a US commando unit raid on his hideout.
However, the pledge from the Egyptian affiliate came later than the rest of the parent organization’s “provinces.” The delay came in light of the significant decline in the Province of Sinai’s activity in recent months, as they continued to lose territory to the Union of Sinai Tribes, a collection of tribes in the peninsula who fight alongside the military.
But there has been an uptick in the activity of the Province of Sinai in recent weeks as they have claimed responsibility for attacks against the Armed Forces and the Union of Sinai Tribes in Bir al-Abd and Rafah. These include bombing a military bulldozer in the village of Tofaha, located to the south of Bir al-Abd, as well as four-wheel-drive vehicles belonging to the union in the village of Shaybana, to the south of Rafah, using explosive devices.
The militant organization claimed that the attacks resulted in the deaths and injuries of union fighters, which the latter denied in a statement, saying that the Province of Sinai is using such announcements to raise morale, following the surrender of some of its members in the past period.
The union also announced killing one of the militants but did not provide further details. A source close to the union told Mada Masr that the militant was killed during a reconnaissance operation near the village of Joura, to the south of Sheikh Zuwayed.
The source also denied the Province of Sinai’s claim about deadly confrontations having happened near Shaybana, but they noted that the union discovered last week evidence of the militants’ previous presence in that area.
While official data regarding Armed Forces members dying in Sinai has been absent for months, local media reported this week the killing of four soldiers — three from the Armed Forces and one from the police. They were: Hamdy Hamdan, from Luxor; Diaa al-Sabbagh, from Kafr al-Sheikh; Mohamed Hany al-Shahat, from Sharqiya; and Mahmoud Gamal Anwar, from Assiut.