ESW Week in Brief: June 15–21, 2019

06/21/2019 . By TIMEP

Summary

  • Wilayat Sinai released a short video stating their continued allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, and naming a new senior figure, Abu Jafr al-Ansari.
  • Wilayat Sinai claimed two attacks on the Egyptian army in North Sinai this week.
  • Mada Masr reported that three of the 11 civilians kidnapped last week by unknown militants returned to their homes after two days in captivity. According to reports on Twitter, Sheikh Muhammad Abu Qardod and his son were kidnapped by Wilayat Sinai near the city of Bir al-Abd in a separate incident.
  • Lieutenant General Muhammad Zaki, Egypt’s minister of defense, met with unnamed “senior military officials from different countries” at the International Paris Air Show.

Wilayat Sinai Renews Pledge of Allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

On June 19, Wilayat Sinai released a video just under six minutes in length. In the video, the group renewed their pledge of baya, or allegiance, to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his Islamic State group. A new figure, Abu Jafr al-Ansari, was identified by name in the video, though his organizational role remains unclear. In November 2018, the group released a video entitled “The Path of Reason,” which confirmed that Wilayat Sinai’s previous leader, Abu Osama al-Masry, had been killed in an airstrike. Abu Osama al-Masry had been referred to as the group’s emir, but that title was not given to Abu Jafr al-Ansari in the new video.

Periodic reports have emerged of various Wilayat Sinai leaders being eliminated in counter-terrorism operations. On January 27 this year, the Egyptian military spokesman announced that two Wilayat Sinai leaders had been killed in an airstrike. Even prior to Wilayat Sinai’s video in November, Abu Osama al-Masry had been suspected to have been killed in a June 2018 airstrike.In April, Wilayat Sinai had prefaced one of its attack claims by referencing a campaign of revenge in response to its parent organization’s territorial defeat. Although both Wilayat Sinai and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria reference one another’s activities in publications, the level of operational coordination between the two groups remains unclear.

Wilayat Sinai Claims Two Attacks Against Egyptian Army

On June 15, Wilayat Sinai claimed two attacks against the Egyptian army. Wilayat Sinai reported that an improvised explosive device (IED) wounded nine soldiers in al-Midan, a village  west of Arish. In Rafah, the group claimed that one of their snipers killed an Egyptian soldier, targeting the al-Masoura checkpoint. The al-Midan attack represented the first multi-casualty attack claimed by Wilayat Sinai since the June 5 raid on the al-Batal 14 checkpoint.

Three Kidnapping Victims Released But Kidnappings Continue

ِA Sinai Tribes Union Facebook page reported that three of the 11 civilians kidnapped last week had returned to their homes. No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings and the fate of the remaining eight civilians remains unknown.

On June 17, in a separate incident, a social media source said Wilayat Sinai militants kidnapped a sheikh, Muhammad Abu Qardod, and his son from the Aheyawat tribe from Abu Qardod’s farm, located near the site of last week’s kidnappings. Wilayat Sinai has claimed responsibility for abducting and executing tribesmen it suspects of having collaborated with the Egyptian army nine times throughout 2017; however, only one such instance was reported across 2018 and 2019.

Defense Minister Attends Air Show in France; Will Meet Russian Counterpart Next Week

Al-Masry Al-Youm reported that Egyptian Defense Minister Lieutenant General Muhammad Zaki met with unnamed “senior military officials from different countries” at the International Paris Air Show. Egypt’s military spokesman later confirmed Zaki’s attendance at the exhibition and said that he had met with French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly.

Between 2013 and 2017, France surpassed the United States as the largest arms exporter to Egypt. The International Paris Air Show displays and demonstrates a variety of both civilian and military aircraft. The event is organized by a subsidiary of the French aerospace trade association, Groupement des industries françaises aéronautiques et spatiales (GIFAS).

Zaki and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry will reportedly meet with their Russian counterparts next week.