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A show of force
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 06 - 08 - 2014

The Al-Qaeda-inspired extremist group Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis released a video of a sermon for the Eid Al-Fitr holiday delivered by one of its leaders, Abu Osama Al-Masri, through its Twitter account last week.
The faces of all of the militants who appeared in the video were concealed. The same was true of Al-Masri, but his name was identified in the video's titles and description.
Al-Masri was wearing a white robe and his head was wrapped in a kaffiya. In the filmed sermon, Al-Masri refers to a number of deaths in the ranks of the Sinai-based terrorist group.
“It is the law of God on earth,” he said, adding that he would continue to wage jihad against what he described as “tyrant rulers.”
His speech was delivered before dozens of the group's members, who were themselves surrounded by armed militants who were securing the area, seemingly in North Sinai.
Members were shown carrying weapons, from light arms to RPGs. There were also four-wheel-drive vehicles equipped with half-inch guns, and an anti-aircraft guns, its barrel pointed into the sky.
Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, labelled as a terrorist organisation by the Egyptian government, is at the forefront of militant groups that have targeted the police and army in terrorist operations since the ousting of former president Mohammed Morsi last July.
Among its operations, the group claimed responsibility for an attack on the military intelligence building in Ismailia last October, last December's blast in the Al-Daqahleya Security Directorate in Mansoura, a failed assassination attempt targeting Minister of Interior Mohammed Ibrahim and the downing of a military helicopter in Sinai in January.
“I urge you to remain steadfast in our stance because it is a test from God,” Al-Masri said, addressing the members of the group. “They were killed and imprisoned in order to raise the banner of Islam and to implement the law of God,” he said, referring to members who have been killed or arrested.
Al-Masri also promoted jihad through his speech in an attempt to recruit new members. What was happening in Gaza was “a test from God,” he said, adding that Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis had not “fallen short of their Palestinian brothers in their war against the Jews.
“We have not and will not forget our brothers in Gaza. I ask the oppressed Muslims in Gaza to pardon us, since what prevents us from helping are the tyrant rulers who block the borders between us,” Al-Masri said.
Earlier, the group uploaded another video in which it claimed it had attacked Israel with rockets launched from Sinai.
Al-Masri addressed residents of Sinai, saying, “We will not relinquish our fight for retribution for the blood of Sinai's people or our martyrs. We will fight until the implementation of Sharia law in the region until the last drop of our blood.”
He also expressed support for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and prayed for its victory. Al-Maqdis is the first significant radical Muslim organisation to officially announce its support for ISIS.
The daily Al-Masry Al-Youm quoted Sabra Al-Qasimi, a former jihadist, as saying that the group wanted to deliver a message that would show off its military capabilities during the Eid prayer.
“It has been seeking to establish an Islamic caliphate in Sinai for a long time, ever since the rule of ousted former president Hosni Mubarak. It increased its strength under toppled president Mohammed Morsi, who allowed it to arm itself,” Al-Qasimi said.
Meanwhile, army spokesman Mohammed Samir announced the deaths of four terrorists in Sinai on Sunday. “The armed forces raided hotbeds of terrorist and extremist elements in northern Sinai, resulting in the deaths of four terrorists after an exchange of fire. Ninety-three individuals were also arrested for immigration reasons,” Samir said.
The video recording, made in the Sinai desert, was a deliberate challenge to the army and a show of force, commentators said.
Viewers of the video expressed their anger at terrorist elements being able to use a public area for such purposes without the intervention of the army or police.
“They show off their weapons and vehicles, but where are the army troops,” asked one. “Our army will eliminate you. You know nothing about Islam,” said another.
Al-Qasimi said the army had already killed a large number of militants in Sinai. “One of the reasons behind urging Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis to publish the video was in order to confirm that they were still there,” he said, adding that the group could be trying to imitate ISIS by recruiting members of Sinai tribes to fight against the state.
Last month, the group distributed flyers against the armed forces and calling for support in villages south of Sheikh Zuwaid in North Sinai. The flyers urged the villagers to cooperate with it, claiming that it was seeking the “establishment of religion.”
It said it sought the establishment of Sharia law in the country of Islam, where virtue was carried out and vice was prevented.
“If you are not with us, at least do not be against us,” the flyers read.


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