Al Qaeda affiliate grows in Egypt
An al-Qaida-inspired group has emerged as Egypt's biggest terrorist threat in a decade, after a week in which its members claimed responsibility for shooting down a military helicopter, assassinating a senior policeman, and exploding a huge bomb outside Cairo's police headquarters.The same group also attacked Egyptian forces when Morsi was President so the suggestion of revenge rings hollow. They are another group of Islamic religious bigots who want to impose their weird religious beliefs on everyone in and out of Egypt. They re what is wrong with radical Islam.
Ansar Beyt al-Maqdis (ABM), or Champions of Jerusalem, first emerged in 2011, amid a security vacuum caused by the fall of Hosni Mubarak. Based in the isolated northern Sinai desert, next to the Israeli border, ABM's operations expanded drastically after the Islamist ex-president Mohamed Morsi was overthrown in July 2013.
But what began as a Sinai-based insurgency now seems to have spread to the Egyptian heartland, with ABM now capable of increasingly sophisticated attacks both in and outside the peninsula.
"They are the premier terrorist threat to Egypt, both in Sinai and on the mainland," said Zack Gold, a Sinai-focused analyst, and author of apaper on militancy in the region. "They have advanced their capabilities from fighting primarily a battle of survival in Sinai to targets west of the Suez [canal] that include car bombs and assassinations."
So far ABM's primary targets have been limited to police and soldiers, in what they say is revenge for the security forces' suppression of Islamist dissidents following Morsi's ouster, and for the army's ongoing counter-insurgency in Sinai. In September, they attempted to kill Egypt's police minister. They successfully assassinated a senior secret policeman in November, and a month laterkilled a dozen policemen at a security headquarters in northern Egypt.
This steady series of attacks grew more frantic this week with a bomb blast in the heart of Cairo, the assassination of an aide to the police minister, and the downing of an army helicopter in Sinai with the help of a sophisticated portable missile launcher – known as Manpads.
The latter, which were not previously known to exist in Sinai, caused military analysts significant alarm. While ABM has shown no prior interest in targeting tourists, whose custom is essential to the livelihood of many Sinai tribes, Manpads can bring down commercial airliners.