Islamic State claims a new ally in Egypt
An Egyptian army armored vehicle stands on the on the Egyptian side of border town of Rafah, northeast of Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014. (AP / Ahmed Abd El Latif, El Shorouk Newspaper)
Maamoun Youssef, The Associated Press
Published Monday, November 10, 2014 7:46AM EST
Last Updated Monday, November 10, 2014 2:39PM EST
CAIRO, Egypt -- Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, a jihadi organization based in the Sinai Peninsula that has carried out a series of attacks targeting Egyptian security forces, has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.
The announcement reflects the growing regional appeal of the Islamic State, an al-Qaida breakaway group that has carved out a self-styled caliphate in Syria and Iraq and demanded the loyalty of the world's Muslims.
Later Monday, pledges from militants in Libya and Yemen also surfaced online. The separate pledges-- one in an audio recording and another in a statement-- carried no known names of militant groups in either country, instead referring generally to the "holy warriors" in the two countries.
The Associated Press could immediately verify the authenticity of either statement, but they both made local references, followed a format similar of the Egyptian message and urged other Muslims to show loyalty to the Islamic State group's self-styled Caliph, or leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Iraqi officials said Sunday that al-Baghdadi had been wounded in an earlier airstrike, though the group has not commented on the report.
The Egyptian militant group's announcement pledging loyalty to Islamic State leader came in an audio speech posted late Sunday on its official Twitter account and a militant website. Last week, the group had used the same Twitter account to deny reports saying it had pledged allegiance to al-Baghdadi.
The unknown speaker in the recording released Sunday says Ansar Beit al-Maqdis decided to join the Islamic State group, "whose emergence resembles a new dawn raising the banner of monotheism."
The speaker said al-Baghdadi was "chosen by God" to establish a new caliphate after "Muslims suffered decades of humiliation."
"Therefore, we have no alternative but to declare our pledge of allegiance to the caliph ... to listen and obey him ... and we call on all Muslims to pledge allegiance to him," the speaker says.
The speaker goes on to urge Egyptians to rise up against what he called "the tyrant," apparently referring to President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who was elected earlier this year after leading the military overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July 2013 amid massive protests demanding his resignation.
Since then, Sinai-based militants have carried out scores of attacks mainly targeting soldiers and police, including a co-ordinated assault last month on an Egyptian army checkpoint that killed 31 troops.
No known group has claimed responsibility for that attack, which prompted the army to declare a state of emergency in parts of northern Sinai, where radical groups have long tapped into local grievances. The attack also led the army to begin demolishing homes along the Sinai border with the Gaza Strip in order to combat smuggling tunnels.
In a separate statement posted on its Twitter account, the group said the Egyptian army was bent on emptying the border town of Rafah and turning it into army barracks to "protect their masters, the Jews, from the blows of the mujahideen, and to blockade Gaza."
Neither statement referred to the earlier denial that the group had pledged allegiance to al-Baghdadi.
Egypt long has sought to link the radical Sinai group with Morsi's now-banned Muslim Brotherhood, accusing both of being behind the wave of violence since his ouster.
But the Ansar Beit al-Maqdis statement took a veiled shot at the Brotherhood, saying: "Peaceful means and infidel democracy are not of any benefit to you."
The Brotherhood, which publicly renounced violence decades ago and has condemned the recent attacks, won a series of elections following the 2011 uprising that toppled long-ruling autocrat Hosni Mubarak. But the Islamist group later alienated many Egyptians, who accused it of monopolizing power.