Al-Qaeda Linked Ansar Al-Jihad in the Sinai Peninsula Strikes Again
On Sunday, a pipeline in Egypt that supplies gas to Israel was attacked for the 12th time in a year.
Ansar al-Jihad in the Sinai Peninsula has claimed responsibility for the attack. According to the group, the attack on the pipeline was retaliation for the death of Mohammad Tihi, the group’s leader, in an Egyptian prison on Saturday.
Ma’an News Agency reports that Tihi “masterminded attacks on a police station in el-Arish and carried out bombings of gas pipelines from Egypt to Israel and Jordan.” In addition, “Egyptian authorities accused him [Tihi] of killing a police officer and planning to bomb security offices and other targets.”
Ansar al-Jihad in the Sinai Peninsula announced its formation in late December 2011 and claimed responsibility for a number of the earlier attacks on Egypt’s gas pipeline with Israel. In January, the group swore allegiance to Al-Qaeda’s emir, Ayman al Zawahiri. A US intelligence official told The Long War Journal that “Al Qaeda in the Sinai has been establishing ties with the Gaza-based Salafist groups and is seeking to coordinate operations.” The terrorist group has also claimed responsibility for the attack near Eilat in August, which killed 8 Israelis.
Bill Roggio sums up the worrying situation in the Sinai:
Security in the Sinai Peninsula has deteriorated since the popular uprising last winter that resulted in former President Mubarak’s ouster. Hundreds of Islamists, many from Ayman al Zawahiri’s Egyptian Islamic Group, have been freed from prisons, and some are thought to have returned to support terror groups.
…Many analysts predicted that al Qaeda would be weakened after the death of Osama bin Laden, as Zawahiri is perceived to be unpopular in many jihadist circles. All of al Qaeda’s affiilates, however, including al Qaeda in Iraq, Shabaab, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, have sworn allegiance to Zawahiri. Furthermore, there have been no reports of major disagreements within the jihadist leadership or the rank and file over Zawahiri’s succession to bin Laden’s role as emir.