Egyptian jihadist group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis denied Sunday that its leader has been killed, after security sources said the group’s commander Shadi al-Menei had been shot dead in an ambush.
The group also denied Menei was its leader, in a statement published on Islamist militant Internet forums accompanied by a picture of him reading a report about his “death” on a laptop.
The picture could not be immediately authenticated.
Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, based in the Sinai Peninsula, has spearheaded attacks that have killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers since July 2013 when the army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.
“As the military suffers losses in its ranks, it claims illusory great victories,” the statement said.
“They announced that they killed Shadi al-Menei and that he was the emir (leader) of the group. He was neither killed nor was the emir.”
The al-Qaeda-inspired group has previously announced the deaths of its operatives and senior commanders, sometimes even before the authorities did.
It said in the statement the authorities have not even identified its leader, who the group said “is safe.”
The Egyptian army has poured troops and armor into the restive peninsula to stamp out jihadists, killing several senior commanders.
The jihadists have spread out from Sinai to attack police in the mainland, bombing security headquarters in Cairo and the Nile Delta city of Mansoura.
But attacks are down since their peak in late 2013 and early 2014.
Police have killed or arrested their main operatives in the Nile Delta who bombed the security quarters in December and January and assassinated a senior police commander.