Egypt says head of Islamic State affiliate in Sinai killed
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Egypt says head of Islamic State affiliate in Sinai killed

Airstrikes reportedly take out 45 members of Ansar al-Bayt al-Maqdis group, including commander Abu Duaa al-Ansari

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Members of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis in the Egyptian Sinai read out sentences before they behead four men accused of spying for Israel, August 2014 (screen capture: YouTube)
Members of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis in the Egyptian Sinai read out sentences before they behead four men accused of spying for Israel, August 2014 (screen capture: YouTube)

The Egyptian Army said Thursday that it killed the leader of an Islamic State affiliated group in the Sinai Peninsula, along with dozens of his jihadist fighters.

In an Arabic statement posted to its Facebook page, the army said it carried out airstrikes near the town of the al-Arish, the provincial capital of North Sinai.

Forces killed Abu Duaa al-Ansari, the leader of the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis group, during “direct surgical strikes against strongholds” based on intelligence information, the army said.

Weapons, ammunition, and explosives were also destroyed in the attack, and dozens of fighters wounded, according to the statement.

A photo shared by the Egyptian military shows a weapons cache seized from IS-linked jihadists in the Sinai Peninsula, July 2, 2015. (Facebook/Egyptian army)
A photo shared by the Egyptian military shows a weapons cache seized from IS-linked jihadists in the Sinai Peninsula, July 2, 2015. (Facebook/Egyptian army)

“This confirms the successful undertakings of the armed forces to avenge our martyrs and the determination to track down and prosecute all terrorist elements and their leaders wherever they are,” the army said.

The Egyptian army has been battling to quell a four-year insurgency in the Sinai, which has grown fiercer since the group known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, founded in 2011, switched its allegiance to the Islamic State terror group late in 2014.

Last week, Egyptian media said an aerial attack by military helicopters on an Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis camp near the border town of Rafah killed 25 militants and wounded 15 others.

That attack was in response to the killing days early of an Egyptian police major in al-Arish, later claimed by IS.

The jihadist group’s Egypt affiliate has killed hundreds of policeman and soldiers in Sinai.

Jihadists have kept up the attacks in Sinai, mostly roadside bombings and ambushes, despite a massive military campaign to uproot IS from the eastern peninsula bordering Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Smoke rises in Egypt's northern Sinai, as seen from the border of the Gaza Strip, amid fierce clashes between government forces and Islamic State-affiliated gunmen on July 1, 2015. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Smoke rises in Egypt’s northern Sinai, as seen from the border of the Gaza Strip, amid fierce clashes between government forces and Islamic State-affiliated gunmen on July 1, 2015. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Most of the group’s attacks have targeted security forces, but it has also attacked Egyptian Christians and tourists.

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has strong ties to the Hamas terror group, which rules Gaza. Channel 2 television reported in June that a senior commander of IS forces in the Sinai made a secret visit to the Gaza Strip to meet with Hamas terror leaders, in order to expand their cooperation and coordinate attacks on Egyptian and Israeli targets.

Shadi al-Menei, one of the founders of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, met with leaders of the Hamas military wing and discussed the ongoing supply of weapons sought by Hamas, the report said.

AFP contributed to this report.

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