May 19, 2016 Special Dispatch No. 6440

ISIS Campaign In Support Of Its Sinai Branch, Urges Egyptians To Join Its Ranks

May 19, 2016
Special Dispatch No. 6440

On May 5 2016, the Islamic State (ISIS) launched a campaign to support and encourage its branch in the Sinai Peninsula. The campaign consists of a series of videos published by the media offices of 14 ISIS provinces, mainly in Iraq and Syria. The videos featured ISIS fighters, with an emphasis on Egyptians, praising ISIS in Sinai, calling on it to remain steadfast, goading it to continue fighting against the Egyptian army, and lashing out at its ideological rivals among the Islamist movements in Egypt. The speakers in the videos stressed the strategic importance of Sinai as "the gateway to Jerusalem."

As has become customary in similar ISIS media campaigns,[1] the entire apparatus of media groups and activists that support ISIS sprang into action: According to coverage of the campaign in ISIS's official weekly Al-Naba', media groups produced 11 video clips, 3 nashids [songs], 282 posters and 49 articles. In addition to this came a torrent of social media postings by ISIS supporters disseminating the videos and other messages praising the Sinai province. For example, the pro-ISIS media group Al-Wafa' Foundation contributed 15 articles praising the ISIS Sinai province and lashing out at the Egyptian government.

Notably, Sinai province itself seems to be facing significant setbacks with regards to its own media operation and rarely releases new videos. [2]

It should be mentioned that ISIS leadership views the Sinai province as a key extension for the organization outside of its core area of control in Syria and Iraq. Indeed, the Sinai province is considered one of the most powerful and effective among these extensions thanks to its daily attacks on the Egyptian security forces and the downing of the Russian airliner (Metrojet Flight 9268), which had a global impact.[3]

Several explanations can be provided for the launching of the campaign at this time:

First, the campaign might be an indication that the Sinai province is facing hardships due to the Egyptian military's ongoing efforts against it. Second, the campaign, which calls upon Egyptians to join ISIS in its war on their government, may be an attempt to capitalize on the growing anti-government sentiments and on the recent uproar in Egypt caused by the announcement of a deal to hand over a pair of Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia. Third, it possible that ISIS sees a need to strengthen the extension in Sinai as a fallback, as it continues to lose territory in Iraq and Syria. Fourth, it is likewise possible that ISIS's media apparatus decided to tout Sinai as a major front of jihad as part of an effort to direct new recruits there, in light of the difficulties foreign volunteers are facing in entering Syria.

The following report will review a selection of the videos and articles in the ISIS campaign: 

Threats To The Egyptian Military

A video produced by the Salah Al-Din province in Iraq features two fighters, Abu Qaswara Al-Masri - an Egyptian, and Abu Omar Al-Maqdisi - likely a Palestinian from Gaza, who called on the members of ISIS in Sinai to remain steadfast and continue targeting the Egyptian army and the Jews in Israel. They urged the Egyptian people to join the mujahideen in Sinai and swear fealty to the "Caliph" Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. 

Addressing the soldiers and officers in the Egyptian army, Al-Masri said: "We advise you to repent before we manage to find you. If we find you, there will be no other [fate] but beheading for you. There will be no mercy for you and you are aware of that. You have seen what the soldiers of the caliphate have done with your colleagues and you will see. I advise you to repent. I am a truthful advisor to you." He then promised to liberate the prisoners in Egypt with guns, as opposed to with petitions and appeals. 

The video also condemned the leaders and members of the Muslim Brotherhood who were described as "deviants and bankrupt" and criticized the newly-announced plan by Saudi Arabia to build a bridge to Egypt. "As for the bridge which Al-Saloul [derogatory term describing the ruling family in Saudi Arabia] are planning to build to support the tyrant of Egypt Al-Sisi, it will turn against them and will be the gate through which the mujahideen will manage to conquer the Arabian Peninsula," Al-Maqdisi said. 

A video produced by Al-Furat' province [which comprises of the area around the towns of Albu Kamal in eastern Syria and Al-Qa'im in western Iraq] features young ISIS fighter from Sinai, Abu Al-Bara' Al-Sinawi, who warned "the soldiers of the tyrant" and threatened that they will be killed if they do not repent. Al-Sinawi is then shown beheading a young man who was accused of planning to join the anti-ISIS Sahawat ("Awakening") militias in Iraq. 

ISIS Experience In Iraq - Inspiration For Sinai

In an attempt to provide inspiration and encouragement for the members of ISIS operating in the Sinai, a video produced by Al-Anbar province in Iraq compares the peninsula to that Iraqi region. The narrator in the video notes that ISIS in Sinai has benefited from the experience from jihadi groups in other fronts, especially in Al-Anbar, which has similar characteristics to those of the Iraqi desert in terms of the landscape, the tribal character of the local population and so on. Two fighters in the video speak of the history of ISIS in Al-Anbar in order to inspire their comrades in the Sinai. They describe how it began operating with a handful of men and grew under harsh conditions into a formidable force with many recruits. This video also featured archival video footage of an Egyptian suicide bomber named Abu Muslim Al-Masri, who carried out an attack in Al-Anbar three years ago, as another means of inspiring Egyptians to join jihad.

ISIS operative from Al-Anbar 

The video from Ninawa province in Iraq featured a fighter named Abu Suhaib Al-Ansari who praised ISIS in Sinai for targeting the Egyptian government and condemned the Muslim Brotherhood for taking part in the political process in Egypt and for insisting on being peaceful. 

Abu Omar Al-Ansari, another ISIS fighter who appeared in the video told ISIS fighters in Sinai to target the Egyptian government and "spill their blood and communicate with them with guns and explosives and turn them into corpses with bombs." He then called on Muslims everywhere and especially those in Gaza to join the "soldiers of the Caliphate" in Sinai.[4] He urged the people in Sinai to support the mujahideen, saying: "In a few days, you will see the result of the clear conquest after you have seen the result of dignity and empowerment. The victory is coming soon." 

Israel - Sinai Province's Next Prey

In the video from Dijlah province, Iraq, an unidentified fighter threatened Israel, saying it will be ISIS Sinai's next prey Sinai after it is done fighting the apostates in Egypt. Addressing his comrades in Sinai he says: "You are fighting today in Sinai and the Jews are a stone's throw away from you. They are enraged and terrorized by what you are doing with their tails, the apostates [the Egyptian army], not because they love them but because they are scared for themselves, and because they know they are the prey that awaits, which you will finish off after the apostates, Allah willing."  Another fighter stressed that ISIS in Sinai is the "gate" to liberating Jerusalem: "Know that you are fighting today in the Sinai province, and the eyes of your brothers the mujahideen are directed toward you as you are the gateway to the liberation of Jerusalem, Allah willing. Know oh brothers of tawhid [monotheism] that the war is harsh, so prepare yourselves, roll up your sleeves and chop off the heads, and repel with your steadfastness the Crusader coalition and the Russians."  

ISIS speaker in video produced by Al-Jazirah province 

The video by ISIS in Al-Jazirah province, Iraq, also condemned the Saudi plan to build a bridge linking Sinai with Saudi Arabia, saying that "this project will fail like the other ones and will be a bridge through which the mujahideen will cross to the Peninsula of the Prophet Muhammad."

Image of Egyptian president Al-Sisi burning, featrued in Sinai media campaign 

After praising the mujahideen in Sinai, Abu Omar Al-Ansari, one of the fighters featured in the video, threatened the Jews, saying that their air jets, tanks, international support and agents on the ground will not be able to help them when they hide behind trees and stones, in reference to the hadith predicting a war between Muslims and Jews, during which trees and stones would call on Muslims to come kill the Jews who are hiding behind them. He also praised ISIS in Sinai for taking revenge on Russia for its bombing of Al-Raqqa. 

Abu Ahmad Al-Tunisi, a Tunisian fighter who also appeared in the video, urged the tribes in Sinai to support the mujahideen there, arguing they are working to help the local tribes; he also called on the people of Gaza to join ISIS Sinai. 

Condemnation Of Mainstream Islamists

The video by ISIS in Aleppo province, Syria, focused on condemning the Muslim Brotherhood and mainstream Salafis in Egypt for participating in the country's political process. Addressing the Muslim Brotherhood, one of the fighters who was featured in the video said: "You are the preachers for polytheism and falsehood, you are the ones who issued the fatwa for people to take part in the polytheist democracy, and you are the ones who issued the fatwa for people to vote for the pagan constitution, which puts sovereignty in the hands of the people instead of Allah." He added: "You have deceived your followers that [adhering to] democracy and entering the parliament will lead to [the implementation] of Islamic shari'a. Now, where is the shari'a, O enemies of Allah?!" He then called on them to repent. 

The video released by ISIS in Falluja province, Iraq, condemned the Saudi support for the Egyptian government, claiming that the Saudis have acted on behalf of the U.S. and Israel. Shams Al-Din Al-Masri, an Egyptian ISIS fighter who appeared in the video, said that the goal of the intended bridge between Sinai and Saudi Arabia is "to be a new source for the enemy's fire against the mujahideen in Sinai. Allah willing, it will only be the gate to conquering the land of the Peninsula, Mecca and Medina."

Poster accompanying video produced by Al-Khair province, Syria, showing the "road to Jerusalem" 

Egypt-Saudi Bridge Will Make It Easier For ISIS To Conquer The Arabian Peninsula

Al-Khair province (Dir Al-Zour), Syria, published a video titled "The Glint of Sword and Hope." The video features two main speakers - Abu Yahya Al-Homasi, and Abu 'Omar Al-Masri, who claims to be a former Egyptian soldier. The video praises ISIS Sinai, stressing that it scares Israel more than anything. The video features messages of support for ISIS Sinai and the promise that the Islamic State would soon spread towards Egypt, Bait Al-Maqdis (Jerusalem and Israel as a whole), and the Arabian Peninsula. The narrator in the video states that unlike various Palestinian factions, ISIS will not relinquish a single inch of Palestine, and that all of Palestine from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean Sea is Muslim land. 

Abu Yahya Al-Homasi stressed that he and his ISIS comrades yearn for the moment that they can fighter shoulder-to-shoulder with their colleagues in Sinai province against the Egyptian army and the Jews, in order to liberate Bait Al-Maqdis together. The speakers in the video highlight the achievements of the Sinai mujahideen, especially the downing of the Russian airliner with the 224 "infidel Russian crusaders onboard" as revenge for Russian involvement in Syria. Muslims in Sinai are called to support ISIS soldiers and join their ranks. The narrator says: "Oh, our people in Sinai, the soldiers of the Islamic State are merely your brothers and sons. They and we rose up merely to enact the laws of Allah and to prepare the weapons for the fight against the Jews, and to rid Bait Al-Maqdis of their filth. Therefore, oh sons of Sinai, gather around your sons, aid and protect them, since honor will be under their banner, while humiliation will belong to their enemies." The speakers also threaten Egyptian soldiers and Sinai tribesmen to cease their actions or be responsible for their own fate. 

Abu 'Omar Al-Masri mocks Saudi Arabia's intention to build a bridge to Egypt, claiming that it would only make it easier for ISIS in Sinai to cross to the Arabian Peninsula and liberate it from the filth of "Al-Saloul."

Abu Abdallah Al-Masri, speaking in Tripoli province's video

ISIS Preacher Condemns Egyptian Army "Crimes"

The video by Tripoli province, Libya, titled "Rewards Will [Eventually] Be Given To The Godfearing" features an ISIS preacher in Libya named Abu 'Abdallah Al-MAsri, who promises Sinai fighters that their sacrifice will eventually pay off and Allah will reward them with the right to enter Paradise. The video focuses on Egyptian army crimes against Sinai residents, and accordingly, Abu 'Adballah calls on ISIS fighters to continue killing the "tyrant's" soldiers and assassinate military personnel, media figures, and judges. According to him, the Egyptian army is a cowardly army whose soldiers use narcotics and violate everything that Islam forbids. At the end of the video, the narrator says: "The mujahideen will not stop until their cleanse every last inch of the filth of the tyrants and their agents. By Allah, the soldiers of the Islamic State will not abandon their people and brothers in Sinai so long as they are alive. They will continue to strike the strongholds of the infidels and Jews until Allah grants them victory, until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, and until the general Muslim public will soon be seen in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Allah willing." 

Egyptians Called To Join ISIS Sinai

The video by ISIS in Hama, Syria, was titled "A Message to our Brothers in Sinai." The vide opens with the narrator recounting the achievements of ISIS Sinai, especially the downing of the Russian airliner and the bombing of an Egyptian naval vessel. Later, the video's main speaker, Abu Al-Baraa' Al-Shami, sends messages of encouragement and support to ISIS fighters in Sinai. He stresses that the eyes and ears of the mujahideen in Syria eagerly await news of the achievements of their colleagues in Sinai. He expresses hope that they will soon unite and participate together in the victory over the enemies of Allah. Abu Al-Baraa' praises ISIS Sinai's war on "the Pharaoh of Egypt" - President Al-Sisi - and calls on it to be steadfast and patient despite their inferior numbers, since their victory is assured. He later speaks at length of the fear that ISIS fighters have caused Egyptian soldiers, causing the regime to turn to the Jews and Crusaders and ask for help. However, since they continued to suffer blows at the hands of the mujahideen, they turned to the royal family in Saudi Arabia - "the tyrant of the Arabian Peninsula." According to him, the Saudis responded, and even announced they would build a bridge connecting the Sinai and Arabian peninsulas. However, Abu Al-Baraa' says that the true purpose of this bridge is not to benefit the two countries' economies as they claim, but rather in order to fight ISIS in Sinai. He later addresses all Muslims in Egypt and urges them to help their mujahideen brothers in Sinai, since they are defending their honor and property. He adds: "You have tried nonviolence and eventually tasted humiliation and suffered its results of shame and degradation. So go forth, defend your religion, and your mujahideen brothers."

Abu Al-Bara' Al-Shami



[1] The Islamic State has launched similar campaigns in recent months, which all involved a simultaneous outburst of video clips from its various provinces. For more on this, see: MEMRI Daily Brief No. 89, Opportunity Or Necessity? The Islamic State's Cluster Video Strategy, May 13, 2016.

[2] The last video to be released by the province came at the end of March. Regular video reportage from the battle fronts in Sinai, which is normally covered by ISIS's news agency A'maq, has not been seen in recent weeks, although ISIS's radio Al-Bayyan still reports regularly on its attacks. See MEMRI JTTM report, ISIS Sinai Video Documents Group's Military Training Camp, Raid On Egyptian Military Checkpoint, March 31, 2016.

[3]  For more on the importance of Sinai in the eyes of ISIS leaders, see MEMRI JTTM report, ISIS In Sinai Increases Military, Propaganda Pressure On Egypt, November 8, 2015.

[4] The relationship between Salafi-jihadis in and from Gaza and ISIS in Sinai is an ambivalent one. This ambivalence was illustrated by an open letter addressed to Al-Baghdadi by a Gazan ISIS fighter in Syria. See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6334, Exclusive: Letter By ISIS Fighter To Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Reveals ISIS-Sinai's Ties To Hamas, March 2, 2016.

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