Ahead of the Egyptian presidential elections (slated for March 26-28), and in light of the large-scale campaign launched by the Egyptian military against its presence in Egypt and Sinai, the Islamic State (ISIS) has stepped up its calls for attacks and its threats against the government, tourists and Christians.
The military campaign, called "Sinai 2018," was launched on February 9, 2018 with a wave of airstrikes on ISIS weapon depos and other targets, and with stepped up efforts on the ground to eliminate ISIS strongholds in norther Sinai. It will also be conducted in the areas of the Delta and the Western Desert.
Al-Ahram daily showcasing the widescale campaign against ISIS. Headline declares: "Purging Egypt of Terrorism"
ISIS In Sinai: Election Centers Are A Target For US
On February 11, 2018, the Islamic State (ISIS) Sinai Province released a 23-minute video titled "Protectors of the Sharia," in which it threatens terror during the elections and showcases attacks against Egyptian security forces.
The introduction to the video sets out the religious basis for attacking the elections. In the eyes of ISIS, democracy is a modern form of idolatry, in fact the predominant form of idolatry in this age. The video presents explains that the democratic system is worshipped alongside God and grants sovereignty and legislative powers to the people, rather than to God. To prove this, it quotes the Quranic verse "Legislation is not but for Allah" (Quran 12:40). Therefore, ISIS in the video says that Muslims must fight the purveyors of democracy in Egypt, based on the verse "fight them until there is no more fitna, and [until] the religion, all of it, is for Allah" (Quran 8:39).
Abu Muhammad Al-Masri
Expressing these beliefs, a fighter identified as Abu Muhammad Al-Masri says: "It is clear to all that the elections are the greatest [form of] polytheism. They have brought upon you nothing but disasters, oppression and subjugation, and punishment from Allah. If the blood that has been sacrificed for their sake had been sacrificed for Allah's sake, the situation would have been different." Abu Muhammad Al-Masri then calls on the jihad fighters to target the elections, so as to prevent them from taking place, while warning the Muslims in Sinai and the rest of Egypt to stay clear of polling stations and other facilities associated with the elections: "Oh soldiers of the Islamic State in Egypt, oh you whom Allah has glorified with monotheism! These days, Egypt's tyrants are preparing for their day of polytheism, election day. So ruin their day of polytheism. Spill their blood, and start with the heads of unbelief among them. We hereby warn the Muslim public in Egypt and Sinai during these polytheist days not to come near the polling stations and the courts, and to [avoid large] gatherings, for they are a target for us. We will go forth on this path, Allah willing, determined to shatter every idol and remove every tyrant."
ISIS Weekly: ISIS Operatives Aim To Escalate Their Attacks Against Christians And Tourists
An editorial in Issue 119 of the ISIS weekly Al-Naba', which was released online on February 15, 2018 also explicitly threatens attacks in order to destabilize Egypt and undermine Egyptian President 'Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi's rule. The editorial urged ISIS operatives to intensify their attacks against "belligerent" Christians and tourists in the country.
The article deprecates the Egyptian military's image and overall capacity to defeat ISIS in Sinai, observing that it has actually been reduced to a mockery in the eyes of Egyptians, "after the successive defeats it received from... the soldiers of the Caliphate in Sinai province."
The editorial is equally dismissive of the Egyptian military's prospects for defeating ISIS in Sinai. The article reasserts that the group will survive the latest campaign, as it has survived successive campaigns launched in recent years by the Egyptian military. It also predicts that any future claims by Al-Sisi about achieving a "great victory" against ISIS in Sinai will quickly evaporate once ISIS launches its first attack in the country.
The article stated: "We pray to Allah that the end of his [Al-Sisi's] rule will come at the hand of the soldiers of the Caliphate as they raid him in his very home, and turn his ancient and new Cairo into a land of Islam, in which the religion is upheld completely, and the Merciful's laws will be applied as the sole source of legislation or governance."
Footage of ISIS fighter setting fire to an Egyptian army armored vehicle, from "Protectors of the Sharia"
The article therefore calls upon ISIS fighters to redouble their attacks across the country against Christians and tourists in order to undermine Al-Sisi's rule and credibility. It says: "And it is worth mentioning in these days that the mujahideen in all regions of Egypt aim to escalate their attacks against the apostates, belligerent Christians, and the polytheists from among the tourists [i.e. Christian and Jewish tourists], and others. And that since the main goal of the tyrant Al-Sisi's campaign against the Caliphate soldiers in Sinai is to portray his eradication of jihad in the lands under his rule, and [therefore,] any attack inside Egypt can expose his [Al-Sisi's] incapability, and will show Al-Sisi's allies that he is incapable of controlling security in the main areas under his rule, let alone distant regions like Sinai, the Western Desert, and areas in Aswan and Upper Egypt."
ISIS Supporters Reiterate Threats Against Tourists, Elections
Following up on the threats made by ISIS' official media outlets, ISIS supporters issued calls of their own for attacks. For example, a Telegram channel called Al-Firqa Al-Najiyyah [The Saved Sect] issued a plea to ISIS followers in Egypt to act independently against the targets specified by the Al-Naba' editorial:
"A message to the monotheist brothers in Egypt: where are you with regard to supporting the mujahideen in Sinai, you being the closest people to them, while your brothers' homes are being destroyed, and their children and wives are being killed?! Do you not fear that Allah will bring upon you his harm, torment and humiliation? Kill whoever you can among the soldiers of the apostate Al-Sisi or belligerent Christians, if you are sincere in your support and love for the truth. Make their lives miserable and make them lose sleep, and let Allah see good from you..."Another call on Telegram came from an ISIS supporter who calls his channel Wa-Harid Al-Mu'minin [Incite the Believers]: "Notification for the widest possible release: regarding the upcoming presidential elections, the greatest day of polytheism in the land of Egypt. In the video 'Protectors of the Sharia,' our dear State has warned in the strongest terms anyone from the Muslim public from being present in the areas of the elections committees, since those will be a legitimate target for the lone wolves. We reiterate and repeat the warning to the Muslim public from being present in these areas, since it will make them exposed to killing. He who has warned – is excused..."
Another ISIS supporter, who calls himself Al-Rased Al-Falastini [The Palestinian Observer], wrote a Telegram post titled "Military Talk," in which he provided operational advice to ISIS operatives in Sinai and Egypt.
"The infidel Egyptian regime is attempting to demonstrate its presence, flaunt its power and take pride in itself, [therefore]
"Operations targeting the Christians and seizing their property will embarrass the regime and show it up more than targeting the military and police.
"Kidnapping foreigners and tourists will greatly embarrass the regime and destroy its economy.
"[It is recommended to] focus on targeting apostate personalities in times of inattentiveness– the times in which they feel secure, at ease and tranquil. [Target] personalities such as judges, [government] advisors, officers, soldiers, journalists, advocates of secularism and liberalism, clerics of apostasy [official scholars] and members of infidel political parties."
 Al-Ahram (Egypt), February 9, 2018.
 The term fitna is classically understood in this context as idolatry.
 See MEMRI JTTM report ISIS In Sinai Calls For Attacks To Disrupt Egyptian Elections
 See MEMRI JTTM report Editorial In ISIS Weekly Al-Naba' Calls To Increase Attacks Against 'Belligerent' Christians, Tourists In Egypt In Order To Undermine Government, February 15, 2018.
 Telegram.me/ Al-Firqah Al-Najiyyah, February 16, 2018.
 Telegram.me/ Wa-Harid Al-Mu'minin, February 16, 2018.
 Telegram.me/ Al-Rased Al-Falastini, February 14, 2018.