Mohamed Abd El Ghany / Reuters Military policemen try to open a path ahead for the funeral of 21-year-old Mohamed Adel, one of the army officers who died in yesterday's Sinai attacks, in Al-Kaliobeya, near Cairo, Egypt, July 2, 2015. 

ISIS Targets Egypt

Why the Group Set its Sights on the Sinai

Earlier this month, the Islamic State (ISIS) launched a massive media campaign in support of the insurgency in Sinai. Officials from 14 of its so-called provinces in Iraq, Libya, and Syria released videos promoting an Egyptian affiliate group, Sinai Province. The videos feature typical ISIS themes, such as condemnations of apostate Arab and Western governments, glorification of successful attacks, and praise for martyred brethren. What sets these videos apart, however, is the sheer number released at once, as well as their focus on Sinai, which previously played a relatively minor role in ISIS propaganda.

This media blitz could mark a turning point in ISIS strategy. The group has lost territory in Iraq and Syria, and the videos could signal a reorientation toward North Africa. ISIS may also be trying to boost morale and recruit new members. Finally, the releases could portend ISIS’ growing interest in Israel, and might suggest that the country could be the caliphate’s next target.

The scale of the Sinai campaign is nearly unprecedented, rivaled only by an earlier media blitz against the monarchy of Saudi Arabia—a natural target given its significance as the birthplace of Islam and site of its two holiest places. That series, released in December 2015, excoriated the ruling family for working with “Crusader” states like the United States, and called on Saudis to join ISIS’ branch in the kingdom. Similarly, the latest videos accuse the Egyptian government of tyranny, condemning Cairo’s ties to Saudi Arabia and the United States. 

The videos also extend their criticism to the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated former President Mohamed Morsi for his alliances with secular governments, such as Turkey, and chastise the Brotherhood for ruling Egypt under “man-made” rather than Islamic law. 

A still from one of ISIS' newest videos, which highlighted the Sinai insurgency and its affiliate group, Sinai Province.

A still from one of ISIS' newest videos, which highlighted the Sinai insurgency and its affiliate group, Sinai Province.

The series warns Egyptians against adopting the “new religion” of democracy, and urge them to “wake up and realize [their] salvation is with sharia.” They play up Sinai’land of the prophet Moses,” denounce Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as a new Pharaoh, and curse him for “protecting the Jews.”

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