The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has officially entered Egypt. On November 10, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, a militant movement that operates out of the northern Sinai Peninsula, pledged allegiance to ISIS and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The group, which emerged after the 2011 uprising that overthrew Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, has already established itself as a formidable player in its own right. In recent months, it has staged devastating attacks on Egypt’s police forces and claimed responsibility for a series of suicide attacks on military facilities in Cairo and the Sinai Peninsula.
The announcement was not a complete surprise, however, coming just weeks after Egyptian President Abel Fattah al-Sisi declared a state of emergency in the Sinai Peninsula and launched a bloody offensive against the group, which required an evacuation of Rafah that displaced approximately 10,000 people. Moreover, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis and ISIS are natural partners: They share not only a radical ideology but also barbaric tactics. Last August, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis decapitated four local men in northern Sinai after accusing them of being informants for Israel. But the decision to join ISIS marks the end of a bitter dispute within the militant movement’s rank-and-file over whether to join the global group. The split concerned two interlinked issues. The first was whether Ansar Beit al-Maqdis should join a global network or continue to operate independently. Some of the group’s leaders argued—and failed to convince their peers—that focusing solely on Egypt would secure local support. The
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