EGYPT

Egypt Claims To Have Killed Sinai ISIS Branch Leader

A tweet published today by someone who claims affiliation with ISIS purportedly lends credence to an Egyptian army claim that they killed the leader of ISIS in the Sinai, but experts are dubious

EGYPT
Aug 17, 2016 at 5:43 PM ET

The Islamic State appeared to confirm earlier today that the Egyptian army killed a prominent leader of the jihadist group on August 4. Someone using the name @ElDassas1 claims in a tweet that the announcement, which he attaches to the tweet, comes from ISIS, and that it refers to a leader named Abu Duaa al-Ansari. He adds, “May God welcome him.”

If the tweet is indeed the work of an ISIS-affiliated spokesperson, it would lend credence to an announcement on the Egyptian Army’s Facebook wall, dated August 4, that Abu Duaa al-Ansari, the leader of the Sinai ISIS group called Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, had been killed—along with 45 others—in a targeted air strike. The Army’s announcement was reported by the Independent newspaper, with the writer noting that no one had ever heard of al-Ansari until the Egyptian army claimed to have killed him, and by the Associated Press. It was also reported on the widely-read Egyptian digital news platform, Youm7.

But according to Jacob Greene, a researcher at the Washington, D.C.-based think tank Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, there are several reasons to doubt the credibility of both the Egyptian Army’s August 4 announcement and the alleged confirmation posted on Twitter. In an email exchange with Vocativ, Greene wrote that the announcement appended to today’s tweet “does not appear to be an authentic statement.” He added, “It has not been disseminated through an official account and its font and style do not appear to match that of previous statements released by the Islamic State.”

Echoing the Independent’s skepticism about whether or not al-Ansari had actually existed, Greene pointed out that we know nothing of the man, “other than what we have learned from a few speculative accounts.”

This would not be the first time Egypt has claimed to have eliminated an ISIS leader who later turned up alive, or who never existed at all. The Sisi regime has cracked down heavily on the press, making it impossible to verify independently their account of the targeted assassination. In general, the Egyptian government is rather notorious for disseminating disinformation or misinformation, whether it is a false claim about having eliminated a jihadist leader or an official explanation for an airline disaster, which is easily proven to be a hoax.

But whether al-Ansari existed or not, the jihadist group known as Wilayat Sinai continues, as Greene puts it “to operate, continues to carry out attacks, and continues to terrorize innocent people.”

Shortly before this article was published, Wilayat Sinai denied the authenticity of the tweet published by @ElDassas1.