On Monday the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters ruled the Sinai-based militant group Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis a terrorist organisation, compelling the Egyptian government to uphold the decision.
What the new designation means for the group and Egypt’s fight on terror remains unclear, said research associate at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies David Barnett, who focuses on Salafi jihadists in the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip.
“Authorities have been operating against [Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis] for months now in Sinai and more recently in the mainland. I would not expect a major change in current operations, but simply a continuation,” said Barnett.
The military spokesman’s office said the approach to fighting Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis would not change, but the punishments for captured militants would be more severe. He added that lethal force would be used against militants if necessary.
Spokesman for the Interior Ministry Hany Abdel Latif said their policy toward Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis would not change, either.
“We already treat them like a terrorist group,” said Abdel Latif.
Founded in 2011, Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis has claimed responsibility for a number of violent attacks since the 3 July ouster of deposed president Mohamed Morsi.
In October, Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis also claimed responsibility for an attack on the military intelligence building in Ismailia that injured six, claiming that they carried it out “to cleanse Egypt of crime and military foreign agents”, and took ownership of the 24 December blast in the Al-Daqahleya Security Directorate in Mansoura, resulting in the death of 16 people and the injury of more than 100.
On 24 January the group carried out a series of bomb attacks around the Greater Cairo area, leaving six dead and dozens injured.
Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for an attack on a tourist bus in February in the border town of Taba, which killed the Egyptian driver and three South Korean tourists.
Both the United States and United Kingdom declared Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis a terrorist organisation earlier this month.
According to the UK government, “Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis is an Al-Qaeda inspired militant Islamist group based in the northern Sinai region of Egypt. The group is said to recruit within Egypt and abroad and aims to create an Egyptian state ruled by Sharia law.”
The Egyptian Government declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terror group on 25 December, the day after the bombing of the Al-Daqahleya Security Directorate.
Article 86 of the Egyptian Penal Code defines terrorism as “all use of force, violence, threatening, or frightening, which a felon resorts to in execution of an individual or collective criminal scheme, with the aim of disturbing public order, or exposing the safety and security of society to danger.”
Earlier in April, two new draft laws were sent to interim President Adly Mansour.
Under one proposed law, the definition of terrorism would be expanded to include “damaging national unity, natural resources, monuments… hindering the work of judicial bodies… regional and international bodies in Egypt, and diplomatic and consular missions”.
A second draft law would allow prisoners to be held for up to 72 hours, at which point their detention could be extended for an additional week.