An unsubstantiated statement was released Monday affirming that Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis (ABM) was pledging loyalty to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Sham (ISIS), stating that the group chose Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, known as the leader of ISIS, as its leader.
However, the statement was denied by ABM hours after international media outlets circulated the report, requesting the media “to check the accuracy of their sources and to stick to ABM’s official statements”.
ABM is based in Sinai and has claimed responsibility for several bombings and attacks on police and army checkpoints since the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi.
Egyptian security forces launch raids to combat the militant attacks in Sinai and in October Shahata Farhan Al-Maaqta, a prominent ABM member, was allegedly killed by security forces. “He was involved in operations targeting elements of armed forces and police,” said a statement by the armed forces.
According to Zack Gold, an adjunct fellow focusing on Middle East policy at the American Security Project, this is not the first time there has been speculation of an ABM pledge to ISIS. “Certainly, there is affinity between the two [militant groups],” he said.
Gold added that some ABM members likely fought alongside ISIS in Syria or Iraq.
“ABM itself has always denied a formal relationship, as they did on this occasion as well,” he said. “As one of the most active ‘unaffiliated’ jihadi groups, ABM would be a big ‘get’ for ISIS, and so the latter’s supporters really, really want a formal allegiance to be true.”