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The Most Dangerous Terrorists in Egypt That You’ve Probably Never Heard Of: Ansar Bayt il-Maqdis

Egypt has not been without its share of internal strife for years. Ansar Bayt il-Maqdis (ABM) was founded in 2011 amidst much of this strife. The group has been involved in many violent and brazen attacks since then.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

According to Sonia Farid, “Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has been associated with almost every terrorist attack that hit Egypt after the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Sameh Eid, an expert on Islamist groups, once called Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis “the military wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.” The situation has changed since that comment was made.

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM; Arabic: أَنْصَارُ بَيْتِ الْمَقْدِس,) translates to “Supporters of the Holy House” and is sometimes referred to as Ansar Al-Quds which translates to “Supporters of Jerusalem.” Al-Quds translates to “the Holy” and refers to Jerusalem in the Muslim world.

Originally affiliated with al-Qaeda, the group defected to ISIS in November 2014 and pledged its allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi - ISIS had officially arrived in Egypt. After their pledge, the group became known as Wilayat Sina (Sinai Province). This was considered a massive victory for ISIS and, according to Zack Gold, it was in some way financially motivated.

The United States, United Kingdom, and the Egyptian Governments have classified the group as a terrorist organization. According to Australian National Security, ABM is religiously motivated, violent, and sophisticated. They are currently listed on the official govt site as “Terrorism Threat Level: Possible” (March 2023).

Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis (Photo: Al-Ahram)

Philosophy and Goals

According to the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the group wants to destroy Israel, establish an Islamic emirate, expand ISIS’s caliphate, and implement Sharia law in the Sinai Peninsula. It views the Egyptian government as “apostates” and must oppose them.

Ansar Bayt il-Maqdis (ABM) is classified as a Salafist group. According to the Brookings Institute, Salafism is the belief that the most authentic and true Islam can only be found in the lived example of the early, righteous generations of Muslims. These men, known as the Salaf (roughly translated as “from the beginning”, دفعتلك سلفن ), lived closest in time to the Prophet Muhammad. Today’s Salafists are very conservative Muslims that emulate the actions of the first believers, therefore they feel they are the only legitimate Muslims.

Ahmed Ban, a researcher of Islamist movements, has stated, “According to jihadist ideology, IS considers the regime in Egypt as a closer enemy, while the United States and its allies are a far-off enemy.” Since 2014, it has carried out more than 500 attacks in the Sinai, primarily targeting Egyptian security forces.

Much of the group’s funding comes from smuggling and other criminal activities. As an official ISIS affiliate, the group also receives funding from ISIS.



Early on the group was primarily made up of Egyptian nationals, although ISIS leadership has encouraged the welcoming of foreign members.

Some members were conscripts and the lower ranks of the Egyptian army felt frustrated with their new government. They believed that they were government pawns in Sinai, by being forced to evict Egyptians from their land.

Additional recruits come from marginalized Egyptian Bedouin in Northern Sinai as well as from other jihadist groups in Gaza.

According to United Nations reports from June 2018: The group has about 1,000 members”.

In 2020 the Australian Government estimated that the group numbered 800-1200 fighters. This number is likely to be smaller today due to counterterror operations.



There have not been many details about the group’s early structure due to its nature of secrecy.

The first reported leader was said to be Ibrahim Mohammed Farag Abu Eita (2011 – December 2013). Also known as Abu Suhaib, Egyptian forces killed him in 2013.


Others in leadership positions (past and present)

  • Abu al-Hussein al-Husseini al-Qurashi (Leader of ISIL).

  • Abu Hajar al-Hashemi (2016 – present?): IS media has identified a man by this name as the “governor” of the caliphate’s Sinai Province. He allegedly took office as the leader of Wilayat Sinai following the death of Ansari. Details of his identity and alleged leadership role have not been independently confirmed.

  • Muhammad Ahmad ’Ali al-Isawi, aka Abu Osama al-Masri; believed to be the leader of ISIS-Sinai, from 2016-2018. He was killed in 2018.

  • Ahmed Salam Mabruk (2012 – present): Egyptian officials believe that Mabruk, imprisoned until 2012, was a senior leader.

  • Shadi al-Menaie (unknown – 2014): About 28 years old, Menaie was one of Wilayat Sinai's top military leaders. Unknown assailants killed him.



Wilayat Sinai employs various tactics and techniques, including small-arms assaults, roadside bombs, sabotage, suicide attacks, kidnappings, and assassinations.

In keeping with Islamic State propaganda, they also do their best to perform many functions of a state. This includes providing food, shelter, and other services. This is a way to win over the hearts and minds of the local population. As we will see this has not always been successful.


Notable Attacks

As seen in the map below, ABM operates primarily in Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula. The Egyptian government historically has a nominal presence in this region, and they are closer to Israel.

The following is a short list of the attacks carried out by Ansar Bayt il-Maqdis since 2012:

  • Multiple bombings of the gas pipelines from Egypt to Israel and Jordan.

  • September 2012- a cross-border attack into Southern Israel.

  • September 2013- assassination attempt on the minister of interior Mohamed Ibrahim Moustafa.

  • October 2013- attack on a military intelligence building in the northeastern Egyptian city of Ismailia.

  • November 2013- assassination of Mohamed Mabrouk, a security officer involved in the trial against Mohamed Morsi.

  • December 24, 2013- bombing of a police compound in Mansoura, at least 16 people were killed, including 14 police officers.

  • January 31, 2014- a rocket was launched from the Sinai Peninsula aimed at Eilat, in southern Israel. The Iron Dome system intercepted the rocket.

  • January 23, 2014- five people killed in an attack on a police checkpoint in Beni Suef.

  • January 25, 2014 -shooting down of a military helicopter in the Sinai -five Egyptian officers were killed. ABM released a video of the attack.

  • January 28, 2014 -assassination of Mohamed Al-Saied (member of Egypt's Interior Ministry).

  • January 31, 2014- attempted rocket attack on Eilat in southern Israel.

  • February 16, 2014 -Taba bus bombing killed four people, including three Korean tourists and an Egyptian bus driver.

  • October 31, 2015, Sharm El Sheikh, Sinai, Egypt - 224 killed after ISIS-Sinai smuggles an explosive device onto a Russian passenger plane.

  • November 24, 2017, Bir El-Abed, northern Sinai, ISIS-Sinai - coordinated suicide bombings and small arms attacks against a Sufi Mosque, more than 300 worshippers were murdered and at least 100 more were wounded.

  • July 21–August 26, 2020, ISIS-Sinai members captured at least three villages on the outskirts of the northern Sinai village of Bir El-Abed, holding them for over a month.

Photo: IS in Sinai | Wikimedia Commons

Social Media

Like other ISIS affiliates, IS-Sinai regularly claims attacks through official ISIL media channels and publications. They use several means to spread their propaganda including ISIL’s Arabic language al-Naba (the News) and its Amaq News Agency and via social media. It praises these attacks as being against apostates, infidels, and spies. The group portrays them as righteous and justified.

Al Amak publishes short video streams, has had a mobile app since 2015, and like other terror organizations, uses Telegram to spreads its message. For non-Arabic speakers, the Al-Naba' Project provides a glossary and analysis of the Islamic State’s Al Naba Newsletter.

You can also find them on Twitter @Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which the group joined in April 2014.


Local Opposition to Ansar Bayt il Maqdis/ISIS-Sinai

The current Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came to power through a coup in 2013 and has officially been in office since June 8, 2014. Since then, he has governed Egypt in an increasingly authoritarian manner, and legitimate political opposition is virtually nonexistent. He has been engaged in active conflict with the group since he has been in office.

To help fight ISIS Sinai the government has enlisted the help of tribal groups in north Sinai. Once a recruiting ground for the anti-government terror group, many tribal members have become distrustful of the group.

According to, ‘The Association of Sinai Tribes brings together many of the tribes of northern and central Sinai. Its members have gone beyond providing the military with intelligence, including information about the hideouts of the terrorists and potential attacks, to participating in counterterrorism operations and fighting IS militants themselves.” Al-Monitor has also reported that a senior member, Mohamed Saad Kamel, also known as Abu Hamza Al-Qadi, turned himself in to the Tribal Union on September 10, 2020.

Israel has also helped the Egyptian government fight Wilayat Sinai. While not fighting side by side, Israel has provided some intelligence. Additionally, Israel has newer battalions stationed in its southern region, in addition to its established technological capabilities, as both a deterrent and response to any attacks coming through the Sinai.



Contrary to what some have said, ISIS is still alive and well. It continues to spread its message throughout the world and strives to build a global caliphate. As a part of this global terror community Wilayat Sinai (ISIS-Sinai/Ansar Bayt il-Maqdis) is no different. Since its inception, it has carried out brutal attacks against those it sees as apostates and opposed to their extreme, orthodox religious beliefs. The internal threats it presents to Egypt's fragile stability continue. The threats to neighboring Israel are real, whether as an orchestrated attack by the group or lone wolves/copycats that support the Islamic State philosophy. As ISIS continues to propagate around the world, attracting new members, Wilayat Sinai will likely continue to exist either through membership from within Egypt or without. They are likely to be met with continued military opposition from Egypt herself and Israel.

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