A black flag belonging to the Islamic State is seen near the Syrian town of Kobani, as pictured from the Turkish-Syrian border.
Egypt’s most active terrorist group, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, denied in a Twitter message on Tuesday that it had pledged allegiance to Islamic State, distancing itself from a previous statement that had appeared in its name online.
The original statement, purporting to be from Ansar, appeared late on Monday on two jihadist Twitter feeds. It said the group had pledged loyalty to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, head of Islamic State, an al-Qaida offshoot that has seized territory in Iraq and Syria and is now facing US-led air strikes.
Tuesday’s message appears to have come from Ansar’s official account, which has issued other statements on behalf of the group in recent months.
“The statement that has been circulated in the media and is sourced to us, regarding the group’s declaration of allegiance to the Caliphate of the Muslims, is nothing to do with us,” said the tweet.
The statement pledging loyalty, which carried the Ansar logo, had been removed by Tuesday morning from one of the Twitter accounts where it appeared. The second account issued subsequent tweets saying the statement had not been attributable to Ansar.
Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, a Shillman- Ginsburg Fellow at the Philadelphia- based Middle East Forum who closely follows Islamist opposition groups in Syria and Iraq, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that he doubted the reported pledge of allegiance from the beginning.
“Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has pro-Islamic State tendencies, but that has to be distinguished from a formal pledge of allegiance,” he explained. “Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis is trying to play it both ways: show sympathy for Islamic State while not actually pledging allegiance.”
Regarding Tuesday’s corrective statement issued by the Sinai-based group, Tamimi said the language of it “fundamentally encapsulates the incoherence of their position: They don’t want to issue a formal pledge of allegiance and yet refer to Baghdadi as ‘caliph of the Muslims,’ undoubtedly not wanting to offend Islamic State.”
Writing last month on the “Syria Comment” website, Tamimi said that within the global jihadist community many groups were trying to find a middle ground.
“Ideologically,” he said, “I don’t think the position of being sympathetic to Islamic State without pledging allegiance is coherent,” as the group “by its very nature demands allegiance.”
Asked if Ansar would pledge allegiance to Islamic State in the future, he said it “depends on the group’s fortunes on the ground in Syria and Iraq.”
Rafael Green, director of the Jihad and Terrorism Monitor at MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute), told the Post that despite Ansar’s Twitter denial, “the statement seems authentic as far as its contents, and it corroborates with what we know about the group – they support Islamic State 100%. If it’s a fabrication, it’s a very good one.”
Another possibility, Green said, is that it could have been “leaked somehow before they wanted it to go public.”
He added that one jihadist considered very close to Ansar “said today that he spoke to a fighter in the group, and it plans to come out with its oath of loyalty soon.”Reuters contributed to this report.
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