Sinai jihadists likely behind Tuesday’s attack in Egypt

Groups trade blame over responsibility for suicide car bomb in Mansoura that kills 13; Muslim Brotherhood denies involvement.

Egyptian soldiers keep guard in Sinai 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Egyptian soldiers keep guard in Sinai 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Egyptian Interior Ministry stated on Facebook that initial signs point to a suicide car bomb attack in Mansoura Egypt early Tuesday, which analysts believe was likely perpetrated by jihadists based in Sinai.
While the Brotherhood condemned the attack, the Facebook page of its Freedom and Justice Party blamed Christians for the attack, specifically referring to Christian businessman and politician Naguib Sawiris.
And the pro-government Free Egyptians Party founded by Sawiris blamed the attack on the Brotherhood.
“The Free Egyptians Party statement calls upon the Egyptian government and its security forces to take resolute action and pursue these terrorists with all its resources to bring them to justice, and to officially declare the Brotherhood a terrorist organization,” stated the Party.
Terror attacks emanating from Sinai have increased since former Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi was ousted in July.
Egyptian media had previously reported that the government was contemplating naming the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization and it seems that the attack may renew such thinking.
What is clear, is that the government is probably going to step up its crackdown against its Brotherhood and jihadist opponents.
The way the attack was carried out and the size of the explosion is reminiscent of previous attacks by Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (sometimes referred to as Ansar Jerusalem), said David Barnett, a research associate at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributor to the Long War Journal website.
Barnett, who closely follows the ongoing fighting in Sinai, told The Jerusalem Post that the group has used car bombings in a number of its attacks inside and out of the northern Sinai.
“The attack may be a follow- up to the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis threat to target those who do not leave the security services. We will only know for certain if they claim responsibility, however,” he said.
“While some may expect an immediate claim of responsibility, in previous attacks Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis waited at least a day or two before taking credit,” Barnett cautioned.
Eric Trager, an expert on Egypt and a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told the Post that there is no evidence that the Brotherhood are behind these attacks, but the “government is trying to use this attack as a pretext for a further crackdown on the organization.”
The government is engaged in an existential conflict with the group and fears its reemergence as there would be severe revenge against those who removed it from power, said Trager.
Asked about the uptick in Sinai terrorism since Morsi’s ouster, Trager thinks that it is because “many in Sinai fear that the return of the military to power will mean a return of the repressive methods that were used to administer the peninsula under former president Hosni Mubarak.”
“By contrast, Morsi governed Sinai lightly and declined to crack down on the jihadis, believing - foolishly - that they could be convinced to adopt the Brotherhood’s more political form of Islamism,” explained Trager.