What Does ISIS Want in Egypt?
The twin bomb blasts that tore through two Christian churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday marked the latest episode in the Islamic State militant group’s (ISIS) violent campaign against the country’s Coptic minority.
The attacks on a church in the Nile Delta town of Tanta and a cathedral in Egypt’s second city of Alexandria came as churches were packed with worshippers marking the beginning of the Easter week.
In Tanta at least 27 people were killed and 78 injured as the first bomb exploded inside St George's Church. Hours later a second bomber detonated an explosive device as he rushed towards St Mark's Cathedral in Alexandria, killing at least 17 and wounding 48.
At least 44 died in the two separate bombings, the worst attack on Egypt’s Copts in decades. In the aftermath of the explosions, ISIS’ Egyptian affiliate—known as Sinai Province—claimed responsibility for the attacks, naming the bombers via its Amaq news agency.
In the wake of the attacks, many in Egypt’s Coptic community have remained defiant,saying they will not flee their communities.
Marcos, an Egyptian monk from the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem, who declined to provide his last name for security reasons, told Newsweek on April 10 that Coptic Christians have always stayed in the country despite attacks.
“No matter what happened in Egypt, we never left our land, we never left our home,” he said. “We were sure then that we will stay, and we are sure now that we will stay. Nothing will force us to leave.”
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The origins of ISIS in Egypt
The forerunner to the Islamic State’s Sinai Province was Ansar Bait al-Maqdis (ABM), which first emerged in 2011 when it claimed responsibility for a cross border attack launched from the Sinai on Israel.
According to the U.S.’ counter terrorism guide, a government directory of listed terror groups, AMB’s primary goal was the “destruction of Israel, the establishment of an Islamic Emirate and the implementation of Sharia in the Sinai Peninsula.” Jack Kennedy, a senior analyst at IHS Markit, tells Newsweek ABM grew out of militant Bedouin tribes operating in the Sinai, monopolizing smuggling networks, most likely over the Egyptian frontier into Gaza.
“It’s very likely that most of the founding members of the group, as a cohesive Salafi jihadist group, met and were radicalized in Egypt’s prisons before January 2011,” he says.
Pledging allegiance to ISIS
By 2013, when Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi was ousted as leader, the group had already pivoted away from attacks on Israel to targeting the Egyptian security forces. The shift resulted in a spike in Egyptian troop casualties.