Ansar Beit al-Maqdes released a statement Sunday denying that the group’s leader was killed as reported by state media on Friday.
In their statement, the Sinai-based group said that the Armed Forces are boasting about “imaginary victories” and claiming that they killed the leader of the group, “when they don’t even know who the leader of the group is.”
On Friday, state-owned Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported that Shady al-Menaei, head of Ansar Beit al-Maqdes, was killed in a drive-by shooting in Sinai, along with three other leading members of the group.
The circumstances surrounding Menaei’s alleged death were unclear, as some security sources said police forces set up an ambush for the militants as they attempted to carry out an attack on a gas pipeline. Other conflicting accounts suggest the men were shot by members of a local Bedouin tribe or other unknown assailants in a vendetta killing.
Ansar Beit al-Maqdes said that the Armed Forces announced the death of Menaei and reported that he is the leader of the group, when in reality he didn’t die and isn’t the leader of the group.
The group’s statement was accompanied by a picture of Menaei grinning and reading a report about his own death.
“We can report that the leaders of the group are safe and healthy among their brothers,” they added.
The statement also sent a message to Sinai’s tribal leaders, assuring them that Ansar Beit al-Maqdes are not their enemies, with the exception of those who work with the military. “Don’t be dragged into this war and stand against the jihadists,” the statement warned.
The group also addressed “spies and agents,” warning them that there is no difference between those who work for Israeli intelligence Mossad and the Egyptian Armed Forces, adding that they are two faces of the same coin.
Ansar Beit al-Maqdes emerged shortly after the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak, and gained notoriety early on for a series of bomb attacks targeting pipelines delivering natural gas to Israel. After Mohamed Morsi’s ouster on July 3, the group allegedly took its actions to Cairo.
The group has claimed responsibility for the attempted assassination of Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim, the bombing of the Cairo Security Directorate, a deadly assault on a tourist bus and several other attacks on police stations and security checkpoints. Security forces claim Ansar Beit al-Maqdes’ operations have claimed the lives of at least 200 soldiers and officers.