Province of Sinai video claims former police and military personnel among its ranks, confirms death of Islamic State Sinai leader

The Islamic State-affiliated Province of Sinai released a promotional video on Tuesday, titled, “The Path of Rationality From Darkness to Light,” which features a number of former police and reserve military personnel who purportedly joined the ranks of the militant group.

This video also marks the Islamic State’s first acknowledgment of the former leader of the Islamic State in Sinai Abu Osama al-Masry‘s death. There had been unconfirmed reports that Masry was killed in June of this year during an airstrike on one of the Islamic State’s sites. However, all of the group’s promotional publications since then have refrained from mentioning these reports, neither confirming nor denying them. In this latest release, however, the mention of Abu Osama’s name is followed by the expression, “May God accept him,” implying his death.

The 43-minute-video begins with a recorded voice note in the voice of former Islamic State spokesperson Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, who was killed in August 2016 by a United States military airstrike. Adnani refers to members of Arab militaries as “apostates,” especially the Egyptian and Libyan armed forces, and encourages members of the Province of Sinai to target conscripts and officers.

The video also features a Province of Sinai member named Ahmed Mahmoud Ibrahim, known among the group as Abu Abi. Ibrahim claims he is a graduate of the Military Technical College who served in the Egyptian Air Force. During the video, Ibrahim addresses members of the Armed Forces and urges them to leave their military service and to join the militant group, citing quotes from Mohamed Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the founder of the Islamic movement of Wahhabism.

Ibrahim was killed in an Egyptian military airstrike less than a year after joining the Province of Sinai, according to a voiceover played in conjunction with footage of him beheading a civilian, which appears as part of the militant group’s promotional video.

The video also includes Abu al-Qaqaa al-Ansari, a suicide bomber who allegedly detonated a car in a military-affiliated cement factory in central Sinai. Although the video does not specify the date of this operation, it likely refers to the October 2017 suicide bombing at a central Sinai cement factory owned by the Armed Forces, which killed one military conscript. In one of the clips in the video, Ansari can be seen vowing to “complete the fighting in Sinai,” addressing Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the caliph of the Islamic State. Known as Abu Adam, Karim Adel Hafez is another young man who appears in the video and claims to have been a reserve officer in the Air Defense Forces of Egypt’s Second Field Army between 2010 and 2012.

Two police officers, Khairat Sami al-Sobki and Hanafi Gamal, also appear in the video, alleging that they both graduated from the Police Academy in 2012.

Gamal, according to the promotional video, was formerly affiliated with the Central Security Forces, and is currently known as Abu Omar within the militant group. He participated in the Province of Sinai’s arrest and interrogation of several “collaborators with security forces” and its attack on the Karm al-Qawadees checkpoint in October 2014, among other incidents. Sobki, however, is known as Abu Ali among the group and claims to have conducted military training for members of the Province of Sinai and participated in attacks against security targets.

The video also displayed footage of Gamal and Sobki interrogating Eid Abdallah Soliman, who later confessed to having worked with the Mossad, Israel’s national intelligence agency, according to the video. Soliman was assigned to join the militant group and tasked with planting microchips inside members’ cars in order to facilitate their tracking and targeting, the video asserts.

In the subsequent scene, Gamal and Sobki execute Soliman.

Gamal and Sobki are defendants in Military Case 148, in which they face charges of joining the Islamic State and plotting to assassinate President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. There are 310 defendants in the case, including an “organizational cell” comprised of four fugitive policemen.

According to the case documents, this cell is headed by a major in the police force and includes seven other police personnel: Lieutenant Mohamed Gamal al-Din Abdel Aziz, Lieutenant Islam Weam Hassanein, officer Kareem Mohamed Hamza (arrested), officer Essam Muhammad al-Anani and officer Ali Ibrahim Hassan (arrested), as well Lieutenant Sobki and officer Soliman mentioned above. According to these documents, the four fugitive officers are linked through their connection to Major Mohamed al-Sayyid al-Bakoshti, who investigators claim was responsible for recruiting them to the organizational cell in order to “carry out hostile acts against the president and leading security personnel.”

Bakoshti was part of a group of police officers who had demanded they be allowed to grow out their beards while working at the Interior Ministry. Following his participation in several demonstrations and his promotion of a Salafist understanding of Islam among his colleagues, Bakoshti was referred to the reserve troops and suspended from his position at the Sharqiya Security Directorate in 2012. He was later killed in an April 2014 car crash near the city of Bilbeis in the governorate of Sharqiya.  

The Union of SInai Tribes, which has been cooperating with the state in its fight against militancy, announced on its Facebook page in August a LE2 million reward for whoever provides information related to members of the Province of Sinai. Specifically, the posts mentioned Gamal, described by the union as “a military commander,” Sobki, described as “a security commander” and Hassanein, described as an “inghimasi commander.” Gamal, Sobki and Hassanein are all defendants in Military Case 148.

The Union of Sinai Tribes has been involved in the arrest of several local militants in the past and has released videos of a number of of their confessions.

In one of the confessions by officer Karim Mohamed Hamdi, who is currently detained pending trial, he claims to have been one of the officers responsible for dispersing the Muslim Brotherhood’s Rabea sit-in in August 2013. Hamdi also confessed to leaking the time and tactics of the dispersal to Bakoshti, who was among the demonstrators.

Hassan, a former officer who is cited in the Military Case 148 documents as a member of the Province of Sinai’s organizational cell, is currently detained and is considered one of the cell’s most dangerous members. The former officer was previously assigned to work at the National Security Agency (NSA) and became a member of President Sisi’s convoy. According to investigations, the organizational cell is said to have drawn up a plan to target the president’s convoy in Cairo, with the intention of assassinating him with either a car bomb or sniper.

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