Skip to main content

Australian National Security
You are here >> Skip breadcrumbAustralian National Security > > Terrorist organisations > > Islamic State Sinai Province (IS-Sinai)

 Islamic State Sinai Province (IS-Sinai)

STATEMENT OF REASONS FOR ISLAMIC STATE SINAI PROVINCE

Also known as: Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant-Sinai Province; Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant-Sinai; ISIL Sinai Province; Islamic State-Sinai Province; Islamic State in the Sinai; Wilayat Sinai; The State of Sinai; IS-Sinai; ISIL-Sinai; Sinai Province; Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM); Ansar Beit al-Maqdis; Ansar Bayt al-Maqdes; Aknaf Bayt al-Maqdis; Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis; Ansar Jerusalem; Supporters of Jerusalem; Jamaat Ansar Beit al-Maqdis; Jamaat Ansar Beit al-Maqdis fi Sinaa; Supporters of the Holy Place.

This statement is based on publicly available information about Islamic State Sinai Province (IS-Sinai). To the Australian Government's knowledge, this information is accurate, reliable and has been corroborated by classified information.

Basis for listing a terrorist organisation

Division 102 of the Criminal Code 1995 provides that for an organisation to be listed as a terrorist organisation, the Attorney-General must be satisfied on reasonable grounds that the organisation:

  1. is directly or indirectly engaged in, preparing, planning, assisting in or fostering the doing of a terrorist act; or
  2. advocates the doing of a terrorist act.

For the purposes of listing a terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code, the doing of a terrorist act includes the doing of a specific terrorist act, the doing of more than one terrorist act and the doing of a terrorist act, even if a terrorist act does not occur.

Background to this listing

The Australian Government has not previously proscribed IS-Sinai as a terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code.

Terrorist activity of the organisation

Objectives

IS-Sinai is an officially-recognised Islamic State affiliate that adheres to Islamic State's global jihadist ideology and follows an extreme interpretation of Islam which is anti-Western, promotes sectarian violence and targets those that do not agree with its interpretations as infidels and apostates. IS-Sinai seeks to assist Islamic State to establish an Islamic caliphate covering historic greater Syria (Iraq, Syria and other parts of the Levant). Islamic State has tasked IS-Sinai to help establish the caliphate in Egypt's Sinai and, over the longer-term, historic Palestine (Israel and the Palestinian Territories).

IS-Sinai has undertaken the following to advance its ideology and achieve its objectives:

Directly or indirectly engaged in, preparing, planning, assisting in or fostering the doing of terrorist acts

IS-Sinai directly engages in terrorist attacks and kidnappings inside Egypt, primarily targeting Egyptian security forces, but also Israeli and Western interests. Attacks claimed by, or reliably attributed to, IS-Sinai include:

  • 8 April 2016: IS-Sinai claimed responsibility for separate roadside improvised explosive device (IED) attacks in North Sinai, Egypt, which killed seven people and wounded 15 more.
  • 19 March 2016: IS-Sinai ambushed an Egyptian security checkpoint in North Sinai, Egypt, killing 15 policemen.
  • 22 January 2016: IS-Sinai claimed responsibility for a bombing in Giza, Egypt, targeting Egyptian police, which killed nine people and injured a further 10.
  • 7 January 2016: IS-Sinai claimed a shooting attack on an Israeli tour bus outside a hotel near the pyramids in Giza, Egypt.
  • 24 November 2015: IS-Sinai claimed responsibility for a bombing at the Swiss Inn Hotel in El-Arish, North Sinai, Egypt, killing seven people, including two judges.
  • 31 October 2015: IS-Sinai claimed responsibility for the downing of Russian Metrojet flight 9268, which exploded over the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, killing all 224 passengers and crew. IS-Sinai published pictures of an improvised explosive device hidden in a can of soft drink which it claims brought down the plane.
  • 12 August 2015: IS-Sinai claimed to have beheaded a Croatian citizen who was kidnapped on 22 July 2015 west of Cairo, Egypt. IS-Sinai released a video showing the decapitated body of the Croatian citizen.
  • 1 July 2015: IS-Sinai launched simultaneous armed assaults and vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) attacks against military checkpoints and police posts in North Sinai, Egypt, killing dozens of security personnel and civilians.
  • 16 May 2015: IS-Sinai extremists opened fire on a bus carrying Egyptian judges in El-Arish, North Sinai, Egypt. Three judges and their driver were killed.
  • 29 January 2015: IS-Sinai conducted simultaneous bombings, mortar attacks and armed assaults against several Egyptian security services targets in North Sinai, Egypt, killing up to 30 people.
  • 11 January 2015: IS-Sinai abducted and killed an Egyptian police conscript in North Sinai, Egypt.

Advocating the doing of terrorist acts

Although public announcements directly from IS-Sinai are rare, the group has advocated the doing of terrorist acts.

Attacks that IS-Sinai has advocated for include:

  • 29 May 2015: IS-Sinai called (via Twitter) for Islamic State-aligned members in the Sinai to fight against Hamas and take over the Gaza Strip.
  • 20 May 2015: IS-Sinai called for attacks against Egyptian judges in an audio statement posted on a prominent jihadist website.

Details of the organisation

IS-Sinai is a Sunni extremist group located in the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. On 9 November 2014, Egypt-based extremist group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM) and members of the Gaza-based Mujahidin Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC) pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Following the pledges and the subsequent merging of ABM and MSC, the group adopted the name IS-Sinai and became a recognised Islamic State affiliate.

Before pledging allegiance to Islamic State, ABM mainly carried out attacks against Israeli and Egyptian Government interests, including Egypt's tourism industry. Since aligning itself with Islamic State, the scale and ferocity of IS-Sinai attacks has increased, and it has conducted attacks against Western interests.

Leadership

Details of IS-Sinai's leadership circle are unclear, although it is likely that IS-Sinai's top leadership remains similar to that under ABM. However, a number of key members have been killed or left the group following its pledge to Islamic State:

  • August 2016: the Egyptian military reported that they had killed the overall leader of IS-Sinai, Abu Du'a al-Ansari, in an airstrike.
  • November 2015: the Egyptian Interior Ministry reported that security forces had killed Ashraf Ali Hassanein al-Gharabli, IS-Sinai's leader in Cairo, Egypt.
  • November 2014: Hisham 'ali Ashmawi, ABM's former leader in Cairo, left the group due to ideological differences with Islamic State. He later formed his own group in Egypt, called al-Murabitun.
  • 2013: senior ABM leader Hammam Muhammad Atiyah left the group to form his own extremist group, Ajnad Misr (Soldiers of Egypt). Atiyah was subsequently killed by Egyptian police in April 2015.

It is likely that IS-Sinai has a similar leadership structure to Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, with an overall leader and a number of provincial or regional cells.

Membership

The majority of IS-Sinai members are Egyptian nationals from the North Sinai, including semi-nomadic Bedouin tribesmen, who are former members of ABM. The group also likely comprises several hundred members from across mainland Egypt, and a number of former members of the Gaza-based MSC, which joined ABM to form IS-Sinai.

Estimates put the group's numbers at around 1000-1500; however, early-2016 Egyptian counter-terrorism operations in the North Sinai may have reduced that number.

Recruitment and funding

IS-Sinai uses domestic issues in Egypt and its terrorist record to attract recruits. In the Nile Valley, high youth unemployment and anti-government sentiment amongst young Muslims drives IS-Sinai's recruitment. In the Sinai, the demilitarisation of the region following the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty, difficult economic conditions and a perception of harsh counter-terrorism policies towards the population influence IS-Sinai recruitment.

IS-Sinai likely relies heavily on income from its smuggling operations to and from northern Africa and the Gaza Strip, and other criminal enterprises, to fund terrorist operations. There are also indications IS-Sinai receives income from foreign donors, including sympathetic militant organisations outside of Egypt. In addition, as a recognised affiliate, IS-Sinai likely receives some funding from Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Links to other terrorist organisations

IS-Sinai pledged allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in November 2014. Given the proximity of IS-Sinai's area of operations to Libya, and its involvement in smuggling to and from northern Africa, IS-Sinai also likely has links to Islamic State's recognised affiliate in Libya, IS-Libya.

IS-Sinai allegedly has low-level links to Hamas' military wing, Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, likely based on familial links and areas of mutual benefit, such as smuggling and training. The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades is a listed terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code.

  • March 2016: members of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades said that several prominent members had left to join IS-Sinai.
  • February 2016: a supposed letter of complaint from an Islamic State fighter addressed to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was posted on social media and outlined reported smuggling, logistical and training links between IS-Sinai and the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades.

Links to Australia

There are no known links between IS-Sinai and Australia.

Threats to Australian interests

IS-Sinai has not made any explicit statements specifically threatening Australians or Australian interests. However, the group views the West, and the United States in particular, as supporters of Israel and Egypt and expresses anti-Western sentiment in its rhetoric. Various social media accounts claiming association with the group have posted threats to Western targets.

  • IS-Sinai claimed its killing of a Croatian citizen in August 2015 was in response to Croatia's support for the anti-Islamic State coalition.
  • IS-Sinai claimed responsibility for a bombing outside the Italian consulate in Cairo, Egypt, in July 2015 and told Muslims to stay away as such areas are targets for jihadists.

Listed by the United Nations or like-minded countries

IS-Sinai is listed by the United Nations under UNSC resolution 1373 and as a proscribed terrorist organisation by the governments of the US and Canada. It is also listed under its former name, ABM, by the government of the UK. MSC is separately listed by the US government.

Engagement in peace or mediation processes

IS-Sinai is not engaged in any peace talks with the Egyptian Government.

Conclusion

On the basis of the above information, ASIO assesses that IS-Sinai is directly or indirectly engaged in, preparing, planning, assisting in or fostering the doing of terrorist acts or advocates the doing of terrorist acts, involving threats to human life and serious damage to property.

In the course of pursuing its objectives, IS-Sinai is known to have committed or threatened actions that:

  • cause, or could cause, death, serious harm to persons, serious damage to property, endanger life (other than the life of the person taking the action), or create a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public;
  • are intended to have those effects;
  • are done with the intention of advancing IS-Sinai's political, religious or ideological causes ;
  • are done with the intention of intimidating the government of one or more foreign countries; and
  • are done with the intention of intimidating the public or sections of the public.