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 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;  Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham – Sinai; Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Sinai Province; ISIL Sinai Province; Islamic State-Sinai Province; Islamic State in the Sinai; Wilayat Sinai; The State of Sinai; IS-Sinai; ISIS-Sinai; ISIS-SP; 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 Act 1995 (Criminal Code) provides that for an organisation to be listed as a terrorist organisation, the AFP Minister 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 first proscribed IS-Sinai as a terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code on 28 November 2016.

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 assassinations inside Egypt. IS-Sinai primarily targets Egyptian security forces, but has also targeted Israeli and Western interests. Attacks IS-Sinai has claimed responsibility for and is assessed to have undertaken include:

  • 16 February 2019: IS-Sinai claimed responsibility for an attack against an Egyptian military barracks at al-Arish airport in the Sinai. The claim stated the group had killed 20 soldiers and included pictures from the clash, and of the victims.
  • 14 April 2018: IS-Sinai claimed a suicide attack on an Egyptian military base in the central Sinai region, which killed at least eight soldiers, and wounded 15 others.
  • 26 August 2018: IS-Sinai claimed responsibility for an attack on a police checkpoint in northern Sinai, which likely killed at least four police officers.
  • 16 October 2017: IS-Sinai claimed to have conducted raids on military outposts in northern Sinai, and fired rockets at the Eshkol Complex in southern Israel, the previous day. Six Egyptian soldiers were killed, and at least 20 were injured.
  • 19 December 2017: IS-Sinai claimed a missile attack on al-Arish airport, targeting the Egyptian Defence and Interior Ministers. The attack killed one soldier, and damaged a helicopter.
  • 31 October 2015: IS-Sinai claimed responsibility for bombing of Russian Metrojet flight 9268, which exploded over the Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 passengers and crew. IS-Sinai published pictures of an IED hidden in a can of soft drink which it claims brought down the plane.

Further attacks for which IS-Sinai have not claimed responsibility but are assessed to have undertaken include:

  • 24 November 2017: more than two dozen militants killed at least 305 people, and injured over 128, in an attack on the Al Rawdah mosque in Egypt’s Sinai region. Militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) and shot at fleeing worshippers and ambulances. The mosque, located about 40 kilometres west of al-Arish, was frequented by Sufis. IS-Sinai was likely responsible for the attack, and Egyptian officials said the attackers carried ISIL flags.

Details of the organisation

IS-Sinai is a Sunni Islamist extremist group located in the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. On 9 November 2014, Egypt-based extremist group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM) pledged allegiance to the ISIL and its leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. Following the pledge, the group adopted the name IS-Sinai and became a recognised ISIL affiliate.

Before pledging allegiance to ISIL, ABM mainly carried out attacks against Israeli and Egyptian Government interests, including Egypt’s tourism industry. Since becoming an affiliate of Islamic State, IS-Sinai has also conducted attacks against Western and sectarian interests.

Leadership

Details of IS-Sinai’s leadership structure are unclear. It is likely that some legacy members of the ABM leadership remain; however, a number of key members have been killed since that time:

  • In October 2018, the Islamic State announced the death of one of its Sinai-based leaders, Abu Hamza al Maqdisi, reportedly in charge of planning and training.
  • In August 2016, the Egyptian military reported it had killed the IS-Sinai leader, Abu Du’a al-Ansari, in an airstrike.
  • In November 2015, the Egyptian Interior Ministry reported security forces had killed Ashraf Ali Hassanein al-Gharabli, IS-Sinai’s leader in Cairo.

It is likely IS-Sinai has a similar leadership structure to the 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, including from the marginalised, and underdeveloped North Sinai—many of whom are likely former members of ABM. The group also likely comprises members from across mainland Egypt, and a number of foreigners including Palestinians.

Estimates from 2017 put the group’s numbers at approximately 800-1200; however, Egyptian counter‑terrorism operation ‘Sinai 2018’ may have reduced that number.

Recruitment and funding

IS‑Sinai uses domestic issues in Egypt, propaganda, and its terrorist record to attract recruits. In the Sinai, the demilitarisation of the region following the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty, difficult economic conditions and a perception of neglect from the mainland influences IS-Sinai recruitment.

IS-Sinai likely relies on income from its smuggling operations to and from northern Africa and the Gaza Strip, and other criminal enterprises, to fund terrorist operations. 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 has had a fractious relationship with Hamas elements in Gaza. Previously the group is understood to have had engagement based on familial links, cross-border pragmatism, common interests, and arms smuggling; however, the relationship deteriorated on both sides, and in January 2018, ISIL-Sinai released a video which showed the execution of a member accused of smuggling weapons to Hamas’ Izz al-Din al‑Qassam Brigades.

Links to Australia

There are no known direct 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.

Listed by the United Nations or like-minded countries

IS-Sinai is listed as a terrorist organisation by the Governments of the US and Canada, and in New Zealand is a designated terrorist group pursuant to United Nations UNSC resolution 1373. It is also listed under its former name, ABM, by the Government of the United Kingdom. The Islamic State or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, is listed under the United Nations Security Council resolution 2253 (2015) which expands on the United Nations Security Council resolution 1267 (1999) Sanctions Committee’s consolidated list.

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, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) assesses that IS-Sinai is directly or indirectly engaged in, preparing, planning, assisting in or fostering 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.