State Department slaps terror designation on militants in Egypt

 

McClatchy Interactive

The State Department today labeled an Islamist militant group operating in the Sinai region of Egypt as a foreign terrorist organization.

The blacklisting of Ansar Bayt al Maqdis, which was founded in 2011 in the security vacuum after the Egyptian uprising, means that the group's U.S. assets are frozen and that Americans cannot provide material support.

The group is linked to attacks on the Israeli city of Eilat, the downing of a military helicopter and the bombing of a tourist bus in Sinai that left three South Korean tourists and their Egyptian driver dead, according to the State Department and news reports.

The U.S. statement on the designation said Ansar Bayt al Maqdis "shares some aspects" of al Qaida's ideology, but is not a formal affiliate.

U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued a statement praising the decision to blacklist a group that he described as "an enemy of the Egyptian people, our allies in the region and global peace."

Here's an excerpt from the State Department's announcement of the designation:

Created in 2011 following the Egyptian uprisings, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM) is responsible for attacks on Israel and security services and tourists in Egypt.  ABM – who shares some aspects of AQ ideology, but is not a formal AQ affiliate and generally maintains a local focus – was responsible for a July 2012 attack against a Sinai pipeline exporting gas to Israel. In August 2012, ABM claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on the southern Israeli city of Eilat, and in September 2012, ABM militants attacked an Israeli border patrol, killing one soldier and injuring another.

In October 2013, ABM claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing targeting the South Sinai Security Directorate in el Tor, which killed three people and injured more than 45.  In January 2014, ABM successfully downed a military helicopter in a missile attack, killing five soldiers on board, and claimed responsibility for four attacks involving car bombs and hand grenades in Cairo, which left six people dead and over 70 wounded, many of them civilian bystanders.

ABM has also targeted government officials, including the September 2013 attempted assassination of the Egyptian Interior Minister, and the January 2014 assassination of the head of the Interior Minister’s technical office. In February 2014, ABM expanded its targets to include foreign tourists, and claimed responsibility for the bombing of a tour bus in the Sinai Peninsula, killing the Egyptian driver and three South Korean tourists.

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