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Suspected car bomb wounds 4 Egyptian soldiers in Sharkiya

At least four Egyptian security personnel were injured today in an attack outside a military intelligence building in Anshas in the Sharkiya governorate. In a statement released to Facebook, Egypt's army spokesman said the attack destroyed part of the building's back wall.

While not definitive, multiple reports indicate that the explosion was likely the result of a car bomb. "The blast is believed to have been caused by a car laden with explosives detonating near the intelligence building," Al Ahram reported. In a separate report, based on comments from a security official, Al Ahram stated that the "blast resulted from a remotely-detonated explosive device planted inside a privately-owned Hyundai Verna car." Security sources told the Associated Press that the remains of a vehicle were found near the building.

Hours after the attack, state-run MENA reported that authorities had managed to arrest "a person suspected of involvement."

Thus far, the attack has gone unclaimed. It came five days after an Ansar Jerusalem (Ansar Bayt al Maqdis) suicide car bombing attack outside the Daqahliya security directorate in Mansoura killed more than a dozen people and injured over 130 more. Two days later, on Dec. 26, a bomb exploded on a bus near Cairo, injuring at least five people.

In its claim of responsibility for the Mansoura attack, Ansar Jerusalem said it would continue to fight and reiterated its warning for Egyptian Muslims to stay away from buildings associated with the security forces. The group, which has issued such warnings since at least September, stated in an Oct. 21 communique that police and military headquarters "are legitimate targets for the mujahideen."

Today authorities also reportedly defused a bomb near al Azhar University's Faculty of Medicine in Damietta as well as an explosive device near a school in el Arish.

Since July 3, there have been more than 260 reported attacks in the Sinai Peninsula, most of which were carried out against Egyptian security forces and assets, according to data maintained by The Long War Journal. A good number of these attacks, including the Nov. 20 car bombing that killed 11 Egyptian security personnel, have been claimed by Ansar Jerusalem.

Attacks by Sinai-based jihadists, Ansar Jerusalem specifically, have also taken place in the Egyptian mainland. On Sept. 5, the jihadist group used a suicide car bomber in an assassination attempt in Nasr City on Egypt's interior minister, Mohammed Ibrahim. A month later, an Ansar Jerusalem suicide bomber unleashed a blast at the South Sinai Security Directorate in el Tor, which killed three security personnel and injured more than 45. On Oct. 19, the Sinai-based jihadist group targeted a military intelligence building in the city of Ismailia in another car bombing. And on Nov. 19, the group claimed responsibility for the shooting attack on Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Mabrouk, a senior national security officer, in Cairo.

The al Furqan Brigades, which are not believed to be based in the Sinai, have also claimed responsibility for a number of shootings and rocket attacks in the Egyptian mainland since the overthrow of Mohammed Morsi in early July. In contrast to Ansar Jerusalem, the group has yet to claim responsibility for any large car or suicide bombings.

Ansar Jerusalem, which was founded by Egyptians, is the dominant jihadist group operating in the Sinai Peninsula today. The group releases material through the jihadist forums of Al Fajr Media Center, al Qaeda's exclusive media distribution outlet, and Ansar Jerusalem fighters are often seen with the al Qaeda flag. Over the past two years, Ansar Jerusalem has claimed credit for a number of attacks against Israel and Egypt.

In September 2013, Ansar Jerusalem declared that "it is obligatory to repulse them [the Egyptian army] and fight them until the command of Allah is fulfilled." Recent reports in the Egyptian media have suggested that Ansar Jerusalem may have links to Muhammad Jamal and the Muhammad Jamal Network [MJN], which were added to the US government's list of designated terrorists and the UN's sanctions list in October 2013.

Jamal, whose fighters have been linked to the Sept. 11, 2012 Benghazi terror attack, is said to have established "several terrorist training camps in Egypt and Libya" with funding from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

In late November, in response to a Long War Journal query on whether the State Department believes there is a connection between the Muhammad Jamal Network (MJN) and Ansar Bayt al Maqdis, a State Department spokesman said: "We have no comment on the inter-relationships between MJN and the other Sinai groups."

[Source: By David Barnett, Threat Matrix, The Long War Journal, NJ, 29Dec13]

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