Alwaght- An ISIS affiliate in Egypt is calling on its fighters to stage attacks during next month's presidential elections and warning Egyptians to stay away from polling centers.
The authenticity of the 23-minute video posted late Sunday on websites known to be sympathetic to the ISIS terrorist group could not be independently verified, but appeared similar to past ISIS releases. The video makes a brief mention of an ongoing offensive by security forces against ISIS, suggesting it was made after the campaign began Friday.
Operation Sinai 2018 was launched by Egyptian forces on Friday morning, involving land, naval and air forces, as well as the police and border guards, targeting "terrorist and criminal elements and organizations" in northern and central Sinai, as well as parts of the Nile Delta and the Western Desert.
The video showed what appeared to be footage of past ISIS attacks in Sinai and the gruesome killings of unarmed off-duty soldiers or men suspected of collaborating with security forces. The timing of its release and its contents, however, appear designed to project an image of the group as a resilient force in the face of what is possibly the largest offensive by government forces since the insurgency began nearly five years ago.
Egyptian Presidential elections will be held in March with Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi expected to win amid a crackdown on opponents.
Egypt has for years been battling a Wahhabi-Takfiri insurgency based in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula that mainly targets security forces. The army said it has killed hundreds of militants in military operations there. Over the past few years, terrorists have been carrying out anti-government activities and fatal attacks, taking advantage of the turmoil in Egypt that erupted after the country’s first democratically-elected president, Mohamed Morsi, was ousted in a military coup in July 2013.
The Wilayat Sinai group, which is affiliated with the ISIS Takfiri terrorists, has claimed responsibility for most of the assaults.