Since the beginning of army and police operations in North Sinai against Islamic State (IS)-affiliated Sinai Province, several media reports from both privately-owned and state-run media have made contradicting claims over the army’s success in killing the militant group’s alleged man-in-charge.
The mystery of ‘Sinai Province’
Despite the absence of an announcement from IS or Sinai Province media outlets regarding the identity of their real leader, local media reports have used several names to label the militant group leader over the past few years. These names are often seen out of sync or questions have arisen as to whether or not the names being floated around can be labelled as the Sinai Province leader.
The army’s clamp down on control over information regarding counter-terrorism operations in Sinai has posed a problem to media reports coming out of the peninsula.
The shroud of mystery over Sinai has led social media users and some journalists to question whether the leader that was reported killed on Thursday is in fact a real person.
Reports over the various deaths of Sinai Province leaders have been contradictory in recent years.
Several names have been claimed for the leader of the IS–affiliate, which has resulted in questions regarding the authenticity of a recent statement issued by the army spokesperson.
Abo Doaa Al-Ansary: 2016 Sinai Province leader?
On Thursday, Armed Forces spokesperson Mohamed Samir claimed in a statement that military forces in North Sinai killed Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis (now known as Sinai Province) leader Abo Doaa Al-Ansary, along with 45 other militants.
Al-Ansary was allegedly killed in airstrikes in Al-Arish, launched by the Air Force based on intelligence data, according to the army spokesperson’s statement.
For the first time ever, the name Abo Doaa Al-Ansary, which is highly questionable in terms of its credibility, appeared in the army spokesperson’s statement. The name has not previously been circulated, whether through the Sinai Province’s statements, or through earlier media reports that frequently claimed that the army had succeeded in killing the Sinai Province’s leader.
Following the statement, the newly circulated name was denied by several affiliated members of Sinai Province on their social media outlets, who claimed that it was not real. They alleged that the leader’s name in the recent army statement was fabricated in response to the Flames of Desert video released by Sinai Province that contained footage of army and police personnel being killed.
Prior to Thursday’s statement about Al-Ansary, Egyptian local media played an important role in showing how the Sinai Province leader is intractable to kill.
While Al-Ansary’s name was absent from the internet prior to Thursday, there is another name that has been more frequently pushed around the media as the leader of Sinai Province. Continuing the mystery, this man has been killed and arrested multiple times.
Once the alleged leader of the group, Shady El Menaai was reported killed and then arrested in October 2014.
El Menaai was purportedly killed in an army airstrike that targeted alleged terrorist locations, according to several privately-owned media outlets that reported the information, which they attributed to high-ranking security officials. However, this was the second time El Menaai was killed by the Armed Forces.
State-run newspaper Al-Ahram reported in May 2014 that police and army forces killed El Menaai, who it claimed was the leader of Sinai Province then as well.
The state-run newspaper reported the killing of El Menaai according to high-ranking security officials, stating that El Menaai was killed over his effective participation in the planning and execution of terrorist attacks against police and army checkpoints.
El Menaai is alive in 2014
However, in late 2014, Sinai Province published a video message in which El Menaai appeared without claiming to be the leader. Instead, they asserted that their leader was safe.
Meanwhile, in one scene from the video message, El Menaai appeared while mocking reports indicating that he was killed which were depicted on a laptop. In a later scene, he appeared surrounded by the group’s militants.
El Menaai is no more the leader
In October 2014, several media reports issued by privately-owned newspapers indicated that police and army forces succeeded in arresting several members of Sinai Province and killed its leader Walid Waked in an airstrike, despite aforementioned reports that portrayed El Menaai as the leader of Sinai Province.
Waked became the name circulated until the end of 2014.
Abu Osama killed in 2014, arrested in 2015
In 2015, another name was being circulated as head of Sinai Province.
In January, numerous media reports claimed that police and army forces successfully arrested Abu Osama El Masry, who they claimed was the leader of Sinai Province.
The reports carried a clear contradiction to previous ones that asserted that Abu Osama had been killed in 2014, after sweeping operations carried out by army and police forces in the North Sinai city of Sheikh Zewaid.
Until further confirmation or another video report from Sinai Province, the fate and real name of the militant group’s leader will remain a guessing game.