Head of Egypt’s Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis killed
The Sinai-based militant group has claimed some of the deadliest attacks in Egypt over the past months
The leader of Egypt’s deadliest militant group, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, has been killed along with three senior members in an overnight attack, officials said early Friday, in a security operation that will likely boost the image of presidential candidate Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ahead of next week’s election.
High-ranking officials confirmed the death of Shadi al-Menei, the head of the Islamist militant group.
Security forces opened fire on the four men as they were in a car in central Sinai and purportedly about to carry out an attack on a gas pipeline, officials said, according to Agence France Presse.
However, other security officials said Menei and five other members of the group were shot by unidentified assailants.
A statement on the army spokesman’s official Facebook page said a military operation Thursday resulted in the killing of six extremely dangerous criminal elements, Reuters reported.
It did not name Menei and it was not immediately clear if the statement was referring to the same incident.
The al-Qaeda inspired militant group has spearheaded a wave of attacks targeting security forces since the army ousted Islamist president Mohammad Mursi in July.
Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has claimed some of the deadliest and high-profile attacks against Egyptian security forces, including a failed assassination attempt against the interior minister in September.
The group is thought to have been founded primarily by Egyptians in 2011 after the uprising that toppled strongman Hosni Mubarak.
Impact of Menei’s death on election
The death of the top al-Qaeda leader will likely have a positive impact on next week’s presidential election, said Nabil Sharafuddine, a political analyst based in Egypt.
“What happened today sends a message ... that the Egyptian security forces hold the upper hand now in their battle with the Muslim Brotherhood,” he told Al Arabiya News.
Egypt will hold a presidential election on May 26-27 and it is widely expected to bring to power Sisi, who ousted Islamist President Mohammed Mursi in July.
Sisi is running against leftist leader Hamdeen Sabbahi.
The analyst said Friday’s on-ground gains could positively influence Sisi’s image in front of the public, where many view him as a strong leader capable of restoring security.
“Today’s positive advancements will surely benefit Sisi’s stance,” he said, adding that the former military man was the mastermind behind the brigade that carried out the operation.
(With AFP and Reuters)