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Sinai militants demolish home of suspected army collaborator

Islamic State affiliates Ansar Beit al-Maqdis thought responsible for targeting tribal leader near Rafah, as new video threatens President Sisi
The aftermath of the Egyptian army's campaign to demolish houses in the 'buffer zone' with Gaza (MEE)

Militants in Sinai blew up the house of a tribal leader whom they accused of collaborating with Egyptian intelligence services in the area.

The house, in a village south of Rafah town in the north of the Sinai Peninsula, belonged to Sheikh Moniem al-Mani’i.

Sounds of the explosion were heard throughout al-Mahdiya village on Wednesday evening.

Eye-witnesses from the area later reported that Mani’i’s house had been demolished because of his alleged co-operation with the Egyptian army and police force, according to Arabic news site Arabi21.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but accounts supportive of Islamic State posted the news on Thursday.

Translation: Thanks to God, our brothers in Sinai demolished the house of Moniem al-Mani’i in al-Mahdiya village. He is one of the army’s most prolific spies.

Egyptian authorities are currently focusing an anti-militant crackdown on the restive Sinai Peninsula on the border with the Gaza Strip, and have launched an extensive campaign of house demolitions in an attempt to establish an expanded 1,000 metre wide buffer zone with the Hamas-run coastal enclave.

It is thought that upwards of 800 homes in the border area will be demolished in an attempt to root out militants – Egypt fears that weapons are smuggled into the Sinai through underground tunnels with the Gaza Strip.

The tough measures come after a huge attack on 24 October that killed over 30 soldiers stationed in Arish, the capital of North Sinai.

Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (ABM), the primary militant organisation active in the Sinai, has since claimed responsibility for the highly-coordinated attack.

ABM officially pledged allegiance to Islamic State on 10 November, after weeks of speculation and apparent internal divisions over the alliance.

It now calls itself "Wilayat Sinai", a term meaning "province" used to refer to regional branches of Islamic State.

A new 20-minute long video shared by the Sinai-based group, ABM/IS, via Google Drive on Thursday features extensive footage of IS activity in Iraq and Syria – it also includes an attack on a Sinai gas pipeline leading to Jordan.

ABM/IS claimed responsibilty for the pipeline explosion last weekend.

Screen grab showing the pipeline explosion on 15 October (MEE / إعلام ولاية سيناء)

The video, entitled “Jihadist battles against Egypt’s heretical army,” also features a message from Abu Hamza al-Ansari, a leading figure in Islamic State who was reportedly killed recently in Syria.

In his taped message, Ansari sends a direct message to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt, repeating the tone of a previous video, which depicted Egyptian army units in disarray during the landmark ABM/IS attack in Arish on 24 October.

“This is a message from Sinai… We will be the swords that cut the heads and hands of your men, and we will be the car bombs that destroy your thrones and your castles.”

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