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Egyptian jihadist group joins Islamic State

Ansa Beit al-Maqdis is the Islamic State's first international affiliate group.

By Ed Adamczyk
Egyptian jihadist group joins Islamic State
Egyptian army forces patrol amid debris of houses on the Egyptian side of the border town of Rafah, as seen from the Palestinian side of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Nov. 01, 2014. UPI/Ismael Mohamad | License Photo

CAIRO, Nov. 10 (UPI) -- Egypt's most violent jihadist group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, pledged its loyalty Monday to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State organization.

Ansar Beit al-Maqdis is the only Islamist militant faction of any consequence to endorse IS, and thus becomes the first foreign affiliate of IS. The announcement, which referred to Baghdadi as "caliph" and urged other Muslims to offer their support, came in an audio Twitter message.

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The group's focus thus far has been attacks on Egyptian military and security forces from its encampments in Sinai, which has become something of a safe haven for anti-government militants in Egypt. It has conducted beheadings of suspected government informants, an IS method of intimidation.

The new alliance could shift targets to Egyptian Christians, tourists and civilians, The New York Times noted Monday, adding that the announcement of an alliance alone could slow investment and tourism in Egypt and destabilize its economy.

In the 16 months since the ouster of Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis has established itself as a group of skilled and ruthless fighters with increasingly sophisticated intelligence information concerning Egyptian troop movements.

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An airstrike Sunday by a U.S.-led coalition injured Baghdadi, senior Iraqi officials said, but the U.S. Defense Dept. said it had no information regarding the matter.

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