Similar to Syria and Iraq, Sinai Province Institutes Religious Police Units in Sinai

Sinai Province, an affiliated group to the Islamic State in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, posted a video depicting the beheading of two men the militant Islamist group said it had found guilty of practicing witchcraft and sorcery.

The video, which was posted on a Telegram channel often used by ISIS group, showed the group forming a religious police unit known as the Hasbah in northern Sinai, where it has waged an insurgency for years. The rugged, thinly populated peninsula borders Israel, Gaza and the Suez Canal.

Two elderly men were shown on the video in orange jumpsuits while taken out of a black van and led to the desert, where they were beheaded.

In the video, a man reads out what he says is a verdict from a Sharia court condemning them to death for “apostasy, sorcery, claiming the ability to tell the future, and leading people to polytheism.”

It is worth to mention that ISIS group uses the terms sorcerers and heretics to refer to adherents of Sufism, a non-violent form of Islam involving mystical rituals that has been practiced for centuries.

One fighter can be seen and heard saying,”Thanks be to God who has allowed the Islamic State’s soldiers in Sinai in applying his law and instituting religion in spite of all the infidels, apostates and envious Jews.”

Moreover, fighters are shown in the video seizing trucks full of cigarettes and drugs, and then burning them.

In addition, they were are also handing out fliers with religious advice to motorists at checkpoints and raiding a Sufi gathering and arresting a number of men, who are given a religious sermon and then made to sign a document saying they will repent.

They were are also seen smashing television sets and satellite dishes, destroying tombs they say go against Islamic burial laws, and using sticks to beat men accused of smuggling. They are also shown blowing up what they describe as Sufi shrines.

In fact, ISIS has instituted religious police units similar to those in Syrian and Iraqi territories under its authority.

It seems that ISIS militants are expanding their activities in targeting civilians in the Peninsula.

In the same context, Sinai Coptic residents were targeted by ISIS group recently.

Last month, the Islamic State (IS) posted a video in which it threatened the Christians in Egypt and vowed to launch attacks against them, saying that  “Cairo will soon be liberated” (from Christians).

The video showed Abu Abdullah Al-Masry, the man responsible for the deadly attack Coptic Cathedral bombing in Cairo which killed nearly 30 people.

A few days following the attack, ISIS claimed responsibility for it.

The attack was the largest by ISIS against civilians in Cairo.

In the video, a narrator described Christians as ISIS’s“favorite prey” and said that they do not enjoy the status of “dhimmis”, non-Muslims who were traditionally protected inside medieval Islamic empires.”

Instead, Christians are described as “infidels”. One of the jihadists featured in the video,“God gave orders to kill every infidel.”

At that time, the video inferred that the militants are planning to carry out more terrorist attacks that will target Christians.

As a result, seven Christians were killed in three weeks,  prompting almost 200 families to flee northern Sinai, according to church officials and human rights groups.

Furthermore, photos of “Sinai Province” militants, while carrying out a checkpoint inside central Al-Arish, spread in the social media in March.

The photos showed a number of masked militants inspecting civilians’ vehicles in a street near El Faleh Square in central Al-Arish.

The militants had different types of guns, and one of them was carrying a rocket-propelled grenade [RPG], in addition to other military equipment and hand grenades.

Sinai Province militants reportedly appeared for fifteen to thirty minutes with the aim of showing that they are still strong despite intensive security measures.

As a result, the efficiency of the currently followed security measures inside North Sinai’s city of Al-Arish has been a controversial issue on social media outlets.

Violence and unrest have escalated in Northern Sinai as the Egyptian military and police forces have been the target of ongoing attacks which have increased after the ouster of Egypt’s first democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi by a military coup in 2013.

Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, the militant group responsible for a majority of attacks on military personnel, aligned with the Islamic State group in November 2014, changing its name to “Sinai Province”.

Sinai Province has targeted Egypt’s security forces in various attacks, mostly roadside bombings, and ambushes, as well as operations against security checkpoints.