Threats from an Egyptian militant group that has pledged allegiance to ISIS prompted Canada to close its embassy in Cairo on December 8, following the closure of the British Embassy a day earlier over similar security concerns.
Adam Hodge, press secretary for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said, “As a security precaution, and to ensure the protection of Canadian staff, we have closed our embassy in Cairo.”
While officially the embassy was closed indefinitely for “security reasons,” a government source speaking on the condition of anonymity said that it was the result of threats from Egyptian ISIS affiliate Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis.
A relative newcomer among the Middle East’s seemingly endless supply of armed Islamist factions, the group, initially known for launching attacks against Israeli targets and interests, shifted its focus to the Egyptian army and police following the ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013. The group has been involved in suicide bombings, drive-by shootings, and assassinations, most notably, the attempted assassination of Interior Minister Muhammad Ibrahim in 2013.
In an apparent escalation last month, the group declared its allegiance to ISIS, calling it the “emergence of a new dawn” and pledged to obey its leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, whose spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani has called for attacks against Canadians in retaliation for Ottawa’s decision to join the international anti-ISIS military coalition.
According to a newly declassified Canadian intelligence report, which indicates that the Canadian government is well aware of the threat posed by Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, the group will soon be added to Ottawa’s growing list of outlawed terrorist entities, having already been designated a terrorist organization in both the United States and the United Kingdom.
Canada’s Foreign Affairs Department advises against any non-essential travel to Egypt, citing continuing civil unrest and demonstrations in many parts of the country. The Canadian embassy remained closed on Monday.