A Sinai-based militant group has posted an online video showing the beheading of four Egyptians, saying they had provided Israel with intelligence for an airstrike that killed three of its fighters.
The Ansar Beit al-Maqdis group, whose name means Champions of Jerusalem in Arabic, posted a 30-minute video showing detailed confessions of the four men. The men are then blindfolded and beheaded by masked militants.
An Egyptian security official confirmed the authenticity of the video. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the press, the Associated Press reported.
Four headless corpses were found in the Sinai Peninsula earlier this month, Reuters quoted security sources said as saying – the first time that any decapitations had been made public in Egypt.
The men had been abducted by gunmen two days earlier while driving in the town of Sheikh Zuwaid, which is just a few kilometers from the Gaza Strip.
The filmed killings was reminiscent of images posted on the Internet by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has seized large parts of Iraq and Syria, suggesting Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis might have been inspired by the group, notorious for beheadings and executions.
The Sinai militants are not believed to be officially linked to ISIS insurgents. However, Egyptian intelligence officials say the group has influenced Egyptian militants who are based just over the border with Libya.
The officials say the Libya-based fighters have also established contacts with Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis.
Though the four dead men were civilians, security sources had said initially that they might have been targeted for their perceived allegiance to the police and army.
Militants in the Sinai have stepped up attacks on policemen and soldiers since then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi toppled President Mohammad Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in July 2013.
The attacks initially targeted security forces in Sinai – a remote but strategic part of Egypt located between Israel, the Gaza Strip and the Suez Canal – but they have since extended their reach, with bombings on the mainland.