CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt's most violent Islamist group released a video on Sunday showing militants beheading three Egyptians whom they accused of being informants for Israeli intelligence.
In a video posted on YouTube, the Sinai-based Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis accused the Egyptian government of collaborating with the Israelis to attack their fighters in Sinai and vowed to hunt down the local informants they rely on.
"These are your sons, continuing to harvest the spies of the Jews," a spokesman for the group says in the video.
The gruesome footage shows the three men confessing before being decapitated by masked men. Their detached heads are then placed on their backs.
A fourth man, shown confessing to being an informant for the Egyptian military, is then mown down by bullets.
The filmed killings were reminiscent of images posted on the Internet by Islamic State, which has seized large parts of Iraq and Syria. The footage also included a clip from a recent speech by Islamic State's spokesman, suggesting that Egyptian militants were increasingly inspired by the al Qaeda-offshoot now notorious for summary executions and beheadings.
Islamic State has attracted a following from Egyptian Islamists on social media sites. Egyptian security sources estimate that up to 8,000 Egyptians are fighting abroad with militant groups such as Islamic State and al Qaeda.
At home, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has become a major security problem for the government, killing scores of police and soldiers in the increasingly lawless Sinai Peninsula, which is bounded by Israel, the Gaza Strip and the Suez Canal, one of the world's most important shipping routes.
Though the Sinai militants are not believed to be officially affiliated to Islamic State, an Ansar commander told Reuters last month that Islamic State had been advising them on how to operate more effectively.
Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis said in August that it had beheaded four Egyptians for providing Israel with intelligence for an air strike that killed three of its fighters. It posted footage of the killings on Twitter.
Last month, Sinai residents said they had found a beheaded corpse bearing a note signed by the group, accusing the victim of being an Israeli spy.
(Reporting by Ali Abdelatti, Writing by Lin Noueihed; Editing by Kevin Liffey)