Ansar Beit al-Maqdis

Who are the jihadists who may have brought down the Russian jet?

Bombing an airliner out of the sky would be a major step up in capabilities not only for Islamic State but particularly for the two men who have built the forces of jihad in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula into a major threat, according to analysts who monitor the groups.

As recently as two years ago, the jihadists of Sinai were a semi-organised group of former criminal elements, radicalised local youth, and some volunteers sent from Al-Qaeda’s arm in Yemen, numbering no more than in the low hundreds.

However, they have two charismatic leaders. Abu Osama al-Masri, Wilayat Sinai’s spiritual leader, is the man whose name has been attached to videos and the online statements claiming responsibility for the attack on the Russian tourists’ plane.