Bus explosion claimed by Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis
Bus explosion claimed by Ansar Bayt Al-MaqdisReuters

The leader of an Al-Qaeda-inspired group that fired rockets from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula towards the Israeli city of Eilat was killed in a drive-by shooting on Thursday, The Associated Press (AP) reports.

Three associates of the leader of the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis group were killed in the same incident as well, senior Egyptian security officials said.

The development deals a heavy blow to the group, which has claimed scores of deadly attacks across Egypt since the ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi last July.

According to three senior security officials, Shadi el-Manaei, who headed the group, and the three others were found dead after unidentified gunmen sprayed their vehicle with bullets on a road in central Sinai.

The officials said that according to the police investigation, 15 men in vehicles and armed with automatic machineguns, attacked el-Manaei's car to avenge the killings of tribesmen by his terror group.

Among the attacks claimed by Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis in recent months was the assassination of a top Egyptian police general, who was gunned down as he left his home in a west Cairo neighborhood, and a bus bombing on a tour bus filled with South Korean tourists in the Sinai. 

Several months ago, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis denounced the Egyptian army as “an enemy of Allah” because of its crackdown on Sinai terrorists and called for “jihad” against it.

Egypt's military-backed interim government has blamed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood group for the violence, outlawing it and calling it a terrorist organization. The Brotherhood denies being involved in the violence.

The United States has designated Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis a foreign terrorist organization. Egypt just recently charged 200 suspected members of the group with carrying out over 50 terrorist attacks, killing 40 policemen and 15 civilians and conspiring with Hamas.