At a remote spot in the Sinai desert last month, a commander of Egypt’s most feared Islamist group outlined his hopes of toppling the country’s government.

“We execute the wishes of God,” the commander told a Reuters reporter who had been taken to the location blindfolded in mid January. The militant spoke in a small room with an open window. Outside, a desert wind blew over the barren landscape. “We will create an Islamic state in Egypt,” he said.

The militant said he was from the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis group, which has killed hundreds of security forces since the military ousted Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood from Egypt’s presidency amid popular unrest in 2013. Last week the group claimed responsibility for attacks on a military base and hotel in north Sinai that killed 25 and wounded at least 58, including nine civilians, on January 30. It was the heaviest toll on government forces for three months. […]