A national security source in Cairo has revealed to Majalla that the Egyptian terrorist Hesham Ashmawy is a graduate of a special unit force within the Muslim Brotherhood, a group he joined in 2012. The source has also told us that Ashmawy later joined “Ansar Beit Al Maqdis”, a Sinai based terrorist organization, in which he commanded militants to carry out attacks throughout Egypt.
Ashmawy fled from Egypt in 2013 after the toppling of the Muslim Brotherhood’s President Mohamed Morsi. He settled in the Libyan city Derna, which became his base of operations for transnational terrorist attacks until he was arrested by the Libyan National Army earlier in October.
Colonel Ahmed El Masmary, the official speaker of the Libyan military, said that Ashmawy is presently in a military prison where he is being questioned. The colonel later revealed that Ashmawy’s motives targeted Egypt and the Arab region as a whole, pointing to his movements through several Arab countries in recent years. In a press conference, the colonel said that Ashmawy was a “dangerous criminal terrorist” who entered Libya for the first time in 2011, then he went to Syria where he trained many militant personnel how to conduct advanced special operations.
El Masmary stated that Ashmawy moved on to Sinai , where he joined the military wing of “Ansar Beit Al Maqdis”, he later returned to Cairo after the group pledged allegiance to ISIS and from there he fled back to Libya in 2013.
Our Egyptian security source states that Ashmawy joined one of the Muslim Brotherhood’s special units in the Nasr City area in Cairo. The source also emphasized that jailed Brotherhood leader Mohamed El Beltagy was the one who persuaded Ashmawy to join the Muslim Brotherhood, specifically the terrorist group’s Nasr City Special Units.
Our source also asserted that Ashmawy is part of a group within the Muslim Brotherhood called the “Department of Units”, a group which was formed surreptitiously. Our source told us that this secret group’s members included police officers who were ordered by the Muslim Brotherhood not to shave their beards and were collectively called “The Bearded Officers”. The group also included former army officers who were dismissed for having extremist views. Our source reasserted that Ashmawy was part of this secret group, and added that Mohamed El Beltagy supervised it; moreover the terrorist Mohamed Kamal later succeeded El Beltagy as the group’s leader.
The security source’s special report to Majalla indicated that after joining the Brotherhood, Ashmawy was instantly exposed to radical views through Helmy Hashim. Helmy Hashim is a prime example of an extremist Brotherhood member, having abandoned his former life as a police officer to become to official “mufti” of the special units of the terrorist group. He was also the head and “mufti” of the Egyptian Takifiris, as well as a prominent member of the “Shoaqeen” group (an old radical group in Egypt).
The source also said that Hashim played a big role in the Rabia Al Adawiyya sit-ins, which supporters of ex-president Morsi participated in. Hashim would send his followers to the sit-ins that sought to re-instate Morsi back in power after he was toppled as a result of mass protests in Egypt.
The source said that after Hashim’s plans failed within the Muslim Brotherhood, he began to initiate another scheme through an organization which strives to establish an Islamic state that appeals to his extremist views. This resulted in a new prison sentence for him, on charges of participating in the establishment of a terrorist organization aimed at changing the regime through armed force.
The source added that Ashmawy split from ISIS, after the group declared that killing him was halal due to his refusal to pledge allegiance to them. He later founded the “Al-Murabitun” organization, which pledges its allegiance to Al Qaeda leader, Ayman El Zawahiri. The source also stated that immediately after the dispersal of the pro-Morsi sit-ins, both Muslim Brotherhood leaders, Mohamed El Beltagy and Mohamed Kamal, issued a fatwa telling Ashmawy to lead “Ansar Beit Al Maqdis” and conduct their operations against the Egyptian state. Mufti of the Takfiris, Helmi Hashim, also gave Ashmawy his blessings for these attacks. The most significant of these operations include the attempted murder of former interior minister Mohamed Ibrahim. Ashmawy also organized the “Arab Circassian” group which bombed the Cairo Security Directorate. Ashmawy also conducted other attacks, even after leaving “Ansar Beit Al Maqdis” and aligning with Ayman El Zawahiri.
The source pointed out that Ashmawy’s capture is valuable not just because of his associations with many of the major terrorist wings in the region but also because he’s a cornucopia of information on various terrorist groups since he previously cooperated with foreign secret services. In the coming days, we should know the motivations that lead Ashmawy to carry out attacks against the Egyptian state.
The source has told us that that Ashmawy’s arrest was not coincidental; rather it was a result of a massive collection of intelligence and a full cooperation between both Egyptian and Libyan security apparatuses. The source is adamant that, with the help of several states, Ashmawy was bent on establishing a “Free Egyptian Army” which was going to carry out attacks on the Egyptian Armed Forces. The source is also certain that Ashmawy was one of the organizers of Islamic fundamentalist Hazem Salah Abo Ismail’s 2012 presidential campaign.
He stressed that Ashmawy’s capture is a serious blow to the emergence of terrorism in the region, since he was a valuable chess piece for the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremist groups in Libya and the Arab region.
The Libyan Army’s General Command announced that it arrested Ashmawy while he was wearing an explosive belt, which he was unable to use due to the army’s successful surprise raid on his hideout.
It should be noted that Egyptian authorities accuse Ashmawy of planning a myriad of terrorist attacks in Egypt since the June 30 Revolution that toppled Morsi’s presidency. The most significant of these attacks include the attempted assassination of Interior Minister Major General Ibrahim, the October 2014 Sinai Attack and the murder of the National Security Agency officer Mohamed Mabrouk. He is also accused of establishing the “Al-Mourabitoun”, which is aligned with the Derna branch of Al Qaeda and having links with the “Arab Circassian” group before he split from ISIS.
Egyptian authorities also accuse Ashmawy of planning the 2017 Minya bus attack which targeted a convoy carrying Coptic Christians. He is also closely associated with many attacks on Egypt’s churches, especially those conducted by terrorist Amr Saad Abbas. Furthermore, Ashmawy is suspected of playing a part in terrorist Ashraf El Gharbaly’s attacks on the El Merg area in Cairo.
The source has indicated that Ashmawy was the first commander of terrorist Imad Abdul Hamid, who was known as Sheik Hatem. Hamid was killed during Egyptian security forces’ operation to liberate Captain Mohammed Al-Hayes, one of the captives of the Al Wahat Road Ambush, which resulted in the killing of 16 Egyptian army officers and conscripts in October of last year.
Colonel El Masmary has shed a light on the operations that Ashmawy has conducted in Libya, stating that the terrorist’s first operation was made with his partner Rafai Sorrour (who was killed in one of the Libyan army’s raids). He added that Ashmawy wanted to create a so-called “Free Egyptian Army”. The colonel specified that the Libyan army halted Ashmawy’s pet project in Derna because it posed not only a threat to Egypt, but a threat to the Arab region as a whole. In addition to Ashmawy, the Libyan army captured local terrorist Mar’I Zoghbeba, who is known as “Abo Gafar”, another Egyptian terrorist who goes by the name “Baha Ali”, as well as others.