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Ashmawi: Egypt’s most dangerous militiaman

The live footage of Hesham al-Ashmawi’s extradition to Egypt, walking blind-folded and heavily-guarded in Cairo Airport, brought back memories of the bloody attacks carried out at the hands of the possibly most dangerous militiaman in Egypt. 

The highly secured transfer operation of Ashmawi from his detention in Libya followed a meeting earlier on Tuesday of head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Abbas Kamel and Commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Khalifa Haftar at the LNA headquarters in al-Rajma, eastern Libya.

Ashmawy headed one of the terrorist organizations in the city of Derna, and carried out a number of bloody terrorist operations both in Libya and Egypt, according to the Egyptian armed forces.

He was handed over to the Egyptian authorities per to the long-standing judicial agreement between Egypt and Libya.

218News sheds the light on the story of Ashmawi and his aide, Bahaa Ali, who was also extradited to Egypt in the same operation.

Hisham Al-Ashmawi

Over years, Egyptian security agencies pointed an accusing finger at Ashmawi, the operation commander of the Sinai-based Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (ABM), as the country’s most active jihadist.

Ashmawi, codenamed Abu Omar al-Muhajir, is a former officer in the Egyptian Commandos, who received advanced training on special operation tasks in main U.S. training institutes.

He turned militant and became the operations engineer of ABM and in charge of the most important qualitative operations carried out in Sinai, Cairo, and al-Farafra oasis to earn the title of the most dangerous person in Egypt.

Ashmawi was born in 1978, and graduated in 2000 from the military academy, where he was a distinguished officer and joined the Special Forces unit. He served in Sinai for 10 years and witnessed the bombings of Taba, Sharm El-Sheikh, and Dahab.

The turning point in Ashmawi’s life was in 2005 when his father, Ali al-Ashmawi, passed away, which affected his physiological condition.

During this period, terrorist groups started to attract and recruit young people in mosques, and Ashmawi started to attend their sessions.

The armed forces warned Ashmawi for the first time in 2006 and he was interrogated but he confirmed his commitment to the military principles.

However, Ashmawi did not comply and continued discussing political Islam, and kept handing out banned books.

In 2007, a military court transferred Ashmawi to an administrative post and then referred to retirement in 2009. He was completely expelled from the army in 2012 due to his travel to Syria twice through Turkey.

In 2013, Ashmawi moved to Sinai where he became in charge of the military wing of Ansar Beit al-Maqdis. He started to develop the performance of the group, improving their militancy skills.

After June 30 revolution, he participated in the Raba’a sit-in where he recruited a large number of youth to carry out terrorist operations against Egyptian army and police.

A year later, Ashmawi emerged as a key operative, heading a cell that taught fighters how to carry out suicide bombing missions, assemble roadside bombs and shoot soldiers.

Since the failed assassination attempt of former Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim in May 2013, Ashmawi was linked to a large number of terrorist attacks that were carried out by Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, whether through planning or implementation.

The most prominent operations conducted by Ashmawi included the attack on the military intelligence headquarters in Ismailia in October 2013, the bombing of the Security Directorate of Al-Dakahlia, the Delta, in December 2013, the bombing of Cairo Security Directorate in January 2014, the attack on a military unit in Farafra oasis in the Western Desert in July 2014, and the attack on armed forces in Karm Al-Qawadis in Sinai in October 2014.

He is also notoriously known for killing dozens of Copts in a bus heading to a monastery in Minya in May 2017.

Ashmawi was injured during the Farafra operation and was transported to Libya where he received treatment, as he has close relations with al-Qaeda-affiliate Ansar Al-Sharia in Derna, Libya.

In July 2015, Ashmawi announced in a statement that he became the emir of Al Murabitun group, stressing his affiliation to Al-Qaeda.

Al-Murabitun is another turning point in Al-Ashmawi’s life. After the Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis announced in November 2014 its allegiance to the Islamic State (IS), Ashmawi refused to pledge allegiance to IS. He remained loyal to Al-Qaeda which cut off its supply to the Egyptian group. In response, Al-Qaeda provided Ashmawi with weapons and training camps in Libya as a prelude to carry out more operations in Egypt.

After the split, Ashmawi was accused of carrying out a number of terrorist attacks, most prominent of which was the assassination of the public prosecutor Hisham Barakat in July 2015.

Ashmawi was arrested in October 2018 by the LNA in Libya’s eastern city of Derna.

With a bloody history of attacks against Egypt, Ashmawi became the most dangerous man in the country amid the government’s continuous fight against terrorism and extremism.

Bahaa Ali

It was understood that Ashmawi was arrested in Libya alongside several militants including an Egyptian and fellow member of Murabitun Bahaa Ali.

Ali was born in 1985 in Alexandria, Egypt. He participated in the planning and execution of several terrorist operations in Alexandria, and was described as the “black box” of terrorist groups in Egypt, being familiar with almost all the terrorist operations carried out in Egypt.

Ali was first recruited by Ashmawi during their participation in the Rabaa sit-in. He was responsible for securing the sit-in from June 28, 2013, until the moment of its dispersal on August 14, 2013.

According to security sources, Ali left to Sinai and then joined IS, but he left the group after a while due to a dispute with some of the group’s leaders. He then travelled to Libya and joined al-Qaeda with Ashmawi.

Ali was the main aide for Ashmawi. He was responsible for the group’s logistics, gathering information about targets in Egypt and Libya, and recruiting new elements.

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