Egyptian officer-turned-terrorist Hesham Ashmawi confessed to the involvement of foreign fighters in some terrorist attacks on security forces in Sinai, and that some of the perpetrators fled to Libya and Syria.
There are foreign militants in Sinai, mostly from North Africa and Chechnya, Ashmawi claimed, adding that those elements were few in the beginning but they gradually increased over time.
Those foreign militants joined the Islamic State group after undergoing “allegiance tests,” and they already knew very well how to use weapons as some of them had military experience, Ashmawi revealed.
He said many foreign militants participated in the terrorist attacks in Egypt, namely the Karam al-Qawadis attack in Sinai. They have also spread across Libya after the defeat of their groups in Syria and Iraq.
Ashmawi admitted that he was in charge of training the suicide bomber of the Botroseya Church attack, Mahmoud Shafiq Moustafa.
Moustafa, nicknamed Abu Dujana al-Kanani, was a member of Wilayat Sinai group, but Ashmawi did not want him to carry out the suicide attack, as he wanted to use him in other operations. Ashmawi wanted to take Moustafa with him to Libya, but Wilayat Sinai, IS‘s branch in North Sinai, refused, according to the investigation.
Egypt has seen a wave of terrorist attacks since 2013 when late president Mohamed Morsi, who was a Muslim Brotherhood leader, was ousted.
During the investigation, Ashmawi revealed the terrorism financing resources, including drug trafficking and ransoms, as well as funds from prominent Brotherhood figures in Egypt and Libya.
In October 2018, Ashmawy was arrested in Libya’s Derna, where he was kept in custody pending investigations over attacks he launched in the North African state.
Before he was apprehended in Derna, Ashmawy joined several terror groups. He led Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis in North Sinai, joined al-Qaeda in Libya and al-Qaeda-aligned militant group al-Mourabitoun, and had links with al-Qaeda in Tunisia and Algeria.
In December 2017, Ashmawi was sentenced to death in absentia along with 10 others in “Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis 3” case over leading 17 attacks, including the 2014 attack at Farafra desert checkpoint in Nile Valley that killed at least 22 border guards.
He is accused of orchestrating the assassination of Egypt’s prosecutor Hisham Barakat in 2015. He also became associated with other militant groups like Jund al-Islam and Ansar al-Islam; the latter claimed responsibility for the attack at a police ambush in Egypt’s Western Desert killing 16 soldiers in 2017.
On 29 May, Ashmawi was transferred to Egypt from eastern Libya in a military aircraft.
The most prominent operations conducted by Ashmawy included the attack on the military intelligence headquarters in Egypt’s Ismailia in October 2013, the bombing of the Security Directorate of al-Dakahlia, the Egyptian Delta, in December 2013, the bombing of Cairo Security Directorate in January 2014, the attack on a military unit in Farafra oasis in the Egyptian Western Desert in July 2014, and the attack on the Armed Forces in Karm Al-Qawadis in Sinai in October 2014.