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Damietta cell: What you need to know about 21 sentenced to death

Fri, Feb. 23, 2018
CAIRO - 23 February 2018: Cairo Criminal sentenced 21 people to death on Thursday after convicting them belonging to a terrorist cell known as “Damietta Cell”. The court also sentenced four other people to 25 years in prison in the same case, while three others were given 15-year jail terms.

The Public Prosecutor's Office charged the defendants with establishing a group contrary to the law, which is intended to disrupt the institutions of the state from carrying out its work, and to attack the personal freedom of citizens, endangering public peace and embracing jihadist ideas.

According to the Public Prosecutor's investigations the ‘Damietta Cell’ is linked with the Daesh terrorist group, and planned to carry out hostile operations against state institutions, the assassination of army and police officers, and some of its elements traveled to Syria and received training in the civil war.

Security forces arrested the cell’s elements in early July 2014. The first court session was in February 2016, and continued for 19 sessions. The case includes 28 defendants, including 16 fugitives and 12 detainees.

In a court session dated August 24, the Public Prosecutor’s representative asked the court to apply the maximum punishment to the accused, as the defendants from no. 1 to no. 25 traveled illegally to Libya through the western border of the country. Additionally defendants no. 3, 19, 21 set up camps in Sinai to train terrorist elements and were involved with the terrorist elements in Syria.

Terror groups in Sinai
Terror groups such as the Hasm Movement, Ajnad Misr and Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM) became a consistent threat to Egypt especially after the ABM pledged allegiance to the so-called Islamic States (IS) group in November 2014. With the ABM receiving training and funds to conduct major terrorist activities, both civilians and security forces are now regular targets.

Egyptian security forces have showed a lot of strength and efficiency in the fight against ongoing terrorism, despite the big numbers of victims and economic fluctuation resulting from the terrorist acts that have plagued the country in the last few years.

Helwan Brigades, the Revolutionary Punishment, the Execution Battalion, Anti-Coup Black Bloc, Rad’ (deterrence), Ajnad Misr and others have claimed responsibility for targeting police officers and stations, attacking churches, power plants, transmission towers, water plants, public buses and utilities. Such attacks were rampant between 2013 and 2016, and were sometimes claimed to have been committed by more than one group; however, attacks that deliberately or accidentally killed and maimed civilians often went unclaimed.

Egypt’s Minister of the Interior believes those cells are interlinked and only lead to their main theorist: the Muslims Brotherhood.

Hasm has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks against Egyptian security personnel in recent months, mostly targeting police checkpoints, since the ousting of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in 2013, killing many members of the Egyptian police and army.

It is worth mentioning that Egyptian security forces have arrested and killed dozens of suspected Hasm members in the past few months.

Last February, an Egyptian court urgently designated the militant group Hasm a terrorist organization, banning its activity in the country.

On December 22, Britain has added two militant groups, Hasm and Liwaa Al-Thawra, to its list of terrorist organizations after reviewing attacks claimed by both groups and finding they meet the criteria.

Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018
About 67 terrorists have been killed and hundreds have been arrested since the beginning of the Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018, according to army spokesperson Tamer al-Refai on February 9.

The operation has been considered by experts and parliamentarians as a strong and firm message to the world that Egypt is facing a fierce war against terrorism and is capable on its own.

After the seventh statement about the operation from the army on Tuesday, February 15, army spokesperson Tamer al-Refai held a conference to reveal the latest developments of the operation.

He announced that 53 takfiri elements were killed and four others were detained, while 675 additional escaped and suspected criminals were detained.

Refai also said that 57 four-wheel vehicles and 88 motorcycles used by terrorists were destroyed. Moreover, security forces destroyed 378 terrorist hotbeds, weapons and ammunition stores in Sinai. Amongst these hotbeds was a media center used by takfiri elements.

Refai announced the discovery and destruction of 177 explosive devices and up to 1,500 kilograms of TNT explosives, including C4.

At last, he stated that the military forces managed to discover and destroy three holes on the border strip of Sinai. In addition, they succeeded in the destruction of 35 farms of “bango” (marijuana) plants and seized 8.3 tons of narcotic substances.

Additional reporting: Mohamed Abdel Maguid - Hanan Fayed

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