Hesham Ashmawy after his arrest Oct. 8, 2018 - Pree photo Hesham Ashmawy after his arrest Oct. 8, 2018 - Pree photo

How an Egyptian commando turned terrorist used Libya's Derna as a shield

Mon, Oct. 8, 2018
CAIRO – 8 October 2018: The danger of Hesham Ashmawy, a high-profile terrorist arrested in Libya Monday, lied in his high-level training in the Egyptian army, his expertise in military planning and working with the Egyptian Thunderbolt Forces in Sinai for a long time before joining terrorist organizations, said Libyan army spokesperson Ahmed al-Mismary.



Having learned about fighting in the desert during his time with the Egyptian military, Ashmawy was perhaps the most dangerous military trainer in Libya in terms of abduction, bombing, ambushes, destroying and booby traps Mismary told Extra News.

Ashmawy’s previous presence in Egypt and some mosques in Cairo enabled him to recruit many fighters from Egypt to Libya, Mismary said, adding that the former officer was part of al-Murabiton terrorist group, which was founded by Mukhtar Bilmukhtar, an al-Qaeda-affiliated Algerian based in south Algeria and Mali.

3 Hesham Ashmawy receives treatment after his arrest- Press photo


Being the leader of the group in Derna, Ashmawy recruited many fighters from Libya, Tunisia, Sudan and Egypt on behalf of al-Qaeda and its Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Ashmawy left Sinai for Libya in 2013, when Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis swore allegiance to the Islamic State group (ISIS), as he preferred to join al-Qaeda in Derna.

Most importantly, as he was supported by certain governments, he was planning to found a so-called “Free Egyptian Army,” on the model of the Free Syrian Army, to attack the Egyptian military form the West, according to Mismary.

2 Hesham Ashmawy after his arrest- Press photo


Ashmawy was not able to reach that point owing to the Libyan army’s efforts, although the Libyans have evidence that this was his plan, Mismary emphasized.

The major terrorist and his militants used the residents of Derna, whom they held “hostages,” as human shields. The strategy worked for three years, until the Libyan army began an operation to free the city last May.

After the freeing of Derna, Ashmawy was still able to hide in al-Maghar neighborhood, which remained a stronghold for terrorists. It is a district in downtown and dates back to the Turkish era with narrow alleyways and buildings with rather thick walls.
The Libyan army besieged the district to stop the supply of ammunition, medications, and fighters. Meanwhile, with every movement detected, the Libyan forces attacked that particular spot, leading up to the arrest of Ashmawy.

“Ashmawy caused great harm to the Libyan people and killed hundreds of Libyans and hundreds others. He displaced hundreds of families. He destroyed Derna. He played the most prominent role in recruiting the youth of that city and neighboring cities and transferring them to other countries like Syria after training them in camps in Derna,” Mismary said.

1 Hesham Ashmawy after arrest- Press photo


“His organization is finished a long time ago. They are a few who remain [in Derna] with no hope in life or to survive. Every now and then they shoot members of the armed forces or residents of Derna. They wait to die,” the spokesperson added.

Mismary called Ashmawy a “huge black box that will expose a lot of interference in Libya in support of terror groups.”

That Ashmawy has been arrested, the fight, previously against armed groups, is now against the head of the snake and some countries that support terrorism in Libya, according to Mismary.

The Libyan brigadier general praised the Egyptian army for realizing that this is a regional and an international battle, rather than a national once, hence the high-level coordination.

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