Leader of Al Murabitun terrorist group, Hisham Ashmawy – File photo
CAIRO – 21 October 2017: Dozens of Egyptian security personnel were killed and injured Friday during a raid on a militant hideout near the Giza-Al Wahat Road in Giza. The death toll has risen to at least 17, according to Egyptian officials.
Security sources told Egypt Today that the Homeland Security Department monitored the movements of members of a terrorist cell who established a strategic location to carry out military training in a farm in the desert.
The Interior Ministry tasked a group of special operations and central security officers, as well as a number of homeland security officers to lead a security raid on the suspected locations. The force used three armored vehicles and a number of SUVs.
Once the force reached the location, intensive clashes occurred between two sides using heavy weapons. The confrontation left dozens of casualties on both sides. According to security sources, 14 officers and policemen were killed on the spot, while there were no immediate reports of casualties among the militants.
The sources added that an officer and six security personnel riding an armored vehicle were injured, but they survived the clashes. The officer contacted one of his leaders asking for air and ground support to chase the terrorist elements. However, the poor communication network hindered security forces from locating the scene of the clashes. The terrorist elements managed to flee the area using SUVs with the help of some guides in the desert routes.
The sources pointed out that military helicopters reached the injured security personnel and launched an aerial survey to detect the bodies of killed security personnel and chase the fleeing terrorists. The security directorates of Giza, Fayoum, and the New Valley are conducting jointly an operation to search the area where the firefight occurred, 135 kilometers southwest of Cairo, through the deployment of security forces, and stationary and mobile ambushes in the vicinity of the clashes.
Following the deadly clashes, some security sources pointed an accusing finger at Hisham Ashmawi, the operation commander of the Sinai-based Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (ABM), the country’s most active jihadist group.
Ashmawi or Abu Omar Al-Muhajir is a former officer in the Egyptian Commandos, who received advanced training on special operation tasks in main US training institutes. Now he has 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 deserve the title of the most dangerous wanted person in Egypt.
Ashmawy 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 Ashmawy’s life was in 2005 when his father, Ali Ashmawy, passed away which affected Ashmawy’s physiological condition.
During this period terrorist groups started to attract and recruit young people in mosques, and Ashmawy started to attend their sessions. The armed forces warned Ashmawy for the first time in 2006 and he was interrogated but he confirmed his commitment to the military principles.
However, Ashmawy did not comply and continued discussing political Islam, and kept handing out banned books.
In 2007, a military court transferred Ashmawy 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, Ashmawy 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 implement terrorist operations against Egyptian army and police.
A year later, Ashmawy 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, Ashmawy 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 Ashmawy included the attack on the military intelligence headquarters in Ismailia in October 2013, the bombing of the Security Directorate of Al Dakahlia 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, the attack on armed forces in Karm Al Qawadis in Sinai in October 2014.
Ashmawy 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, Asmawy announced in a statement that he became the emir of Al Murabitun group, stressing his affiliation to Al-Qeada. Al Murabitun is another turning point in Ashmawy’s life. After the Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis announced in November 2014 its allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS), Ashmawy refused to pledge allegiance to ISIS. He remained loyal to Al-Qaeda which cut off its supply to the Egyptian group. In response, Al-Qaeda provided Ashmawy with weapons and training camps in Libya as a prelude to carry out more operations in Egypt.
After the split, Ashmawy 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.
With a bloody history of attacks against Egypt, Ashmawy became one of the most wanted men in the country amid the government’s continuous fight against terrorism and extremism.