CAIRO – 2 February 2018: In December 2016, the Ministry of Interior announced that security forces killed two suspects in the Nile Delta believed to be involved in the murder of a high-ranking army officer several months earlier. According to the statement, the suspects were members of Lewaa al-Thawra (The Revolution Brigade), the militant group that claimed responsibility for the murder of the army officer. So who is this newcomer to the terrorism scene?
Formation and Ideology
Lewaa al-Thawra is a suborganization that has emerged two years ago in Egypt and, specifically in the Nile Delta, and claimed its responsibility for a number of terrorist operations targeting mainly police personnel. Egyptian security authorities said that Lewaa al-Thawra and similar small terror groups in Egypt are basically affiliating to the Muslim Brotherhood that was removed from power in the wake of the June 30 Revolution in 2013.
Lewaa al-Thawra adopts the strategy of Lone Wolves – militants acting alone or in small groups to attack specific targets – in which they form tiny groups to carry out various terrorist operations without supervision or reference to the parent movement, provided that the members of these groups have not involved in a terrorist act before. They conduct their operations using different types of weapons, such as machine guns, pistols, knives or remote detonation, and the targets are determined by higher leaders.
The group announced its formation on August 21, 2016, when it uploaded pictures and a dramatized video of an attack on a security checkpoint in Menofiya that left two policemen dead.
While there are indications of ties between Lewaa al-Thawra and elements of the Muslim Brotherhood, the extent of these links are unclear. Liwaa al-Thawra eulogized the death of senior Brotherhood figure Mohamad Kamal, who was killed in November 2016 during a security campaign in Qalyubia.
Lewaa al-Thawra has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks against Egyptian security personnel in recent months, since the ousting of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in 2013, killing some members of the Egyptian police and army.
In October 2016, a Facebook account named Media of the Resistance posted a video, attributed to Lewaa al-Thawra, showing scenes from the assassination of Brigadier General Adel Ragaei. The senior military official was killed on October 22 when he was shot by armed assailants outside his home in Obour City.
Brigadier General Adel Ragaei
Ragaei was the chief of the Armed Force’s Ninth Armored Division, which was directly involved in the demolition of smuggling tunnels running between Sinai and the Gaza Strip, and the creation of a buffer zone along the eastern border with Gaza.
The assassination was the second operation for which Lewaa al-Tharwa has claimed responsibility. The group first garnered attention in August 2016 when they attacked a police checkpoint in Menofiya, killing two policemen and wounding five others, including two civilians.
In 2017, the group claimed responsibility for a bombing outside a police training center in Tanta.
Egyptian security forces have arrested and killed dozens of suspected Lewaa al-Thawra members in the past few months.
Lewaa al-Thawra and Hasm
Lewaa al-Thawra’s formation has been welcomed by Hasm, an Islamist militant group operating in Egypt. Hasm stands for Ḥarakat Sawa'd Miṣr (Arms of Egypt Movement).
When Lewaa al-Thawra appeared on the scene, it followed the same style and techniques of Hasm in attacking its targets, documenting them, and publishing photos or video clips.
This indicates a high-level coordination between the two organizations or that these two movements actually follow one command. During its investigations, the Supreme State Security Prosecution considered that Hasm movement also bears the name of Lewaa al-Thawra.
Both groups, especially Lewaa al-Thawra, are apparently distinct from jihadist ideologies like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. They use slogans and concepts in their statements like ‘the nation is the source’ that directly contradicts strict conservative Salafist jihadist ideologies, which call for the establishing of an Islamic caliphate.
Internationally designated as terrorist group
U.S. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson
The United States announced on January 31 listing Hasm and Lewaa al-Thawra on the Specially Designated Global Terrorists blacklist.
According to the State Department’s statement, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson emphasized that “these designations target key terrorist groups and leaders – including two sponsored and directed by Iran – who are threatening the stability of the Middle East, undermining the peace process, and attacking our allies Egypt and Israel. Today’s actions are an important step in denying them the resources they need to plan and carry out their terrorist activities.”
Britain also designated on December 22, 2017 the two militant groups targeting Egyptian security personnel and public figures as terrorist organizations.
The British Embassy in Egypt said in a statement that Britain has added Hasm and Lewaa al-Thawra group to its list of terrorist organizations after reviewing attacks claimed by both groups and finding they meet the criteria.
It also said the move will boost its "capacity to disrupt the activities of these terrorist organizations."
The British Ambassador to Egypt John Casson affirmed that the UK will not leave Egypt alone in its fight against terrorism and expressed his concern in the statement.
Egypt labels Lewaa al-Thawra terrorist
Egypt welcomed the US and UK decisions to place the two Egyptian terrorist groups on their terror lists.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement yesterday that “Egypt considers the decision a positive development in the perception of Egypt's international partners, especially the United States, regarding the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliated terrorist groups.”
Foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zaid said that the US decision is a real-world demonstration of solidarity with Egypt against terrorism, and an important step forward by the international community in adopting a comprehensive strategy to fighting terrorism and eradicating its roots.
Last February, an Egyptian court designated the militant group Hasm a terrorist organization, banning its activity in the country. The Egyptian authorities also banned the Muslim Brotherhood and declared it a terrorist organization after deposing President Morsi.
Pence’s visit to Cairo
US Vice President Mike Pence (L) shakes hands with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi (R) - File photo
In the highest-level American official visit to Egypt Since 2009, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi received on January 20 US Vice President Mike Pence at the presidential palace in Cairo, amid the American official’s Middle East tour that also included Jordan and Israel with the aim to boost peace process in the region.
Al-Sisi and Pence held intensive talks over a number of urgent issues, including ways to eliminate the threat of terrorism that has terrified the whole world. Pence pointed to President Donald Trump’s efforts to forge stronger ties with Al-Sisi in his first year in office, after a time when both countries seemed to be drifting apart.
Pence tweeted “We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Egypt in the fight against terrorism,” and that “our hearts grieve” for the loss of life in recent terrorist attacks against Egyptians.