Sunday, November 19, 2017

Meet Egypt’s Ansar Al-Islam, the not so new Al-Qaeda group

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.
Sun Tzu,
The Art of War

A little-known militant group claimed responsibility early Friday on 3 November of the 19th October’s Al-Wahat Shootout that took place between Egyptian police forces and a group of unidentified militants in Egypt’s Western desert where 16 police personnel were killed from Five weeks ago.

The group is called “Ansar Al-Islam” and it released online a statement on Social Media Network "Telegram", at one of its channels linked to Al-Qaeda “The Sharia Guards” claiming responsibility for the shootout calling it “Lions’ Den battle”, detailing from its side what happened and revealing also some important information.
The statement has got no videos or photos to support that claim though.

On 19th October, Egypt’s police fore convey was involved in a shootout with a group of militants. According to official statements, 16 police personnel were killed and 13 others were injured in one of the worst attacks targeting Egyptian security forces outside North Sinai.
The following days witnessed a joint operation between Egyptian armed forces and Egyptian police against terrorist hideouts claiming scores of them as well liberating police officer Mohamed El-Hayes who was captured by the militants during the shootout.

Interestingly, very few Egyptian media and news outlets covered that news of that militant group claiming responsibility while the majority of news outlets did not share it in the same enthusiasm like the news of the attack or saving Captain Mohamed El-Hayes. I do not know why for real !?
Some cited the reason was the Counterterrorism law and its 54-articles that include one article prohibiting the broadcast or publication of terrorist statements in the media.
Yet, I think there is a difference between being a terrorist organization’s mouthpiece and declaring that a little known terrorist organization affiliated with one of the world’s biggest terrorist organizations claimed responsibility for the most brutal attack against police force recently outside Sinai !!!!
Egyptian Police
A photo at the scene taken on 21 October showing security personnel
sitting on a police vehicle "AFP
The people need to know what they are facing already !!

Now here are a couple of thoughts I wanted to share it with you since that Friday from two weeks ago regarding the group and its telegram channel before it disappears. Luckily, I wrote down all my notes and observations before it vanishes. I do not know if its admins decided to close it down or it was closed down by the government or it became a secret one.

The Telegram Channel

Interestingly, the “Sharia Guards” channel was created on 19 October 2017 as Egypt’s first so-called “Jihadist” channel adding that its administrators are the so-called “The Forts of Glory’s lions” in Arabic.

That term is used frequently by Al-Qaeda affiliated groups as I have noticed online to describe their fighters and members on the Frontlines.
Basically, they directed their messages to the Egyptian youth to rebel against the unjust and unfair regime of Egypt to the end of that talk. Ironically, they slammed Daesh as extremists!!
Nevertheless, just like Daesh members, they listed the enemies of Islam according to their doctrines were “the Jews, crusaders aka Christians, the Egyptian army commanders and the Egyptian journalists against Islamic Sharia.

As that channel was directed to the Egyptian people, Al-Qaeda-affiliated Telegram mentioned its most infamous Egyptian members  Mohamed Atta of the 9/11 and Saeed Al-Masri aka Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, the financial chief of Al-Qaeda praising them.
The administrators also listed a number of groups as some sort of Al-Qaeda representatives in Egypt. Those groups are : Agnand Misr , Al-Morabtoon , Hasm and Gund Al-Islam in Sinai.

We spoke about Al-Morabtoon and its founding leader, the most wanted man in Egypt Hisham El-Ashmaway before.
El-Ashmaway and his group were the primary suspects in Al-Wahat attacked on the 19th and 20th October.
Most people believed that he was behind it as the attack was big and sophisticated one plus the Western desert and Libya were his territory.
Early October, El-Ashmaway was sentenced to death along 13 others in a military tribunal for committing El-Farfra massacre in July 2014 killing at least 21 military personnel from the borders guards at a security checkpoint 100 km away from El-Farfara city.
Hisham Al-Ashmawy and his only photos available online
At the same time, I remember reading somewhere that allegedly El-Ashmawy’s wife Nesireen Hussein was arrested along with her two kids from him while attempting to sneak from Sudan to Libya.
He is believed to be in Derna as part of its  Shura Council of Mujahideen. I think that was why Derna was targeted twice by Egyptian airstrikes officially in the past three years.
On October 30, an unidentified airstrike on several locations in the city killing 16 civilians including women and children.
All parties involved in Libya including Khalifa Hafter’s Libyan National army denied their relation with the airstrike.
The Shura Council of Mujahideen accused Egypt of launching that airstrike but the Egyptian government denied that and condemned the airstrike officially.

Moving to Hasm, I am surprised to find their name in that name because it is affiliated more to the Muslim Brotherhood than Al-Qaeda.
In the early news reports on Friday during the shootout, H name was brought up that as security sources and security experts told news websites that the National security got intel that there was a Hasm hideout at 135 km.
Personally, I believed that scenario which says that the National security got false info from an informant claiming that there was a Hasm Hideout in the Western desert and that’s why the police force went unprepared enough to find RPG missiles waiting for it.
Many security experts later believed Hasm group was not behind it because it could not pull an operation like that.
Anyhow days will tell if the group has joined Al-Qaeda or not.

Next Aganad Misr group, it has been making headlines lately as on early October a Giza criminal court handed 13 people a preliminary death sentence for terrorism-related charges including killing policemen.
The offspring of Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis in North Sinai, Aganad Misr or the Soldiers of Egypt claimed responsibility for at least 19 operations targeting security forces from January 2014 to April 2015.
The High state security prosecution is still investigating their cases and people are still arrested and detained pending investigation for joining that banned group which people forgot.  

Last but not least, Jund Al-Islam in Sinai group which is older than other groups according to what I have read yet it was forgotten as Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis stole its thunder.
The original Al-Qaeda affiliated group had one big operation in September 2013 when it attacked the Military Intelligence H.Q in Rafah city killing 6 soldiers and injured dozens. In the past years, the group had few operations against the Egyptian security forces compared to ISIS franchise in North Sinai aka Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis.
Now the militant group is a having a come back as on 11 November it issued a statement claiming its responsibility for an operation against El-Baghdadi's boys in North Sinai.
Safely to say, it seems that ABM is losing it power and it seems that Al-Qaeda began to restore its power.

The channel published too many messages on the 19th October but it did not mention anything about that action taking place in Egypt’s Western Desert.
On 20th October , the channel’s first mention of Al-Wahat shootout as a post in the early afternoon featuring the photo of Police Captain Elsam Mashour who was among the first police officers to be killed and their names publicized unofficially.
At 6:23 PM on the same day, it spoke about “Happy news” and then on 7:02 PM it spoke about “Al-Wahat battle”. Next day, it continued to speak happily about the updates of the shootout publishing what was already known in the social media. Then complete silence till 3 November.

The statement

Early 3 November the channel published a-two-pages-statement for a group called “Ansar Al-Islam” introducing itself to the Egyptian people and declaring its responsibility for the attack/shootout on 19 October. The statement said that the group’s “fighters” used “RBG” not “RPG” against the security forces and this was a strange mistake for me because RPG’s spelling is known already.

The use of the word “Enemy” in Arabic to describe the security forces reminds me of the language Egyptian military to describe their opponent.
The militant group also claimed that despite the number of its members were small yet they stood against the security forces that came in “3 armored vehicles” and “5 police trucks”.
The group said that it killed all officers except one they captured who is police officer El-Hayes.

They added too that they gave the soldiers and conscripts the opportunity to join them in their fight before setting them free. The group did not say that it shot the conscripts in their legs and arms. Old school militant Islamists do this and shoot who they believe “not the enemy” but are forced to help the enemy like the soldiers or conscripts. They shoot them in their arms and their legs to give them a chance to repent.
If you remember the alleged audio leak released online from Police Hospital and made a controversy, there was a part where the alleged doctor spoke about how the militants invited the conscripts to join them then shot them in legs and arms. 

The group also claimed that only one militant was killed in that operation. The ministry of interior said in its statement a number of militants were killed and their bodies were retrieved by their group before leaving the place.
Now to the most important part of the statement from my point of view.

The group announced that its leading figure Emad El-Din Abdel along an unspecified number of other militants were killed by the strikes launched by Egypt’s air forces the following days in the Western desert.

Emad El-Din Abdel Hamid’s name and photos were spread on 3 November and sooner people found a match for him in one of the photos of dead militants at the official Egyptian army’s spokesperson
Little is known publicly about Emad El-Din Abdel Hamid except that he was an ex-army officer who is usually associated with Hisham Al-Ashmaway.
On Thursday, the Egyptian ministry of interior issued a statement about the latest developments in the joint security operation in Egypt’s Western desert targeting terrorist hideouts.
According to the statement, Security’s investigations revealed that “ a terrorist cell” was formed in Libya’s Derna led by the deceased Egyptian terrorist Emad El-Din Ahmed Mahmoud Abdel Hamid who was killed in an airstrike.
All that is known about him is that the Alexandria-born was in his thirty and was among the army officers that fired because of their radical religious views.
It is not clear when he was fired but in the “Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis trial” investigations claim that he and Hisham Al-Ashmawy began to form terrorist cells starting from 2011 in the Nile valley.
Just like Al-Ashmaway, he was a member of Egypt’s Special forces or as we call it “The Thunderbolt forces”. It is not clear When they met.
He was sentenced to death in Absentia just like Al-Ashamawy in the same trial of “Farfara Massacre” in October.
Emad El-Din
This is the only photo for Emad El-Din Mahmoud released
by the MOI in January 2014 following the Cairo security directorate attack
Some say that he became the second man in command in Al-Morabtoon group in Derna while others say that he was responsible for training.
Yet, he appeared reportedly as a leader of a new group at least for us. I do not know if he split and decided to have his own group that is still affiliated with Al-Qaeda or it is a game to have a new name for an old group to fool the security forces and to exhaust them !!

The Egyptian MOI also added that that Emad’s terrorist cell members sneaked to Egypt illegally through the Western desert where they had a training camp at El-Wahat area.
That militant group reportedly managed to recruit 29 new members from Giza and Qalyubia governorates who were arrested by the security forces, MOI said.
Strangely, the MOI also said in its statements that some members of that group/cell were involved in the Christian Egyptians’ massacre in May as they had the weapons used in that attack with those people.

It is strange because Daesh claimed its responsibility for this horrifying attack against Christian Egyptians.  Again , I do not know what that means.

Now all what I think about currently is how many officers defected or fired and joined Hisham Al-Ashmawawy because I fear there are more two.

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