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Book Review: Armed jihadist organisations in Egypt

Munir Adeeb's book on jihadist movements provides a large amount of data concerning the genesis, operations and alliances of armed Islamist organisations

Mahmoud El-Wardani, Thursday 18 Jun 2015
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Khareetat Al-Gihad Al-Mussalah fi Misr (Map of Armed Jihadism in Egypt) by Munir Adeeb, General Egyptian Book Organisation, Political Library Series, Cairo 2014. pp.178

Perhaps this book's significance stems from the large amount of data it presents concerning the genesis, operations and alliances of armed jihadist organisations, especially those that emerged after the ouster of Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood regime in the wake of 30 June 2013.

The significance of the information is doubled because armed jihadist organisations are naturally secretive. Thus, facts are rare, and in addition those organisations may leak misleading information in order to deceive the security and intelligence agencies. Moreover, there are some organisations that merged with each other and others that completely vanished after one or two operations. Hence, the reader will realise the amount of effort exerted, despite the awkward style and confusion in some passages, digressions here and there, and repetitions sometimes. 

Anyway, Munir Adeeb, the author counts the number of armed jihadist organisations as six organisations, the most dangerous definitely being Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis (Supporters of Jerusalem), which was most likely founded after the January revolution. This doesn't negate that it is an extension of other organisations, such as Al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (Monotheism and Jihad) and Gamaat Al-Muslimin (Society of the Muslims), popularly known as Al-Takfir wal-Hijra (The Excommunication and The Exodus), which were existent in Sinai. This organisation's first emergence was in April 2011 when it announced its responsibility for attacking the natural gas pipeline which supplies Israel. In August of the same year, the organisation fired two Grad rockets towards Eilat tourist resort but it didn't result in casualties.

Following the beginning of Muslim Brotherhood rule that started with Mohamed Morsi winning the presidency in 2012, the author mentions that "understandings" were reached between the Brotherhood and Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis organisation after which this organisation stopped its attacks against Israel, and in return Morsi didn't ratify the execution verdicts against 14 Al-Tawhid wal-Jihad organisation members. They were convicted of murdering six policemen and a civilian during armed attacks that occurred in Sinai in June 2011, while the verdicts were issued in August 2012.

Adeeb reveals that the leaders of Al-Tawhid wal-Jihad are the same leaders of Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis and that the name of Al-Tawhid organisation when it was founded was Al-Takfir wal-Jihad (The Excommunication and The Jihad) by its founder Dr Khaled Mussaed. As for Morsi's not ratifying death sentence verdicts, it was due to his own will and against the security agencies' wishes that saw it necessary to confront those who threaten Egyptian national security or raise arms against the state. Even the "Nisr" (Eagle) operation that was launched by the Egyptian armed forces to strike the terrorists' dens in Sinai was stopped by Morsi before the operation accomplished its objectives.

Adeeb adds that the real beginning of negotiation was after the organisation abducted seven soldiers in May 2013 during Brotherhood rule. What confirms the existence of a relation between the two organisations was that the communications between Morsi and the presidency, on the one hand, and this organisation on the other occurred away from the eyes of the security agencies. Different jihadist organisations benefitted from the truce that they reached with Morsi in training cadres and storing arms and being well prepared. 

If Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis organisation and other jihadist organisations had ideological disputes with the Muslim Brotherhood before and during their rule that reached the extent of considering them unbelievers, their ouster led, among other things, to the unification of these organisations around the Muslim Brotherhood, for they felt that deposing Morsi was overthrowing the entire Islamist project, and saw the strike aimed towards the Muslim Brotherhood as one against Islam. Thus, they competed with each other in executing terrorist operations, and not only in Sinai, which witnessed the foundation of most of the new jihadist organisations since the new millennium, but in other Egyptian governorates as well.    

In this context, the author counts all the terrorist attacks, with dates, locations and the damage and casualties caused, until mid-2014. Maybe this is the only book that presents all the content of visual recordings (i.e., video tapes) regarding the operations of this organisation.

Adeeb devotes half of the book to Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, for being the most prominent and most dangerous from many perspectives. However, this didn't leave him ignoring the smaller organisations, such as Ajnad Misr group (Soldiers of Egypt), which emerged in 2014. It isn't a group in the accurate sense of the word, but small cells where its cadres have limited experience and used locally made explosives. It is noteworthy to mention that this group didn't resort to suicide operations and used to issue statements in its early operations claiming responsibility. It began to record and broadcast its operations after the eighth operation. Its operations were concentrated in attempting to bomb metro stations, Cairo University, and targeting a number of security checkpoints. This group justified its attacks by saying they were revenge for female Islamists held prisoner.

Its most prominent terrorist attack was planting explosives around Al-Ittihadiya Palace on 30 June 2014, the first anniversary of the 30 June demonstrations 2013 that paved the way for Morsi's ouster. Despite the group issuing a statement warning of explosives placed around the palace, calling on the people not to approach the area, security agencies ignored the warning and the explosives went off resulting in a number of casualties.

The author goes on to depict smaller groups such as "Sharia Battalions in the Land of Egypt" that was founded in 2014, and the "Lone Wolves Battalions" representing the new generation of Al-Qaeda organisation, which most probably has vanished. Finally, "Al-Furqan Brigades," which emerged in Sinai after the overthrow of Morsi. These brigades are the major reason for the power Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis wields at present, because they merged into it.

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