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Wahat attack trial concludes

Ahmed Eleiba , Tuesday 19 Nov 2019
Wahat attack trial concludes
Al-Mesmari
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A WEST Cairo military criminal court on Sunday sentenced Libyan militant Abdel-Rehim Al-Mesmari to death and other defendants to heavy jail terms for their part in a deadly attack on security forces in Bahariya Oasis, writes Ahmed Eleiba.

A WEST Cairo military criminal court on Sunday sentenced Libyan militant Abdel-Rehim Al-Mesmari to death and other defendants to heavy jail terms for their part in a deadly attack on security forces in Bahariya Oasis, writes Ahmed Eleiba.

Five defendants were sentenced to life and 15 to between three and 15 years. Twenty others were acquitted of charges that included murder, attempted murder and joining a terrorist group.

The Wahat attack occurred in October 2017 when Al-Fatah Al-Islami, of which Al-Mesmari was a member, ambushed a police patrol in the Western Desert oasis of Bahariya, killing 16 and injuring 13.

The court said Al-Mesmari had received training in the use of heavy weapons and explosives in Libya before infiltrating Egypt with the aim of launching terrorist attacks against security personnel.

Al-Mesmari’s sentence has been referred to the Grand Mufti Shawki Allam. All death sentences undergo such a referral, though the mufti’s opinion is not binding. 

The Wahat attack was the last operation carried out by the Libyan based, Al-Qaeda-affiliated group led by Hisham Ashmawi. Most of the group’s leading members have now been liquidated. Ashmawi was arrested and handed over to Cairo in May 2019.

Sources in Cairo say the threat of cross-border terrorism remains and groups trying to infiltrate the border are still being targeted. According to a statement issued on 4 November by the General Command of the Armed Forces, 52 four-wheel drive vehicles were recently targeted along the border with Libya.

Al-Mesmari admitted all the details of the Wahat attack in a media interview in November 2017, during which he expressed no remorse for murdering 16 police officers.

While it is difficult to predict how terrorist organisations will react to the verdicts, a military source pointed out that the announcement of Al-Mesmari’s death sentence coincided with an attack in Sheikh Zuwaid in Sinai during which a major was killed and several conscripts injured. The source thought the two events were linked.

Though the verdict provides closure to the Wahat case, anti-terrorism operations will continue given the threat posed by cross-border terrorism across the region, especially in light of the collapse of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and the chaotic situation in many neighbouring countries.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 21 November, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

 

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