Egyptian authorities have arrested Mahmoud Ezzat, the acting supreme guide of the terrorist-designated Muslim Brotherhood, at a hideout in eastern Cairo, in the most significant Brotherhood arrest in recent years.
In a statement on Friday, Egypt’s interior ministry said the fugitive group leader, who is also the head of the Brotherhood's International Organization, was arrested following intelligence that he was hiding at a flat in New Cairo’s Fifth Settlement neighbourhood.
They said Ezzat had used the apartment as his latest hideout, “despite rumours promoted by the Brotherhood’s leaders about him being abroad, to mislead authorities.”
The leader was arrested after a raid carried out per a warrant by the Supreme State Security Prosecution, the statement said, adding that several laptops and mobile phones with open-source software to secure communication with leaders and members of the banned group inside the country and abroad were found.
According to the statement, Ezzat was in charge of forming the Brotherhood’s “armed wing” and the supervisor of major terrorist operations since 30 June 2013 until his arrest.
“Operations supervised by Ezzat include the assassination of former general prosecutor Hisham Barakat in 2015, policeman Wael Tahoun in 2015, top-ranked army officer Adel Ragei in 2016, and the attempted assassination of the general prosecutor’s former aide Zakaria Abdel-Azim in 2016,” the statement said.
It also charged him with supervising a deadly car blast outside the capital’s main cancer hospital in August 2019 which killed 20 people.
Ezzat was also responsible for “cyber-attacks which manage [spreading] rumours and fake news to stir confusion and divide public opinion,” the statement said, adding that he managed the “movement of the group’s funds and funds to activities through the group’s members abroad from suspicious international organisations.”
Ezzat, 76, has been in the Brotherhood ranks since the 1960s and was named a member of the group's Guidance Bureau, or its executive board, in 1981. He has previously been detained for several years for his activism and affiliation with the group.
He was named the group’s acting leader in August 2013, after the arrest of Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, who received a fourth final life sentence in July on violence-related charges, totalling 100 years.
Ezzat’s whereabouts had previously been unclear since that date.
He has been given several sentences in absentia, including life imprisonment terms and the death penalty, during mass trials of the Brotherhood’s leading members on charges of espionage with Palestinian group Hamas and other violence-related crimes.
Under Egyptian law, in absentia convictions must be re-tried once the defendant is apprehended.