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Photo indicates Egyptian IS member Yakan joined by compatriot in Iraq

Mahmoud El-Ghandour, nephew of former international Egyptian referee Gamal El-Ghandour, appears with his 'closest friend,' Islam Yakan, in Iraq, apparently joining the Islamic State group

Ahram Online , Saturday 21 Feb 2015
Islam Yakan and Mahmoud El-Gandour
(Photo: Islam Yakan Twitter account)

A few days after a nine-minute video report cast light on the life of young Egyptian middle class man Islam Yakan, who joined the Islamic State (IS) group last year, a friend of his, who makes a cameo appearance in the video, seems to have followed in his friend's footsteps.


Yakan and Mahmoud El-Ghandour appear in a photo where they lie on their backs in a relaxed manner while covering their lower bodies with blankets. There are at least three machine guns in the room.

The photo went viral on social media, but its authenticity, time and place are yet to be determined. A caption with the image was a message from Yakan, telling journalists with laughing faces that his "closest friend" — who they were looking for — is with him.

Mahmoud El-Gandour
(Photo: Mahmoud El-Gandour Facebook account)

El-Ghandour was expelled as a low-ranking football referee on Saturday by the Egyptian Football Association, describing him as a traitor. Having studied law, he was reportedly acting and singing, but not on a professional level.

Late in 2014, El-Ghandour said on social media he traveled to Rome before moving to Iraq, where the photo was allegedly taken.

Considered middle class, like his close friend Yakan, El-Ghandour is the nephew of former international football referee Gamal El-Ghandour, who reportedly said he stopped talking to the 24-year-old because he turned a "womaniser" and posted inappropriate photos.

El-Ghandour's Facebook profile, which was deactivated and reactivated several times since his name hit the headlines for the wrong reasons, doesn't have any photos of women on it. Checking posts on his timeline, however, he seemed to have grown more conservative in recent years.

On his birthday on 1 January 2013, El-Ghandour replied with a kissing face to a girl sending him a happy birthday message on his wall. Later in the same year he announced the beginning of a new religious life, reflected in his posts that included open support for jihad.

He traveled to Syria in 2013, ostensibly as part of an aid group, where he reunited with Yakan, appearing in photos holding firearms. He was arrested and detained for a couple of months in 2014 when he returned to Egypt.

In the months leading up to his allegedly joining IS in Iraq this year, he posted several photos of his friend Yakan, saying how proud he was of him.

Both men appear briefly in a New York Times video on Yakan that was uploaded Wednesday. In one shot from an older video, they talk about the temptations of sex mockingly.

Last year, Yakan, a 20-something French school graduate, made headlines worldwide as a "hipster" jihadist who was among IS spokespersons on Twitter, before his Twitter accounts were closed.

Yakan, who once voted for leftist Khaled Ali in the 2012 presidential elections, left Egypt to join IS in Iraq, publishing photos of beheaded victims and claiming that democracy was no use, citing what happened in Egypt in July 2013 — Mohamed Morsi's ouster —as an example.

Egypt launched airstrikes in coordination with Libya after 20 Egyptian Copts were beheaded by IS in Tripoli, according to a grotesque video of the killings released earlier this month.

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