Egyptian militant who released audio message seeks fund: Expert

Ahram Online , Reuters , Wednesday 22 Jul 2015

Hisham Al-Ashmawy was sacked from the Egyptian military in early 2000s but his name was back in press headlines after he assisted in forming the Egyptian Free Army in Libya in 2013, says political Islam expert

Nabil Naaiam
Former Jihadist Nabil Naaiam (Photo: Al Ahram)

A former Islamic militant and an expert on political Islamic groups believes that the call by Egyptian militant Hisham Al-Ashmawy for a "holy war" against the Egyptian government, is seeking funding.

Nabil Na’im, a former leader of Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya during the 1990’s, told Ahram Online that the audio message released by Ashmawy, who security officials suspect masterminded the recent car bomb assassination of Egypt's top prosecutor earlier this month, is solid evidence that his group "Al-Murabiteen", affiliated with Al-Qaeda, is seeking funds from foreign entities after the Islamic State (IS) became a hub for donators and backers of Islamist violence.

"You can see on social media a fight between IS supporters and Al-Qaeda supporters over whether Ashmawy belongs to any of the groups. IS supporters are trying to state that he belongs to them in order to keep the possibility of more funds and money flowing especially after he conducted an operation in Cairo," Naaim explained.

"Since Al-Qaeda supporters need to secure funds after IS became a more trending and successful Jihadi brand, they are trying to promote the video to show that they are still progressing on the ground. Ashmawy's group is originally affiliated with Al-Qaeda," Naaim added.

The audio message features two pictures of Ashmawy in military uniform. He is identified by the nom de guerre of Abu Omar Al-Muhajir Al-Masri and as Emir of the Al-Murabiteen group.

"All of you must come together to confront your enemy. Do not fear them, but fear Allah if you are truly believers," said the audio message carried by US-based monitoring group SITE, which it said was posted on July 20 on an Al Qaeda-affiliated forum.

Ashmawy, one of Egypt's most wanted men, a former special forces officer turned Islamist militant commander, has condemned President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and he said that the country is "overpowered by the new pharaoh.”

He accused Sisi "and his soldiers" of fighting "our religion" and killing "our men and women.”

Ashmawy is part of a small but highly dangerous succession of former Egyptian army officers who have joined militant groups, complicating Sisi's efforts to confront what he calls an existential threat from extremism.

With their knowledge of the Arab world's biggest army and training methods, they pose a security threat to the US’s strategic ally Egypt which faces an insurgency based in North Sinai.

"The phenomena of seeing former officers joining Jihadi groups is relevant to an error in the selection process conducted by the armed forces where applicants used to apply for joining military academies and some of them were Salafi oriented," Naaim said.

"For instance, Ashmawy was sacked from the Egyptian military in the early 2000s, but his name was back to press headlines again after he and some Jihadists formed the Egyptian Free Army in Libya following the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, but then they split and fled to Egypt and Syria," he said.

Naaim added that Ashmawy came back to Egypt and established his group Al- Murabiteen, and he was responsible for the militant attacks on Al Farfara checkpoint in Egypt's southern governorate of Al Wadi Al Gedid in July 2014 in which 28 military personnel were killed.

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