Kuwait clamps down on the Muslim Brotherhood

Gamal Essam El-Din , Wednesday 17 Jul 2019

Kuwait’s arrest of an eight-member terrorist cell linked to the Muslim Brotherhood suggests the Gulf state could follow its neighbours in designating the group a terrorist organisation, writes Gamal Essam El-Din

photo courtesy: Kuwaiti interior ministry
photo courtesy: Kuwaiti interior ministry

Kuwaiti news agency KUNA reported on Monday that the Kuwaiti government had handed a “terrorist cell” comprising eight Egyptians linked to the Muslim Brotherhood to Egyptian authorities on Sunday evening.

The move prompted Egyptian MPs and political analysts to speculate that Kuwait was on the cusp of designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation.

KUNA quoted Kuwait’s Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Garallah as saying “the eight Egyptians were handed over to Egyptian authorities in line with bilateral security agreements between the two countries.

“We have closely cooperated with Egyptian authorities in this respect, and it is deplorable that fugitives facing justice in Egypt were able to find refuge in Kuwait.”

Asked whether Kuwait intends to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation, Al-Garallah said “there is nothing specific yet, and Kuwait’s position on the issue has not changed.”

Political analysts, however, argue the Kuwaiti action against the Muslim Brotherhood indicates its government might be considering officially listing the group as a terrorist organisation.

“The statements issued by the Kuwaiti authorities and the government suggest they are seriously considering labelling the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation,” said MP Said Hassasin.

“Whatever happens, the Kuwaiti response has dealt a major blow to the Muslim Brotherhood and its sources of funding. Kuwait has proved a fertile ground for the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist movements in terms of funding. Even if Kuwait stops short of declaring the group a terrorist organisation, its most recent actions show from now on it will not tolerate the Brotherhood acting on its land. The group is facing hard times ahead.”

The Kuwaiti cabinet issued a statement on Monday afternoon saying, “the Egyptian suspects confessed that they were involved in carrying out terrorist operations and disrupting security in different parts of Egypt.

“Investigations into the case are still under way and will reveal who has cooperated with the Brotherhood cell, including suspects already convicted of terrorist crimes in Egypt.”

Anas Khaled Al-Saleh, Kuwait’s deputy prime minister and minister of state for cabinet affairs, said “initial questioning shows that some Kuwaitis gave a helping hand to the cell and helped provide it with cover.”

On 12 July the Kuwaiti Ministry of Interior announced that some members of the terrorist cell who fled Egypt and attempted to use Kuwait as a base for their operations had been convicted of criminal offences by Egyptian courts and sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.

“Those detained admitted to mounting terrorist operations and disrupting security in different areas in Egypt,” said the ministry, which also circulated photographs of members of the cell. The announcement went on to vow “no leniency will be shown to anyone proven to have collaborated with this cell or any other terrorist cell or organisations.”

Kuwaiti newspapers widely reported the story. Al-Rai newspaper said five members of the cell had fled to Kuwait in 2013, and three others in 2017. “They left Egypt in an illegal way and under assumed names after being found guilty of terrorist crimes in Egypt,” said Al-Rai.

Al-Garida reported that “some members of the cell participated in the assassination of Egyptian prosecutor-general Hisham Barakat in June 2015,” and added “the cell is affiliated with the Brotherhood’s military wings Hasm and Liwaa Al-Thawra.”

Al-Qabas said on Monday that following the arrest of the group up to 300 Egyptians affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood left Kuwait. Citing informed security sources, the newspaper said “the fleeing Brothers left for Qatar, Turkey and Britain — three destinations known as safe havens for the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Al-Rai reported that Kuwaiti authorities had been tipped off about the cell by Egypt.

“They received detailed information about members of the group, particularly Abu Bakr Atef Al-Sayed Al-Fayoumi, a key Brotherhood leader.

“Following the ouster of the late Brotherhood-affiliated president Mohamed Morsi, Al-Fayoumi led the group’s terrorist operations against police stations and churches in the Egyptian governorate of Fayoum and is suspected of playing a role in funding the operation to assassinate prosecutor Barakat.

“Al-Fayoumi fled Egypt via Sudan, finally reaching Kuwait from where he sent for his colleagues, urging them to come because Kuwait was a safe haven. The list includes Hossam Al-Adl, a pharmacist and a Brotherhood leader who mounted terrorist attacks against police stations in Damietta ahead of the 30 June Revolution in Egypt and was sentenced to 10 years in jail.”

Ahmed Raslan, head of parliament’s Arab Affairs Committee, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the detentions and handover show Kuwait is moving to follow Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation.

“The Brotherhood has been dealt a severe blow. The development means not only that the group has lost Kuwait as a refuge, it offers fresh evidence to the world that the Brotherhood is not the moderate movement it pretends to be but a danger to the security of many countries.

“The United States and European countries, particularly the UK, need to heed the Kuwaiti Interior Ministry’s description of the Brotherhood cell as a terrorist group and follow all the developments in this case.

“It shows how Brotherhood cells infiltrate countries, presenting themselves as victims of Arab dictators, to set up charity organisations to raise money and then become a state within a state.

“This is not the first time Kuwait has handed Egyptians affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood to the Egyptian authorities,” notes independent MP and political analyst Samir Ghattas.

“They did so in 2013, though without much media fanfare. What is significant now is the language the Kuwaiti government and media have opted to use in describing this latest Brotherhood cell.

“In the wake of the Kuwaiti announcement the Muslim Brotherhood realises it has lost a major source of funding. It has also lost in moral terms, with a neutral Arab Gulf country like Kuwait offering the world new evidence of the Brotherhood’s militant nature, underlining it is far from the moderate or peaceful organisation it tries to present itself as.

“This latest case also sheds light on the roles played by Qatar and Turkey. The press reports have revealed the cell received military training in Turkey, and used Qatari banks to divert funds.”

Ghattas believes “some religious institutions in Kuwait sympathetic to the Brotherhood may have helped the cell to operate on Kuwaiti territory.”

The correspondent of Sky News TV channel in Kuwait said on Tuesday that the police are investigating whether a charity led by a former senior Kuwaiti official helped the cell establish itself and become active in Kuwait.

 *A version of this article appears in print in the 18 July, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Kuwait clamps down on MB

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