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A terrorist alliance
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 07 - 11 - 2014

Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat ordered on Sunday the detention of 35 suspects accused of joining terrorist organisations for 15 days pending investigations.
They face charges of committing “terrorist acts” in Egypt and being “affiliated with the Islamic State fighters in Syria”.
On Saturday, the Interior Ministry announced that it had uncovered five terrorist cells in the governorates of Damietta, Ismailia, Sohag, Beheira and Sharqiya.
The ministry's statement said that the National Security sector arrested a terrorist cell in Damietta, whose five members had travelled to Syria and joined terrorist groups there.
“The Damietta cell was waiting for orders to implement terrorist operations in Egypt,” Interior Ministry Spokesperson Hani Abdel-Latif told Al-Ahram Weekly.
“The five-member Damietta cell received training in conflict-torn Syria before returning to Egypt to commit various crimes,” Abdel-Latif said, adding that those members arrested in Damietta confessed that they had travelled from Turkey to Syria, where they joined a terrorist camp and received physical, intellectual and military training.
Investigations have resulted in confessions from a number of suspects who used their jobs in export and import to facilitate travel to Syria via Turkey; in Syria they received military training from armed groups. On their return to Egypt, it was planned that they would launch a series of attacks against the army and police as well as judges and state institutions after “getting orders from IS”, the prosecutor-general's statement on Sunday said.
The suspected cells were reportedly recruiting Muslim Brotherhood members who believed in establishing an Islamic caliphate, the statement added. They also admitted having a connection to an Egyptian Islamic State recruiter named Mahmoud Ismail and meeting several Egyptian men in Syria who have joined IS forces.
According to state-owned news agency MENA, the suspects were selected for belonging to or supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist movements that adopt the same jihadist ideology. The Brotherhood was declared a terrorist organisation by the Egyptian authorities in late 2013.
“Despite the army and the security forces' success in dealing the jihadists painful blows in Sinai and the other governorates, the cooperation between Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis and IS could lead to an intensification of terrorist attacks,” security expert Khaled Okasha said.
The Al-Qaeda inspired group, Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis — not officially declared a terrorist organisation in Egypt until April 2014 — has been at the forefront of the militant groups launching attacks against security targets. At first, most of the attacks targeted police and military personnel in Sinai; however, the attacks soon expanded to other areas of the country, including the capital.
According to a Reuters report issued last September, not less than 1,000 Egyptians are reportedly fighting among IS troops in Syria and Iraq. In a sudden update, a statement allegedly issued by the Sinai-based Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis was reported on Monday night stating that the group has sworn allegiance to IS, two days after IS called on Jihadists from all over the world to aid the militants' insurgencies against the Egyptian security forces in Sinai.
“Placing our trust in God, we have decided to swear allegiance to the emir of the faithful Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, caliph of the Muslims in Syria and Iraq and in other countries,” the statement said, referring to the leader of IS who has declared the territory under his control to be a new Muslim caliphate, and himself its ruler.
However, the group has since then, via its Twitter account, denied that it issued a statement pledging allegiance to IS.
Reuters had recently interviewed a member of the Sinai-based militant group Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, who claimed that the group is in contact with and receives guidance from IS fighters in Iraq. Okasha warned of the possible consequences of the return home of more Egyptian IS members who might reinforce Beit Al-Maqdis' cells in Cairo and Alexandria.
Militant attacks in Egypt have claimed the lives of over 500 security personnel since July 2013.
Last week President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi issued a decree empowering the Armed Forces to protect all public facilities for two years. The decree was issued a few days after Sinai militants attacked a military checkpoint in Arish killing 31 army personnel and injuring 30.
General Mokhtar Qandil, a military expert, said in an interview with CBC channel that Al-Sisi's decision to involve the army in securing public facilities with the police is a “fatal blow for terrorism”. He added, “Anyone who was going to commit violent or terrorist attacks, will now think a thousand times before carrying them out so as not to expose himself to a military trial.”
Earlier, ten days ago now, the Interior Ministry said 52 people from eight terrorist cells had been arrested. They were found to be in possession of weapons, explosives and large sums of money. The cells, the ministry said, planned to target railways, public transport, and the electricity grid as well as planting bombs in crowded public spaces. Arrests were made in Giza, Minya, Daqahliya, Alexandria, Fayoum and Sharqiya.
“The Interior Ministry continues to fight the remains of terrorist groups and abort their plots,” Abdel-Latif said, noting that the Interior Ministry is determined to eradicate terrorism.

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