THU 21 - 2 - 2019
Oct 9, 2018
The Daily Star
Libyan forces arrest major militant suspect wanted by Egypt
BENGHAZI/CAIRO: East Libyan forces Monday captured a top suspected Egyptian militant long sought by Cairo on charges of orchestrating a deadly desert ambush on police last year a Libyan military spokesman said.
Hisham al-Ashmawy, a former Egyptian special forces officer, was apprehended in the city of Derna, on the coastal road about 266 kilometers west of Libya’s border with Egypt, Libyan National Army spokesman Ahmed Mismari said.
The LNA published a picture of Ashmawy with blood on his face, being examined before having bandages applied.
Another photo purportedly showed Ashmawy’s Egyptian army ID, which bore a photo of him in uniform with the rank of major.
“The terrorist Ashmawy was arrested in the Al-Maghar neighborhood in the city of Derna and was wearing an explosive vest but was unable to detonate it,” the LNA said.
It said he would probably be handed over to Egypt after Libyan security officials had completed an investigation. An Egyptian military source confirmed Ashmawy’s capture to Reuters, without giving further details.
Ashmawy, a former Egyptian army officer, has long been suspected of having fled to Libya from where he masterminded attacks in Egypt.
Egyptian authorities say Ashmawy heads the Ansar al-Islam network, which claimed responsibility for an ambush against police in Egypt’s Western Desert one year ago.
Egyptian officials also accuse the network, which they link to Al-Qaeda, of an assassination attempt on a former interior minister in 2013.
Egyptian security and intelligence sources say the group has mounted a recruiting campaign among former officers in recent years and is seen as more dangerous than militants operating in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula.
The LNA declared that it had taken control of Derna in June from militants and other opponents, though sporadic fighting has continued.
Egypt has close relations with the LNA and has in the past launched airstrikes over Derna, saying it was targeting extremists linked to militant activity inside Egypt.
Before moving to Derna and switching his allegiance to Al-Qaeda, Ashmawy was active with Daesh (ISIS) in the Sinai peninsula, according to Egyptian military sources.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian military said that 52 “takfiris” or extremists were killed in two separate operations by security forces in the restive peninsula.
Three members of the armed forces were also killed in these operations, it said in a statement, without stating when they took place.
The military court also Monday sentenced four militants to death over attacks which killed 20 police officers, according to a judicial source. They were found by the court to be members of the Province of Giza, a branch of Daesh, and involved in a series of deadly attacks last year, the source said.
Sixteen others received life sentences of 25 years, while 15 were jailed for five to 15 years.
Militants have killed hundreds of police officers and soldiers in the Sinai since the army ousted former President Mohammad Morsi in 2013. According to official figures, a total of more than 350 suspected extremists and at least 30 soldiers have been killed in the “Sinai 2018” campaign alone.
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