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How did a former Egyptian officer come to head an extremist group in Libya?

Published: Updated:

Libyan army spokesperson Colonel Ahmed Al-Mesmari said Hisham Ashmawi, a former Egyptian officer who is currently the commander of an extremist group in Darnah in northeastern Libya, seems to be involved in the Minya bus attack which killed 29 Copts last week.

In a press conference on Friday, Mesmari said Ashmawi was suspended from the Egyptian army in 2012 and is now leading terrorist operations from Darnah.

The 35-year-old was a lieutenant colonel in the Egyptian army and he served in Sinai for around 10 years. He was suspended from the army based on a judicial decision that was made after he began spreading extremist ideas among soldiers.

Terrorist cell

Ashmawi, who is also known as Abu Omar al-Mohajer, then formed a terrorist cell which included four suspended army officers and others in the army. He then joined Ansar Bait al-Maqdis which later renamed itself the Sinai Province after it pledged allegiance to ISIS.

Ashmawi was accused of most terrorist operations which happened in Egypt such as the attempt to assassinate former interior minister Mohammed Ibrahim. He was also accused of planning and participating in the 2014 Sinai ambush where 22 soldiers were killed.

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In 2013, he traveled to Darnah in Libya and announced his defection from Sinai Province and joined Al-Mourabitoun which supports Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Ashmawi recruited members from Egypt and trained them in Darnah so they can carry out operations in Egypt. He is now one of the most wanted men, considering the security threats he poses for Egypt.

This report is also available in Arabic.