A Libyan militant captured in a raid on a group blamed for a deadly attack on Egyptian police said on Thursday that he and other foreign fighters loosely linked to al-Qaeda had been operating out of Egypt’s western desert since January.
A new and little-known group called Ansar al-Islam claimed responsibility for the October attack, posing a new threat to Egyptian security forces battling a stubborn ISIS insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula since 2013.
The Interior Ministry said on Thursday that Abdelrahim Mohamed al-Mesmari, from the Libyan city of Derna, was captured by Egyptian forces following the attack in the western desert in which authorities have said 16 policemen were killed.
Mesmari said he adopted extremist ideas following the revolution on Moammar Qaddafi. He later joined a group in Egypt headed by former Egyptian army officer Emadeddine Abdulhamid, aka Sheikh Hatem.
The group settled in Wahat since January 2017 and participated in the murder of Copts who were heading to the monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor in Egypt.
He added that the terrorist group was surprised when the police arrived so Sheikh Hatem ordered them to attack the policemen. The fighting ensued until they killed the archeological guide who told the police where they were. They also took Captain Mohammed al-Hayes captive.
As to why he kills others, Mesmari said he kills based on an ideological perspective as he views those he murders as “infidels.” He added he was fighting to establish a caliphate and that he feels no remorse whatsoever when he kills someone.
“If I fight based on my beliefs, I will hopefully be rewarded,” said Mesmari, who added that he had first joined a jihadist group in 2014. “We did not know the police were monitoring us,” he said.
Egypt killed 15 militants during the raid against the group it blamed for the October attack. All were trained in Derna and 29 were taken captive, according to the Interior Ministry.