The forces of the Libyan General Khalifa Haftar arrested the former Egyptian soldier-turned-militant Hisham Al-Ashmawy, on Monday morning in the city of Derna.
The spokesman for Khalifa Haftar’s forces, Brigadier General Ahmed Al-Mismari, said in a statement that “the Libyan army arrested the Egyptian terrorist Hisham Al-Ashmawy during a security operation on Monday morning in the Libyan city of Derna, as part of a joint qualitative operation with all the senior army soldiers.”
Al-Mismari added: “Al-Ashmawy was with the wife and sons of Omar Rifai Sorour (the Mufti of the Shura Council of Mujahedeen in Derna, who died in June due to injuries during clashes with Haftar’s forces).”
The Dignity Operations Room of Haftar’s forces explained that “Al-Ashmawy was arrested in Al-Maghar Neighbourhood in the city of Derna and was wearing an explosive belt. Nevertheless, he could not detonate it because of the element of surprise and the speed of the implementation of the operation.”
Activists have circulated photos on social media websites they said they were of Al-Ashmawy after his arrest in Libya.
Hisham Al-Ashmawy, known as Abu Omar Al-Muhajir, is the founder of Al-Mourabitoune group, which is accused of planning and carrying out a series of armed operations against the Egyptian army and police forces.
Al-Ashmawy is 36 years old (according to a statement issued by the Egyptian Interior Ministry). He joined the Egyptian Armed Forces in the 1990s, before joining the Egyptian Special Forces (Thunderbolt Forces) in 1996. He was then dismissed from service in 2012.
According to local newspapers, Al-Ashmawy travelled to Syria through Turkey in March 2013 and received training in the making of improvised explosive devices and explosives before returning to Egypt. He then travelled to Libya, where he received training in Al-Qaeda camps there. He joined afterwards Ansar Bait Al-Maqdis group, which later announced its allegiance to Daesh and changed its name to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Sinai Province.”
Al-Ashmawy split from Ansar Bait Al-Maqdis group in Sinai, as he refused to accept the allegiance to Daesh in July 2014, before founding his group Al-Mourabitoune, travelling to Libya and fighting there.
Al-Ashmawy and his group were recently accused of carrying out the Wahat Road attack last October, which resulted in the death and injury of dozens of police forces. The attack was a source of a major embarrassment and challenge to the Egyptian authorities, amid fierce criticism of the Security deficiencies in the operation.
An Egyptian military court sentenced ten people, including former officer Hisham Al-Ashmawy, to death and 22 others to life imprisonment, in a case known in the media as “Case Ansar Bait Al-Maqdis 3” after the Egyptian prosecution charged the accused members of committing a number of incidents, including the attack on Farafra Oasis Road checkpoint in Sinai.