World View: Egyptian Police Ambushed and Killed by Muslim Brotherhood-Linked Hasm Movement

An Egyptian policeman stands guard on Cairo's landmark Tahrir Square on January 25, 2017, during celebrations marking the sixth anniversary of the 2011 uprising that overthrew former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Dozens of Egyptian police massacred in ambush by jihadists
  • Officials point to Hasm Movement, armed wing of Muslim Brotherhood

Dozens of Egyptian police massacred in ambush by jihadists

The al-Bahariya Oasis, in the desert region where the ambush occurred
The al-Bahariya Oasis, in the desert region where the ambush occurred

In the largest terrorist attack against Egypt’s security forces in decades, as many as 55 policemen were killed in a sophisticated ambush by militants on Friday evening. A large police convoy in four SUVs were traveling to the al-Bahariya Oasis in the vast desert expanse in Giza province southwest of Cairo, based on intelligence that there was a secret terrorist hideout there.

The whole thing was apparently a setup, as the militants were prepared for the arrival of the policemen. When the convoy arrived, dozens of militants opened up with heavy machine guns, recoilless grenades and mortars, and detonated roadside bombs. The Egyptian air force was not called in, leading to suspicions that the militants had penetrated Egypt’s security forces.

Militancy has been growing and spreading in Egypt. In the past year, militants have killed hundreds of Egyptian security forces and judges, and have targeted minority Christian communities and bombed churches in Cairo, Alexandria and other areas. This insurgency has continued and grown, even as Egypt’s military and police forces claim to have killed thousands of suspected terrorists. Daily News Egypt and AP and Washington Post and Debka

Officials point to Hasm Movement, armed wing of Muslim Brotherhood

No one has claimed responsibility for Friday evening’s ambush, but it’s believed that the perpetrators were the Hasm Movement, which is believed to be the armed wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, although MB officials deny a connection. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was violent for decades, but renounced violence in the 1970s. If Hasm is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, it would represent a return to violence for the organization.

“Hasm” in Arabic means “decisiveness” or “termination,” but the name of the group may be also an acronym of Arabic phrase “Harakat Sawa’d Misr,” which literally means “Arms of Egypt Movement.” It first emerged publicly when it claimed credit for an attack on a police officer on July 18, 2016. Since then, the group has claimed credit for a number of deadly attacks on security forces and assassinations of public figures.

Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has cracked down extremely harshly on Muslim Brotherhood members, jailing thousands of them and subjecting many to torture, since, as an army general, al-Sisi led an army coup overthrowing the democratically elected but incompetently governing Mohammed Morsi, and his Muslim Brotherhood ministers.

Although the Muslim Brotherhood still claims to be a non-violent political organization, there’s little doubt that al-Sisi’s harsh, bloody atrocities committed against Brotherhood members has radicalized some of the younger members, and that may be the genesis of the Hasm Movement, though that hasn’t been proven.

Al-Sisi has his hands full with the Bedouin-based Sinai terrorist group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM – Ansar Jerusalem – Champions of Jerusalem), which changed its name to al-Wilayat Sinai (Province of Sinai) when it changed its allegiance in 2015 from al-Qaeda to the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh).

Al-Sisi has conducted a scorched earth counter-insurgency approach to ABM, which takes advantage of the deeply alienated Bedouin population. However, ABM’s appeal among ordinary Egyptians has been limited because of its ruthless attacks on ordinary civilians.

The Hasm Movement has apparently learned from ABM’s experience. Hasm have been avoiding attacks on civilians, and have been targeting policemen, security officials and government officials, so that they may be able to gain greater traction among the Egyptian people than ABM has been able to do. Deutsche Welle and Jamestown (21-Apr) and International Institute for Counter-Terrorism and Al-Jazeera

Related Stories

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Egypt, al-Bahariya Oasis, Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, Hasm Movement, Arms of Egypt Movement, Mohammed Morsi, Muslim Brotherhood, Ansar Jerusalem, Ansar Bayt al Maqdis, ABM, Champions of Jerusalem, Bedouins, Sinai Province, Al Wilayat Sinai
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