Egypt sentences jihadist returned from Libya to death

Hisham Ashmawi is a former special forces officer turned Islamist militant.
Thursday 28/11/2019
Hisham Ashmawi (C) being escorted by members from Egypt's intelligence service, last May. (AFP)
Justice served. Hisham Ashmawi (C) being escorted by members from Egypt's intelligence service, last May. (AFP)

LONDON - An Egyptian military court sentenced one of the country’s most high-profile militants to death over five terror attacks, including one for which he has already received a death sentence in absentia.

The court said in a statement that it convicted Hisham Ashmawi, a former special forces officer turned Islamist militant, on terror charges and sentenced him to hang.

Known by his nom de guerre “Abu Omar al-Muhajir,” Ashmawi was sentenced to death in 2017 in absentia by a military court over his involvement in attacking and killing soldiers at a checkpoint near the porous border with Libya.

Last year, the Libyan National Army captured and extradited Ashmawi, who was taken into custody in the eastern city of Derna.

A former officer with Egypt’s special forces, Ashmawi was dismissed in 2012 over concerns about his religious views.

For years, Egypt’s security forces considered Ashmawi the country’s most-wanted militant for his intelligence value as Egypt continues to fight Islamist militant groups in the restive northern Sinai Peninsula and the vast Western Desert.

Egyptian authorities linked Ashmawi, 41, to several major attacks, including a 2013 attempt to assassinate the interior minister, Mohammed Ibrahim, along with devastating assaults on security forces near Egypt’s porous desert border with Libya.

While in Egypt, Ashmawi mobilised a tiny jihadist group into a well-organised guerrilla band that launched deadly ambushes on military checkpoints in northern Sinai.

After fleeing to Libya, he tried to establish himself among Islamic militants and extremists in the country’s east.

He created al-Mourabitoun, a militant group blamed for most of the terrorist attacks in Egypt’s remote Western Desert, such as a 2017 ambush that killed nearly 30 Christian pilgrims on their way to a monastery.

(With news agencies)