Sudan likely to hand over Muslim Brotherhood members to Egypt

The handover of the Brotherhood figures is expected to allay fears in Cairo that the neighbouring country might turn into a national security threat.
Sunday 09/06/2019
Increasingly isolated. A 2013 file picture shows supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood rallying outside the Egyptian Embassy in Khartoum.(AFP)
Increasingly isolated. A 2013 file picture shows supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood rallying outside the Egyptian Embassy in Khartoum.(AFP)

CAIRO - Sudan’s Transitional Military Council is reportedly preparing to deport hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members who fled Egypt after the 2013 ousting of Islamist President Muhammad Morsi.

Transitional Military Council leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who travelled to Cairo on May 25, reportedly told Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi that Sudan would not allow Muslim Brotherhood figures wanted by Egypt to stay in Sudan.

The handover of the Brotherhood figures is expected to allay fears in Cairo that the neighbouring country might turn into a national security threat.

“The Muslim Brotherhood has had plans to turn Sudan into a threat to Egypt through involvement in a number of activities that could cause harm to Egypt’s security,” said Tarek al-Beshbeshi, a specialist in Islamist movements.

Brotherhood figures were supported by the regime of former Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, which led to tensions between Khartoum and Cairo since the early 1990s when al-Bashir allowed Islamists and jihadists, including the late al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, to establish bases in Sudan.

Tensions with Cairo increased when Islamists in Sudan attempted to kill Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in June 1995 as he arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for an African Union summit.

Egypt’s crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood has severely limited the capabilities of the Islamist movement but some movement militias are believed to operate through sleeper cells that could carry out attacks.

Hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood operatives escaped to other countries, including Sudan, where they were trained in using explosives and advanced weapons.

“This is why the escape of Brotherhood figures to Sudan has been a worrying issue to the security establishment in Cairo,” said Ahmed Ismail, a member of the Defence and National Security Committee in the Egyptian parliament.

In February, Sudanese researcher Nader al-Badawi referred to the arrest of hundreds of Egyptian Brotherhood members in Sudan while allegedly receiving weapons training.

Two years earlier, 12 Egyptian Brotherhood operatives were arrested by Sudanese authorities and accused of joining a Brotherhood militia responsible for attacks on Egyptian police that resulted in many people being killed.

In February 2018, Sudan was to hand over hundreds of Brotherhood figures to Egypt after al-Bashir reached an agreement with Cairo but Qatar and Turkey stepped in to stop the transfer.

The latest potential handover of the Brotherhood figures to Egypt comes as Sudan is trying to join an anti-terrorism regional camp that includes Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

The Transitional Military Council on May 30 closed the office of Qatari news channel Al Jazeera in Khartoum. Two days later, Sudan recalled its ambassador from Qatar for consultation. Also, Sudan’s military rulers reportedly refused to meet with a delegation headed by Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman, that arrived in Khartoum in late May.

In Cairo, the expected deportation by Sudan of Egyptian Brotherhood figures was viewed as a potential gesture of good will.

Sudan has strong reasons to make this gesture, analysts said. In late April, Sisi convinced the African Union to extend to three months from 15 days a deadline for the military council to transfer power to civilians.

On June 4, the council said it would have elections after nine months, which is beyond the 3-month time limit agreed by the African Union in April. This means Egypt has a role to play again to help Sudan’s military rulers circumvent penalties by the African Union.

Egypt, which, despite its economic hardships, has been sending economic aid to Sudan for several months, can offer more aid to Khartoum while it suffers unrest, especially after clashes June 3 killed 36 protesters outside the Defence Ministry.

Sudan’s transitional authorities are enthusiastic about weakening the Muslim Brotherhood amid fears that the Islamist organisation would emerge victorious from the strife in the country, analysts said.

“Sudan faces a very intricate situation, especially when it comes to the Muslim Brotherhood,” said Sameh Eid, a former Muslim Brotherhood member. “The Islamist movement controlled the deep state in Sudan for 30 years under al-Bashir and now they continue to be everywhere inside Sudanese institutions.”

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