An apartment in Nasr City burns after a raid against an al Qaeda-linked cell. Courtesy of Egyptian Independent.
The Egyptian investigation into the Nasr City terrorist cell has revealed more links to al Qaeda and Libya, according to recent Arabic press reports.
Security forces first raided an apartment building in the Nasr City neighborhood of Cairo on Oct. 24. A firefight ensued, and the building was set on fire after one of the suspects detonated a bomb, perhaps accidentally. Egyptian officials say that the building housed a terrorist cell that has ties to the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, as well as plots elsewhere.
One member of the cell suspected of being involved in the Benghazi attack was killed during the raid. Initial reports identified him as a Libyan, but officials have subsequently confirmed that he was an Egyptian. Eight other members of the cell were arrested during the operation.
Since the Oct. 24 raid, Egyptian security forces have conducted several others. The Interior Ministry says that a total of 21 suspected cell members have been arrested.
Egyptian officials say they have now identified a new leader of the cell named Sami Maghraby, also known as Abu Basir. Al-Masry Al-Youm reports that he “is said to be close to al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri.”
Another suspected member of the Nasr City cell was recently arrested in Egypt after returning from Libya. Egyptian officials have identified the suspect as Hani Hasan Rashid. According to Al-Shuruq al-Jadid, the investigation has revealed that Rashid “received military training [from the] al Qaeda organization in Libya and was assigned by fugitive leaders to return to Egypt to carry out military operations as revenge” for the crackdown on the Nasr City cell.
Al-Shuruq al-Jadid reports that Rashid “was supposed to meet immediately upon his arrival in Cairo with a jihadist in Egypt to receive from him explosives, hand grenades, and a map of the locations which were to be bombed.”
Rashid denies all of the charges against him and says that he split from the jihadist network during his prison stint years ago. Rashid was previously sentenced to jail for his alleged involvement in the April 2006 Dahab bombings, which targeted an Egyptian resort city popular with Western tourists. Three bombs killed more than 20 people, and wounded dozens more.
The Dahab bombings, which involved three coordinated attacks, were carried out by terrorists who at least shared al Qaeda’s ideology, according to press reports.
General Ahmad Jamal-al-Din, Egypt’s Interior Minister, described the threat posed by the Nasr City cell in an interview published on Nov. 8 by Al-Akhbar, a Cairo-based newspaper. Some prominent members of the Salafist and jihadist community have alleged that the Nasr City investigation was trumped up. Jamal-al-Din rebuffed this claim, saying their investigation showed that the Nasr City apartment “was intended as a place for giving theoretical instructions to the members on how to carry out bombings, with this to be followed by practical drills” held in Libyan camps. The trainees were then to be sent back to Egypt and elsewhere to carry out terrorist operations.
Jamal-al-Din also said that the cell was storing a large amount of explosives at locations throughout Egypt, according to Al-Akhbar.
Two senior al Qaeda-linked jihadists have already been connected to the Nasr City cell. Egyptian officials previously arrested Sheikh ‘Adel Shehato, an Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) official who has openly proclaimed his allegiance to al Qaeda’s ideology, and charged him with founding and financing the Nasr City cell. Shehato helped instigate the Sept. 11 protest in front of the US Embassy in Cairo.
Shehato remains in Egyptian custody. He was arrested while attempting to slip across the border into Libya with a significant amount of cash.
Muhammad Jamal al Kashef, a main suspect in the Benghazi consulate assault, from a video posted by the Al Marsad News Network. Courtesy of SITE Intelligence Group.
Another one of the Nasr City cell’s suspected leaders is Muhammad Jamal al Kashef (a.k.a. Abu Ahmed). Jamal has “petitioned” Ayman al Zawahiri to start his own al Qaeda affiliate, according to The Wall Street Journal, and has also received financing from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
Some Arabic press accounts have claimed that Jamal now leads al Qaeda’s operations in Egypt and other locations. Al Hayat, a London-based Arabic newspaper, recently reported that Ayman al Zawahiri has given Jamal the go-ahead to launch terrorist attacks in Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere.
Jamal has longstanding ties to at least three of the al Qaeda-linked jihadists who, along with Shehato, incited protesters in Cairo on Sept. 11.
Jamal established terrorist training camps in Libya, and some of his trainees took part in the Sept. 11 terrorist assault on the US Consulate in Benghazi.