A jihadist who was one of hundreds to have escaped from Egyptian prisons during the uprising in Egypt in early 2011 was killed during recent fighting in Syria. The Egyptian fought the Qaddafi regime in Libya before traveling to Syria to battle President Bashir al Assad’s forces.
Ahmed Ref’at, an Egyptian from Kafr al Sheikh who was better known as Abu Al Bara’a, was killed on July 7 while battling Syrian security forces in an undisclosed location, according to a statement from a fellow jihadist that was released on terrorist-linked web forums. The statement was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.
Al Bara’a “left the prisons of Mubarak after the revolution and headed to do jihad in Libya with the revolutionaries, and he did jihad and returned after the death of Gaddafi… then he went and did jihad in Syria with the mujahideen against the Alawite Rafidah [Shi’ites],” the fellow jihadist reported, according to the SITE translation.
A video clip of al Bara’a fighting “in the glorious days of jihad in Libya” was also released on YouTube.
In a final statement attributed to Al Bara’a, he implored “all of the brothers … to join the convoy and know that there is nothing that is equal to jihad.”
Al Bara’a said that political participation is “a great sedition and one must escape from them to the battlefields of dignity.”
“Be sure to gain martyrdom,” he concluded.
It is unclear if al Bara’a fought alongside the jihadist groups in Syria, such as the Al Nusrah Front or the Abdullah Azzam Bridages, or the Free Syrian Army.
Al Bara’a was one of hundreds of prisoners from the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and other terror groups to escape from prisons at the outset of the revolution that led to the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. Prison guard abandoned their posts, allowing the prisoners to walk free. Additionally, the Egyptian government freed high-profile jihadists from prison.
Among those who have been freed or escaped is Rifa Ahmed Taha, the former emir of the Egyptian Islamic Group who was an original signatory to Osama bin Laden’s 1998 fatwa that declared war on the US and the West. Taha succeeded Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, or the Blind Sheikh, who is currently serving a life sentence in a US federal prison for his role in the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 that killed six Americans.
Aboud al Zomor, who served as the first emir of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and was later imprisoned for his role in President Anwar Sadat’s assassination, was also freed from prison. He subsequently formed a Salafist political party which won 16 seats. This year, Zomor said that he would welcome the return of al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri to Egypt and that he would be given safe haven.
Mohammad al Zawahiri, the brother of al Qaeda’s emir who was also a member of the Egyptian Islamic Group and who was imprisoned on terrorism charges, was also freed from jail.
And Mohammad Yousef Mansur, the leader of a Hezbollah cell in Egypt that plotted attacks in Egypt, escaped during the chaos in early 2011. Mansur returned to Lebanon and was feted by Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.