US designates Egypt-based HASM and Liwa al-Thawra as terrorist groups

The US Department of State announced terrorism designations today against Harakat Sawa’id Misr (HASM) and Liwa al-Thawra, two Islamist groups active in Egypt with suspected ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

HASM and Liwa al-Thawra were formed in 2015 and 2016, respectively, after the overthrow of the former Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in 2013. The two groups have targeted Egyptian police, military forces, and government officials. HASM has also threatened to attack the US Embassy in Cairo.

HASM, which is the Arabic acronym for the Forearms of Egypt Movement, claimed the responsibility for the assassination of Egyptian National Security Agency officer Ibrahim Azzazy, as well as the attempted assassination of Egypt’s former Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa. The terrorist group also claimed responsibility for a Sept. 30, 2017 attack on Myanmar’s embassy in Cairo.

Liwa al-Thawra, or the Revolution Brigade, has claimed responsibility for killing Egyptian army general Adel Ragaei, who commanded the Egypt’s Ninth Armored Division. It also played a significant role in destroying smuggling tunnels connecting the Sinai Peninsula to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, as well as a bombing outside a police training center in the Egyptian city of Tanta.

Although the two group’s ties to the Muslim Brotherhood are subject to debate, both groups are widely believed to be offshoots of the movement, which was ousted from power in 2013 by the current president Abdel Fatah el-Sisi.

On Dec. 22, 2017, the United Kingdom added the two groups to its list of proscribed terrorist organizations. In a press release describing these designations, UK Ambassador to Egypt John Casson said: “We said we will not leave Egypt alone in the frontline in its battle against terrorism and we meant it … This will strengthen joint efforts to uproot terrorism and the ideologies that feed it.”

In Egypt, Members of Parliament and security experts hailed the “good” step taken by the US to designate the groups, hoping that the move might signal a broader campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood or other Islamist extremists that threaten the state. At minimum, the designations will be viewed as a sign of solidarity with a key regional ally despite some recent disagreements about governance and democracy promotion.

Today’s terrorist designation also included Ismail Haniyeh, leader of the Islamist Palestinian group Hamas, along with another Islamist group called Harakat al-Sabireen, which is backed by Iran and operates primarily in Gaza. The US Treasury also added Haniyeh and the three groups to the list of foreign terrorist organizations.

Sources

#Egypt: Hasam Movement claimed the assassination of police captain Ibrahim Azazi earlier today in Al Khankah, Al Qalyubia Governorate, MENASTREAM

Hasam Movement claims responsibility for Former Grand Mufti assassination attempt, Aswat Masriya

Egypt’s Hasm militants claim attack targeting Myanmar embassy, Reuters

Egyptian Army Officer Killed Outside Home; Militant Group Is Suspected, The New York Times

Army commander Brig. Gen. Adel Ragaei martyred; Military funeral to be held today (Arabic), Youm7

Liwa al-Thawra Claims Bombing on Egyptian Police Training Center in Tanta, SITE

UK designates Hasm and Liwa al-Thawra as terrorist groups, paving the way for the U.S. to follow, FDD

UK adds Hasm and Liwa al-Thawra to its list of proscribed terrorist organisations, Facebook page of the UK Embassy in Egypt

US decision to add HASM and Liwa al-Thawra to the terror list is in the interest of moderates: MP (Arabic), Sada al-Balad

Security experts say U.S. designation of the Brotherhood-linked HASM and Liwa al-Thawra  “a good step” (Arabic), Elfagr

Romany Shaker is a research analyst and Arabic language specialist at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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