‘Egypt’s most-wanted’ militant captured in Libya

This handout picture released on October 8, 2018, by the Libyan Armed Forces shows Egyptian jihadist leader Hisham al-Ashmawy after being arrested in the Libyan city of Derna. (AFP)
Updated 08 October 2018

‘Egypt’s most-wanted’ militant captured in Libya

  • The Libyan National Army said Hesham Eshmawi was captured in an “operation” early Monday
  • A Twitter account run by LNA published a mugshot of Eshmawi with a bloodied face

BENGHAZI: Egypt’s most-wanted extremist was captured on Monday in Libya.

Hisham Al-Ashmawy, a former Egyptian special-forces officer turned Al-Qaeda militant, was detained by the East Libyan forces of Gen. Khalifa Haftar in the city of Derna, on the coast road about 265km west of the Egyptian border.

The captured man “was wearing an explosive vest but was unable to detonate it,” a spokesman for Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) said. 

He is expected to be handed over to Egypt after he has been interrogated.

Al-Ashmawy’s arrest deals a blow to militants who have been battling the LNA and carrying out attacks across the border into Egypt.

Al-Ashmawy is wanted by Cairo for orchestrating a deadly ambush on Egyptian police in the Western Desert last year, and other high-profile attacks. 

He had also been convicted in his absence and sentenced to death for a 2014 raid in which 22 Egyptian military border guards were killed near the frontier with Libya.

The wanted man heads the Ansar Al-Islam network, which is linked to Al-Qaeda and tried to assassinate former Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim in 2013. 

The group has mounted a recruiting campaign among former officers in recent years and is seen as more dangerous than militants in Sinai.

Al-Ashmawy left the army in 2012 and joined Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, which is based in the northern Sinai Peninsula. 

He is believed to have gone to Libya in 2013, before Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis pledged allegiance to Daesh in November 2014.

He operated alongside Emad Al-Din Abdel Hamid, another army officer turned extremist. 

Abdel Hamid was killed in an Egyptian air strike in October 2017 in retaliation for the Western Desert ambush.

Derna has a recent history of militancy, and was briefly controlled by Daesh before the group was pushed out by local rivals in 2015.

Egypt has close relations with the LNA, led by Gen. Haftar, and has in the past launched air strikes over Derna targeting extremists linked to militant activity inside Egypt.

Israel parliament moves for third election as talks falter

Updated 11 December 2019

Israel parliament moves for third election as talks falter

  • On Wednesday morning the Israeli parliament passed 50-0 a preliminary reading of a bill immediately dissolving parliament and setting a new election for March 2
  • New elections would add to the political challenges facing Benjamin Netanyahu
JERUSALEM: Israel’s parliament began rushing through a bill on Wednesday to call a third general election within a year as talks between embattled premier Benjamin Netanyahu and his centrist rival broke down ahead of a midnight deadline.
A deal to avert a new election must be reached before 11:59 p.m. (2159 GMT), following a deadlocked vote in September.
But Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz, both of whom have repeatedly failed to build a governing majority in the Knesset, or parliament, have spent days trading blame for failing coalition talks.
On Wednesday morning the Israeli parliament passed 50-0 a preliminary reading of a bill immediately dissolving parliament and setting a new election for March 2.
It must face three more plenary readings and votes during the day before being passed.
New elections would add to the political challenges facing Netanyahu — Israel’s longest serving premier, now governing in a caretaker capacity — at a time when, weakened by corruption charges, he must fend off internal challengers in his right-wing Likud party.
Netanyahu and Gantz, a former armed forces chief who heads the centrist Blue and White party, had been discussing a potential unity government, but disagreed on who should lead it.
Last month, when Netanyahu was indicted on corruption charges, Gantz called on him to step down.
On Tuesday night Netanyahu called on Gantz to stop “spinning.”
“After 80 days, it’s time that for one day, for the citizens of Israel, we sit and have a serious discussion about forming a broad unity government. It’s not too late,” he said on social media.
Gantz said his party was making “efforts to find a way to form a government without us giving up the fundamental principles that brought us into politics.”
If confirmed, it would be the first time Israel’s weary electorate has been asked to go to the polls for a third time within 12 months.
The parties of Netanyahu and Gantz were nearly deadlocked in September’s election, following a similarly inconclusive poll in April.
Israel’s proportional system is reliant on coalition building, and both parties fell well short of the 61 seats needed to command a majority in the 120-seat Knesset.
Both were then given 28-day periods to try and forge a workable coalition but failed, forcing President Reuven Rivlin to turn to parliament with his deadline for Wednesday.
New elections are deeply unpopular with the Israeli public, which has expressed mounting anger and frustration with the entire political class.
Both parties had been trying to convince Avigdor Lieberman, a crucial kingmaker, to join their blocs.
But the former nightclub bouncer, whose secular nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party holds the balance of power, has refused.
Kann Radio reported Tuesday that Netanyahu had abandoned hopes of earning Lieberman’s endorsement.
Lieberman pointed out that Likud and Blue and White wouldn’t need his support if they could agree to work together.
“If during the next 24 hours a government is not formed it will be solely because the leaders of the two big parties — Likud and Blue and White — were not willing to set aside their egos,” he said on Facebook Tuesday.
“All the rest is lies and excuses.”
Netanyahu was indicted last month for bribery, breach of trust and fraud relating to three separate corruption cases.
He strongly denies the allegations and accuses the media, police and prosecution of a witch-hunt.
No date has yet been set for the beginning of the proceedings and, under Israeli law, Netanyahu can remain in office despite an indictment.
He also faces a potential challenge from within his own Likud party.
To boost his support, Netanyahu has pushed his plan to annex a strategic part of the occupied West Bank, as well as signing a defense treaty with the United States.
He is a close ally of US President Donald Trump, who has taken a number of controversial steps in support of Netanyahu’s agenda.
Blue and White, meanwhile, pledged Monday to run with only one leader in the next election — Gantz.
Previously Yair Lapid, second in command in the coalition, was meant to alternate the premiership, but on Monday Lapid said: “We’ll all get behind Benny Gantz, our candidate for prime minister.”
Despite Netanyahu’s indictment, polls suggest that a third round of elections could still be neck and neck — prompting some Israelis to speculate about yet another electoral stalemate.
A commentary writer for the Israel Hayom newspaper suggested that “a fourth election is even now visible on the horizon sometime in early September 2020.”