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

‘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

‘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.