Egypt militant returned from Libya back on trial: media

An image grab taken from state-run television station Al-Masriya on May 29, 2019 shows Hisham Al-Ashmawy escorted by members from Egypt’s intelligence service. (AFP)
Updated 26 June 2019

Egypt militant returned from Libya back on trial: media

  • Hisham Al-Ashmawy’s retrial was being held in a military court
  • He is ‘accused of carrying out terror operations against the army, police forces and civilians’

CAIRO: An Egyptian militant captured in Libya and returned to Cairo was put on trial again Tuesday over five terror attacks, including one for which he has already received a death sentence in absentia, according to local media.
Hisham Al-Ashmawy — one of the country’s most-wanted militants — “is accused of carrying out terror operations against the army, police forces and civilians” killing 54 people in total, news website Ahram reported.
His retrial was being held in a military court, the site said.
He was sentenced to death in 2017 in absentia by an Egyptian military court over his involvement in attacking and killing soldiers at a checkpoint near the porous border with Libya.
Authorities have also linked Ashmawy with high-profile attacks including a 2013 assassination attempt on then-interior minister Mohamed Ibrahim and the 2015 killing of a top public prosecutor.
The militant was flown back to Cairo in May, after being handed over by Libyan National Army chief Khalifa Haftar whose forces captured him in 2018 in the eastern city of Derna.
Haftar, who is leading a military offensive against the UN-recognized government in Tripoli, seized the city of Derna last summer. His forces are backed in particular by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.
A former officer with Egypt’s special forces, Ashmawy was dismissed in 2012 over concerns about his religious views.
He joined the Sinai-based Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis but broke with the group after it pledged allegiance to the Daesh group in November 2014.
Known by his nom de guerre “Abu Omar Al-MuHajjir,” Ashmawy announced the formation of an Al-Qaeda-aligned militant group Al-Mourabitoun in Libya in July 2015.
He is also accused of being behind attacks in Egypt’s Western Desert region.


Hundreds of employees fired from Turkey’s Incirlik air base

Updated 24 min 15 sec ago

Hundreds of employees fired from Turkey’s Incirlik air base

  • Incirlik Air Base is located in Turkey’s Adana province, near the Syrian border, and it has been a strategic element in ties between Ankara and Washington
  • It has also played a key role for the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) against Daesh in Syria and Iraq in the past

ANKARA: More than 420 people working at a crucial military air base in southern Turkey have lost their jobs, with some analysts considering it symbolic of decreased cooperation levels with the US and as the Pentagon reconsiders Middle East deployments.
Incirlik Air Base is located in Turkey’s Adana province, near the Syrian border, and it has been a strategic element in ties between Ankara and Washington. It has also played a key role for the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) against Daesh in Syria and Iraq in the past, as well as hosting US nuclear warheads.
The Colorado-based company Vectrus System Corporation, which provides day-to-day maintenance and operation services at the base, terminated the contracts of almost half of its employees at the base earlier this month.
“The base surged to support OIR,” Aaron Stein, director of the Middle East program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, told Arab News. “The Turkey-based staff for OIR has mostly left. So, the base is going back to its pre-OIR level of people, and that level requires less contractor support.”
Vectrus did not reply to Arab News’ request for comment about its decision to scale back at the base.
Joe Macaron, a resident fellow at the Arab Center in Washington, said the move was largely symbolic as the canceled contracts related to logistical support rather than the US military mission.
“But obviously, it comes against the background of some tensions in the US-Turkish relationship and previous hints by Ankara that it might reconsider the status of the Incirlik base,” he told Arab News. “The Pentagon is reconsidering its deployment across the Middle East and it might be looking to become less dependent on Incirlik without fully exiting this crucial military air base.”
Incirlik air base has been used in the past as a bargaining chip at times of tension between the two countries.
“Turkey may re-evaluate the status of the Incirlik Air Base if the US imposes sanctions,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last month in an interview with pro-government channel A-Haber, referring to the potential fallout from Turkey’s decision to buy an air defense system from Russia. 
Washington has threatened to use its Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act to punish Ankara for buying the S-400 system.
Seth J. Frantzman, who is executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis, said reports of the US reducing presence at Incirlik, or challenges to the US presence there, have been growing over the last years.
“Whether these reports relate to changes or are just random is unclear and it is important to note that the large interests of the military and history tend to mean the US does not simply walk away from bases, even if it reduces its role slowly over time,” he told Arab News.
The US has invested heavily in the Jordanian Muwaffaq Salti Air Base to expand its presence there.