Egypt military court condemns high-profile militant Ashmawy to death

Ashmawy was convicted for his role in 14 “crimes” including a deadly firefight with police in Egypt’s Western Desert in October 2017. (AFP)
Updated 27 November 2019

Egypt military court condemns high-profile militant Ashmawy to death

  • Ashmawy was returned to Cairo in May after his capture last year

CAIRO: An Egyptian military court on Wednesday condemned a high-profile militant, Hisham Ashmawy, to death by hanging over his alleged involvement in terror attacks, the army said.

Ashmawy was convicted for his role in 14 “crimes” including a deadly firefight with police in Egypt’s Western Desert in October 2017, an army spokesman said. The verdict is subject to appeal before a military court, a judicial source told AFP.

Ashmawy was initially sentenced to death in absentia in 2017 over an ambush in which gunmen killed 22 soldiers at a checkpoint near the porous border with Libya in 2014.

The court ruled on Wednesday that Ashmawy was also “involved in the tracking, planning and filming of the security detail for then-Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim on Sept. 5, 2013,” the spokesman said in a statement.

Ibrahim survived a suicide car bombing near his Cairo home but some 20 policemen and civilians were wounded.

Dubbed Egypt’s “most wanted man” by local media, Ashmawy was returned to Cairo in May after his capture last year by forces of Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar in the city of Derna, eastern Libya.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi had asked for the militant to be handed over. “We want him to serve time in prison,” he said.

A former special forces officer, Ashmawy was dismissed in 2012 over his religious views. He joined Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis based in the restive Sinai of eastern Egypt but broke off after the group pledged allegiance to Daesh in November 2014.

Known by his nom de guerre “Abu Omar Al-MuHajjir,” Ashmawy announced the formation of Al-Mourabitoun in Libya, in July 2015.

 

Egypt has for years been fighting an insurgency in North Sinai that escalated after the military’s 2013 ouster of President Muhammed Mursi following mass protests.

In February 2018, the army and police launched a nationwide operation against militants focused on North Sinai.


Turkish earthquake triggers many unanswered questions

Search and rescue personnel work at the site of a collapsed building, after an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.8 in Elazig, Turkey, on Monday. (Reuters)
Updated 28 January 2020

Turkish earthquake triggers many unanswered questions

  • Special taxes following the 1999 earthquake became a permanent tax in 2004

JEDDAH: Rescue operations continue amidst mountains of debris in eastern Turkey, following the deadly earthquake that hit the region on Friday with a magnitude of 6.8.

The quake, which followed two others in the western city of Manisa and the capital Ankara, has killed 33 people so far in Elazig province, and four in the neighboring Malatya province, with over 1,600 injured.
The country remains poised for further trouble, with a large quake in or around Istanbul feared possible in the coming days. “We’re expecting a 7.5-magnitude earthquake in Istanbul,” Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu warned in a live broadcast.
Turkey, which has a history of powerful earthquakes, faced a 7.6 magnitude quake in August 1999 in the western city of Izmit, which killed over 17,000 people, while another in 2011 in eastern city of Van killed more than 500.
However, not all lessons have been learned. Now, as then, authorities have been quick to criticize people who have questioned spending of funds raised by special earthquake taxes, meant to make vulnerable areas more resistant.
Turkish prosecutors were quick to launch an investigation against Turkish actress Berna Lacin, after she shared her views on earthquake taxes on social media platform Twitter, asking: “Where are they spending all the quake taxes that have been collected so far?”
About 63 billion lira ($10.598 billion) was collected in special taxes following the 1999 earthquake, which became a permanent tax in 2004.
Turkish politician Mahmut Tanal criticized the lack of transparency over the collection and allocation of funds, saying: “The taxes are not used as promised, but they are still being collected although humanitarian assistance … is not conducted anymore.”
He suggested that funds meant for earthquake relief and damage mitigation were being channeled toward other government budgets.
Burak Bilgehan Ozpek, a political scientist at TOBB University in Ankara, was also critical of the use of earthquake funds.

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33 - people killed so far by the earthquake that rocked Elazig province and four in the neighboring Malatya province, with over 1,600 injured.

“Elazig’s reconstruction … has not been planned well by the municipality, and the result has been a disorganized city. That is the real danger. The fight against earthquakes should start first by the construction policies of municipalities,” he said.
Award-winning scientist Naci Gorur criticized Turkey’s lack of policies concerning preparation for potential earthquakes.
Gorur, who has conducted extensive research on fault lines in the country, had alerted authorities of the possibility of an earthquake in Elazig, where he is from, three months before the Jan. 24 quake struck.
Meanwhile, the natural disaster has served as a point of contention in ongoing political hostilities between the Turkish government and separatist Kurdish factions.
The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, claiming it had attempted to send aid to the region to assist beleaguered residents, released an official statement on Sunday, saying: “Delivery of two aid trucks … for Elazig earthquake victims has been obstructed by the Interior Ministry.
“There can be no explanation for blocking humanitarian aid to people in need. We call on the government to stop such practices at once.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, meanwhile, visited Malatya in the aftermath of the earthquake on Saturday.