Top Muslim Brotherhood leader arrested in Egypt

Top Muslim Brotherhood leader arrested in Egypt
Ezzat was an influential former deputy to Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie, and was seen as a hard-liner within the group. (File/AFP)
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Updated 28 August 2020

Top Muslim Brotherhood leader arrested in Egypt

Top Muslim Brotherhood leader arrested in Egypt
  • The arrest is the latest blow to Egypt’s oldest and most organized Islamist movement
  • Ezzat was an influential former deputy to Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie

CAIRO: The Egyptian Ministry of Interior said on Friday that the fugitive Mahmoud Ezzat, the acting leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, had been arrested during a raid on an apartment in Cairo’s Fifth Settlement district.

Encrypted computers and mobile phones were also confiscated in the raid, which came after the Supreme State Security Prosecution granted permission to arrest Ezzat, who is believed to be in charge of the international affairs of the terrorist group, and to have been responsible for establishing the armed wing of the Brotherhood.

Ezzat is suspected of overseeing several terrorist operations in Egypt, including the separate assassinations of state prosecutor Hisham Barakat and of Brig. Gen. Wael Tahoun in 2015; the assassination of Brig. Gen. Adel Rajaj in Obour City; the attempted assassination of former assistant attorney general Zakaria Abdel Aziz in 2016; and the car bomb outside the National Cancer Institute that killed 20 people and left dozens injured in August last year.

The Interior Ministry also holds Ezzat responsible for the Brotherhood’s online activities “that spread rumors and fake news with the aim of stirring up trouble” and for managing the organization’s funding.

Ezzat had previously been sentenced to death and to life in prison in absentia. He has been the acting leader of the group in Egypt since the arrest of Mohamed Badie in 2013. Security sources told Arab News that Ezzat had been taken in for questioning at a secure location in eastern Cairo.

Aisha Nassar, a journalist and expert on Islamist groups, told Arab News that Ezzat is recognized as the most ruthless of the Brotherhood’s leaders, known for “getting rid of his opponents in the organization.”

“While Khairat Al-Shater is the financial ruler within the Brotherhood, Mahmoud Ezzat is the most dangerous organizational fox among its ranks,” said Nassar.

She added that the fact that Ezzat had been on the run for seven years since Badie’s arrest is a clear indication of the Brotherhood’s organizational abilities.

“With Mahmoud Ezzat’s arrest, the Egyptian regime has dealt the group a major slap in the face,” Nassar said, adding that she believes the arrest of the group’s acting leader in Egypt will mean “the state of frustration and despair will increase among the group’s bases and its youth, who are witnessing the end of the group in Egypt and the failure of its leaders.”

Mounir Adeeb, a terrorist group researcher, said Ezzat was responsible for many activities inside and outside Egypt and will be an invaluable source of information for the security forces.

Egyptian security expert Khaled Othman said Ezzat was a “valuable catch” but that it was “very confusing” that he had been found in Egypt, since rumors were rife that he was abroad, “specifically in Qatar, Turkey or Gaza,” or had died.

“Ezzat is the most dangerous element of the group's (Egyptian arm),” he said, adding that the operation to arrest him must have been complex and carefully orchestrated.