Homeland Security

Trump Admin Designates Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Terror Wings

Following the visit of Vice President Mike Pence to Egypt two weeks ago, the State Department and the Treasury Department announced today that two Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood terror wings — Hasm and Liwa al-Thawra — have been designated as terror groups:

As I reported here at PJ Media, the UK designated both groups last month. The action by the UK came after the Egyptian government provided evidence of the Muslim Brotherhood’s financial support for Hasm and Liwa al-Thawra. Presumably, Egyptian authorities also provided the same information to the United States.

This has been a long time coming.

As the State Department designation notice observes, Hasm and Liwa al-Thawra have targeted police, military, and government officials over the past few years. As I reported here at PJ Media last May, the State Department warned that Hasm had issued an unspecified threat against the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.

Just last month, the Muslim Brotherhood declared the U.S. “an enemy of the Arab world,” and warned it would “shed our blood and wage war” after President Trump announced the U.S. would move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

The State Department notice also states that the leaders of both Hasm and Liwa al-Thawra were previously associated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

This is a bit of an understatement.

Last May, I reported details in my exclusive threepart interview in Cairo with Egyptian terrorism expert Khaled Okasha, the former head of counterterrorism in the Sinai. Okasha traces the origins of Hasm and Liwa al-Thawra to the efforts of Muslim Brotherhood Guidance Bureau leader Mohamed Kamal. Kamal was killed in a shootout with police in October 2016. Okasha explained that the terror groups are still under the effective control of the Muslim Brotherhood after Kamal’s death.

(Coincidentally, Hasm launched a terror attack on police near my hotel during my visit to Cairo last May.)

Just days before Kamal was killed, U.S.-based researcher Moktar Awad published an assessment of the “Islamist insurgency” in Egypt. He noted Kamal’s role in the Muslim Brotherhood’s terror wings, including Hasm, which has assassinated several top officials responsible for local crackdowns on the Muslim Brotherhood.

Last February, Awad noted that a senior Hasm leader killed by Egyptian security forces was eulogized as a martyr on the official Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party site:

An examination of social media posts of the Hasm leader showed explicit support for the Muslim Brotherhood, leading Awad to note the Hasm leader’s “likelihood of being a member of that organization beyond the first tier.”

His posts promoted historical Muslim Brotherhood figures, stating “those are our leaders.”

After Hasm attempted to assassinate an assistant prosecutor general in October 2016, Awad noted that the terror group’s first claimed successful assassination last July was of the chief investigator in Tamya. That investigator had been notorious for cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood in Fayoum.

Last month, 10 Hasm members were arrested after an attack on a Coptic church in Helwan south of Cairo. The arrest revealed plans to launch attacks on Christian churches and tourist sites during the Coptic Christmas celebrations. The Hasm cell had received terror training at a camp near Fayoum, and was operating at the direction of a senior Muslim Brotherhood leader in Turkey.

Thus, the Muslim Brotherhood’s direct hand in these terror groups has not exactly been a secret. Arrests of Hasm operatives have also tied the terror group’s activity to the Muslim Brotherhood:

As John Rossomando of the Investigative Project on Terrorism reported last May, several Muslim Brotherhood terror cells have jointly claimed attacks with the Islamic State affiliate in recent years. As Col. Okasha explained to me in my interview, those terror cells cooperating with the Islamic State were rolled up into Hasm and Liwa al-Thawra by Muslim Brotherhood Guidance Bureau leader Mohamed Kamal.

Today’s designations mark a pushback by the White House against U.S. government institutional support for the Muslim Brotherhood dating back to the Bush administration.

As I’ve reported here this year, the CIA, State Department, and Washington, D.C., foreign policy establishment continue to defend the “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood. Meanwhile, many of our Arab and Muslim allies — as well as Israel — have already designated Muslim Brotherhood affiliates as terrorist organizations.

I have also reported that, in stark contrast to the CIA, Western intelligence agencies have begun to warn about the dangers of the Muslim Brotherhood. In November, German authorities denied the citizenship application of a Muslim Brotherhood supporter who had attended a Muslim Brotherhood terror training camp in Iraq.

This action by the State and Treasury departments may also motivate congressional leadership to take action on bills calling on the State Department to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization (S. 68, sponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz; and H.R. 377, sponsored by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart) that have thus far languished in both chambers.