Saturday,18 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1286, (10 - 16 March 2016)
Saturday,18 August, 2018
Issue 1286, (10 - 16 March 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Multiple suspects

The Interior Ministry now says the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas were behind the assassination of Prosecutor-General Hisham Barakat. Ahmed Morsy reviews the growing list of alleged assassins

Al-Ahram Weekly

In a televised press conference on Sunday, Interior Minister Magdi Abdel-Ghaffar accused the Muslim Brotherhood and the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas of being behind the assassination of Public Prosecutor Hisham Barakat.

Barakat died in a hospital last June following a bomb attack that targeted his motorcade ahead of the second anniversary of the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi.

Abdel-Ghaffar said the “plot” was initiated on the instructions of Brotherhood leaders in Turkey who coordinated with the “armed branch of the Brotherhood, Hamas”, which trained the assassins to use weapons and bombs in Gaza.

“By intercepting electronic communications we have managed to unravel a longstanding plot targeting the Egyptian state. Barakat was one of the major victims of this plot,” said Abdel-Ghaffar.

He said that 14 people were directly involved in Barakat’s assassination. They were part of a 48-member cell, all of whom have been arrested.

Abdel-Ghaffar accused Brotherhood member Yehia Moussa, former spokesman of the Health Ministry under ousted president Morsi and currently a fugitive in Turkey, of issuing the order to kill Barakat.

Egypt designated the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation in December 2013 and insists it is behind the wave of terror attacks that followed Morsi’s removal. The Brotherhood denies the accusations.

“This plot was carried out on the orders of Muslim Brotherhood leaders abroad and in close coordination with Hamas, which played an important role in the assassination of the public prosecutor,” Abdel-Ghaffar said.

During the conference, a video was played showing the confessions of those involved in the plot.

Earlier on Sunday, Prosecutor-General Nabil Sadek ordered the detention of six people suspected of involvement in the assassination of Barakat. The six have been detained for 15 days pending investigations.

Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood deny the charges. Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zahri said the accusations undermine attempts to keep channels open between his group and the Egyptian authorities and called for Cairo to “stop pushing Hamas into the internal conflict” between the Egyptian state and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Muslim Brotherhood issued a statement saying: “Al-Sisi’s regime is the only conspiracy against Egypt and the nation. You are the killers. You should look among yourselves for the killer of the Prosecutor-General.”

It is not the first time the Brotherhood has laid the blame for Barakat’s assassination on the authorities.

Immediately following Barakat’s death, the Muslim Brotherhood issued a formal condemnation of the assassination and restated its opposition to such acts. In a statement posted on its official Facebook page, the organisation wrote: “The negative developments that are occurring in Egypt, the latest being the targeting of the prosecutor-general, are the fault of the authorities which laid the foundations for violence and led Egypt from a promising democratic experiment to the realm of mass murder, violence and bloodshed.”

 Speaking at Barakat’s funeral last year, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi vowed “swift justice” and pledged to accelerate the crackdown against Islamist extremism. Within weeks he introduced draconian new counterterrorism laws in which the definition of terrorism was expanded to include acts that “disturb public order and social peace” or “harm national unity and the national economy”.

On 1 July 2015 the Interior Ministry announced that 20 people had been arrested by security forces. They were accused of being behind the Facebook page of the Popular Resistance in Giza, a shadowy group that claimed responsibility for the assassination of Barakat only to delete its post within a few hours.

 Security experts were doubtful of the claim. The Popular Resistance, they said, was an inexperienced group incapable of the sophisticated planning that was the hallmark of Barakat’s assassination. It was far more likely, they said, that the attack was the work of Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis.

Security sources said that Hisham Ashmawi, a former army officer who joined Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis before moving to Libya in 2013 and fighting with an Al-Qaeda-affiliated militant group in Derna, had probably masterminded Barakat’s assassination.

Since Mohamed Morsi’s ouster in July 2013, terrorist attacks in Egypt have claimed the lives of hundreds of security personnel. Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis — now known as State of Sinai — is thought to have been behind most incidents targeting security forces, though a number of smaller militant groups, including Agnad Misr, the Popular Resistance and Revolutionary Punishment, have emerged.

On 16 May 2015 a video was posted in which Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for the killing of three judges and their driver as they were travelling to Al-Arish. In the same week a video of the attack was posted under the title “The Extermination of Judges”.

The video justified the murders on the grounds that Egypt’s judges had “betrayed God’s covenant” by ordering the release of former president Hosni Mubarak and issuing mass death sentences against Islamist defendants.

In the video, the Sinai-based militant group appeared to try to distance itself from the Muslim Brotherhood by referring to Morsi as among those “falsely trying to call for legitimacy”. The same Sinai-based terrorist group claimed responsibility for the September 2013 failed assassination attempt against the then interior minister Mohamed Ibrahim.

Nine alleged terrorists belonging to Muslim Brotherhood, including former member of parliament and lawyer Nasser Al-Hafi, were also briefly blamed for being behind Barakat’s assassination. The nine were killed in a shoot-out with the police in the Bashayer district of 6th of October City on 1 July 2015. Following their deaths, the Interior Ministry announced that they had carried out the attack against Barakat.

Yet another narrative emerged when security sources linked three militants killed in an exchange of fire with police forces last month in Maadi to Barakat’s assassination. At the time, the Interior Ministry said the militants were members of Agnad Misr and had been involved in several terrorist operations.

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