Saturday,22 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1210, (21 - 27 August 2014)
Saturday,22 September, 2018
Issue 1210, (21 - 27 August 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Daesh moves closer

The Islamic State, mostly active in Iraq and Syria, is impinging on Egypt either claiming responsibility for attacks against the police and through gruesome photos posted online by Egyptians fighting with the extremist group, writes Khaled Dawoud

Al-Ahram Weekly

Videos of fighters belonging to the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria stoning to death a woman convicted with adultery, carrying out mass executions, beheading prisoners of war or else throwing captives off mountain cliffs, are a regular feature of Egyptian talk shows on channels known to be antagonistic to the Muslim Brotherhood.

The message they seek to convey is simple: had President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi not intervened when he was minister of defence to end the one-year rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt would be in the same situation today as Iraq and Syria.

“See for yourselves what Al-Sisi saved us from. We would have ended up with groups like Daesh doing the same in Egypt,” said Ahmed Moussa, the host of one daily show.

Reality, though, might have already outstripped its televised depiction. Security experts warn the extremist group may already have established a foothold in Egypt, via small groups made up of militants who hold up IS as their model.

There is also the fear that an unidentified number of Egyptians, estimated at anything between the tens to several hundreds, are fighting as part of IS force and have recently been boasting about their activities on social websites.

Originally known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the group abbreviated its name to Islamic State (IS), claiming they had already started the process of reviving the Islamic caliphate. But in Egypt it continues to be known as Daesh, from the first letters of its Arabic designation Dawlet Al-Khilafa fe Al-Iraq Wal Sham.

On 18 August, in a statement that cannot be verified, one more word was added to that long Arabic name — Misr. A group calling itself Daeshm, (the Islamic State in Iraq, Syria and Egypt) claimed responsibility for two recent attacks in which five policemen were killed and three others injured. The same group also alleged they were responsible for the terrorist attack against an army border post in the Western Desert in Farafra a month ago, in which 23 soldiers and officers were killed.

Khaled Okasha, a security expert and former police officer, said the claim of responsibility for the Farafra attack “shed doubt on the authenticity of the Da’shem statement.”

According to Okasha, “Other militant terrorist organisations, including Ansar Beit Al-Maqdas, also claimed responsibility for the same massacre.”

Security officials report that a flag of the terrorist group Al-Qaeda was found at the scene of the Farafra attack.

“The Islamic State, which claims allegiance to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, a man they appointed as caliph, broke ranks with Al-Qaeda, led by the Egyptian Ayman Al-Zawhiri, and have been involved in bitter fighting in Syria,” says Okasha, while Al-Qaeda in Syria has its own group, Jabhat Al-Nusra.

The statement signed by Daashem warned Egyptians that they still had a chance to “repent” and support IS. It announced a deadline of 12 days before resorting to the tactics followed by heir brothers in Syria: “bloodshed, chopping off heads and slitting bellies.”

In the attack, in which one officer and three soldiers were killed near the northern coast town of Dabaa, the statement said the bodies of the four victims were deliberately burned “just like they burned the bodies of Muslims in the Rabaa and Nahda sit-ins.”

Many Egyptians have been shocked by the growing number of young men boasting on their personal Facebook and Twitter accounts about their membership in Daesh and their role in gruesome acts of killing in Iraq and Syria. The most notorious case is that of a young man in his early twenties, Islam Yakan, who tweets as @i_yakan, and who prior to his radicalization appears to have been a fairly ordinary upper-middle class person mainly interested in body building and rap singing. He attended a French school before graduating from the Faculty of Law at Cairo University.

Before travelling to Syria, Yakan posted videos on his YouTube channel giving advice on bodybuilding. In recent weeks, however, he had posted images of himself bearded, riding a horse and carrying a sword in front of a pot containing two severed heads. Yakan captioned the photos with criticisms of those with “weak hearts and no faith” who refuse such “common Islamic practices during the state of war.”

After posting the photo showing him on horseback, Yakan added an image of himself on top of a tank to “deny allegations by anti-Islamists that they belong to the Middle Ages.”

 In one tweet, Yakan wrote: “I can accept any charge, except that of belonging to the Brotherhood.”

Recent statements issued by IS condemn the Brotherhood for violating Islamic law by taking part in popular elections and supporting qestern-style democracy. Establishing the Islamic Caliphate, they say, is an obligation derived from the Quran and will not be achieved through elections but by fighting.

The search for Egyptians fighting along with Daesh in Syria increased after Yakan’s case became public. Ahmed El-Dreini, a columnist and expert on Islamic groups, says what made Yakan’s case so shocking “is that he belonged to the middle class, and many people starting thinking that one of their own young relatives could end up fighting with Daesh and coldly chopping off heads.”

Egyptians known to be fighting in Syria and Iraq under the banner of the Islamic State, Jabhat Al-Nusra and other groups, travelled there easily during Mohamed Morsi’s year in office. The Brotherhood officially supported armed Islamic groups fighting in Syria, and Morsi attended a rally, a few weeks before his ouster, at Cairo stadium at which tens of thousands of Islamists chanted slogans calling for jihad in Syria.

One of Morsi’s senior advisers, Khaled Al-Kazaz, raised eyebrows when he said that Egyptians who went to “jihad” against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad would not be prosecuted upon their return because they had not violated any laws.

Dozens of young Egyptians remained in Syria, gaining advanced experience not only in executing hit-and-run attacks and roadside bombs, but in the use of advanced weapons, including tanks and missiles. Whether supported by Daesh, Al-Qaeda, the Brotherhood, the Islamic Group or Jihad, they are all opposed to the removal of Morsi. They have promised that when they return, Egypt will be their battleground as they fight against what they term the “military coup” that removed Morsi from office.

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