Monday,24 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1210, (21 - 27 August 2014)
Monday,24 September, 2018
Issue 1210, (21 - 27 August 2014)

Ahram Weekly

No longer peaceful

There is uncertainty about whether or not the Helwan Brigades, a new militant group, belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, writes Ahmed Morsy

Al-Ahram Weekly

The first anniversary of the police dispersal of Islamist sit-ins saw some 200 people arrested, dozens of explosive devices defused, more than 100 protests staged — and the launch of a new Cairo-based militant group.

August 14 marked one year since the violent breakup of the Islamist camps in Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Al-Nahda Square.

A video uploaded on YouTube showed what purports to be a new militant group. In a voiceover, a masked man shown in the video announced that the group is called Kataeb Helwan (Helwan Brigades). He said the group plans to carry out attacks against security forces.

A dozen members of the group, holding Kalashnikovs, stood behind their apparent leader as he announced: “Our message to the Interior Ministry is that you are our target.”

The Brigades’ masked members posed for the camera, each man holding a weapon in one hand and with the other made the four-finger salute, showing solidarity with the Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in. Oddly, passers-by, seemingly unconnected to the group, can be seen in the background of the video, walking along the alley where the video was shot.

 “We are fed up with the peaceful tactics of the Muslim Brotherhood. We are not members of the Muslim Brotherhood. We are fed up with their peaceful demonstrations. When we go on demonstrations, blood is shed, women are raped, and property is stolen,” the Brigades spokesperson said to the camera.

 “This is a warning to the Interior Ministry. Our message is that you are our target because of what you have done to us. You have shown no consideration for the fact that we are your brothers. You have shown no consideration for anything. You have shed blood, raped women, and even got women pregnant. None of you opposed this or was held accountable, because you support a coup,” he said.

On Tuesday Hani Abdel-Latif, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said the security agencies had finished their analysis of the video. “The security agencies have discovered that the video was recorded in the region of Helwan,” he said. “Some of the masked men have been identified and are being pursued.

“The state institutions, facilities and police stations are being targeted by this group and any threat will be dealt with according to the law,” he added.

Since the video first surfaced, some 80 people have been arrested in connection with the group. Security forces have been repeatedly targeted since the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi last summer.

 “The security situation is generally good. The police have to be vigilant, however, because threats still exist,” Abdel-Latif said.

Most security experts think that the members of the Helwan Brigades also belong to, or are funded by, the Muslim Brotherhood. Security expert Khaled Okasha said that the recently released video is part of a media war waged by the Muslim Brotherhood to remind people of its existence.

Hamdi Bekheit, a security expert, agreed that the Brigades were a Brotherhood-affiliated cell, claiming that “the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood funds the Helwan Brigades.”

However, Ismail Alexandrani, a specialist on militant groups in Sinai, said that the Brigades were not affiliated to the Brotherhood. “I believe the Brigades’ members when they say that they are against the peaceful strategy of the Brotherhood,” he said.

 “The video is more pathetic than anything else,” he told the Weekly. “The capabilities of the group are poor. The amateurishness of the video indicates that this is an improvised group that has decided to give up on the demonstrations.

 “I think they will be arrested soon, especially if one or two of them are captured. The only frightening scenario would be if survivors of the group went to Iraq or Syria where they could learn better tactics,” he said.

Some media reports have named Ayman Abdel-Ghani, youth secretary of the dissolved Muslim Brotherhood, as a member of the Helwan Brigades. Abdel-Ghani issued a statement on Sunday denying any link to armed groups.

 “I have no ties of any kind with the so-called Helwan Brigades, and I am not even in Egypt,” he said. “How were these accusations published when this supposedly violent group only announced its own launch two days ago?”

Broadcaster Wael Al-Ibrashi interviewed Mohamadi Mohamed, who is wanted in connection with the Helwan Brigades and several other terrorism cases.

 “I’m not one of these militants. I participated in the 25 January Revolution from the very beginning, and I was one of the injured revolutionaries honoured by the army,” Mohamed said. “I’m not afraid to say that I participated in the Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in and witnessed the killing of hundreds of civilians during its dispersal.

 “However, members of the Helwan Brigades might think that it is their right to be armed and take revenge for the dispersal,” he added.

Protests were held across Egypt on the anniversary of the dispersal of the sit-ins, leaving four protestors dead, according to the Muslim Brotherhood. The Interior Ministry also confirmed the death of one policeman and the wounding of another during the confrontations.

The ministry said 193 people were arrested during Friday’s violence as “elements of the terrorist Muslim qBrotherhood” attempted to launch marches to block roads and fired live ammunition and birdshot, prompting the police to intervene.

According to the NGO Democracy Index, 138 protests were staged over three days, starting on 14 August, to mark the anniversary of the sit-ins. It said in a report on Monday that more than 200 people were arrested and 30 explosive devices were defused over the three days.

The first day, 14 August, saw “70 cases of protest, including 33 marches, 27 road blocks and 10 human chains,” it said. There were 53 protests on the second day, including up to 43 marches and seven road blocks, while on the third day there were 15 protests “including 10 road blocks, three demonstrations, and a human chain.”

The Cairo-based group said that at least seven people were killed in the violence, whether by “the police, Brotherhood elements or others.”

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