September 5, 2013, a suicide car bomb explodes in Nasr City, a suburb of Cairo, near the Minister of the Interior1. The attack, which injured at least 20 people, is claimed by Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, a jihadist group in the Sinai. Two months later, the jihadists post a video of the bomber, Walid Badr, former officer in the Egyptian army and especially veteran of the jihad in Syria.
The Syrian conflict indeed provides valuable experience to Egyptian jihadists who seek to destabilize the military regime. At last count, between 119 and 358 Egyptians have already taken part in the fighting in Syria. Another fighter of the same group, Saeed al-Shahat, had killed a police officer and had blown his belt with bombs when security forces had invested his apartment. He also was a veteran of Syria. Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has gradually established itself as the most violent among the Egyptian jihadist groups nebula : the car bombing of December 24, 2013 in Mansoura shows that its capabilities are growing, perhaps under the influence of returning combatants wo have fought in Syria.
Hundreds of Egyptians were left to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan in the late 1980's. Veterans of that conflict had enlarged the ranks of two later linked al-Qaeda organizations, al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya and Egyptian Islamic Jihad, who had spread terror in Egypt in the 1990's. Overthrow of President Morsi has provided ammunition to the jihadists. An ideologue, Sheikh Abu al-Mundhir al-Shinqiti, called for war against the security services ; ISIS declared its support for his Egyptians "brothers". On 1 September 2013, Egyptian security forces arrested Adel Habbara, allegedly linked to al-Qaeda, who led a group called Al-Muhajereen wal-Ansar in the Sinai Peninsula, which is responsible for the execution of 25 soldiers in August. Habbara have sworn allegiance to ISIS and would have seen promised 10,000 dollars to fund the activities of the armed group. Videos of the group are increasingly referring to the speech of Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. In addition to the Egyptians who went to fight in Syria , the group also recruit among the community of Syrian refugees arrived in Egypt since 2011. The right arm of the commander of the Islamic State in Iraq, the ancestor of ISIS, was also up his death in April 2010, an Egyptian, Abu Ayyub al- Masri2.
Egyptians who go to fight in Syria therefore come from quite diverse backgrounds , even if their profile has common points. Aboubakr Moussa, who was killed in battle alongside the Syrian uprising, was student of one of the best graduate schools in Cairo and became "religious" after his university entrance. At the mosque, he met a man whose sister he married, the widow of a Chechen. He tries to win Chechnya but is repressed by the Russian authorities and imprisoned six months by the Egyptian police. Remarried after his first wife having left, he participated in the overthrow of Mubarak and is in aid convoys to Libya - we do not know whether he took part in the fighting there. He then went to Syria via a network obviously quite organized and fought in Damascus, in the provinces of Idlib, Homs (and to al-Quseir) before being killed on 1 September 20123. Refat Ahmed, a jihadist who had escaped from Egyptian prisons in favor of reversing Moubarrak, was killed in Syria July 7, 2012. He had fought with arms in hand against Gaddafi before joining the Syrian jihad4. Abu Rami, 37, made four trips back to Syria in 2012, where he won the Syrian confidence of an association responsible for maintaining order in the territories liberated by the insurgency. He entered in Syria by Turkey, as many foreign fighters ; according to him the trip would cost $ 250 in total. He further stated that the volunteers for jihad in Egypt were educated people without social or financial problems. By February 2013, the Egyptian government has published the names of 10 national citizens killed in battle in Syria. Abu Rami added back in 3 more, which would be entered by Lebanon and would have died in Homs this month. Abu Ahmed , an Egyptian student of 34 years in England, left his wife and child to join a brigade of the Free Syrian Army via the crossing point of Bab el-Hawa at the Turkish border. Although affiliate of al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya , he claims he have not used this network ; it is the meeting of an exile starting again for jihad who convinced him. He bought an AK-47, belonging to a dead fighter, for 700 dollars and paid 80 dollars for ammunition. He cooks for his armed group before being engaged in small operations and being wounded in the leg and then he was treated and returned to Egypt5.
Jérôme Drevon6 also explains how the conflict between al-Nosra and ISIS impacted the Egyptian jihadist landscape. One faction, called "purists", is aligned with ISIS and rejects al-Nosra, especially because this movement welcomes Egyptian volunteers who do not have the same political ideas that jihadists, as Sheikh Hazim Abu Ismail. These Egyptian jihadists reject both al-Nosra which is confined to the Syrian jihad only militarily, but also the direction of al-Qaeda, i.e. Zahawiri, who supported al-Nosra in his quarrel with ISIS. They rallied to Abu Umar al-Kuwaiti, who leads a group of foreign fighters, Jamaat al- Muslimin, located near the Turkish border to Atme and Bab el-Hawa. The group is associated with EIIL but more excommunicated al-Nosra, what rejected ISIS itself. Purists oppose it in the mainstream of Egyptian Salafism which itself promotes reconciliation current. What is interesting, perhaps, is the centrality of the Syrian experience in the redefinition of jihadism stemming from Salafism .
In early 2014, the Egyptian jihadist attacks multiply : car bomb outside the headquarters of the security forces, fire in broad daylight on an important figure of the Ministry of Interior, destruction of a military helicopter above the Sinai with a MANPADS7. Shooter of this material (SA-16) was obviously trained in the use of this : has he an experience acquired in Syria ? He shot in any case a Mi-17 over the northern Sinai. Also it remains to be seen whence the arm comes from8. According to a study of the Meir Amit center, hundreds of Egyptians have fought in al-Nosra or ISIS in Syria. April 13, 2014, Egyptian authorities announced they hold Wa'el Ahmed Abd al-Fattah, a former employee of the Egyptian oil company that has served in al-Nosra. It would be entered Syria via Turkey in 2012. A month earlier, on March 10, this is Muhammad Ahmed al- Dura Taliawi who was arrested by the security services ; he participated in the attack on the headquarters of these in January, in Cairo. Came back from Syria in March 2013, he seeks to carry out attacks against Israel, then get in touch with a member of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis. At the time of his arrest, he opened fire on the police that replicate and hurt him. September 23, 2013, Ansar Bayt al- Maqdis announced in a statement the death in Egypt of two veterans of the Syrian Jihad, Fahmi Abd al-Rauf Muhammad (Abu Djana) and Samir Abd al-Hakim (Abu al- Baraa). Wa'el Abd al-Fattah , who was part of al-Nosra, was also arrested by the Egyptian authorities because of its terrorist projects9.
Another study of the Meir Amit center on volunteers from Arab states who left to do jihad in Syria estimated to 40 the number of Egyptians already killed on the spot, mostly from villages or small towns and little from Cairo or Alexandria. Several Egyptian cadres in Syria belong to Ansar al-Sharia organization. This organization is led by Sheikh Ahmed Ashoush, a veteran of the Afghan Jihad and Al-Qaeda, returned to Egypt in 1991, arrested in 1993 and detained until 2011. Released, he was again jailed in December 2012 for terrorist activities. Hashem al-Ashri, who lived in the United States for 15 years, said in June 2013 that he helped the Egyptians to go to Syria. According to him, most come from the middle classes, which allows them to pay for a plane ticket and a weapon, two critical elements for foreign fighter. He advised them to go to a neighboring country and then to the border where a rebel group is responsible for bringing them to Syria10.
1David Barnett, « Blowback in Cairo.The Syrian civil war has now reached the heart of Egypt. », Foreign Policy, 9 janvier 2014.
2Mohannad Sabry, « Al-Qaeda emerges amid Egypt’s turmoil », Al-Monitor, 4 décembre 2013.
4Bill Roggio, « Egyptian jihadist killed in fighting in Syria », The Long War Journal, 12 juillet 2012.
5 Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, « Egyptian Fighters Join 'Lesser Jihad' in Syria », Al-Monitor, 17 avril 2013.
6Jérôme Drevon, « How Syria’s War Is Dividing the Egyptian Jihadi Movement », Carnegie/Syria in Crisis, 9 janvier 2014.
9Involvement of Operatives Who Returned from Syria in the Terrorist Campaign against the Egyptian Regime, The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, 4 mai 2014.
10The Phenomenon of Foreign Fighters from the Arab World in the Syrian Civil War, Most of Them Fighting in the Ranks of Organizations Affiliated with Al-Qaeda and the Global Jihad, The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, mai 2014.