The link between the Muslim Brotherhood and the ongoing terrorism in Egypt is a controversial question.
The government says yes, the MB leadership says no, and Western analysts appear split on the issue. Some see the Brotherhood as the fount of all Islamist violence, others note decades of proclaimed nonviolence in a gradualist strategy to transform Egypt.
But not many have done the exhaustive investigative work of Mokhtar Awad, writing here for the Small Arms Survey of the Security Assessment in North Africa Project.
His 16 page report details the emergence of two allegedly MB-linked violent actors, Liwaa al-Thawra and Hassm. Here are his conclusions:
Perhaps the most explicit and significant indication of a connection between the MB and Liwaa al-Thawra is found in the latter’s statement of responsibility for the assassination of Brigadier General Raga’i.
In it, the group says that the operation was in part revenge for the security forces’ killing of MB leader Mohamed Kamal (Liwaa al-Thawra, 2016c).
In the group’s follow-up video after claiming responsibility for the attack, it eulogized slain MB leaders by showing their pictures, including that of Kamal (Liwaa al-Thawra, 2016d).
Read Awad’s full report about Kamal, who served in the upper echelon of Brotherhood leadership and was responsible for mainland Egypt after many others fled abroad.
As for Hassm, there are also indications of connections between the group and the MB.
The one known leader of Hassm who was killed by the authorities, Mohamed Ashour Dashisha, was an Arabic teacher and graduate from the prestigious Dar al-Ulum college at Cairo University. An examination of Dashisha’s social media profiles indicates that he was at least a supporter of the MB and likely a member as well (Awad, 2017b).
More importantly, in November 2016 the Egyptian Ministry of the Interior released a video statement claiming the arrest of several Hassm members. The arrested members’ confessions alleged a direct operational link to the MB (Egyptian Ministry of the Interior, 2016).
Interestingly, the MB admitted that the persons arrested by the government were MB members, but said that they were simply ‘rights activists’ (MB, 2016a).
Notably, neither of the two rival MB factions has yet released any statement explicitly condemning Hassm or Liwaa al-Thawra, or any of their attacks.
Is this enough evidence to establish a Brotherhood connection? Is such establishment even possible?
Certainly, aside from evidence presented by the Egyptian government of such connections, there is little independent, verifiable, and open-source information that sheds light on potential operational connections.
This will likely continue to be the case unless and until an MB leader explicitly admits to a connection on the record. Such a scenario seems unlikely, however, because the violence allegedly used by the MB and Ikhwani jihadi groups serves a specific political purpose.
Unlike Salafi jihadi groups, the MB does not see violence as its sole tactic, nor does it see benefit in claiming responsibility for attacks that would diminish its international standing.
Without a leak or verified interception of official communications, open-source research cannot easily identify or provide definitive confirmation of any linkages between MB and Hassm or Liwaa al-Thawra, or penetrate a clandestine operation that would reveal such a connection.
Regardless of the degree of connection to the MB as an organization, there is little doubt that Hassm and Liwaa al-Thawra have in their ranks and among their supporters either current or former members of the MB and allied Islamist groups. The political context in which they operate makes this all but a certainty (Awad, 2017b).
For your evaluation. Any thoughts?
Postscript: Read also this investigative report from Mada Masr, on how the prosecutor-general was assassinated.