Egypt’s most wanted terrorist and a top al-Qaeda commander from Libya were arrested today in Libya’s eastern city of Darnah.
Brigadier Ahmed Mesmari, spokesman of eastern Libya’s Libyan National Army (LNA), broke the news earlier today on Facebook: “The General Command of the LNA announces that the Egyptian terrorist Hisham Ashmawy has been arrested in the early hours of today during a security operation in Darnah”.
The LNA later published photos showing Ashmmawy receiving first-aid treatment while in custody. Ashmawy is a former officer of the Egyptian Special Forces who joined al-Qaeda in 2005 before moving to Sinai in 2013 to become the military commander of Ansar Beit al-Maqdis. When the ABM joined the Islamic State in 2014, he refused to defect from al-Qaeda and subsequently established a new group called al-Morabitoun. As a reward, Zawahiri’s al-Qaeda central command offered him shelter and support in al-Qaeda’s Libyan stronghold of Darnah.
It was understood that he was arrested alongside several militants including an Egyptian and fellow member of al-Morabitoun named Bahaa Ali as well as several female jihadists including the wife of the late Omar Refaai Sorour.
A top al-Qaeda figure of Libyan origin was among the group captured in today’s raid. He was identified as Merai Abdefattah Khalil Zoghbi who is also listed by the UN, UN Security Council and the Interpol as member of al-Qaeda, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) and Ansar al-Islam, a terrorist group based in Italy.
Libyan security sources told this website that Zoghbi fled Italy to Turkey in 2009 where was given political asylum. In 2011, like many of his fellow LIFG jihadis, he returned to Libya and fought alongside Benghazi’s Rafallah Sahati Brigade which later became Ansar al-Sharia.