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UK designates Hasm and Liwa al-Thawra as terrorist groups, paving the way for the U.S. to follow

UK designates Hasm and Liwa al-Thawra as terrorist groups, paving the way for the U.S. to follow

Romany Shaker
27th December 2017 - FDD Policy Brief

The UK announced last week that it added the Egyptian groups Hasm and Liwa al-Thawra to its list of proscribed terrorist organizations. According to a press release posted on the official Facebook page of the UK Embassy in Cairo, the British government reviewed evidence of attacks carried out by Hasm and Liwa al-Thawra against Egyptian security personnel and public figures and concluded that the two groups “meet its criteria for proscription.”

The groups responded by condemning the British action, which Hasm branded as “colonial” while Liwa al-Thawra dismissed it as “insignificant.”

Hasm is the Arabic acronym for the Forearms of Egypt Movement and it is also the word for “decisiveness.” The group, accused by the Egyptian government of being a militant wing of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, has claimed responsibility for a series of terror attacks against Egyptian police and military personnel as well as military facilities.

Hasm claimed responsibility for the assassination of National Security Agency officer Ibrahim Azazy and the attempted assassination of Egypt’s former Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa. Hasm also claimed responsibility for an attack on Myanmar’s embassy in Cairo on September 30, 2017, indicating a shift to foreign targets.

Liwa al-Thawra, or the Revolution Brigade, announced itself on social media in August 2016. It was believed to be created by Hasm, and is also accused of being tied to the Muslim Brotherhood. The group has been involved in a series of attacks, including a 2016 bombing outside a police training center in the city of Tanta.

On October 22, 2016, Liwa al-Thawra claimed the assassination of Brig. Gen. Adel Ragai, commander of the army’s Ninth Armored Division, outside his home in the outskirts of Cairo. The group described the attack as retaliation for the death of senior Muslim Brotherhood leader Muhammad Kamal in October 2016 during a Ministry of Interior operation in Qalyubia.

General Ragai, according to multiple pro-government media outlets, had previously been deployed to the Sinai Peninsula, where the military is fighting Wilayat Sinai, an Islamic State affiliate. His brigade played a crucial role in destroying smuggling tunnels built under the Egyptian border and leading to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

By designating these two groups as terrorist organizations, the UK has acknowledged these groups for what they are: violent and extreme. Despite lingering concerns about Egyptian democratization and rule of law issues, London affirmed its support for Egypt in its war on terror. In the words of UK Ambassador to Egypt John Casson, “We said we will not leave Egypt alone in the frontline in its battle against terrorism and we meant it.”

The United States has similar concerns about Egyptian governance. But the justification for sanctioning Hasm and Liwa al-Thawra is clear and now further reinforced by the UK. Washington should follow suit, so long as the two groups meet legal criteria. Doing so would also show US solidarity with the Egypt in its fight against terrorism, even as we work to address other challenges in our bilateral ties.