Hunt for backers of ‘sleeper cell’ militants who fled Egypt for Kuwait

In this July 25, 2013 picture, Muslim Brotherhood supporters hold camp at an enclave in Cairo, Egypt after the military ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. A militant cell linked to the banned group that was suspected to have escaped from Egypt and set up operations in Kuwait. (AP file photo)
Updated 14 July 2019

Hunt for backers of ‘sleeper cell’ militants who fled Egypt for Kuwait

  • Gang linked to Muslim Brotherhood arrested in raids by Kuwait’s security services
  • “It is now clear that these militant cells are being supported by Qatar and Turkey," says a Saudi political analyst

JEDDAH/CAIRO: Security chiefs launched an investigation on Saturday to find out how a militant cell linked to the banned Muslim Brotherhood escaped from Egypt and set up operations in Kuwait.

The militants were arrested on Friday in a series of raids by Kuwaiti security forces. A special unit of Kuwait’s Interior Ministry uncovered the cell, identified the locations of its members and detained them in a special operation.

The ministry said all those arrested were wanted by the security services in Egypt. They had evaded Egyptian authorities, and made Kuwait the center of their operations, the ministry said.

After initial investigations, the militants admitted carrying out terrorist operations and breaching security in Egypt. Inquiries are continuing, to find out who helped them flee Egypt, and cooperated with them in Kuwait.

There are large number of Muslim Brotherhood members living “under the radar” in several Arab countries, the Egyptian lawyer Tharwat Al-Kharbawi, an expert on Islamist groups, told Arab News.

Some use illegal passports acquired before the Egyptian security authorities issued orders to prevent them from traveling, he said.

Al-Kharbawi appealed to Arab security services to “wake up and arrest these cells,” to avoid “the devastation the Muslim Brotherhood cause wherever they go.”

The arrests in Kuwait will prompt the leaders of the group in Turkey and London to consider changing their concealment strategy, said Maj. Gen. Mohammed Al-Ghabari, former director of the National Defense College in Egypt and a security expert at the Nasser Military Academy.

“The Brotherhood believed that by fleeing Egypt they were safe,” he said. “But what happened in Kuwait may change their methodology, and encourage those who committed acts of violence to return to Egypt to hand themselves over to the Egyptian authorities.”

Al-Ghabari said the Egyptian security services were still investigating Muslim Brotherhood terrorist operations in Egypt, and the search continued for the perpetrators, including those who had fled abroad.

Terrorists had been taking advantage of the spread of freedom in Kuwait and abused it to their advantage, the Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News.

“Arresting these terrorists is a step in the right direction and sends a strong message to those who think they can continue to spread their terrorist ideologies on Kuwaiti soil,” he said.

“It is now clear that these militant cells are being supported by Qatar and Turkey. Qatar provides the funds, along with a media platform like Al Jazeera, while Turkey uses them as a mouthpiece to expand its influence in the region.”

Iraqi protesters block commercial ports, split capital

Updated 19 November 2019

Iraqi protesters block commercial ports, split capital

  • Iraqi civilians are increasingly relying on boats to ferry them across the Tigris River as ongoing standoffs shut key bridges in Baghdad
  • The Jumhuriya, Sinak and Ahrar bridges connect both sides of the city by passing over the river

BAGHDAD: Anti-government protesters blocked access to a second major commercial port in southern Iraq on Tuesday, as bridge closures effectively split the capital in half, causing citizens to rely on boats for transport to reach the other side of the city.
Since anti-government protests began Oct. 1, at least 320 people have been killed and thousands wounded in Baghdad and the mostly Shiite southern provinces. Demonstrators have taken to the streets in the tens of thousands over what they say is widespread corruption, lack of job opportunities and poor basic services, despite the country’s oil wealth.
Security forces have used live ammunition, tear gas and stun guns to repel protesters, tactics that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday would be punished with sanctions.
“We will not stand idle while the corrupt officials make the Iraqi people suffer. Today, I am affirming the United States will use our legal authorities to sanction corrupt individuals that are stealing Iraqis’ wealth and those killing and wounding peaceful protesters,” he said in remarks to reporters in Washington.
“Like the Iraqi people taking to the streets today, our sanctions will not discriminate between religious sect or ethnicity,” he added. “They will simply target those who do wrong to the Iraqi people, no matter who they are.”
Over a dozen protesters blocked the main entrance to Khor Al-Zubair port, halting trade activity as oil tankers and other trucks carrying goods were unable to enter or exit. The port imports commercial goods and materials as well as refined oil products.
Crude from Qayara oil field in Ninewa province, in northern Iraq, is also exported from the port.
Khor Al-Zubair is the second largest port in the country. Protesters had burned tires and cut access to the main Gulf commercial port in Umm Qasr on Monday and continued to block roads Tuesday.
Iraqi civilians are increasingly relying on boats to ferry them across the Tigris River as ongoing standoffs between demonstrators and Iraqi security forces on three key bridges has shut main thoroughfares connecting east and west Baghdad.
The Jumhuriya, Sinak and Ahrar bridges, which have been partially occupied by protesters following days of deadly clashes, connect both sides of the city by passing over the Tigris River. The blockages have left Iraqis who must make the daily commute for work, school and other day-to-day activities with no choice but to rely on river boats.
“After the bridges were cut, all the pressure is on us here,” said Hasan Lilo, a boat owner in the capital. “We offer a reasonable transportation means that helps the people.”