Former executive of the National Security Authority Major General Mohamed Sadek, is considered one of the most important experts on the security scene in Egypt and a security official during the late nineties of the last century. He was also appointed assistant interior minister.
In an interview with the Reference, Sadek clarified the truth about the ideological reviews that the Muslim Brotherhood was objected to, as one of the officials who supervised these reviews. He confirmed that ideological confrontation with armed groups pays off more than security confrontation.
Q: At first, what is the history of takfiri and jihadist groups in Egypt?
A: The first jihadist group in Egypt dates back to the mid-seventies of the last century; it was called the Military Academy Organization, led by Saleh Sereya, a Syrian of Palestinian origin, who was convicted with coordinating terrorist operations with the Muslim Brotherhood in 1974.
The Takfir wal-Hijra group followed the Military Academy Organization. It was founded in 1977 by Islamist Shukri Mustafa in 1977; then in 1979, the Islamic Jihad terrorist group was formed. This group managed to steal a weapon from the British Embassy guard force and shoot a guard soldier.
The same group assassinated president Anwar Sadat; all the 24 assassins, including Khalid Islambouli, were tried before an Egyptian court-martial and the Supreme State Security Court in another case.
Q: As one of the supervisors who oversaw the ideological confrontation with jihadist groups, can such confrontations succeed with the Muslim Brotherhood?
A: It is different, as these groups from the 90s did not belong to an international organization that decides for them, however, their leaders were behind bars.
The Muslim Brotherhood, on the other hand, cannot make a decision using ideological confrontation without consulting with leaders of the international organization of the brotherhood.
Q: Does the Muslim Brotherhood has a hand in what happens in Sinai?
A: First of all, everyone should know that all terrorist organizations are evil branches that grew out of the Muslim Brotherhood’s tree, watered by Sayyid Qutb’s jihadist and takfiri ideas.
What our brave armed forces are going through in Sinai at the moment is not only about encountering terrorist groups, but a real war between Egypt and a number of countries and foreign intelligence services that seeks to encumber the Egyptian army.
Terrorism in the 90s:
Q: Why did terrorists chose the 90s in particular to surface and carry out many operations against the state?
A: The mid-90s coincided with the return of many jihadists from the war in Afghanistan following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, so attacks by jihadist groups increased as these groups were fighting in a war on behalf of Israel and the United States.
Therefore, the Mossad and the C.I.A. managed to recruit Arab militants and send them to Afghanistan.
During that period, the Islamist group in Upper Egypt committed the Luxor Massacre.
Q: Did you encounter any of these groups yourself?
A: I was one of the officers who arrested the Takfir wal-Hijra group, which in July 1977 killed former minister of endowments, Mohamed al-Dhahaby (1915-1977), who wrote a book against the takfiri ideology; they were planning to dump Dhahaby’s body in Al-Zumar Canal in Omraneyah, Giza.
I also foiled the assassination attempts of journalist Makram Mohamed Ahmed and former interior ministers Hassan Abu Basha and Mohammed Nabawi Ismail. Moreover, I chased Magdy al-Safty, one of the top leaders of the organization, who managed to escape to Libya in 1988, and when he returned, I was able to arrest him in 1992.
I also took part in arresting the “Survivors of Hell” and “Stop and Discern” terrorist groups, the latter believed that all Muslims of Egypt cannot be called Muslim unless their truth is being discerned.
Founders of such groups were members of the Muslim Brotherhood who got out of jail and got influenced by Sayyid Qutb as they embraced violence against the country.
Assassination of Anwar Sadat
Q: What about the assassination of president Anwar Sadat?
A: I went to search Abbud al-Zumar’s house around 13 days before the assassination took place as we already had intel that the Islamic Jihad group, which included Abbud and his cousin Tarek al-Zumar, was planning to assassinate Sadat; so we searched the house and found papers that exposed a plan to assassinate Sadat during a tour in Mansoura governorate.
The plan, however, changed after Khalid Islambouli, a former Egyptian army officer who planned and participated in the assassination, informed the group that he was to participate in the annual victory parade held in Cairo to celebrate Operation Badr; so the group decided to assassinate Sadat during the parade. The assassination was undertaken by Islambouli.
Two months later, a shootout led to the capture of Abbud, Tarek al-Zumar and Abdullah Salem.
At the time, Abbud al-Zumar was a military intelligence colonel, and used to go to the Anas Ibn Malek Mosque in Mohandessin district where leader of the Tabligh and Dawah group, Ibrahim Ezzat, would perform sermons and religious lectures. Also, Muhammad abd-al-Salam Faraj, a radical Islamist who led the Cairo branch of Al-Jihad group, used to go to the same mosque. A document titled Al-Farida al-gha’iba (The Neglected Duty), penned by Faraj, was like a constitution for Jihadist groups.
Q: You were a NSA inspector in Minya back in the 90s, did you take part in any reconciliation initiatives led by Islamist groups?
A: Yes, I attended all these ideological reviews; but let me tell you first about the problem that faced the security authority back then. There were more than 4,500 members of the Islamic Group detained, by the power of the State Emergency Law, despite completing their sentences; so the problem was, what would we do with these prisoners if the emergency law got lifted?
Starting from this point, we began, as NSA officers, to believe that thoughts are only fought with thoughts, and that a security confrontation comes after an ideological one, so we took it upon ourselves to initiate ideological confrontation with such groups.
There were 13 leaders in the Islamic Group, including Nageh Ibrahim, Osama Hafez, Karam Zuhdi, Hamdy Abdul-Rahman, and Fouad al-Dawalibi, who asked us to provide them with original Islamic books to compare them with their thoughts, and so they did. After a while, we gathered them in the Scorpion Prison, without the knowledge of our leaders at the time, they kept arguing, even quarrelling inside the prison.
We also provided them with all means of communication with fugitive leaders, including some in Afghanistan, and we offered them the full opportunity to debate. In the end, they all were convinced that violence must be renounced; after a while, we allowed them to move between prisons to discuss the matter and convince other members of the group.
This experience is the best proof that ideological confrontation with armed groups is more important than security confrontation, and that we already succeeded to save the country from the danger of 4,500 men; each one of them could have been a time bomb, against the country.
The destiny of ideological confrontation:
Q: The media sees that the initiative failed, how would you comment on that?
A: As compared to some cases like Assem Abdel Maged, or Safwat Abdel Ghany, some may assume the failure of the ideological confrontation method; however, we must take into consideration the success of the method with more than four thousand members of the Islamic Group. Some young members of the group would come down from the hills to surrender their weapons and confess their crimes; they are now free active members of the society. So, how would anyone assume that this initiative failed?
Q: What about Assem Abdel Maged and Tarek al-Zumar? After embracing the violent ideology again, they were seen during the Rabaa al-Adawiya protests.
A: Only these two, out of many who the Muslim Brotherhood bought and got enticed with privileges and lack of security pursuits. All of those who recoiled to violence after getting out of prison, could be counted on one hand; therefore, the initiative scored a perfect success.
Q: Are the Muslim Brotherhood willing to go through ideological confrontations?
A: As I elaborated earlier, the Muslim Brotherhood has an international organization, and leaders across the world; these leaders has interests in keeping the current scene as it is, by overburdening the army. Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Qatar, Turkey and London are living off their human assets in Egypt.
It is pertinent to mention that the ideology of Sayyid Qutb controls leaders of the brotherhood and that Qutbism excommunicates the society and the leader.
We must not forget the history of the Muslim Brotherhood; they committed violence during the king’s era, they killed El Nokrashy Pasha, Judge Ahmed Al-Khazindar, and others. These people used to killing from the beginning of their organization, despite that during that time, there was an active multi-party system and a cabinet reshuffle every two months.
After the 1952 Revolution, reconciliation took place, and all parties were dismantled, except for the Muslim Brotherhood. They then got struck by late president Gamal Abdel Nasser, as they demanded a claim for authority, until they got released by late president Anwar Sadat from prisons, and were allowed political participation and integration into the society, but in the end, they assassinated him.
Q: Which kind of youths do terrorist organizations target for recruitment?
A: In general, organizations target young people who are unaware of Islamic legislation or do not have any religious or cultural knowledge; there are many young people who integrated into these organizations for their lack of knowledge. Despite the criticism towards Al-Azhar, such groups could never manage to recruit any Azhar graduate, for they received the rightful teachings and legislation, which posed as a shield against being brainwashed by these groups.
Q: How would you describe the criticism directed towards Al-Azhar by some liberal and secular movements?
A: The attack on Al-Azhar is misplaced; there have always been attempts to hold Al-Azhar from carrying out its role since its establishment; the reason is that it is a religious national institution that seeks to spread forgiveness and adopts a moderate view of religion. I would not be exaggerating if I deemed any attempt to bring down Al-Azhar a threat against Egypt’s national security, and the state itself.
We must all know a serious fact, in case Al-Azhar is brought down, its alternative would be terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and Daesh; such extremist groups take advantage of breaking the trust of young people in their religious figures, and therefore, attracts them. Imagine how would it be if the castle of all these figures is demolished itself.
Q: As for Daesh, how do you see its emergence, declaring a caliphate in Syria and Iraq, and being brought down this way?
A: Daesh was a natural development of Al Qaeda, and Al Qaeda was a natural development of Al-Jihad Group, and all of these groups emerged from the Muslim Brotherhood, they are deeply infiltrated, and are being used by the intelligence services of foreign countries to execute 4thgeneration wars on their behalf.
These wars are based on a very important base, which is “Zero war cost, self-destruct”, Israel for example is the biggest beneficiary of the Arab Spring revolutions, as they resulted chaos and destruction of foundations, and that is exactly what terrorists seek. All of these groups are being funded and armed by foreign countries that wat to destabilize the whole Arab region.
Q: What are your expectations of the large counter-terrorism campaign conducted by the Armed Forces in Sinai (Comprehensive Operation – Sinai 2018)?
A: This operation was very essential, as most of the jihadist and takfiri leaders, who were released from prisons by ousted president Mohamed Morsi, are the ones being encountered in Sinai now; this in addition to a number of fugitives who fled Syria to Sinai. As a conclusion, this war had to be entered; these terrorists are backed by intelligence services and foreign countries, hoping to destabilize Egypt.
Foreign intelligence and terrorism
Q: You mentioned the role of foreign intelligences operating in Sinai, could you please elaborate?
A: The United States is the main controller of all the terrorist organizations around the world. It is a known fact for anyone who worked in an intelligence service authority that the U.S. policy is of double standards, based on its interests; it forms an international alliance to strike Daesh in Iraq but rejects Egypt’s strikes against Deash in Libya.
There is also no doubt that the Mossad has a hand in this conspiracy to destabilize Sinai by providing terrorist groups with arms and information. Moreover, after Egypt directly took part in Operation Decisive Storm in Yemen, Iran seeks to get preoccupied so that it could carry out its plans in the Gulf region.