In an unprecedented and critical development in attacks targeting police and army personnel in recent years, a little-known and unaffiliated militant group called Lewaa El-Thawra (Revolution Brigade) on Saturday claimed responsibility for assassinating a high-ranking army officer who is head of the army’s ninth armour division, Major Adel Ragaai.
On Saturday at dawn, the head of the Egyptian army’s ninth armour division was killed after being subjected to an assassination operation, the army media office told Daily News Egypt.
Following the assassination operation, the group Lewaa El-Thawra claimed responsibility for the act on its Twitter account. Following the shooting, the group also said that it had seized the personal weapon of Ragaai.
The army’s ninth armour division is based in Dahshur, Giza. Ragaai was previously assigned to lead an army battalion that destroyed tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza Strip by filling them with water.
Ragaai was subjected to heavy shooting from anonymous militants in front of his residence in Al-Obour City near Cairo, army sources told Daily News Egypt on condition of anonymity
“Major Adel Ragaai was killed in front of his house while he was leaving it and heading to work. Anonymous militants who drove a black private vehicle opened fire on him. Two bullets pierced his head,” said the army sources.
According to the state-run newspaper Al-Ahram, the wife of the assassinated army major was shocked when she heard the sound of shooting after her husband left his residence in Al-Obour City. She asserted that a private vehicle being driven by three militants shot at her husband with guns.
The major’s wife, Samia Zein Al Abdeen, works as a war correspondent in the state-run newspaper Al-Gomhuria.
Her husband’s driver was also killed in the incident, and a guard was injured. The guard remains in the hospital surgery room and his condition is unknown.
“I did not see the militants who shot my husband. Upon hearing the shooting I hurried outside. My neighbours informed me that three militants with guns carried out the assassination operation,” Al-Ahram quoted Samia as saying.
Not far from the incident, the Interior Ministry announced it had arrested six Muslim Brotherhood members who are accused of being members of militant groups.
Through an official statement published on its Facebook page, the ministry asserted that the arrested Brotherhood members were based in Damietta governorate. There they had hidden weapons and explosive materials to be used in terrorist attacks aimed at creating a state of chaos.
Although the assassination of Ragaai took place outside of Cairo, there is an assumed correlation between it and ongoing violence between militants and the government in Sinai.
On the ground in the tumultuous North Sinai region, confrontations between the Islamic State (IS)-affiliated group Sinai Province and army and police forces continue to rise.
Army and police forces are currently executing broad sweeping operations in the peninsula’s cities and villages, following a recent deadly attack that targeted Zagdan army checkpoint in Al-Arish that killed 12 army conscripts.
At the end of the first week in the army’s wide-scale operation, army spokesperson Mohamed Samir announced through his official Facebook page that 21 militants were killed on Friday, following ongoing airstrikes and artillery shelling.
A statement from the army spokesperson read: “The Egyptian Air Force executed on Friday airstrikes with the help of artillery shelling. The shelling destroyed 24 station points used by the takfirists (militants). These actions took place consecutively with intensive ground attacks executed by infantry and special forces that resulted in the killing of 21 takfirists and the detonation of 16 explosive devices.”
The establishment of Lewaa El-Thawra, a relatively unknown group, dates back to September when it published a video of footage from an attack it executed in August against a security checkpoint in Menoufiya governorate.
The attack left two police officers dead and three others injured, as well as two civilians. The group claimed responsibility for the attack and published related photos.
Through video footage published on the group’s Twitter account, assailants are depicted in a car approaching the checkpoint. Upon arrival, one of them exits the car with a gun and opens fire on the non-commissioned police officer standing in front of the checkpoint.
According to the video, the attack was in response to the massacres that took place when the sit-ins in Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Al-Nahda squares were violently dispersed in 2013, following the ouster of former Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi.
The video, titled Tha’r El-Ahrar (Revenge of the Free), included a message, which asserted that due to police abuses against protestors in the aforementioned sit-ins, police officers are considered “apostates” who should be killed.
“The current regime has destroyed the people’s revolution, killed its members, and imprisoned others. Our message to the Interior Ministry’s mercenaries is that you all will be fired upon soon,” the message read.
Contrary to videos released by Sinai Province, the video by Lewaa El-Thawra carried the clear message that the attack was in response to the current regime’s betrayal of the people’s aspirations for the 25 January Revolution. This point is not included or admitted in any Sinai Province ideology.
“The Egyptian people carried out a peaceful and civilised revolution, but the traitors refused it by killing and arresting the revolutionaries. We will continue our resistance as the nation is our source of power,” the broadcasted message clarified.
An expert on Islamist movements, Ahmed Atta, told Daily News Egypt that the fighting strategy of this militant group depicted in the video is evidence of the involvement of the Muslim Brotherhood, which aims to spread its confrontation with the military from North Sinai to Cairo.
“All militant groups in Egypt emerge from the Brotherhood. They may use different strategies and style when publicising their activities in order to distort security apparatuses and public opinion; however, they all receive financial and moral support from the international Brotherhood organisation and Turkish intelligence,” Atta added.
Atta claims the militant group Lewaa El-Thawra originated as part of the Brotherhood militias that were established during the time when Morsi and his regime were being ousted from power..