CAIRO: Two men from a “terrorist cell” in contact with extremists in Syria were arrested before leaving for the turbulent country, disclosing information about the preacher who recruited them, according to prosecution investigations reported by Youm7 Sunday.
The cell reportedly contains 11 members; most of whom are from the Husaynia town in Zagazig city of Sharqia governorate. The source identified the two men as Adham and Osama. The other nine members traveled to Syria to receive training.
In coordination with the Egyptian and Sudanese security services, Adham was deported from Sudan to Egypt days after his arrival, as he had planned to then travel to Turkey and finally go to Syria. Osama, a university student, was arrested by the Homeland Security while in Aswan, southern Egypt, before an expected attempt to travel to Sudan.
The two men told prosecutors that they had planned to fight the “regime of Bashar al-Assad and Shiites.” Osama said that a preacher named Madian Ibrahim Hasanein provided him with books and videos about “Assad’s war on the Syrian people.”
Known as Sheikh Madian, he received his theological education in Saudi Arabia. He was arrested several times before the January 25 Revolution in 2011 for adopting the ideology of treating other Muslims as “infidels,” Youm7 reported the prosecution investigations.
He escaped from Wadi al-Natroun prison during the revolution in a mass jailbreak that also involved freeing former President Mohamed Morsi, traveled to Sinai “along with Hamas members,” then to Gaza, Turkey and settled in Syria, according to the investigations.
According to Islamist blog Tawhed Way, Sheikh Madian was “arrested and tortured” twice in Egypt.
The prosecution said he returned to Egypt during the one-year rule of Morsi, and recruited dozens of youths in Zagazig to fight in Syria; Sheikh Madian remains at large.
The Sheikh’s name is included in a long list of defendants in an August 2014 case of Ansar al-Sharia Brigade, where its members are charged with “embracing terrorist ideology,” murdering police and military personnel and targeting Christians.
The case, which is still ongoing, includes 23 defendants, including Morsi. Mohamed Ahmed Tawfik, a defendant in the case, told the prosecution he learned his radical ideas from Sheikh Madian, according to investigations reported by several news outlets in August 2014.
Tawfik, 28, originally from Zagazig, is a member of Ajnad Misr, a local militant group that has perpetrated several high-profile attacks. He told the prosecution that Madian approached youth at mosques in Zagazig, talked to them about religion and recruited them, according to Marsad Amny, a news websites chaired by former deputy head of the Homeland Security Abdel Hamid Khairat.
Lions of Sharqia
The prosecution accuses Adham and Osama of being in contact with the Islamic State group (IS.)
In Syria, Sheikh Madian formed several militant groups, the most famous of which is Lions of Sharqia, bearing the name of the governorate from which the preacher recruited youth, according to prosecution’s report.
Lions of al-Sharqia revealed itself as a new group fighting al-Assad in August 2014. The group, however, fights both the Syrian regime and the Islamic State group, according to a Twitter account that claims to represent the group, as well as stories on several Islamist websites and Syrian news websites, such as Alsouria.
Additional reporting by Fathiya al-Deeb