After a years-long manhunt, Egyptian security officials arrested Mahmoud Ezzat, the acting head of the Muslim Brotherhood and commander of the military wing responsible for a series of terrorist attacks.
His capture is a significant operational and intelligence success that will severely damage the movement’s activities. However, this is a temporary blow to the movement since it has already proven its ability to recover quickly.
On August 28, 2020, Egypt’s security forces achieved an important goal in its war against radical Islamic terrorism. After an intense seven-year search, they managed to arrest Mahmoud Ezzat, the interim leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and the head of its military wing responsible for a series of terrorist attacks in Egypt.
In 2013, following the arrest and imprisonment of Mohamed Badie, a previous Muslim Brotherhood leader, Mahmoud Ezzat took over the movement and led it from a Cairo hideout. Mahmoud Ezzat had been convicted in absentia on terrorism-related charges and twice sentenced to death and three times to life sentences.
According to Egypt’s interior ministry, he was captured on August 28, 2020, in eastern Cairo, in a residential apartment that he used as a hideout. The authorities said they found in the apartment documents, computers, and telephones with encryption software used by Ezzat to communicate with Brotherhood members in Egypt and abroad. Mahmoud Ezzat ran the Muslim Brotherhood movement throughout Egypt from this apartment and established contacts with the leaders of the movement, who fled Egypt to Qatar and Turkey after President al-Sisi came to power.
In recent years, in an attempt to mislead Egyptian security officials who tried to track Ezzat down, the Muslim Brotherhood spread fake news that the movement’s leader has fled to the Gaza Strip or Turkey.
Ezzat is considered to be the most dangerous figure in the Muslim Brotherhood movement after the leader of the military wing, Muhammad Kemal, was killed four years ago by Egyptian security officials. Mahmoud Ezzat is in charge of secret terrorist activity. He was born in 1944 and is one of the loyal disciples of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Islamic ideologue Sayyid al Qutb. Ezzat’s nickname in Egypt was “Mr. X” or “The Black Box” of the Muslim Brotherhood.
He was previously sentenced to ten years in the Egyptian prison for his activities as part of the Muslim Brotherhood movement.
In recent years, he was responsible for a series of attacks on senior members of the Egyptian law enforcement, who were acting under President al-Sisi’s directives against the Muslim Brotherhood.
Ezzat was accused of assassinating former Attorney General Hisham Barakat in 2015. Authorities also charged him with the deaths of Brigadier General Wael Tahoun and Major General Adel Rajai.
Liaison with Qatar and Turkey
Mahmoud Ezzat was the primary source of funds for the Muslim Brotherhood. He served as the liaison with the global Muslim Brotherhood and the leaders of the movement, who fled to Qatar and Turkey and received political asylum.
Among other things, he set up an “electronic army” that distributed fake news on social media all over the world against the regime of President al-Sisi.
According to Egyptian sources, he also had contacts with another Egyptian terrorist leader, Shukri Mustafa, head of the extremist Islamist group Takfir wal-Hijra.
Implications of Ezzat’s Arrest
Mahmoud Ezzat’s arrest is an important operational, intelligence, and morale-boosting achievement of the Egyptian authorities in their war against radical Islamic terrorism and the fight against the Muslim Brotherhood. This is the largest opposition movement in Egypt that the current president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, outlawed, severely punished its leaders, and declared it as a terrorist movement.
By arresting Mahmoud Ezzat, the Egyptian security forces are sending a message to the citizens of Egypt that no terrorist has immunity and that its long arm will seek out any terrorist leader.
Security officials in Egypt estimate that Ezzat’s interrogation, as well as materials seized in his hideout apartment, will provide invaluable intelligence information. This will help to thwart planned terrorist attacks and provide information on the Muslim Brotherhood’s network in and outside of Egypt, exposing the movement’s military operatives and its funding.
It is estimated that in the upcoming days, after Mahmoud Ezzat’s interrogation and analysis of the priceless material captured in his secret hideout, Egypt’s security forces will launch a wide-ranging wave of arrests.
Mahmoud Ezzat’s arrest is expected to create confusion and embarrassment among Muslim Brotherhood activists in Egypt. This is a severe, temporary blow to the movement, since it has already proven its ability to quickly recover from arrests of its senior members and to fill the ranks with new leadership. The Egyptian government is also concerned that the Muslim Brotherhood will attempt to carry out attacks in the near future to show that Mahmoud Ezzat’s arrest did not significantly impair the movement’s power.