Libyan forces through a social media have confirmed the arrest of a prominent Egyptian militant in the eastern town of Derna which has been an ISIS stronghold. In a statement posted on its Facebook page, the self-styled Libyan National Army, a militia allied with authorities in the country’s east, said Hesham Eshmawi was captured.
Eshmawi, a former Egyptian army officer who left active service in 2011, has long been suspected of having fled to Libya and of masterminding attacks in Egypt from there. He is believed to have been behind a 2013 assassination attempt against Egypt’s then-Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim and several deadly ambushes of security forces in Egypt’s Western Desert, near the Libyan border.
While it is not immediately clear if the arrest was a joint effort between Libya and neighbors Egypt, the LNA is backed by Egypt by her neighbor to the east. Eshmawi has been sentenced to death in absentia following his conviction on terror charges.
Egyptian intelligence maintains that Eshmawi, who is in his late 30s, went to Syria in 2013, where he briefly joined militants fighting forces loyal to President Bashar Assad. He later joined militants in Sinai, who are now led by a local branch of the Islamic State group.