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Libya’s Haftar hands Egypt's most wanted militant over to Cairo

Hisham Ashmawy has been accused of orchestrating most of the deadly terror attacks and assassination attempts that have rocked Egypt in recent years
Egyptian militant suspect Hisham Ashmawy was arrested in eastern Libya during a military operation in the city of Derna (AFP)

A top militant leader captured by Libyan forces last year was transferred to Egypt on Wednesday upon request from President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egyptian state media reported.

Hisham Ashmawy, a former special forces officer in the Egyptian army, was arrested by forces loyal to Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar in October in eastern Libya's Derna city, and has been wanted by Cairo on charges of orchestrating assassination attempts against top officials and a range of terror attacks.

According to Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army, Ashmawy was arrested in Derna as he failed to detonate an explosive vest he was wearing.

Ashmawy is described by Egyptian state media as the country’s most-wanted militant. He is accused of being the mastermind behind some of the most deadly attacks the country has witnessed in recent years.

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He was sentenced to death in absentia in 2017 on charges of killing 26 soldiers and plotting to bomb the Ettihadeya presidential palace, along with a series of other charges.

Ashmawy, who gave himself the nom de guerre Abu Omar al-Muhajir, is also accused of plotting assassination attempts against a former interior minister in 2013 and the prosecutor-general in 2015.

Egyptian law allows him to stand a retrial upon his return, and to appeal the sentence once confirmed by court.

On Tuesday, Egyptian media, which is dominated by the army, showed live footage of the arrival of the blindfolded and ear-muffed Ashmawy on a military aircraft, along with another detainee.

According to local media, the second detainee was Safwat Zeidan, Ashmawy’s personal guard.

Translation: After seven months of his detention in Libya, Hisham Ashmawy is held by Egyptian authorities.

The transfer of the two men came after a visit by the head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Agency Abbas Kamel to the Libyan city of Benghazi, where he met with Haftar.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Sisi welcomed Ashmawy’s transfer, saying that “the war on terror has not ended”.

Haftar, who is leading a military offensive to oust the United Nations-backed government in Tripoli, has been backed by the governments of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.