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Egyptian group Hasm designated 'terrorist organisation' by US

State Department says sanctions 'seek to deny [Hasm] and its leadership the resources to plan and carry out terrorist attacks'
Cairo's counterterrorism operation against Hasm and other militants has also been criticised for rights abuses against the country's citizens.
Cairo's counterterrorism operation against Hasm and other militants has been criticised for rights abuses against country's citizens (AFP/File photo)
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Washington

The United States has designated the Egyptian group Harakat Sawa'd Misr, also known as Hasm, a foreign terrorist organisation (FTO) following a series of attacks against government officials and security personnel.

In a statement on Friday, the State Department said it was elevating Hasm's listing from a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) to FTO to "seek to deny [Hasm] and its leadership the resources to plan and carry out terrorist attacks".

Hasm has claimed responsibility for more than a dozen attacks on Egyptian security forces in recent years, including the killing of National Security Agency officer Ibrahim Azzazy.

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The group first announced its existence in July 2016 in an attack that killed two police officers. 

While it has not taken an official ideological position, the Egyptian government has accused Hasm of being an armed entity of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Brotherhood, which was outlawed by Egyptian authorities in 2013 following the ousting of Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected president, has denied any links with the group.

"The Brotherhood has no relation with any organisation or individuals who shed blood," the groups' spokesman, Talaat Fahmi, said in 2016.

In addition to designating Hassm as an FTO, which will both deny the group access to the US financial system and entry to the country, the State Department designated Yahya al-Sayyid Ibrahim Musa, who is based in Turkey, and Alaa Ali Ali Mohammed al-Samahi, as SDGTs.

Egypt's counterterrorism operations

Since President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi came to power in 2013, Egypt has pursued a crackdown on dissent, with authorities accused of detaining more than 60,000 political prisoners.

Cairo's counterterrorism operation against Hasm and other armed groups has also been criticised by analysts and rights groups, with some individuals allegedly associated with the group being forcibly disappeared and later ending up dead.

In April 2017, 44-year-old schoolteacher Mohamed Abdelsatar was arrested by police and declared dead a month later in a reported counterterrorism operation against Hasm.

"These killings come amid a protracted counterterrorism campaign that has swept up thousands across Egypt in large-scale, and at times seemingly indiscriminate, security sweeps," the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy wrote in 2017.

The US gives Egypt $1.3bn in annual military aid, which rights groups say gives Sisi a green light to continue grave human rights abuses.

Thursday's announcement by the Trump administration is the latest in a series of terrorism designations in the final weeks of his presidency.

On Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced his intention to list the Houthi movement in Yemen as an FTO, and followed up on Monday by placing Cuba on Washington's list of state sponsors of terrorism.