The seed of violence
President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi now faces both a jihadist insurgency in the Sinai – headed by local arms of IS and al-Qaida – and new, domestic terrorist organisations that have emerged throughout Egyptian cities whose violent activities have been on the rise.
The most recent attacks on the Cairo Cathedral appear to have been caused by the Ikhwani matrix, one of these new, local terrorist organisations. Just two days before the attacks on the Cathedral, the Hassm group, an acronym of Haraka Sa′waid Masr, claimed the killing of six policemen at Giza.
Hassm originally gained notoriety in July 2015 for murdering Mahmoud Abdel-Hamid, a senior police officer in the governorate of Fayum. In 2016, the group also claimed responsibility for two failed assassination attempts on high profile members of the Egyptian government: Assistant Prosecutor General Zakaria Abdel Aziz in August and Judge Ahmed Abdul Futuh in November. The movement also made attempts to assassinate Ali Jumaa, the former mufti of Al-Azhar.
Hassm is the latest organisation born from the anger of young former members of the Muslim Brotherhood, developed in the context of extreme repression from President Sisi. These movements began following the establishment of Deterrence Committees, the Muslim Brotherhood′s original response to the regime.
Massacre on Rabaa al Adawiyya Square a watershed
The mass killings of protestors at Rabaa al Adawiyya Square and al-Nahda in August 2013, with one thousand confirmed casualties, became a watershed moment. In the aftermath of the Rabaa Massacre, young Egyptians and cadres of Islamist groups – from the Brothers to Salafi jihadists – joined to create a new movement of Islamist militancy.
These groups embraced violence and adopted the slogan ′everything except bullets′. The first of these groups were the Ultras: Rabaawi and Nahdawi. They used urban guerrilla tactics, tossing Molotov cocktails at police and destroying national institutions.
A debate on the use of violence greatly divided the Muslim Brotherhood. Movements like the Helwan Brigades, the Revolutionary Punishment movement and the Execution Battalion referred to themselves as the Resistance, actively employing violence as a technique. These groups fought against state and security forces but notably did not accuse society or its institutions of apostasy, accusations typical of the jihadist groups.
In 2015 five of these militant movements – Popular Resistance, Determination, Revolutionary Punishment, the movement for Revolution in Beni Suef and Execution – merged to form various People′s Committees. These Committees primarily took aim at international economic targets – local branches of KFC restaurants, for instance – and state institutions like police stations. The People′s Committee of Giza took responsibility for the assassination of Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat, one of the architects of the coup against the Brotherhood.