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October 8, 2018
| Middle East
BENGHAZI: Libyan forces said they captured a prominent militant on Monday who is wanted in neighboring Egypt.
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 in an “operation” early Monday in the eastern town of Derna, long a stronghold of Islamic militants. It did not say when he was captured.
A Twitter account run by LNA spokesman Ahmed Al-Mosmari published a mugshot of Eshmawi with a bloodied face. The image matches photos of Eshmawi widely used by Egyptian media. Another photo posted on social media shows him receiving medical aid.
The Libyan National Army is led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who is backed by Egypt, but it was not immediately clear whether Eshmawi’s capture was a joint operation. Libya is split between rival governments in the east and in the capital, Tripoli, each of which is backed by an array of militias.
There has been no word from Egypt on the militant’s capture, which would mark a major victory against Islamic militants waging an insurgency centered in the north of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
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.
He has been sentenced to death in absentia following his conviction on terror charges.
Egyptian authorities believe Eshmawi, who is in his late 30s, made his way to Syria in 2013, where he briefly joined militants fighting forces loyal to President Bashar Assad. He is also believed to have joined militants in Sinai, who are now led by a local branch of the Daesh group.
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