Hassm expands armed operations from Sinai into Nile Delta

The armed Islamist Hassm (Determination) movement has claimed responsibility for a Sunday explosion that occurred in the town of Bahtim located in Nile Delta governorate of Qalyubiya. While it is known that the blast targeted a security patrol, the extent of the explosion, its material damage and whether there were any casualties have been subject to conflicting media reports.

In the statement it issued on Monday, Hassm claimed that its explosives division placed “a highly explosive device at the entrance to Bahtim on the ring road,” targeting a security patrol of “the military occupation’s Interior Ministry” on March 26.

Hassm claimed that the blast left five security forces “seriously injured and destroyed a government vehicle.”

Citing security officials, local media outlets denied that anyone was hurt in the explosion. Security officials have confirmed, however, that one vehicle was damaged, along with part of a concrete barrier bordering the ring road.

Despite the conflicting accounts surrounding Sunday’s bombing, Ahmed Kamel al-Beheiry, a researcher at the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told Mada Masr that he believes that the significance of this bombing is in the sort of operation it entailed, rather than the disparities in the number of reported casualties.

“This is the first time an organization like this has used these tactics [in the Nile Delta], as they were previously confined to the Sinai Peninsula,” Beheiry said. “It is typical for terrorist organizations to throw or plant improvised explosive devices at fixed checkpoints,” something that happened during last year’s fatal bombing on Haram Street in the Giza Governorate, the explosions outside Cairo University in 2014 and the detonation of an explosive device in the vicinity of one of the presidential palaces in 2014.

“However, planting explosives along a security patrol’s path – this is new. It certainly indicates that the elements within this organization have received additional training,” the researcher said, specifically pointing to potential training in monitoring and tracking moving targets, as well as in planting explosive devices capable of causing. “This is clear progress in terms of their tactical level.”

The Hassm movement, which emerged in the summer of 2016, has recently carried out a string of armed operations, including the December bombing attack on Haram Street, a route which leads to the Giza Pyramids. Six police personnel were killed in the attack, while three other police officers stationed at a checkpoint were injured.

Hassm’s first operation resulted in the death of Mahmoud Abdel Hameed, the head of investigations in the Fayoum Governorate’s Tamya district.

The group has also claimed responsibility for the attempted assassination of former Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa outside his home in the Cairo suburb of 6th of October City. In early September 2016, the group published photos of what it claims were explosives planted by the Police Club in the Nile Delta governorate of Damietta.

Hassm also claimed responsibility for the assassination attempt on Deputy Prosecutor General Zakaria Abdel Aziz in New Cairo in August, along with an assassination attempt on judge Ahmed Aboul Fotouh outside his home in the Nasr City district of Cairo in November, 2016.

The group’s statements indicate a willingness to build bridges with Egyptians by appealing to public sentiment, a tactic that is strikingly different from the modus operandi of other armed organizations.

One of the most notable of Hassm’s statements came when the group disavowed and condemned December’s deadly bombing of the St. Peter and St. Paul Church in Cairo, which was claimed by the Egyptian Islamic State affiliate the Province of Sinai. In its statement, Hassm asserted that the murder of children, women, elderly, or worshipers is against the teachings of the Prophet Mohamed.

Hassm also issued a statement following the news that a boat carrying migrants across the Mediterraean Sea had capszied capzied off the coast of Egypt’s north coast near the town of Rashid in September 2016. Over 200 migrants, including Egyptians nationals, are believed to have drowned in the incident. “It is with great sadness and sorrow that we mourn the people of our homeland,” Hassm stated at the time.

The statement also touched upon many Egyptian’s low incomes and how impoverished people were “trying to escape from the hell of the military, who have ruined this country” by scraping together the fees that human traffickers demand, and risking their lives on “boats of death” in hopes of reaching the shores of southern Europe, even though their chances of surviving are slim.

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