CAIRO — The outlawed Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood group is heading towards full disintegration after the recent arrest of its Acting Supreme Guide Mahmoud Ezzat and the loss of many of its top leaders, Egyptian experts have said.
The experts also confirmed that the Egyptian security services have fully controlled the banned group, whose most leaders have been in jail since the army ousted late Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, also a top leader of the group, in 2013 after mass protests against his one-year rule.
Egyptian authorities announced on Friday that they have arrested the acting supreme guide of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group Mahmoud Ezzat in Cairo. “Ezzat, head of the Brotherhood’s International Organization, was arrested in an apartment in New Cairo’s fifth settlement neighborhood,” the interior ministry said in statement.
The group interim leader has founded an armed wing that carried out major terrorist operations in Egypt since June 30, 2013, according to Egyptian authorities. The terrorist operations included the assassination of the former general prosecutor Hisham Barakat in 2015, police Colonel Wael Tahoon in 2015, top-ranked army officer Adel Ragei in 2016, and the attempted assassination of the general prosecutor’s former aide Zakaria Abdel-Azim in 2016.
Ezzat has also orchestrated the deadly car blast outside the country’s national cancer hospital in 2019 that killed 20 people in the capital Cairo.
Promoted as a member of the group’s guidance bureau in 1981, Ezzat has been sentenced in absentia for a life term on accusations of espionage with the Palestinian Hamas movement.
The 76-year-old leader was named the group’s acting supreme guide in August 2013, replacing Mohamed Badie who currently serves life sentences over violence charges. “There is no doubt that the arrest of Ezzat is a heavy blow to the Muslim Brotherhood, because he is one of its historical leaders, and he has been the supervisor of all armed activities and terrorist acts carried out by the group since 2013,” Khaled Okasha, Director of the Egyptian Center for Thought and Strategic Studies, told Xinhua.
Okasha, a former police brigadier general, added that Ezzat was one of the founders of armed movements affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, such as Hasm, the Revolutionary Brigade, and Revolutionary Punishment. “He also managed these organizations along with being the acting supreme guide for the group since 2013,” Okasha said.
The expert explained that Ezzat had great influence in the group, pointing out that there is no other leader in the group, even among those outside Egypt, can assume his position. “The group is facing an internal impasse that pushes it into a very dark path. I believe the Brotherhood is heading towards a stage of fragmentation and final dissolution of the group inside Egypt, but will act from outside Egypt as an international organization. Its Egyptian leaders living abroad will try to promote through the media that the group is still present on the Egyptian arena,” Okasha said. He added that the arrest of Ezzat was a “successful security blow to the group which has been adopting terrorism under his leadership.”
However, Okasha stressed that the confrontation with the group remains open until it is completely eliminated or the group clearly and explicitly announces that it will respect the law and it commits to not threaten the Egyptian society with any form of violence. For his part, professor Mukhtar Ghobashi, Vice President of the Arab Center for Political Studies, said Ezzat is a “valuable catch,” noting he would reveal many of the Brotherhood’s secrets, especially during the past seven years.
Ghobashi told Xinhua that it is a success for the Egyptian security services to arrest Ezza, whose group has always claimed that he is not based in Egypt. However, Ghobashi said that Ezzat’s arrest does not mean the end of the group, as there are many group’s cadres abroad who will fill the gap soon. “This means the end of the Brotherhood will happen, but it will take long years,” the expert said.
Meanwhile, Ahmed Ban, a researcher specializing in Islamic groups affairs, said that the Muslim Brotherhood group “has died clinically” after the arrest of Ezzat. “The arrest of Ezzat will have an impact on the group, but it is not the largest effect, given that the group lost a large number of its top leaders in recent years and it is still acting,” the expert said.He added that the group is currently suffering from the absence of leadership that must be reflected in all its activities.”The government has largely controlled the group which currently has no leadership,” Ban said. “This will definitely affect the group globally, not only in Egypt.”