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11.4.2021 : 18:41 : +0200

New SANA Briefing Paper: A challenging state—emerging armed groups in Egypt


An unprecedented and complex Islamist insurgency has raged in Egypt since the 2013 military coup that overthrew the government formed by the Muslim Brotherhood. The Salafi-Jihadi attacks of Islamic State – Sinai Province (IS-SP) are well known. But another strain of pro-violence Islamist armed action aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) has recently evolved in the Nile Valley, home of 97 per-cent of the country’s population. This new strand of Jihadi belief represents what can perhaps best be described as a type of MB-Jihadism, or Ikhwani-Jihadism. Though this strand is currently less well-known, given the MB’s deep roots in Egyptian political and religious life, it represents a potentially far greater danger to the existence of the state.

A new Briefing Paper from the Security Assessment in North Africa (SANA) project—‘A challenging state – Emerging armed groups in Egypt’—explores this trand of Jihadism. Author Mokhtar Awad, a well-known and widely respected expert on Egyptian security matters, explores the origins of Ikhwani-Jihadism—from the creation of the Muslim Brotherhood, through the MB-dominated government installed after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak, to development of Ikhwani-Jihadi armed groups operating today. He notes that Ikhwani-Jihadi groups adhere to the politico-religious doctrine and ideological tenets of the MB and similar Islamist groups. Despite some common ground with Salafi-Jihadis, MB-inspired groups differ on several matters of doctrine and tactics. These include less of a focus on both the issue of takfir (the act of declaring other Muslims apostates) and the immediate implementation of Islamic law. Rather, Ikhwani-Jihadi groups are more focused on overthrowing the Egyptian regime, and potentially other regimes in the region.

The Briefing Paper is based on ongoing research undertaken by the author from 2013 through the present day. Its findings include: 

  • A new strand of militant Islamism has evolved in Egypt since the July 2013 coup that ousted the Muslim Brotherhood from power. New Islamist militant groups ideologically aligned and connected to the Muslim Brotherhood represent a type of MB-Jihadism (Ikhwani-Jihadism), in contrast to the predominant and more familiar Salafi-Jihadism.
  • Since mid-2013, three waves of violence by armed groups adhering to this Ikhwani-Jihadism are identifiable. Each is characterized by an increase in groups’ lethality and capability. Two new violent groups, Hassm and Liwaa al-Thawra, are currently manifested in the (ongoing) third wave.
  • Violence associated with Ikhwani-Jihadism is a direct by-product of the July 2013 coup and its after-effects. The Muslim Brotherhood is now split with at least two rival factions. One faction favors ‘revolutionary work’ and direct involvement in violence and the other favours gradualism.
  • Although Ikhwani-Jihadi violence does not pose an immediate existential threat to the Egyptian state or its incumbent government, it represents a potentially significant long-term security threat.

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