AL-MORABITOON جماعة المرابطون
Location: Al-Morabitoon is likely based in Derna, Libya. The group has not officially claimed attacks, though its leader, Hisham Ashmawy, is believed to have been present in both Egypt and Libya since his defection from Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis in 2014.
Characteristics: Very little is known about the group other than its ideological alignment with al-Qaeda and its formation by Hisham Ashmawy.
Recent leadership: Hisham Ali Ashmawy Ibrahim (also known by his noms de guerre, Abu Amr al-Muhajir al-Masry, Sherif, and Abu Mohannad) is the founder and leader of al-Morabitoon.
Background: In an audio recording that surfaced in July 2015, Hisham Ashmawy announced the formation of al-Morabitoon, referencing the glory of the umma (the worldwide community of Muslims) and its accomplishments in Myanmar, Palestine, and Egypt, and calling for a holy war against Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El Sisi. The July recording also featured an opening statement from Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda.
The leader of al-Morabitoon, a former officer in the Egyptian military’s Saeqa special forces unit, defected from the Sinai-based Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis in 2014 when the group pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. Ashmawy was later named on an Islamic State hit list.
While al-Morabitoon has not yet made any formal claims, authorities suspect its members to have been behind several large attacks that occurred before the group’s formation in July 2015, including those at Farafra (near the Egyptian-Libyan border) in 2014 and Luxor’s Karnak Temple in June 2015.
Al-Morabitoon released four other known audio recordings before the group’s YouTube account was closed in 2017. In the most recent recording, Ashmawy called for an Islamic revolution and said that it would be brought on by repentance; he has called on Egypt’s religious scholars to support the cause of violent jihad against Sisi.
Ideology: Al-Morabitoon is ideologically aligned with al-Qaeda and may be connected to Ansar al-Islam, an al-Qaeda affiliate with a known presence in Egypt. In audio recordings released in July and September 2015, Ashmawy railed against the Egyptian government and “the new pharaoh,” meaning Sisi, and rallying people to “come together to confront [their] enemy.” Ashmawy, in another video released in June 2016, eulogized the passing of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar, who was killed by a U.S. air strike in May that year.
Notable Attacks: The group has made no formal claims. Since al-Morabitoon’s formation was announced, Ashmawy has been mentioned as a suspect in a number of attacks, including the attempted assassination of former Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim Mustafa in 2013, an attack at Farafra (near the Libyan border) in 2014, the Karnak Temple in 2015, and an attack on police near Bahariya Oasis in October 2017, which was formally claimed by Ansar al-Islam.