The Hasm Movement, also known as Harakat Sawa’d Misr, Arms of Egypt Movement, and Harikat Souaid Misr (Pompeo, 2021) is an Egyptian Islamist militant organisation. Operating throughout most of Egypt, the group has been responsible for several attacks, including the Myanmar embassy bombing which they committed in retaliation for the nation's crackdown on Rohingya Muslims (Reuters Staff, 2017). The group has suspected ties to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood organisation, an accusation which has been reaffirmed in 2016 with the uncovering of an aborted plot to assassinate Ali Gomaa, former Grand Mufti of Egypt. The assassination attempt was set to occur on August 14th, 2016, on the third anniversary of the Rabaa massacre; an event where over a thousand supporters of the ousted Egyptian president Morsi were killed as security forces, led by General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, dispersed a number of sit-ins across the nation (Human Rights Watch, 2014). Due to the fact that many of the victims were supporters of the ousted Egyptian president Morsi, this “heightened speculation that Hasm could be affiliated to the banned political movement” (Cummings, 2017).
History & Foundations
Emerging in the Summer of 2016, the group has focused upon attacking and killing elements of the Egyptian government and security personnel in Cairo (BBC News Middle East, 2017). They were accused of being responsible for the attempted assassination of the former Grand Mufti of Egypt Ali Gomaa in 2016 and this was used as a link to the banned Muslim Brotherhood organisation, which the Muslim Brotherhood denied (Qabanni and Muhammed, 2016). On the 4th of November 2016, the Hasm Movement claimed responsibility for the assassination attempt by car bombing of Ahmed Aboul Fotouh. Fotouh was one of three judges who found former president Morsi guilty of inciting violence which led to the deaths of 10 people in 2012 (Reuters Staff, 2016). They have also claimed responsibility for several other attacks, including one near the Giza pyramid complex in 2016 which killed 6 security officers (Dearden, 2016). The group was accused of being responsible for the 2019 Cairo bombing, where a car drove into several other parked stationary cars and caused a subsequent explosion in which 20 people were killed outside of Cairo’s main cancer hospital (Reuters Staff, 2019). The interior minister of Egypt, Mahmoud Tawfik, accused the Hasm Movement of being guilty of perpetrating the attack, although the group denied the allegations (Khalil El-Sayed and El Wardany, 2019).
As of 2017, the Hasm Movement and another egyptian jihadist group, Liwaa el-Thawra, have been designated as terrorist organisations by the UK government which, according to a statement released by the British embassy in Egypt, will allow the British to increase their “capacity to disrupt the activities of these terrorist organisations” (Al Arabiya, 2017). Similarly, the USA has also designated the Hasm Movement as a Specially Designated Terrorist (SDGT) group in a press release from 2018 which – according to the then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson – will allow the USA to deny these groups the “resources they need to plan and carry out their terrorist activities” (State Department, 2018).
Objectives & Ideology
The Hasm Movement is highly unique in its region as it has not announced an official overarching ideological position. However, the group's views may be tied to a national agenda, perhaps due to its attacks against Egypt’s security wings (Johnson, 2017) and the country’s political leadership. The aims of the group seem to run in opposition to the goals of other groups present within the country, such as the Islamic States affiliate organisation in the Sinai (IS-SP), who would seek to create an Islamic caliphate. However, the usage of Quranic quotes and nasheeds in promotional propaganda pieces published by the Hasm Movement would seem to suggest at least a somewhat religious basis behind their ideology (Caillet, 2017). The targeting of judges and other members of the judiciary further support the idea that the group is seeking revenge against members of the Egyptian government and the justice system for their role in the removal of President Morsi. The group released a statement claiming that they were a “resistance movement [and] not a terrorist one” in response to a statement released by the US Embassy in Cairo warning of possible Hasm Movement activity (TIMEP, 2017).
Military & Political Abilities
The group has limited capabilities to carry out large-scale attacks and territorial holdings and they are therefore limited to carrying out attacks using small numbers of fighters. This is done by ambushing security forces or by pre-planting bombs (Middle East Monitor, 2018). Although limited to small arms and improvised explosive attacks, they have made use of these by killing and injuring large numbers of the Egyptian police and military forces. For instance, a 2017 raid on a Hasm Movement hideout left more than 50 policemen dead (Associated Press, 2017).
Membership numbers of the Hasm Movement are estimated to be less than 100, although claims by the Egyptian government of shootouts involving the deaths of Hasm Movement members have increased year on year. This may indicate that the group has a substantially larger membership in order to engage the Egyptian military and security forces regularly (Horton, 2017). However, accusations that the Egyptian government exaggerate the amount of militants and jihadists being killed by the security forces has led to the suggestion that the Hasm Movement may be so extensive that it has become ‘self-healing’ (Horton, 2017) and this may indicate an increase in support from the group amongst the local population. This relates to the suggestion that, as mentioned previously, due to the group’s potential basing of its ideas within an Egyptian nationalist framework, this may lead to an increase in local-Egyptian recruiting. This would notably be the case as the violent counter-terrorism approach by the Egyptian government may create “an ideal operational space for insurgent organisations like the Hasm Movement” (Horton, 2017).
Approach to Resistance
The group is relatively violent and uses terrorist attacks in order to advance its interests in Egypt. This includes the assassinations of judicial staff members as well as members of the security forces. This can include car bombs (Middle East Monitor, 2018) and also assassination attempts via small arms which are their most common route of attack. The usage of these more covert forms of violence (as opposed to other regional groups using more overt forms such as territorial control) may indicate the limited influence that the Hasm Movement has over the wider Egyptian society. However, as the group is identifying itself as the armed resistance of the Egyptian people against what they view as an increasingly repressive government, this may lead to the group adopting more offensive tactics including the pursuit of territorial holdings.
International Relations & Potential Alliances
Due to the group's rather clandestine and non-public activities both within Egypt and abroad, there is relatively little which is known about the group's connections or even its potential alliances. In contrast, there is more information available about the group’s clashes and opposition, notably after the group has not released statements endorsing IS’ attacks on the Coptic Christian community in Egypt. This lack of support led to hostilities between the two organisations, and even to the IS accusing the Hasm Movement of pursuing self-interested nationalist goals rather than the ‘purer’ jihad which ISIS claims to push for (Sehmer, 2017).
Works Cited (MLA-style)
(1) - Al Arabiya (2017). UK designates ‘Hasm’, ‘Liwaa el-Thawra’ militant groups in Egypt as ‘terrorist’. [online] Al Arabiya English. Available at: https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2017/12/23/UK-designates-Hasm-Liwaa-el-Thawra-militant-group-in-Egypt-as-terrorist-.
(2) - Associated Press (2017). 54 Egyptian police officers killed by militants during raid. [online] The Independent. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/egypt-police-officers-killed-militants-raid-rebel-hideout-firefight-oasis-isis-hasm-movement-a8012911.html.
(3) - BBC News Middle East (2017). Who are Egypt’s militant groups? BBC News. [online] 24 Nov. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-34751349.
(4) - Caillet, R. (2017). Hasm Movement Video. [online] Twitter. Available at: https://twitter.com/RomainCaillet/status/819246639403696129.
(5) - Cummings, R. (2017). What Is the Hasm Movement? [online] Institute for Global Change. Available at: https://institute.global/policy/what-hasm-movement.
(6) - Dearden, L. (2016). Bombing kills six near pyramids in Cairo. [online] The Independent. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/cairo-bombing-giza-pyramids-explosion-hasm-movement-claim-police-killed-isis-attacks-egypt-a7465386.html.
(7) - Horton, M. (2017). Is the Hasm Movement the Future of Militancy in Egypt? Terrorism Monitor, [online] 15(18). Available at: https://jamestown.org/program/is-the-hasm-movement-the-future-of-militancy-in-egypt/.
(8) - Human Rights Watch (2014). All According to Plan. [online] Human Rights Watch. Available at: https://www.hrw.org/report/2014/08/12/all-according-plan/raba-massacre-and-mass-killings-protesters-egypt.
(9) - Johnson, A. (2017). Is the Hasm Movement the Future of Terror in Egypt? [online] Center for Security Policy. Available at: https://centerforsecuritypolicy.org/is-the-hasm-movement-the-future-of-terror-in-egypt/.
(10) - Khalil El-Sayed, A. and El Wardany, S. (2019). Egypt Says Islamist Militants Behind Cairo Blast That Killed 20. Bloomberg.com. [online] 5 Aug. Available at: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-08-05/egypt-says-cairo-blast-was-caused-by-explosives-laden-vehicle.
(11) - Middle East Monitor (2018). Egypt: Ex-security chief targeted by Hasm movement. [online] Middle East Monitor. Available at: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180629-egypt-ex-security-chief-targeted-by-hasm-movement/.
(12) - Pompeo, M. (2021). In the Matter of the Designation of Harakat Sawa’d Misr (and Other Aliases) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Available at: https://regulations.justia.com/regulations/fedreg/2021/01/14/2021-00608.html.
(13) - Qabanni, H. and Emam Muhammed, M.S. (2016). Muslim Brotherhood denies link to Egypt militant group. [online] www.aa.com.tr. Available at: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/muslim-brotherhood-denies-link-to-egypt-militant-group/703784.
(14) - Reuters Staff (2016). Egyptian judge who tried Mursi survives assassination attempt. Reuters. [online] 4 Nov. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-egypt-violence-idUKKBN12Z1KV.
(15) - Reuters Staff (2017). Egypt’s Hasm militants claim attack targeting Myanmar embassy. Reuters. [online] 2 Oct. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-egypt-security-idUSKCN1C705D.
(16) - Reuters Staff (2019). Twenty dead as car explodes outside Cairo hospital. Reuters. [online] 5 Aug. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-egypt-security-blast/twenty-dead-in-explosion-outside-cairo-hospital-idUSKCN1UV00G.
(17) - Sehmer, A. (2017). Refworld | Egypt: Hasm Movement Takes a More Islamist Tone. [online] Refworld. Available at: https://www.refworld.org/docid/5a0d6acd4.html.
(18) - State Department (2018). State Department Terrorist Designations of Ismail Haniyeh, Harakat al-Sabireen, Liwa al-Thawra, and Harakat Sawa’d Misr (HASM). [online] web.archive.org. Available at: https://web.archive.org/web/20181104013222/https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2018/01/277792.htm.
(19) - TIMEP (2017). Hassm. [online] TIMEP. Available at: https://timep.org/esw/non-state-actors/hasam-movement/.