Egypt’s Interior Ministry announced in a statement this week that influential Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Kamal had been killed during an exchange of fire, while sources within the Brotherhood said he was arrested before he died at the hands of the police.
Kamal was an influential leader within the ousted Islamist organization. He headed a major split within it, founding a new current that supported the use of violence.
A Facebook page run by Mohamed Montasser, a spokesperson for Kamal’s political current, published a statement before the announcement of his death saying contact had been lost with Kamal the previous day. He was reported missing and the statement suggested he may have been arrested, holding police responsible for his safety.
A number of Egyptian newspapers, including Al-Shorouk, Youm7 and Al-Bawaba, quoted security sources claiming Kamal had been arrested, along with another Brotherhood leader, Yasser Shehata. After a few hours, Youm7 announced the death of Kamal in an apartment he owned in the south-east district of Maadi, Cairo.
The Interior Ministry statement explained that information acquired by the National Security Agency revealed that “some leaders of the armed branch of the terrorist organization used an apartment in the Basateen area in Maadi as a hideout in preparation for imminent militant activity.”
The statement also claimed security forces were surprised when they were shot at while raiding the apartment, forcing them to return fire, which led to the death of Kamal and his companion.
Muslim Brotherhood leader Ezz Eddin Dewidar told Mada Masr, however, that security forces arrested Kamal and Shehata outside their apartment, handcuffing them while police forces secured the area. Dewidar attributed this information to a Brotherhood member, who was ordered to follow up with Kamal. According to this member, the last telephone call he had with Kamal took place the day before he died, and the call cut off as Kamal and Shehata were driving, which means he could have been arrested in a trap prepared for them, according to Dewidar.
The Brotherhood leader denied any possibility of security cooperation between police and Mahmoud Ezzat, the leader of the Brotherhood’s other faction, in Kamal’s arrest. He had reportedly been hiding from security forces for the last three years.
Kamal was at the top of the National Security’s wanted list, after he received a life sentence by a military court for forming militant groups to carry out terrorist operations against the state. In another case he was accused of bombing a police station by Assiut military court. He was also wanted in relation to the assassination of Public Prosecutor Hesham Barakat and officer Wael Tahoun, along with others, according to the Interior Ministry’s statement.
Kamal was a member of the Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau, and gained notoriety following the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013 for backing a current within the group that supports violence. He was a key player in the Brotherhood split of the last two years.
Following Morsi’s ouster and during a protest held by his supporters in Rabea al-Adaweya and Nahda squares in the summer of 2013, the Guidance Bureau held two separate meetings that led to a emergency six-month management committee, according to sources who spoke to Mada Masr in an earlier investigation.
The group’s Shura Council requested that the general coordinator, Mahmoud Hussein, and leader Gomaa Amin, travel abroad to manage the organization if things escalated and the protest camps were dispersed in August 2013.
Following the dispersal of the two protest sites, a number of the Guidance Bureau leaders were arrested, except vice Supreme Guide Mahmoud Ezzat, leaders Mahmoud Ghozlan, Abdel Rahman al-Barr, Mohamed Abdel Rahman al-Morsi, Mohamed Saad Eliwa, and Kamal.
For security reasons, Ezzat, Ghozlan, Barr and Morsi all had to go into hiding. Sources explained that the rest of the crisis management group, headed by Kamal, continued to manage the affairs of the ousted organization.
By the end of 2013, the term of the Guidance Bureau technically came to an end, prompting the question of whether the office would continue operating or should be suspended.
The crisis committee continued to manage the Brotherhood’s daily organizational affairs. Following the end of its term, the committee called upon the remaining members of the Shura Council in February 2014 to hold elections, leading to the addition of six more members to the committee. It included representatives from all geographical sectors within the Brotherhood, and later became known as the “February committee.”
Members of the committee included Ali Batiekh, head of the 6th of October administrative office, and Hussien Ibrahim, a leader in the Brotherhood’s Justice and Freedom Party and a former parliamentarian. According to a source in the Guidance Bureau, Batiekh, Ibrahim and Kamal represented the pillars of a new current within the Brotherhood that conflicted with the group’s traditional leadership led by Ezzat, the vice supreme guide.
The conflict began in May 2014, according to the source, and was centered around the definition of “peacefulness,” how to protest “the military coup,” and if violence should be a necessary part of the resistance movement.
Kamal’s current, known for “creative revolutionary discourse,” defined peacefulness as anything but killing. Hence, all attacks against buildings, burning cars and obstructing facilities were acceptable and sometimes necessary from this perspective. The traditional current, however, viewed peaceful movement as the complete abandonment of any violent activity whatsoever, regardless of the current pressures.
In January 2015, the three leaders of the new current called for a meeting to discuss potential scenarios for the anniversary of the 2011 revolution, according to a former youth leader in one of the Delta governorates. In the meeting, it was decided that the Brotherhood would use violence as a “strategic choice,” approving two committees to adopt this new strategy — the “Revolutionary Punishment” and the “Popular Resistance Front.”
The sources agree that some of the governorates that witnessed a spike in violent activity were under the administrative control of the new current that adopted violence, and that members of these governorates responded to this new strategy more than members in other governorates. The three leaders who adopted violence controlled areas in Upper Egyptian governorates, as well as Cairo, Alexandria, Qalyubia, Monufiya and some parts of the central Delta.
This was the first time a conflict was evident regarding the managment of institutions and formal organizations within the ousted organization, including between administrative offices and specialized committees. An internal dispute occurred around the nature of the “February Committee” and the role it plays.
But the split did not just revolve around the question of violence. According to an official in a technical committee abroad, the “February Committee” members refused to grant Ezzat sweeping powers solely because he was the vice supreme guide. “Members of the crisis committee were elected, so it was unacceptable for them to be elected and not given real powers,” the official said.
The official noted that the rebellion within certain administrative offices against the traditional leadership was due to the lack of trust in its ability to manage the current situation, especially after the arrests of many members of the traditional leadership and the disappearance of others. He added that administrative offices “saw the necessity of holding new elections so that the group would not be subject to decisions taken individually.”
The news of the split went public for the first time through a virtual messageallegedly disemminated by Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie and was circulated amoung young members in the organization, which called for “new elections of the Shura Council, Guidance Bureau and administrative offices in the governorates, as well as the international organization.”
According to the new current, the “February Committee” acts as a Guidance Bureau in accordance with internal bylaws, given that it is an elected committee by the Shura Council, responsible for running the affairs of the Brotherhood, and it was elected after the term of the Guidance Bureau ended at the end of 2013. According to these elections, Badie retained his position as supreme guide of the group, with Kamal as acting supreme guide.
But for the traditional leadership, the Shura Council did not recognize the crisis committee as the Guidance Bureau, and limited its powers to running the affairs of the group, arguing that the quorum for the Shura Council was not enough to elect a Guidance Bureau, given the arrests of many leaders. According to the same internal bylaws, this means that the older Guidance Bureau should still be in place.
Because neither faction in the conflict could reach an agreement, both sides continued to defend their positions using different interpertations of the internal bylaws.
As the split deepened and the two sides were failing to control the crisis, seven members from the old Guidance Bureau met in mid-may 2015, according to a close source, and decided to dissolve the crisis committee. It also decided to refer Kamal, Ibrahim and Batiekh to investigation, and to choose another committee from the Shura Council under the leadership of Mohamed Wahdan to end the dispute.
According to the same source, Wahdan’s new committee decided to freeze all decisions taken by both sides, in an attempt at reconciliation. Wahdan met with Kamal, and was about to meet Ghozlan, before he was arrested at the end of May. That month, during the latest round of the dispute, a London-based Brotherhood leader in favor of the traditional leadership decided to freeze the membership of a number of the group’s leadership members who belonged to Kamal’s current — including former Minister of International Cooperation Amr Derrag, former Investment Minister Yehia Hamed, the head of the Brotherhood’s administrative office abroad, Ahmed Abdel Rahman, as well as Brotherhood leaders Reda Fahmy, Abdel Ghaffar Salheen and Batiekh.
In a reaction to this move, Kamal released a statement denying that the Brotherhood has offices in London, adding that “any decision taken by such an office does not represent the Brotherhood or its discourse and directions.”
“The only front delegated by the highest administrative committee to speak in the name of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood abroad is the Brotherhood’s office abroad headed by Ahmed Abdel Rahman,” Kamal said, calling all parties to “continue in their designated roles as normal and not pay attention to any sort of obstruction.”
Mounir’s decision to freeze the membership of the aforementioned leaders came following a call by a group of the Brotherhood’s members to sign a document called “Upon a vision,” declaring their support for a road map suggested by Kamal’s front to end internal divisions and to re-elect all leadership positions in the organization. They also demanded a conversation around a new draft for the organization’s bylaws, in what was known as the “third foundation of the Brotherhood.”
The road map included a call for all current leaders to step down, to enable younger members to participate, and to hold elections according to the old bylaws in all administrative offices nationwide. It also stipulated suspending a new bylaw until the newly elected Shura Council could meet.
Kamal published an audio recording announcing his support for the new roadmap and resigning from all his administrative responsibilities inside the group and his intention not to run for any executive position in the future. He called upon “his brothers” from “leaders of the past period” to take similar steps and to “hand leadership to their sons, who are the leaders in the squares and the knights of this stage.”
The Brotherhood’s office abroad, which belongs to Kamal’s current, also supported the initiative, calling upon the members of the organization in a statement to “cooperate to make this road map successful in order to activate the roles of the institutions within the organization.”
Sources explained that the internal conflict plaguing the organization over the last few months led the Brotherhood to split into two groups, each working separately through a number of committees and administrative offices.
Dewidar explained to Mada Masr, however, that Kamal’s death won’t affect the group on an administrative level, given his recent resignation. Dewidar added that “the third foundation of the Brotherhood” would continue, with new committees and offices in almost all governorates.