Police arrest Libyan citizen accused of involvement in Wahat Road attack
A still from the Armed Forces' operation in the Western Desert

Egyptian security forces have arrested a Libyan national accused of involvement in the October 20 Wahat Road attack, according to a statement issued by the Interior Ministry on Thursday.

The alleged militant, 25-year-old Abdel Reheem Mohamed Abdallah al-Mesmary, is from the east Libyan town of Derna. The ministry statement asserts, without specifying a date, that he was arrested while police and military forces were sweeping the Western Desert in the wake of the attack that took place beside the Wahat Road 135 km outside Giza, and killed at least 16 police personnel.

The state-owned MENA news agency also announced on Thursday that a “foreign militant” accused of taking part in the October 20 attack is currently being investigated by the National Security Agency. A privately owned television channel is expected to air a taped confession from the detainee on Thursday evening.

According to the Armed Forces spokesperson, the security operation in which Mesmary was arrested commenced on October 31, when the Air Force carried out airstrikes on suspected militant hideouts, killing at least 15, while one alleged militant fled the scene. The Armed Forces then discovered a “massive” amount of weapons in the targeted areas, including anti-aircraft guns, RPGs and automatic rifles.

The militant group that carried out the attack was formed and trained in Derna, Libya, the Interior Ministry’s Thursday statement reads, adding that it was the first in a series of planned operations targeting churches and buildings of significance.

In early November militant group Ansar al-Islam claimed responsibility for the clashes beside the Wahat Road, and announced that their leader Emad Eddin Abdel Hamid, a military officer-turned-militant, had been killed in the Air Force’s October 31 counterstrike.

In their statement Ansar al-Islam said they had kidnapped Police Captain Mohamed al-Hayes during the Western Desert attack, who was subsequently freed by the Armed Forces during the October 31 operation. The following day President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi visited Hayes in the Galaa Military Hospital, where he had undergone an operation.

The attack beside the Wahat Road and subsequent security forces’ casualties precipitated a shakeup within the Interior Ministry, which saw many high-ranking figures assigned to new posts, including National Security Agency Head Major General Mahmoud Shaarawy and security director of the Giza Governorate, where the attack took place.