The Libyan National Army revealed that over 200 terror suspects will go on trial in eastern Libya, including Hisham al-Ashmawy, one of Egypt’s most wanted men.
LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari told Asharq Al-Awsat that the “prisons are full of the most dangerous terrorists.”
“Many of the detainees still adhere to their terror ideology, including ISIS thought,” he continued.
“Some 200 to 300 terrorists are in jail and investigations have been completed with them. They have now been referred to the judiciary,” he stated.
“Terrorist”, he explained, denotes individuals who harbor “very dangerous ideology, such as takfiris.” Others are called “terrorist” for abetting such individuals or for being used for terrorist purposes without their realization, added Mismari.
“The judiciary will have the final word in these cases. It will acquit the innocent and condemn the guilty,” he stressed.
Ashmawy, he said, is accused of committing major crimes, especially in Libya. He is suspected of the assassination of hundreds of military personnel, who were killed in fighting. He also led battles and planned operations in Derna and other Libyan regions.
He is also wanted in Egypt for plotting terror attacks in Sinai and northern Cairo over the past five years. These operations have left dozens of police and civilians dead.
Two weeks ago, Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi had declared that his country wants to hold Ashmawy accountable for his actions. Libyan and Egyptian sources said that cooperation is ongoing between their two countries in combating terrorism.
Addressing fears that Ashmawy may be targeted given the information he has on terrorist activity on the Libya border, Mismari said: “We are considering all options.”
His possible suicide, murder or escape are all options that have been taken into consideration and all necessary measures to avert a breach have been taken, he told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Asked about the delay in putting the terrorists on trial, given that many have been detained for years, he replied that it was due to parliament’s failure to issue necessary legislation.
“Now that they have been issued, we have started to reorganize military trials,” Mismari continued.
“The upcoming days should witness the beginning of trials against terrorist groups,” he added.
On whether eastern Libya has been rid of such groups, he said that the LNA has eliminated major terror groupings, such as lone wolves, brigades and their training camps. The LNA operations covered the city of Msaed on the Egypt border and reached Libya’s Sirte city.
“No one can claim that terrorism has been completely defeated because it is an ideology that is spread in the country, especially Derna,” he remarked.
Mismari explained that the current generation of 18-year-olds in Libya was raised in the post-Moammar al-Gaddafi period that witnessed a spike in terrorist activity.
“These youths have been raised in the age of terrorism and therefore, such ideology will remain,” he noted.
“Some fugitives exist, perhaps they have formed sleeper cells or will act as lone wolves,” but the LNA is exerting efforts to crack down on them, he stressed.
Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011, leaving Libya in chaos as rival militias vie for power.
Since 2014, the LNA has been waging a campaign from its base in al-Rajma in the east against terror groups in Benghazi, the country’s second largest city.
In early October, it succeeded in arresting a number of terrorist leaders, including Ashmawy, during an operation in Derna city, which lies some 250 kms away from the Egypt border.