Security officials say Ashmawy is responsible for several high-profile attacks, including the June killing in Cairo. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Files
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As a special forces officer in the Egyptian Army, Hisham al-Ashmawy trained in the desert, learning camouflage and survival techniques and how to hunt the enemy in rough terrain.Ashmawy's background makes him a potent figure among Islamist fighters, who President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi says pose an existential threat to Egypt.Security officials say the former military man, whose allegiance has switched from ISIS to Al-Qaeda, has carried out some of the most high-profile attacks in Egypt. Saeed Ismail, a former army officer who knew Ashmawy for nearly two years, said Ashmawy was punished but still organized gatherings after morning prayers.Ashmawy began to fast regularly and would often criticize the government. In 2007, a military court expelled Ashmawy from the army.In the chaos that ended three decades of rule by Mubarak in 2011, Ashmawy dropped off the radar of military intelligence, security officials said.In late 2013, security officials surrounded Ashmawy and other militants for 24 hours in a desert area near Ain al-Sukhna near the Red Sea. Five men were shot dead, but Ashmawy and one other escaped, according to the officials.
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