The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

The Squid

octopus vulgaris via Shutterstock

octopus vulgaris via Shutterstock

Meet Adel Mohamed Ibrahim aka Adel Habara (meaning Squid - a reference to his resourcefulness and ability to reach anyone he wants) aka the al-Qaeda Chief in Sinai. The police says he is responsible for the second Rafaah attack that left 25 soldiers dead. They also think he is involved in the first attack that left 16 dead.

Habara reportedly confessed his involvement and reenacted the crime for them after he was arrested on September 1. This is a video of Habara  that was posted to YouTube on Sept. 2 (by a certain Emad El Ramadi, who appears to reside in the UAE) and circulated on talk shows, in which Habara tells his side of the story with state security before the revolution up until his escape from Wadi al-Natrun prison in January 2011. It's not clear where or when this was recorded, and Habara does not refer directly to the Rafaah attacks in it.

Dressed in white, with a blanket covering one leg, Habara explains that he has been a committed, religious man for ten years, minding his own business and with no connection to islamist groups, which is why state security informers showed no interest in him. Except for a strangely candid one agent.

“Give me your ID, so I can make a file about you in SS,” he says officer Ali Ameen asked him. Ameen, Habara says, has long harbored a grudge against him and was the source of all his troubles with the police.

“No, that won’t be necessary,” Habara said, but Ameen insisted. He tried to solicit his sympathy, telling him about his one-armed wife and the two daughters they have take care of, but to no avail.

Some time later, Habara traveled to Libya hoping distance would blunt Ameen’s obsession with him. It did not. In the following months, Ameen kept harassing his wife and family, prompting him to return and speak to Ameen’s superior, an officer named Essam. After interrogating him, Essam let him go and asked him to work as a police informant. Habara said he would, but he wasn’t going to because it’s haraam to point out the sins of Muslims.

Eight months later, Ameen vindictively added Habara’s name on the wanted list for the next security crackdown. When they came to arrest him, Habara was not home. He was later tipped off that the police was looking for him and decided to lay low and look for employment in Cairo.

By some unfortunate stroke of luck, Habara went to fix his motorcycle at a mechanic, whose shop was juxtaposed next to the state-security-affiliated the Future Association, whose owner is a good friend of none other than Ali Ameen himself.

Shortly after Habara left the mechanic, three toktoks carrying armed men and Ali Ameen came out of nowhere. They attacked him, forcing him to defend himself with a knife. After they broke his nose, badly hit his head and his arms, they took him into custody.

There he was told by another oddly honest officer called Ahmed el-Lamhawy that they, the state security officers, were not Muslims. They were Jews.

Habara admitted to assaulting the officers, in self-defense, and so was sent to Al Wadi Al Gadeed prison, where he was kept in a 160 x 250 cm room for 49 days, before he was moved to a solitary cell in the wards, where he spent 11 months and was not allowed to have visitors. He refused to comment on the food and water quality, or lack thereof.

He tried to explain to the judge at the Supreme State Security Criminal Court that he was not a threat to national security, just an imagined one to a hateful informer. However, the judge sentenced him to one more year in Wadi Al Natrun prison (where deposed president Morsi was held before he became president and pardoned Habara among others, according to Ibrabim Eissa). There Habara was told that since he had served two thirds of his sentence, he was eligible for early release and that they had already sent a request to the prison authorities. He was going to be out any day now, they said.

But then the revolution happened, and the prison was open for all to leave, so he did. Now the same informer, Ali Ameen, is using his escape to frame him for further crimes, namely, the Rafaah attacks. But here the video-taped narration ends. 

According to Al-Ahram, al-Watan and Alyoum7, Habara's neighbors in Sharqiya are very much pleased with his arrest because he has been terrorizing them, with the help of his armed, white-galabya-clad friends, since the revolution.

You can watch Habara's narrated arrest over here, where two officers impressively climb a flight of stairs two steps at a time, while a confused on-the-ground colleague strains his neck to look for Habara in the sky and another looks in drawer. There are dramatic sepia shots to inspire awe near the end.