The Sudanese authorities have handed over to Egypt men wanted for their alleged affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, which Cairo has designated a terrorist organization.
Neither country has announced the exact number or names of those Brotherhood affiliates. However, some media outlets have reported that among them is Akram Abdel Badih Ahmed Mahmoud, who was sentenced to death in absentia in Egypt for attempting to blow up the Suez Canal in 2009. Mahmoud is also a member of a cell accused of bombing the Dakahlia Security Directorate in December 2013, an accident that killed 16 people. The Egyptian government accused the Brotherhood of being behind the attack and has since listed it as a terrorist organization and banned all of its activities.
Hundreds of Brotherhood members fled to Sudan and from there to Turkey and Qatar after the Egyptian army ousted Islamist and Brotherhood-affiliated President Mohammed Morsi in 2013 following mass protests against him.
Since Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is known for his fierce hostility to political Islam, assumed power in 2014, the Egyptian authorities have made a massive crackdown on Brotherhood members, with thousands prosecuted on terrorism charges. Today, most of the group's senior leaders are in prison.
Ahmed Ban, an Egyptian researcher on Islamic groups and a former Brotherhood member, told Al-Monitor that those who were handed over to Egypt belonged to the Brotherhood’s armed wings the Liwaa al-Thawra movement and the Sawa’id Misr movement, also known as the Hasm movement.
He added that Sudan became a safe haven for the group's members in the wake of Morsi's ouster. “Members of the group used Sudan as a transit station to travel to another country, often Turkey, or became involved with other terrorist groups in Sudan to organize attacks against Egypt,” Ban said.
Turkey hosted hundreds of Brotherhood members and supporters who sought asylum there since Morsi's overthrow. Ankara was for years seen as the Brotherhood’s regional hub.
In mid-January, Egyptian security forces arrested Hossam Salam after a Sudanese plane carrying him from Khartoum to Istanbul made an emergency landing at Luxor International Airport. Salam, one of the founders of the Hasm movement, had been wanted by the Egyptian authorities since 2017, when he was accused of attempting to assassinate public and judicial figures and attacking police forces between 2014 and 2016. He faces a life sentence in these cases.
On June 22, Saudi Arabia’s Al-Arabiya said that Sudan is drawing up another list that includes 32 other people affiliated with the Brotherhood in preparation to extradite them to Egypt.
Ban noted that Sudan's handover of Brotherhood members to Egypt shows the extent of security coordination and cooperation between the two countries. “This cooperation will increase pressure on the group, which is facing an existential crisis without the major power base it previously had in Egypt,” he added.
Ban pointed out, “Now that the Brotherhood lost Sudan as a safe haven, the isolation of the group will grow, which may prompt its members to review their policies and behavior over the past period after their political and organizational project in Egypt fell apart.”
Egypt accuses the Brotherhood of being behind many terrorist attacks in which police and army forces as well as civilians were killed.
Ties between Egypt and Sudan have grown significantly since the overthrow of the regime of former Islamic dictator Omar al-Bashir in 2019. The leaders of the two countries have since exchanged official visits and the Sudanese army generals who govern the country in the current transitional phase have close ties with Egypt.
Egyptian and Sudanese military leaders have achieved unprecedented military cooperation, including the signing of a military agreement on training and border security in March 2021, in addition to several joint military exercises by the Sudanese and Egyptian armies.
Salah Halima, deputy chair of the Egyptian Council for African Affairs and a former Arab League envoy to Sudan, told Al-Monitor that Egypt and Sudan have grown closer following the overthrow of the Bashir regime, noting that the latter’s attitudes toward Egypt were hostile due to his Islamic orientation and connections with the Brotherhood.
Sudan was designated as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1993 by the United States. Bashir's regime harbored and supported extremist Islamist groups including al-Qaeda, the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) and Lebanese Hezbollah. Sudan hosted al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden between 1992 and 1996.
Cairo accused the Bashir regime of harboring Brotherhood members since 2014. Meanwhile, Bashir accused the Egyptian authorities of supporting rebel groups inside Sudan, which Egypt categorically denied. Later on, Bashir strengthened his relations with Turkey, whose rivalry with Egypt has turned into a wider regional struggle over political Islam.
Relations between Cairo and Khartoum reached a low point with a dispute over the Hala’ib Triangle and differing positions on the controversial Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) dispute during Bashir's rule, which angered Cairo. Ethiopia is building its controversial GERD on the Blue Nile, which the two downstream countries fear will affect their supplies of fresh water.
Sudan's political and security instability has damaged economic conditions in the country since the military coup led by the head of the ruling Sovereign Council Abdel, Fattah al-Burhan, in October 2021, after which he seized power and ended the power-sharing arrangement with the civilian partners behind the demonstrations that ousted Bashir.
The UN Mission in Sudan has been seeking within a tripartite mechanism that also includes the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development to facilitate dialogue between the Sudanese parties since May 12 to reach a deal that ends the political crisis in the country. However, some pro-democracy groups and political parties removed from power by the coup still refuse to negotiate directly with the military and instead demand civilian rule.
Egypt was widely criticized for failing to explicitly condemn the military coup, which some attributed to its close relations with the Sudanese army leaders. Some Sudanese opposition leaders have gone so far as to claim that Egypt gave the green light to Burhan to overthrow the civilian government.
Sisi denied these allegations on Jan. 13. Speaking at a news conference at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, he stressed that his government does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. “Sudan’s national security and stability are extremely important for Egypt,” Sisi said.
Halima noted that the Egyptian position is based on non-interference in countries' internal affairs, so it remained at the same distance from all parties in Sudan. “It is natural for there to be contacts and cooperation between Egypt and the military component, given that it is running the country by virtue of the de facto legitimacy,” he added.
Egypt sought to play a mediating role in an attempt to bridge the gaps between the civilian and military parties. Ahmed Adly, consul general at the Egyptian Embassy, met in mid-June with representatives of the Sudanese opposition alliance and discussed the latter’s vision to end the crisis. Cairo has been holding a series of meetings with the opposition Sudanese political forces since February in an effort to help overcome the political crisis in Sudan.
Egypt, which supports the efforts of the tripartite mechanism, believes that dialogue between political parties will solve the current crisis and prevent further chaos in the country.
In March, Burhan visited Cairo to meet Sisi for the first time since the coup. They discussed ways to strengthen relations between the two countries, in addition to deepening joint security and military coordination.
Egypt also seeks to maintain close relations with Sudan as the two countries share a common interest in settling the dispute over the Nile dam.