How terror recruiters in Egypt target one man faced with a choice: kill civilians or gamble with his life in profiteer smuggling

Ismail had just finished daily prayers when the men approached. It was a sweltering evening in the Maadi district of Cairo, and the group of three bearded figures, who had been loitering outside a mosque, spotted him as soon as he walked out. Ismail, a struggling Sudanese migrant, hadn’t eaten in a few days, leaving his eyes badly bloodshot. The men took notice of his condition. As they advanced, the air thick and choked with pollution, a cloud of dust swirled around them, settling on their clothes and facial hair.

They invited Ismail to a nearby hookah café, where, huddled around a small square table, the trio engaged him in casual conversation. Their voices, smooth and tinged with Sudanese accents, directed the conversation toward Islam, philosophy and Ismail’s dire situation.

The three recruiters did not reveal the name of their organization, but Ismail later learned it was likely Ansar Beyt al-Maqdis, an Egyptian-based terror cell working with Daesh, the so-called Islamic State known as ISIS or ISIL. Experts say this cell is part of an expanding ISIS network that targets impoverished, hungry and devout men like Ismail, many of whom can be found amid growing refugee communities across the Middle East. ISIS and other terrorists scour these clusters of castoffs, using their vast resources to offer them everything they lack: money, freedom, spiritual peace.

Story by Dan Patterson

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