AL-QAIDA WELCOMES NEW EGYPTIAN GROUP
By OMAR SINAN, Associated Press Writer August 5, 2006
CAIRO, Egypt - Al-Qaida's No. 2 leader announced in a new videotape aired
Saturday that an Egyptian militant group has joined the terror network.
It was the first time that
al-Qaida has announced a branch in Egypt,
the Arab world's most populous nation. The Egyptian group, Gamaa Islamiya, is apparently a revived version of a militant group
of the same name that waged a campaign of violence in Egypt
during the 1990s but was crushed in a government crackdown.
"We announce to the Islamic
nation the good news of the unification of a great faction of the knights of the Gamaa Islamiya ... with the al-Qaida group,"
Ayman al-Zawahri said in the videotape aired on the Al-Jazeera news network.
Al-Zawahri said the Egyptian
group was led by Mohammed al-Islambouli, the younger brother of Khaled al-Islambouli, the militant who assassinated Egyptian
President Anwar al-Sadat in 1979 and was later executed.
The video included a statement
by Mohammed al-Hakayma, identified as another top leader of the revived Gamaa. Al-Hakayma was shown talking in a grove of
Mohammed al-Islambouli left
Egypt in the mid-1980s and was believed to have been in Afghanistan
working with al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, said
Diaa Rashwan, an Egyptian expert on militant groups.
It was not clear how much
of a following the new version of Gamaa Islamiya has on the ground in Egypt.
Its previous incarnation was largely eliminated by the government crackdown, and its leaders later announced a truce from
prison. It has not claimed any attacks since the late 1990s.
Rashwan said al-Zawahri's
claim was likely just propaganda.
"This is media talk from
Ayman al-Zawahri. The Gamaa Islamiya has its own leadership and they said they have already rejected joining al-Qaida in the
past," he said. "Gamaa Islamiya has no command outside Egypt.
They have dissolved in Egypt."
Egypt has seen a string of terror bombings against tourist resorts
in the Sinai Peninsula since October 2004, killing 98 people. Egyptian authorities have said
those attacks were carried out by a group calling itself Monotheism and Jihad, with links to Palestinian militants.
Many experts believe Monotheism
and Jihad is inspired by al-Qaida and may have some operational links, but the Egyptian government has not announced any connection.
The excerpts of the video
played by Al-Jazeera did not mention any imminent threats of attacks in Egypt.
In the video, al-Zawahri wore a white turban and was in front of a plain black background.
Al-Zawahri is Egyptian and
was once a member of Islamic Jihad, the other main Egyptian militant group that led violence in the 1990s alongside the original
Gamaa Islamiya. In the late 1990s he moved to Afghanistan
and joined forces with bin Laden, bringing a number of Egyptian militants with him.
In the video, al-Hakayma,
wearing glasses and holding an automatic weapon, said former members had decided to revive the group and rejected their jailed
leaders' adherence to a truce. He vowed loyalty to Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, Gamaa's former leader who is in a U.S. prison after his 1995 conviction in a conspiracy to blow up New York City landmarks.
Al-Hakayma was once a "second
tier" leader of the original Gamaa, Montasser al-Zayat, an Islamist lawyer who once represented many militants in court, told
It was al-Zawahri's second
message in just over a week and his 11th this year. The Egyptian-born militant appeared in a video on July 27 in which he
called for Muslims to unite in a holy war against Israel and to join the fighting in Lebanon