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Monday, August 07, 2006

Al-Qaeda wins converts from Egyptian group

Daily Star: Some leaders of Egypt's Gamaa Islamiyya have joined Al-Qaeda, the terror organization's deputy head, Ayman al-Zawahiri, said in a video aired on Al-Jazeera television over the weekend. bIn reaction, a former official of the Gamaa said on Sunday that even if some members of the Islamist group had joined Al-Qaeda it was unlikely that most would.

"If [some] brothers ... have joined, then this is their personal view and I don't think that most Gamaa Islamiyya members share that same opinion," Sheikh Abdel-Akher Hammad told Al-Jazeera by telephone from Bonn, Germany.

There has been no immediate reaction to the Al-Qaeda video from Gamaa Islamiyya, which waged a bloody campaign against the Egyptian government in the 1990s to set up a purist Islamic state before declaring a truce with Cairo.

In the video, Egyptian-born Zawahiri named Mohammad al-Islambouli as one of those who joined Al-Qaeda. He was apparently referring to Mohammad Shawqi Islambouli, a Gamaa leader and a brother of Khaled Islambouli, who participated in the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981.

"We bring good tidings to the Muslim nation about a big faction of the knights of the Gamaa Islamiyya uniting with Al-Qaeda," Zawahiri said in the video.

He said the move aimed to help "rally the Muslim nation's capabilities in a unified rank in the face of the most severe crusader campaign against Islam in its history."

"This [statement] should be treated cautiously. Gamaa Islamiyya in Egypt has its leaders and officials who can determine its path and direction," said Hammad, who spent three years in jail in the 1980s for involvement in Sadat's killing.

A man introduced by Zawahiri as another Gamaa leader, Mohammad Hakaima, appeared in a portion of the video and confirmed the unity move, but said some group members had "deviated" from it.

"A group of brothers from the Gamaa Islamiyya, who had been subjected to pressures and influences ... went to the path of the Egyptian government and America," Zawahiri said of those who had declined to join Al-Qaeda.

The Egyptian government detained many thousands of Gamaa members or sympathizers in the 1990s, when the group was waging a low-level guerrilla war against the security forces. Hundreds have come out of detention over the years after renouncing the use of violence to overthrow the government.

Gamaa leaders declared a truce with the government in 1997, after an attack on tourists at a temple in Luxor. - Reuters
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