Special Section: Terrorist Attacks on America
Name: Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya, also known as Islamic Group
Type: religious (fundamentalist)
Ideology: Militant Islamist. The group seeks to establish Islamic rule in Egypt by force and targets any secular establishment that they believe to be heretical, including secular Arab governments. Has targeted government ministers and officials, police officers, secular intellectuals, Christian Copts, foreign tourists, banks (to enforce an Islamic ban on usury), anything considered "morally offensive," including music performances, film, and video stores.
Description: This organization is a large, loosely organized militant group that has been active since the late 1970s in Egypt, though the group's last attack in Egypt was in August 1998. Most of the group's attacks have been against Egyptian and other government officials, Coptic Christians, and Egyptian opponents of "Islamic extremism."[1,2] Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya is believed to pursue lower-profile targets than other Egyptian Islamist groups. The group issued a ceasefire in March 1999, which was rescinded by al-Rahman in June 2000.
Group Leaders: spiritual leader Sheikh Omar Abd al-Rahman, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Rifa'i Taha Musa, Osama Rushdi, Refaei Ahmed Taha, Sayyid Qutb (executed in 1966).
Group Ties: The group has a very close relationship with Al-Jihad al-Islami: state sponsorship is unknown. The Egyptian government believes the group has received support from Iran, bin Laden, and "Afghan militant groups."[1,2] In August 1992, Deputy Egyptian Prime Minister Youssef Wali claimed that weapons were being smuggled into Egypt to Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya from Iran and Sudan: Algerian authorities were also concerned that training camps were being sponsored by Iran and Sudan for militant Islamic fundamentalists. The involvement of Pakistan and Afghanistan has also been highlighted due to the numerous military training camps that are located on the Afghan-Pakistani border. Pakistan has used the services of the Egyptian groups in its campaign against India in Kashmir. Control by the fundamentalist Taliban movement in Afghanistan has further supplemented this growing concern. Furthermore, Usama bin Laden, a known terrorist believed to be located in Afghanistan, has also developed close ties with members of Al-Jihad al-Islami and Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya. Bin Laden is a financier of the Kunar and Khost training camps in Afghanistan where many of the recruits from these groups were trained. Both Ayman Zawahri and Refaei Ahmed Taha, another leader of Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya, are believed to be living somewhere near, or with, Bin Laden in Afghanistan.
Location(s): Southern Egypt (Al-Minya, Asyu't, Qina, and Sohaj); also has some support in Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt; and a "presence" in Sudan, the United Kingdom, Austria, and Yemen.[1,2]
Founded: Late 1970s, in Egypt
Total Members: Unknown; probably includes several thousand hard-core members before the group's 1999 ceasefire, estimated several thousand more sympathizers; particularly popular with "unemployed graduates and students."[1,2]
Incidents: Several of the group's leading members, also affiliated with Al-Jihad al-Islami, were implicated in the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Members of Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya were responsible for the murder of 58 tourists at the temples of Luxor in November 1997.