Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group, IG)
Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group, IG) is Egypt's largest militant group, active since the late 1970s, and appears to be loosely organized. IG has an external wing with supporters in several countries worldwide. The group issued a cease-fire in March 1999, but its spiritual leader, Shaykh Umar Abd al-Rahman, sentenced to life in prison in January, 1996, for his involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and incarcerated in the United States, rescinded his support for the cease-fire in June, 2000. IG has not conducted an attack inside Egypt since August, 1998. Senior members signed Osama Bin Ladin's fatwa in February, 1998, calling for attacks against the United States. The organization is unofficially split in two factions, one that supports the cease-fire led by Mustafa Hamza and one led by Rifa'i Taha Musa, calling for a return to armed operations. Taha Musa in early 2001 published a book in which he attempted to justify terrorist attacks that would cause mass casualties. Musa disappeared several months thereafter, and there were conflicting reports as to his current whereabouts. The primary goal of the IG is to overthrow the Egyptian government and replace it with an Islamic state, but disaffected IG members, such as those potentially inspired by Taha Musa or Abd al-Rahman, may be interested in carrying out attacks against the U.S. and Israeli interests.
Organization activities. The IG has conducted armed attacks against Egyptian security and other government officials, Coptic Christians, and Egyptian opponents of Islamic extremism before the cease-fire. From 1993 until the cease-fire, al-Gama'a launched attacks on tourists in Egypt, most notably the attack in November, 1997, at Luxor that killed 58 foreign tourists. The IG also claimed responsibility for the attempt in June, 1995, to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The IG has never specifically attacked a U.S. citizen or facility, but has threatened United States interests.
At its peak, the IG probably commanded several thousand hard-core members and a like number of sympathizers, but its present size is unknown. The 1999 cease-fire and security crackdowns following the attack in Luxor in 1997, and more recently, tightened security efforts following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States probably have resulted in a substantial decrease in the group's numbers.
IG operates mainly in the Al-Minya, Asyu't, Qina, and Sohaj Governorates of southern Egypt. They also appear to have support in Cairo, Alexandria, and other urban locations, particularly among unemployed graduates and students, and have a worldwide presence, including the United Kingdom, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Austria.
The oragnization's external sources of support, if any, are unknown. The Egyptian government believes that Iran, Osama Bin Ladin, and Afghan militant groups support the organization. The IG may also obtain some funding through various Islamic non-governmental organizations.
█ FURTHER READING:
Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook, 2002. < http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/ > (April 16, 2003).
Taylor, Francis X. U.S. Department of State. Patterns of Global Terrorism 2001, Annual Report: On the record briefing. May 21, 2002 < http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/rm/10367.htm > (April 17,2003).
U.S. Department of State. Annual reports. < http://www.state.gov/www/global/terrorism/annual_reports.html > (April 16, 2003).