Revived al-Jihad al-Islami in Egypt
Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports that Egypt has arrested 27 members of a new splinter group from al-Jihad al-Islami, the militant Islamist organization that joined al-Qaeda in 1998. They are charged with plotting the overthrow of the Egyptian government and of attempting to damage Egyptian security. The Egyptian government believes that they were planning to go off to Iraq to fight the Americans, through Jordan and Syria.
The Egyptian government reportedly jailed some 30,000 radical Islamists in the 1990s, but all but a few thousand have now been released. It killed 1500 of them in running street battles in that decade. Many radicals have now foresworn violence, at least in their public statements, and some are reinterpreting the Koran along pacifist lines. Because Egypt is a semi-police state technically still under military rule, it is always hard to interpret its statements about dissidents, and it is capable of greatly exaggerating charges against those it views as enemies. If true, however, this report is extremely troubling. Egypt has a population of about 70 million and is the major Arab state. If any significant number of Egyptians went off to fight in Iraq against the US, they could have an impact on the security of US troops there.