Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports in Arabic that Shaikh Najih Ibrahim, the leader of the fundamentalist group al-Gama’a al-Islamiya in Egypt, said Friday that his organization fears that al-Qaeda will launch an attack on the United States shortly, in revenge for Israel’s assault on Gaza, with the aim of turning Barack Obama into “another George W. Bush.”
Ibrahim’s group called on al-Qaeda instead to observe a 4-month ceasefire toward the United States, so as to give Obama a chance to show he is really different.
Ibrahim said, “A repetition by al-Qaeda of new operations” [against the US] “will be a victory for Israel and a victory for the point of view of George W. Bush, underlining that violence is the natural character of Muslims.”
Al-Gama’ah al-Islamiya had been led spiritually in the 1970s by Shaikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the “Blind Sheikh,” who some say authorized the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat in 1981. The blind sheikh thereafter emigrated to the United States and formed an al-Qaeda-affiliated cell at his mosque that carried out the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. The blind sheikh is now in prison and has lost his popularity among the al-Gama’a al-Islamiya in Egypt. The leaders of that group, mostly in prison by the late 1990s, announced in 1998 that they had renounced violence, and the group has published 20 “recantation booklets” reinterpreting the Qur’an and Islam in the terms of peace.
Al-Qaeda’s number 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was the leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, a kindred organization that cooperated with the Gama’a in the killing of Sadat. Al-Zawahiri has loudly condemned the turn of the Gama’a toward peace as an ideal.
The Gama’a still has enough members connected to the radical vigilante fundamentalist underground that they might well be in a position to hear al-Qaeda chatter, and it makes me worried that they are worried.
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