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Al-Gama'at Al-Islamiyya (IG) Narrative


Al-Gama’at Al-Islamiyya (IG)

Last Update

January 2015

Aliases

Islamic Group (IG), Jamaat Al-Islamiyya, Gama’a Al-Islamiyya, Gamaat Islamiya, Al Jamaat Al Islamiyya, El Gama’a El Islamiyya[1]

History

The Al-Gama’at Al-Islamiyya, most commonly referred to as the Islamic Group (IG), is an Egyptian Sunni Islamist movement seeking the abolishment of the current secular Egyptian government for the creation of an Islamic state.[2] The organization began as a radical umbrella for militant student groups in Egypt and officially formed as a reaction to the Muslim Brotherhood’s renunciation violence in the 1970s. The group served as Egypt’s largest militant organization, attracting primarily college students or young unemployed graduates from urban areas of Egypt. The group maintains a presence both at home and abroad.[3] To gain support for their goal of establishing an Islamic regime the organization perpetrated multiple violent attacks against the Egyptian government from 1992 through 1998.[4]

In 1997 a cease-fire between the Egyptian government and IG caused a split within the organization: one faction led by Mustafa Hamza supported the cease-fire, and the other led by Rifa’i Taha Musa denounced it.[5] The latter faction retaliated against this peace initiative by launching the group’s largest known attack to date, the massacre at Luxor, in which the Temple of Hatshepsut was assaulted for 45 minutes leaving 71 people dead.[6] However, in March 2002, the majority of IG’s leadership in Egypt and abroad renounced the use of violence.[7] The group renounced violence altogether in 2003.[8]

In 2011 the organization reappeared in the media, forming its own political party known as the Building and Development Party. The party was successful enough to gain seats to the lower house of the Egyptian Parliament in the 2011-2012 elections.[9]

Home Base

Egypt (predominantly in southern regions)[10]

Founding Year

1970s[11]

  • The exact year of the group’s founding is unknown, but it is generally accepted that it began within this decade.

Ideology

  • Religious-Islamic-Sunni-Revolutionary.
  • The group has become factionalized since the late 1990s with some of its members favoring separatism and jihad, and others promoting peace and stable reform.[12]

Specific Goals

  • Establishment of an Islamic government in Egypt.[13]

Political Activity

  • In 2011, IG formed its own political party, the Building and Development Party, which gained seats in the lower house of the Egyptian Parliament in the 2011-2012 election.[14]
  • IG member Adel el-Khayat was appointed governor of Luxor in June 2013, although he did not hold the title for longer than a week.[15]

Financing

  • Funded by other violent groups: Before 2001, the group was reportedly funded by other militant Islamists such as Afghan and Pakistani groups, including Al-Qa’ida.[16]
  • Charities/Donations: Pre-2001, there were some unverified reports of financial ties between IG and Muslim Brotherhood networks, particularly in Germany.[17]
  • State Sponsorship: In the 1990s, IG reportedly received support from Sudan and Iran.[18]

Leadership and Structure over Time

  • The group has become factionalized since the late 1990s and now has two sets of leadership structures, one more radical than the other. [19]
  • Known radical leaders:
    • 1970s-Present: Omar Abdul-Rahman, also known as the “Blink Sheikh” and spiritual leader of the group, was arrested in 1993 by the United States for his connection to the first WTC bombing. [20]
    • 1993-early 2000s: Ahmed Refai Taha was the leader of the group until his reported execution by Egyptian authorities. [21]
  • Known moderate shura council members:
    • Post-2004: Karam Zohdy was president of the group’s moderate shura council.[22]
    • Post-2004: Ali al-Sharif
    • Post-2004: Ossamma Hafez
    • Post-2004: Badri Makhlouf
    • Post-2004: Hisham Abdul al-Zahir
    • Post-2004: Mamdouh Youssef[23]
  • Known moderate military council members:
    • Post-2004: Hassan al-Khalifa
    • Post-2004: Ahmed Bakri
    • Post-2004: Gharib al-Shahaat
    • Post-2004: Sha’aban Haridi[24]

Strength

  • 1989: 150,000-200,000 supporters.[25]
  • 2001: Greater than 1,000.[26]
  • 2002: Greater than 1,000.[27]
  • 2003: Greater than 1,000.[28]
  • 2004: Greater than 1,000.[29]
  • 2005: Less than 500.[30]
  • 2006: 500.[31]
  • 2007: 500.[32]
  • 2008: 500.[33]

Allies and Suspected Allies

  • Al-Qa’ida (AQ) (ally):
    • Despite Ahmed Rifa’i Taha signing Osama bin Laden's 1998 fatwa that called for attacks on the United States, moderate IG leadership in Egypt rejects ties to AQ.[34]
    • The State Department reports that IG received support from AQ and other Afghan militant organizations.[35]
  • Egyptian Islamic Jihad (ally):
    • Worked with Egyptian Islamic Jihad in the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.[36]
  • Muslim Brotherhood (suspected ally):
    • Reportedly received funding from Muslim Brotherhood networks in Germany in the 1990s.[37]
  • Iran (suspected state sponsor):
    • Reportedly received support from Iran in the 1990s.[38]
  • Sudan (suspected state sponsor):
    • Reportedly received support from Sudan in the 1990s.[39]

Rivals and Enemies

  • Foreign tourists (target):
    • Claiming that these individuals represented western culture and secularism infiltrating the nation.[40]
  • Egypt (target/rival):
    • IG has fought against Egypt and its radical faction continues to see the Egyptian government as the enemy.[41]
    • IG’s moderate faction competes with the Egyptian government as a political rival in its quest to establish a more Islamic state within the country.[42]

Counterterrorism Efforts

  • Domestic Law Enforcement:
    • The Egyptian government took actions to dissolve the IG in September 1981, arresting known leaders and members.[43]
  • Domestic Military:
    • Egyptian government crackdown began in 1981 in which it destroyed any infrastructure associated with IG.[44]
  • Domestic Political:
    • The organization’s decision to renounce violence in 2003 greatly improved relations with the Egyptian government. They engaged in peace talks with the IG, and ultimately allowed the organization to participate in government through their own platform, the Building and Development Party.[45]

United States Government Designations

  • Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), October 8, 1997. [46]
  • Specially Designated Global Terrorist Organization, October 31, 2001.[47]
  • Specially Designated Nationals (SDN):  Shaykh Umar Abd Al Rahman, Mohammad Shawqi Islambouli, Talat Fouad Qasem, April 24, 1996.[48]

Other Governments’ Designations

  • Israel (November 2009): Listed Terrorist Organization[49]
  • Russia (April 2006): Listed Terrorist Entity[50]
  • United Kingdom (March 2001): Proscribed Terrorist Organization[51]
 

[1] Holly Fletcher, “Backgrounder: Jamaat Al-Islamiyya,” Council on Foreign Relations, May 30, 2008, http://www.cfr.org/egypt/jamaat-al-islamiyya/p9156.

[2] U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Egypt: Information on the Islamic Fundamentalist Group Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiya, August 25, 1998, http://www.uscis.gov/tools/asylum-resources/resource-information-center-egypt.

[3] Gilles Kepel, Muslim Extremism in Egypt: The Prophet and Pharaoh (Oakland: University of California Press, 1985)

[4] Caryle Murphy, Passion for Islam: Shaping the Modern Middle East: The Egyptian Experience. (New York: Scribner, 2007)

[5] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Terrorism 2005, Foreign Terrorist Organizations, April 28, 2006, http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2005/65275.htm.; Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (New York: Vintage, 2007)

[6] Holly Fletcher, “Backgrounder: Jamaat Al-Islamiyya,” Council on Foreign Relations, May 30, 2008, http://www.cfr.org/egypt/jamaat-al-islamiyya/p9156.

[7] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Terrorism 2005, Foreign Terrorist Organizations, April 28, 2006, http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2005/65275.htm.

[8] Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (New York: Vintage, 2007); “Egypt Frees 900 Islamist Militants,” Al Jazeera, April 12, 2006. http://www.aljazeera.com/archive/2006/04/200841010710321761.html.

[9] “Interactive: Full Egypt Election Results,” Al Jazeera, February 1, 2012. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/interactive/2012/01/20121248225832718.html.

[10] Council of the European Union, Council Decision of 21 December 2005 Implementing Article 2(3) of Regulation (EC) No 2580/2001 on Specific Restrictive Measures Directed against Certain Persons and Entities with a View to Combating Terrorism and Repealing Decision 2005/848/EC. EC. Vol. 2580/2001. http://tamilnation.co/terrorism/eu/051221eu_council_decision.pdf.

[11] Holly Fletcher, “Backgrounder: Jamaat Al-Islamiyya,” Council on Foreign Relations, May 30, 2008, http://www.cfr.org/egypt/jamaat-al-islamiyya/p9156.

[12] Gilles Kepel, Muslim Extremism in Egypt: The Prophet and Pharaoh (Oakland: University of California Press, 1985)

[13] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Terrorism 2005, Foreign Terrorist Organizations, April 28, 2006, http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2005/65275.htm; Gilles Kepel, Muslim Extremism in Egypt: The Prophet and Pharaoh (Oakland: University of California Press, 1985)

[14] “Interactive: Full Egypt Election Results,” Al Jazeera, February 1, 2012. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/interactive/2012/01/20121248225832718.html.

[15] Mohamed El-Sayed, “Fearing the Worst,” Al-Ahram Weekly, May 11, 2005, http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2005/741/eg1.htm.

[16] “Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiyya Profile,” Center for Non-Proliferation Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies, September 13, 2001, http://cns.miis.edu/archive/wtc01/algamaa.htm.

[17] “Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiyya,” History Commons, 2015, http://www.historycommons.org/entity.jsp?entity=al-gama_a_al-islamiyya_1.

[18] “Egypt: General One-Sided Violence Information: Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiyya – Civilians,” UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia, 2015 http://www.ucdp.uu.se/gpdatabase/gpcountry.php?id=50&regionSelect=10-Middle_East#.

[19] “Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiyya,” History Commons, 2015, http://www.historycommons.org/entity.jsp?entity=al-gama_a_al-islamiyya_1.

[20] “Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiyya,” History Commons, 2015, http://www.historycommons.org/entity.jsp?entity=al-gama_a_al-islamiyya_1.

[21] “Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiyya,” History Commons, 2015, http://www.historycommons.org/entity.jsp?entity=al-gama_a_al-islamiyya_1.

[22] Lisa Blaydes,“Makram Mohammad Ahmed Interviews the Historic Leadership of Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiyya inside the ‘Scorpion’ Prison,” Translation 2004, used with author’s permission http://web.stanford.edu/~blaydes/part1.pdf.

[23] Lisa Blaydes,“Makram Mohammad Ahmed Interviews the Historic Leadership of Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiyya inside the ‘Scorpion’ Prison,” Translation 2004, used with author’s permission http://web.stanford.edu/~blaydes/part1.pdf.

[24] Lisa Blaydes,“Makram Mohammad Ahmed Interviews the Historic Leadership of Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiyya inside the ‘Scorpion’ Prison,” Translation 2004, used with author’s permission http://web.stanford.edu/~blaydes/part1.pdf.

[25] “Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiyya.” 2015. History Commons. Accessed June 3. http://www.historycommons.org/entity.jsp?entity=al-gama_a_al-islamiyya_1.

[26] “Middle East and North Africa,” Military Balance 101 (2001): 119-151, doi: 10.1080/04597220108460155

[27] “Table 6 Selected Non-State Armed Groups,” Military Balance 102 (2002): 224-231, doi: 10.1093/milbal/102.1.224

[28] “Selected Non-State Armed Groups,” Military Balance 103 (2003): 344-354, doi: 10.1093/milbal/103.1.344

[29] “Selected Non-State Armed Groups,” Military Balance 104 (2004): 362-377, doi: 10.1080/725292356

[30] “Non-State Armed Groups,” Military Balance 105 (2005): 421-434, doi: 10.1080/04597220500387720

[31] “Non-State Armed Groups,” Military Balance 106 (2006): 417-434, doi: 10.1080/04597220600782978

[32] “Non-State Armed Groups,” Military Balance 107 (2007): 421-438, doi: 10.1080/04597220601167872

[33] “Non-State Armed Groups,” Military Balance 108 (2008): 461-482, doi: 10.1080/04597220801912960

[34] “Al-Zawahiri: Egyptian Militant Group Joins Al Qaeda,” CNN News, August 5, 2006, http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/08/05/zawahiri.tape/index.html.

[35] Holly Fletcher, “Backgrounder: Jamaat Al-Islamiyya,” Council on Foreign Relations, May 30, 2008, http://www.cfr.org/egypt/jamaat-al-islamiyya/p9156.

[36] “Al-Zawahiri: Egyptian Militant Group Joins Al Qaeda,” CNN News, August 5, 2006, http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/08/05/zawahiri.tape/index.html.

[37] “Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiyya,” History Commons, 2015, http://www.historycommons.org/entity.jsp?entity=al-gama_a_al-islamiyya_1.

[38] “Egypt: General One-Sided Violence Information: Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiyya – Civilians,” UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia, 2015 http://www.ucdp.uu.se/gpdatabase/gpcountry.php?id=50&regionSelect=10-Middle_East#.

[39] “Egypt: General One-Sided Violence Information: Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiyya – Civilians,” UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia, 2015 http://www.ucdp.uu.se/gpdatabase/gpcountry.php?id=50&regionSelect=10-Middle_East#.

[40] U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Egypt: Information on the Islamic Fundamentalist Group Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiya, August 25, 1998, http://www.uscis.gov/tools/asylum-resources/resource-information-center-egypt.

[41] Caryle Murphy, Passion for Islam: Shaping the Modern Middle East: The Egyptian Experience. (New York: Scribner, 2007)

[42] “Interactive: Full Egypt Election Results,” Al Jazeera, February 1, 2012, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/interactive/2012/01/20121248225832718.html.

[43] Gilles Kepel, Muslim Extremism in Egypt: The Prophet and Pharaoh (Oakland: University of California Press, 1985)

[44] Gilles Kepel, Muslim Extremism in Egypt: The Prophet and Pharaoh (Oakland: University of California Press, 1985)

[45] “Interactive: Full Egypt Election Results,” Al Jazeera, February 1, 2012, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/interactive/2012/01/20121248225832718.html.

[46] U.S. Department of State, Foreign Terrorist Organizations, August 20, 2014 http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/123085.htm.

[47] U.S. Department of the Treasury, Financial Sanctions, Recent OFAC Actions, November 2, 2001, http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/20011102.aspx.

[48] U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control, Executive Order 13224 - Blocking Property and Prohibiting Transactions with Persons Who Commit, Threaten to Commit, or Support Terrorism, 2015, http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/terror.pdf.

[49] Ministry of Justice, Israel, Israel Money Laundering and Terror Financing Prohibition Authority, List of Declarations and Orders - Unofficial Translation, 2015, http://www.justice.gov.il/NR/rdonlyres/9C960928-70AB-428A-BCCC-2E6091F2BDE3/40880/impa_terror_eng_17012013.doc.

[50] “Russia Names ‘Terrorist’ Groups,” BBC News. July 28, 2006, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/5223458.stm.

[51] Home Office, United Kingdom, Proscribed Terrorist Organisations, 2015, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/417888/Proscription-20150327.pdf.