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Egypt’s Gamaa Islamiya Confirms Internal Rift | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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London, Asharq Al-Awsat- In a surprising turn of events, deep divisions have emerged within Egypt’s Gamaa Islamiya (Islamic Group) which Ayman al Zawahiri led before allying himself with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.

In a statement faxed to Asharq al Awsat. “The Legitimate Committee of Gamaa Islamiya” revealed it had “followed with sadness and sorrow the changes in the beliefs of Abboud al Zomor who wrongly speaks on behalf of the group, after links between him and the Gamaa have been severed for several years.” The Committee indicated it was aware of al Zomor’s writings “where he recognized the Bahai faith and demanded it preach freely, as well as calling all political groups in Egypt to defend it and ally themselves with it.” The non-dated statement claimed that the Bahai faith had “turned its back on Islam”.

A senior Islamist figure, who requested anonymity, confirmed the statement was issued on Sunday in Cairo. He added that the Legitimate Committee had existed prior to Al Zawahiri joining forces with al Qaeda under the banner of “the World Islamic front for jihad (holy war) against Jews and Crusaders”. It appointed the Egyptian physician as bin Laden’s deputy and issued a number of statements by al Zawahiri when he was al Gamaa’s leader, before he merged with al Qaeda. It was headed Dr. Fadhl al Mukna extradited by the Yemeni authorities to Egypt in 2004.

Meanwhile, Um Haitham, wife of al Zomor, said the latest statement, which she had yet not read, was aimed at creating conflict among Islamists in Egyptian jails. She revealed that her husband, who was convicted for his role in planning the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981, had served his full sentence but was yet to be released, in spite of several court orders ordering he be freed. Judging him a threat to national security, the Egyptian authorities have extended his sentence. As far as Um Haitham was concerned, her husband had never spoken to her about the Bahai faith. They had last met during a 30- minute visit to the Leman Tora prison on 16 January. On her next visit ten days later, Um Haitham discovered al Zomor had been moved to an unknown location.

Denying his client had claimed to speak on behalf of al Gamaa Islamiya, Nizar Ghorab, al Zomor’s lawyer, questioned the motives behind this latest statement from an unknown group adding, “I am a man of law. I can only discuss well-documented matters.”

Mahmoud Ismail, an Egyptian lawyer representing Islamist extremists in Egypt, told Asharq al Awsat the statement was probably issued by a number of Gamaa members currently in prison, in collaboration with the security service, in order to secure their release. In a previous interview, Al Zomor, he said, had not mentioned the Bahai faith but spoken about the Shia. His comments were taken out of context by the journalists and criticized by his wife Umm Haitham. The latest statement was aimed at creating confusion following al Zomor’s disappearance from his Egyptian prison Ismail added.