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Gama'a al Islamiya

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Gama'a al Islamiya

Gama'a al Islamiya (Arabic: الجماعه الإسلاميه , for "the Islamic bunch"; also transliterated Gamaat Islamiya, Jamaat al Islamiya, al-Jamā'ah al-Islāmiyah etc.) is an Egyptian terrorist Islamist movement dedicated to the overthrow of the Egyptian government and replacing it with an Islamic state as a prelude to world Islamic rule and a renewed Caliphate.

In recent years, the group renounced violence at least publicly, but it, or some of its members, helped found Al-Qaeda and members and leaders have joined Al-Qaeda.

The imprisoned blind Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman is the spiritual leader of the movement. He was implicated in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings in the United States and imprisoned for conspiring to blow up New York City landmarks and the FBI headquarters. The group, along with the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, was responsible for the killing of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in 1981, and of hundreds of civilians, dozens of tourists and over 100 Egyptian policemen in a terror campaign in the 1990s. In 2003 the group ostensibly renounced bloodshed. Ayman Zawahiri is apparently active in both Gama'a Islamiya and the Islamic Jihad group.

Gama'a Islamiya was founded some time in the 1970s, some believe as early as 1973, when the Muslim Brotherhood had begun to moderate its views. The Egyptian Islamic Jihad was founded about 1979. The two groups have similar ideology and interlocking leadership, are implicated in most of the same terror attacks, and may be considered to some extent two organizational expressions of the same thing. Ayman Zawahiri is active in the leadership of both.

In 1991, Ala Mohieddin, head of the Gama'a Islamiyeh in Egypt was killed, apparently by security forces, touching off a wave of violence.   Between 1992 and 1997 the Gama'a Islamiyeh conducted a terror campaign in Egypt that result in the death of more than 1,200 persons. These  included the head of the counter-terrorism police, Major General Raouf Khayrat, a speaker of parliament, Rifaat al-Mahgoub, Greek tourists mistaken for Jews, other European tourists and Egyptian bystanders, and over hundred Egyptian police as well as media critics of Islamism like Farag Foda.  Copts, Egyptian Christians, were singled out by the Gama'a al Islamiyah.

 In June 1995,  together with the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Gama'a Al Islamiyeh  carefully plotted the assassination of president Hosni Mubarak during a visit to Ethiopia. The attack was planned by Mustafa Hamza, a senior Egyptian member of the Al-Qaeda and commander of the military branch of the Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya. Mubarak escaped unharmed and retaliated with a massive and ruthless crackdown on Gama'at Islamiyeh members and their families in Egypt.

In 1997, the Gama'at Islamiyeh supposedly renounced violence, apparently as a result of a deal struck with the Egyptian government.  The group would renounce terror, in return for a massive release of its jailed members. In the USA Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman initially gave his blessing to the deal, apparently in hopes of being released from jail. He soon reneged on the his support. Likewise, from exile with Osama Bin Laden,  Islamic Jihad head Ayman Zawahiri organized a massive terrorist attack in Luxor Egypt in 1997, to sabotage the turn to moderation.

In the attack, six men dressed in police uniforms machine-gunned and hacked to death with knives 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians. "The killing went on for 45 minutes, until the floors streamed with blood. The dead included a five-year-old British child and four Japanese couples on their honeymoons." Altogether 71 people were killed. The attack stunned Egyptian society, ruined tourism for years, and destroyed much popular support for violent Islamism in Egypt.

Some of the attack's supporters recanted. The day after the attack, Rifai Taha claimed that the attackers intended only to take the tourists hostage, despite the evidence of the systematic nature of the slaughter. Others denied Islamist involvement completely. Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman blamed the Israeli Mossad for the killings, and Zawahiri maintaining the Egyptian police were responsible. However, he added that the attack was praiseworthy, since tourists pollute the land. (Wright, Lawrence, The Looming Tower, pp 256 ff).

Subsequently, the main body of Gama'a Islamiyeh supposedly renounced violence in 2003, but Zawahiri and others had by this time merged a part of the group and the related Egyptian Islamic Jihad into Al-Qaeda.

Synonyms and alternate spellings: Gamaat Islamiya, Jamaat al Islamiya, al-Jamā'ah al-Islāmiya, may be basically the same group as Egyptian Islamic Jihad.

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Pronunciation - Arabic and Hebrew vowels are pronounced differently than in English. "o" is very short. The "a" is usually pronounced like the "a" in market, sometimes as the "a" in "Arafat."  The " 'A " is guttural.  " 'H "- the 'het ('Hirbeh, 'Hebron, 'Hisbollah') designates a sound somewhat similar to the ch in "loch" in Scots pronunciation, but made by touching the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The CH should be pronounced like Loch, a more assertive consonant than 'het.

The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G," designate a deep guttural sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is not like the English "r."

More information: Hebrew, Arabic

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Gama'a al Islamiya