Gama’at Al-Islamiyya

Egyptian Islamist political organisations which were created around the universities and mosques between 1970 and 1980. They went underground after the Camp David Agreements were signed in 1979. The Gama’at Islamiyya nebula has progressively become the main organisation of armed struggle against the government which they have put to the test since 1991.

Their ultimate goal is to over-throw the ruling regime and to establish an Islamic State. The movement is originally based in Assyut, in Upper Egypt, and some of its military leaders have trained in the Afghan guerilla. The spiritual leader of the Gama’at is Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahmane, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in the United States in January 1996 after the New York World Trade Center bomb attack.

Following years of State hunt for Islamist activists (between 10 and 20,000 Islamists are currently in prison), a good deal of the Gama’at Islamiyya’s military leaders and intellectuals have been killed or imprisonned. This causes the cells to split up frequently; consequently, their militant base, which has grown younger and increasingly radical, is left to itself.

Unlike the Muslim Brothers who regularly condemn their terrorist actions, the Gama’at Islamiyya have recourse to violence as their main political weapon. They launched in March 1992 a campaign targeting senior civil servants, the police and military, the Copts (Egyptian Christians) as well as tourists.

The Gama’at have led several actions abroad such as the bomb attack on the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad in November 1995 (17 victims) or the attempt on President Mubarak’s life at Addis-Adeba in June 1995. Attacks on tourists began in October 1992 with the murder of a British citizen. This anti-tourist campaign has progressively hardened, involving the shooting of a group of Greek tourists in April 1996 (18 victims), and culminating with the Luxor massacre in November 1997, leaving 67 people dead of which 57 were foreign tourists. The Gama’at’s leadership does not officially claim to be the author of this massacre, leaving the responsibility to its « young and inexperienced » members.

The Gama’at Islamiyya’s leadership has called for a truce in July 1997, thus claiming that they would give up terrorist actions if the government puts an end to repression and enters into a dialogue with the Islamists. To what extent the Gama’at (and other movements) leaders control their fanatic militants remains however unknown…

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