Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiyya denies ties with Al-Qaeda
CAIRO: Egypt-based Islamic group Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiyya said they denounce violence and deny having any connections with Al-Qaeda militants, reports the independent Al-Masry Al-Youm on its front page.
In a video message broadcast Saturday by Al-Jazeera network, the terror group’s second in command Ayman Al-Zawahri announced what Al-Qaeda deemed “the good news of Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiyya’s key figures joining their network. No details or names were mentioned. The Egyptian-born only said that a number of the Egyptian Islamic leadership is now welcome under the Al-Qaeda banner.
According to Al-Masry Al-Youm, shortly after Al-Zawahri’s tape was broadcasted, another video message appeared with leading member of the Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiyya Mohammad Khalil Al-Hakayma confirming the news, saying that “he and other knights of the group have joined Al-Qaeda. Al-Hakayma criticized the infamous Islamic group though, saying they have fallen into “mistakes as a result of government and American pressures.
In response, leadership of Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiyya said “they differed with Al-Qaeda in ideology, denying knowledge of Al-Hakayma or any links with the terror group.
Meanwhile, the Italian news agency AKI reports a statement posted on the Internet by the Egyptian group s leadership saying that though some members [of Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiyya] have joined Al Zawahiri s group, as he himself confirmed in the video message, it is improbable that the majority of our members would follow their path.
Our movement has rejected violence since 1997 and we have held fast to this principle. Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiyya categorically denies any merger between itself and the militants of Al-Qaeda, the statement reportedly read.
Signed by Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiyya’s leader, Sheikh Abdel-Akher Hamad, the statement, according to AKI, described those members of the group who have defected to Al-Qaeda as minor elements such as Mohamed Al-Islambouli, the younger brother of Khaled Al-Islambouli, who was charged with assassinating President Anwar Al-Sadat in 1979 and was later executed. Nevertheless, in Al-Masry Al-Youm, a relative of the younger Al-Islambouli denied any ties between the militant’s brother and the group.
In the meantime, Egypt’s independent and opposition newspapers continue to feature news of the Israeli offensive on Lebanon and Hezbollah’s retaliatory strikes; hailing the latter in some instances, focusing primarily on the war and dedicating their front pages solely to war coverage at the expense of local news.
The newspapers seemly rejoiced in the death of 14 Israeli soldiers as a result of Hezbollah rockets, with pictures of dead soldiers carried away on stretchers dominating the front pages, temporarily replacing pictures of rubble, dead children and wounded victims of the Israeli air strikes.
Support for Hezbollah seems to be rising, as the Egyptian press has become more sympathetic with the group, which is seen as fighting a hard battle alone. Al-Masry Al-Youm for instance chose to call Hezbollah “the resistance, as opposed to a militant group, while national newspapers refrain from labeling the Lebanese Shiite group, following weeks of subtle negative comments about its legitimacy.
The civilian death toll is rising in Lebanon, in spite of southern resistance from Hezbollah. Israeli air strikes repeatedly pounded Beirut s southern suburbs early Monday, and warplanes bombed Lebanon s eastern and southern region near the border with Israel, killing at least 15 civilians.
In Gaza, the Israeli offensive continues, coupled with the arrest of Aziz Al-Dweik, speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, an act that spurred criticism from the Egyptian government and from several political forces inside Egypt, including the Muslim Brotherhood and various members of parliament.
In their statement, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, headed by Ahmed Abul-Gheit, denounced the arrest, deeming it “a clear breach of international laws, contradicting all agreements between Palestine and Israel.
Abul-Gheit called on Israel to release Al-Dweik, who is also a member of Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement that represents the Palestinian government