Part 7:

The Muslim Brotherhood’s radical (really radical) Brethren

The Muslim Brotherhood has been quite fortunate with the “moderate”, “non-violent” labels so often applied to the group. Then again, it’s also an understandable characterization, because, hey, at least they aren’t Nazis. The Brotherhood is merely a transnational theocratic movement whose stated goal is the imposition of an all-encompassing totalitarian style of Islam with roots in fascist philosophies. Plus, in the 1970’s the Brotherhood renounced violence. In 1981 it re-pledged to strike a different path from its violent past following Answar Sadat’s assassination by violent Brotherhood splinter groups. Given the lack of violent acts directly attributed to the Brotherhood itself, and its consistent condemnation of terrorism (barring acts against Israel), it does appear that the Muslim Brotherhood has stood by that pledge. That is, if we neglect the clandestine support of powerful elements of Muslim Brotherhood and a good number of wealthy individuals from the Gulf states provided to a web of militant groups, through organizations like al-Taqwa, and the skimming proceeds from Saudi-funded and Brotherhood-affiliated institutions and charitable outfits. And, unfortunately, we have largley neglected this timely topic.

The “moderate” characterization is also understandable considering the groups the Muslim Brotherhood is often compared to. Violent attacks, even when they’re against a hated government (foreign or domestic) are by no means popular on the Arab street. This is especially the case in countries like Egypt, where militant Islamist attacks left over 1,000 Egyptians dead between 1992-1997 alone. The fact of the matter is that, regardless of religious or political views, few people on the planet approve of violent acts, especially those against civilian targets. And for the last several decades violent attacks by Egyptian religious radicals haven’t been carried out by the Muslim Brotherhood. Brotherhood offshoots have been the direct culprits, and their offshoots the Brotherhood itself denounces.

Similarly, the secular governments of the Middle East, which have been the most frequent targets of violent acts, also help bolster the Muslim Brotherhood’s moderate standing. Beyond their readily pparent non-undemocratic, often despotic nature (which includes torture), the totalitarian governments of the Arab world have aided the Brotherhood’s emergence as a “moderate” force by simply stamping out the competition. As one of the oldest clandestine movements in Egypt, and one based on traditional socio-economic fraternities that are integral to the local culture dating back to the 15th century, the Muslim Brotherhood has had an enormous advantage in a region where a lack of democracy as well as regions of endemic poverty have hindered the development of strong, genuinely moderate political and social forces capable of surviving inevitable crackdowns(1). In fact, the Brotherhood has had such a strong presence in Egypt that the successive regimes of Nasser and Sadat were repeatedly forced to make peace with it and both even tried to use the Brotherhood as a force to defeat Egypt’s Leftists.

And that brings us to another reason why the Muslim Brotherhood’s is quietly given a strange kind of free pass by many democratice governments around the globe: Its role as a valuable tool for governments in need of a powerful, committed, clandestine force. Not unlike the postwar Nazi diaspora, the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots have agendas of their own and have proven to be forces with a tendency to bite the hand that feeds them. Nasser endured two assassination attempts and Sadat fell in a hail of bullets from member of a Brotherhood offshoot that, today, comprises a major segment of al-Qaeda. The United States, too, has had its share of Brotherhood-“blow-backs” that are pretty obvious at this point.

By avoiding the touchy topic of the US’s historic relationship with Muslim Brotherhood, and the far-touchier topic of the US’s ties to the Brotherhood’s militant cousins, yet another potentially embarassing yet critically important chapter in our history has been successfully kept out of its rightful position in our public dialogue more than five years since 9/11. We’re going to attempt to provide examine those relationships essay by delving further into the history of the Egyptian Islamist movements. While Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are often pointed to as well-springs for extremist activity, the profound role Egypt, the home of the Muslim Brotherhood, has played in the emergence of the groups and philosophies that form significant elements of al-Qaeda is a vital topic for understanding the roots of the modern Islamist terrorist phenomena. Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, the blind Sheikh convicted as the 1993 mastermind of the World Trade center bombing, was the “spiritual guide” for Egypt’s largest militant Islamist group, Gama’a al-Islamiya. Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s “#2”, was the leader of Gama’a al-Islamiya’s close cousin, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, before he merged it into al-Qaeda in 1998. Both of these figures participated in the Afghan Mujahedeen efforts of the 1980’s. Just as important, and overlooked, is the complicated, often bewildering, relationship the United States and even the Britain have had with these two figures and the groups they lead. So let’s start off our look at the evolution of Egyptian Islamists over the past several decades with a look at the Blind Sheikh’s role in the World Trade Center Bombing of 1993 from an excellent award winning March 30, 1993 article in the Village Voice:

The CIA and the sheikh

The Agency Coddled Omar Abdel Rahman, Allowing
Him to Operate in the U.S.
Now This Unholy Alliance Has Blown Up in Our Faces.

Robert I. Friedman
March 30, 1993

The Village Voice

"They were talking all the time about targeting American symbols," says the
FBI undercover informant, "the Empire State Building, the Statue of
Liberty. A few of the guys came to the mosque to pray and go home. But
others gathered to conspire in small groups, talking in deep, low voices.
They see the U.S. as an imperialist power, the Big Satan, the root of all
the evil in the world."

The FBI operative, Mamdouh Zaki Zakhary, monitored the radical activities
at the El Salaam Mosque in Jersey City, which was the headquarters of the
terrorist cell that allegedly planned and carried our the of the World
Trade Center on February 26.
Zakhary, a heavily bearded Coptic Christian
from Egypt who owned an import-export firm in Jersey City, spent a year and
a half spying on the local Arab American community and the mosque,
beginning January 10, 1990. During this time, he watched the first two men
arrested in connection with the bombing. Mohammed Salameh and Ibraham
Elgabrowny, as well as the spiritual leader who may have inspired them, the
fiery blind fundamentalist cleric Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, who is infamous
throughout the Arab world for his alleged role in the assassination of
Egyptian president Anwar el-Sadat.

"The only thing they want is to establish an Islamic world," Zakhary told
The Village Voice during an interview from his home in Alexandria, Egypt.
"They will do anything to achieve it. You have to understand their desire
to strike out, to avenge anything that hurts Islam. I asked Elgabrowny,
'Why do you stay here [in Brooklyn]?' And he told me, I want to earn their
dollars so that I can stab them in the back."

Zakhary reported the group's subversive activities in regular meetings with
his FBI handler, Special Agent Kenneth Strange. But Zakhary, who was not
able to penetrate the cell's inner circle, had no advance warning that
there was a plan to commit one of the most sensational acts of foreign
terrorism on American soil before the bombing of the World Trade Center:
the assassination of the controversial right-wing Zionist leader Rabbi Meir

To say Rabbi Meir Kahane is “controversial” is a bit of an understatement, as he is an example of the obvious fact that religious extremism is not limited to Islam: Rabbi Meir Kahane was the founder of Kahanism, a right-wing nationalist ideology which promoted the expulsion of Arabs from all the Israeli occupied territories, the expansion of Israeli borders to include “Greater Israel” (ie. The Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank), and the imposition of a Jewish theocratic state. In 1968 Kahane started the Jewish Defense League (JDL) in the United States, which the FBI has labeled a right-wing terrorist group. Two JDL members, Irv Rubin and Earl Krugel, were convicted of a bomb plot against Arab American targets in 2001.

In 1971 Kahane moved to Israel and founded the Kach party to promote his ideology. Following two losing bids for the Knesset in 1976 and 1980, Kahane was elected in 1984 and served until 1988 when the Kach party was banned on the basis that it incited racism. “Kahane Chai” an offshoot of the Kach party, was started by Kahane’s son, Binyamin Kahane, after Meir Kahane’s assassination in 1990. Both the Kach Party and Kahane Chai were outlawed in Israel after a 1994 massacre of 30 Arabs worshippers by an Israeli settler by a member of the Kahanist movement. This violence was repeated with the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin at a peace rally by a member of “Eyal”, another Kach offshoot. Much like the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981, the assassin’s stated goal was to prevent Israeli-Palestinian peace.

As a teenager Meir Kahane was a member of the nationalist “Revisionist Zionist” wing of the Zionist movement. Meir Kahane’s father, Rabbi Charles Kahane, was a close friend of the ideology’s founder Zeev Jabotinsky. And as was the case with the many of the Muslim Brotherhood’s early figures, including founder Hassan al-Banna, a number of Revisionist Zionists were admirers of Mussolini’s corporate state. Today, both the Likud Party and Kahane’s own ideology have roots in the aggressive, militaristic, right-wing Zionist ideology.


On November 5, 1990, El Sayyid Nosair, a pudgy, bearded 34-year-old
Egyptian American and a core member of the El Salaam Mosque, calmly walked
up to the podium of a conference room in the Halloran House, a midtown
Manhattan hotel, after Kahane had finished, a one-hour speech. Moments
later, Kahane was shot once in the throat at point-blank range with a .357
magnum, and Nosair bolted outside. During a running gun battle down
Lexington Avenue, Nosair was wounded by an off-duty postal inspector and
finally captured by New York City police.

"At first, no one knew who Nosair was," recalls Zakhary, "so when I heard
about it I called the FBI and identified him,' I told them he was a member
of the mosque and that he was very close with the sheikh [Abdel Rahman]. I
told them that, four days before, I saw with my own eyes the sheikh meeting
with Nosair at a Lebanese restaurant on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. It was
7 p.m. There was Nosair, the sheikh, a person escorting the sheikh, and
another person I don't know. They were deep in conversation."

Shortly after police arrested Nosair they found startling evidence that the
Kahane killing was just the first in a planned spree.
Scrawled on a bank
calendar in Nosair's home was a "hit list" that included the names of a
U.S. representative, two federal judges, and a former assistant U.S.
Attorney. Local police searching Nosair's Cliffside Park, New Jersey, home
discovered a trove of terrorist paraphernalia: bombmaking manuals, AK-47
cartridges, a stolen New York State license plate, and a bullet-riddled
target board. There were also a number of passports and driver's licenses
under various names, as well as articles about the assassination of Anwar

But despite Zakhary's reports, Nosair's hit list, and the suspicious cache
at his home, the authorities seemed to be downplaying all signs of a
terrorist conspiracy. Within 12 hours of the shooting, New York City chief
of detectives Joseph Borrelli declared the Kahane assassination was the
work of a "lone gunman." Borrelli added, '"There was nothing found [at
Nosair's house] that would stir your imagination."

One New York City detective close to the investigation told me that the
case was handled like a routine homicide. "They [the NYPD] wanted to make
it as simple as possible," said the detective. "It was treated as a
homicide at the precinct level. The higher-ups didn't want to take it
further. The police department stated that they got the gunman and that
was it. We're not equipped to investigate international terrorism.

But the FBI is. On the eve of Nosair's trial, a frustrated federal
investigator told me that he didn't believe Nosair had acted alone.
"There's nothing to prove that Nosair took it upon himself to [kill
Kahane]. There are many conspiracy theories. We hit a lot of dry wells."
Yet the federal agent said that the NYPD had jurisdiction in the case and
that the FBI's investigation was "superficial."

Whether it’s FBI, CIA, or local police authorities engaged in terrorism-related investigations, a common theme is that of the field agent diligently sounding the alarm only to see their higher-ups downplay or obfuscate the investigation. And with the cases of FBI agents Robert Wright, Colleen Rowley, and Ken Williams, 9/11 was no exception.

One of the more recent examples of an FBI agent finding his investigation thwarted from above is Mike German. In 2002, Mike German, an undercover FBI agent with experience infiltrating domestic neo-Nazis and White Supremacist groups, got word of a group of Americans that might be planning to assist in money-laundering operations for overseas Islamist terrorist groups. According to German, FBI officials “sat on his request, botched the investigation, falsified documents to discredit their own sources, then froze him out and made him a ‘pariah.’ “ German became a Whistle-blower, decrying the culture of protected mismanagment, one that wages vindictive campaigns against those willing to speak out, including a campaign against German that destroyed his career. In December 2005 Justice Department investigator’s agreed with the bulk of German’s charges, finding that the investigation was mishandled and German himself was “retaliated against”.

Similarly, the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing investigation saw its share of eyebrows raised over possible involvement of Andreas Strassmeir - a German neo-nazi and son of prominent German politician Günter Strassmeir - with the planning and execution of the attacks. The questions are one of many regarding the bombing that had been subsequently dismissed by the government and in press reports. But recently released FBI documents acquired under the Freedom of Information Act have refocused interest on the Strassmeir connection and charges of possible Department of Justice obstruction in a matter that won’t go away. This case, along with FBI agent Mike German’s experiences and Ahmed Huber’s openly admitted ties to US White Supremacist groups, remind us of the transnational ties between extremist groups and the worrying history of law enforcement obstruction from above when investigating these groups.


What investigators would have found if they had done their job thoroughly
is that Sheikh Abdel Rahman and El Sayyid Nosair were at the heart of a
far-flung terrorist conspiracy. A magnet for the angry and dispossessed of
the Muslim world, Abdel Rahman, through his violent preaching, has been
linked to dozens of terrorist incidents in Egypt and now to the attack on
the World Trade Center. an act he says he deplores

In the aftermath of the bombing, many are wondering why there wasn't a
comprehensive, wide-ranging investigation of Meir Kahane's murder. One
possible explanation is offered by a counterterrorism expert for the FBI.
At a meeting in a Denny's coffee shop in Los Angeles a week after the
Kahane assassination, the 20-year veteran field agent met with one of his
top undercover operatives, a burly 33-year-old FBI contract employee who
had been a premier bomber for a domestic terrorist group before being
"turned" and becoming a government informant.

"Why aren't we going after the sheikh [Abdel Rahman]?" demanded the
undercover man.

"It's hands-off," answered the agent.

"Why?" asked the operative.

"It was no accident that the sheikh got a visa and that he's still in the
country," replied the agent, visibly upset. "He's here under the banner of
national security, the State Department, the NSA [National Security
Agency], and the CIA." The agent pointed out that the sheikh had been
granted a tourist visa, and later a green card, despite the fact that he
was on a State Department terrorist watch-list that should have barred him
from the country. He's an untouchable, concluded the agent. "I haven't
seen the lone-gunman theory advocated [so forcefully] since John F.

Yep, the Sheikh was apparently here with US government sponsorship, and far from the only radical Islamist to receive our support. While US’s ties with Sheikh Rahman originate with his role in the Afghan Mujahedeen support effort of the 80’s, we saw in Part 5 how the CIA’s support for Egyptian Islamists began with in the 1950’s with Said Ramadan, the Muslim Brotherhood’s international leader. It could also be said that the roots of the US’s ties with radical Islam, especially radical Sunni Islam, go back to Roosevelt’s signing of the Quincy Pact which cemented the “special” relationship between United States and Saudi Arabia that has insured US oil companies access to Saudi oil in exchange for guarantees of security. Regardless of the particular starting point, the United States has had a long, close, and often complicated, relationship with Saudi Arabia and the Muslim Brotherhood, two of the primary promoters of Islamist movements around the globe.

Nor are the above FBI agents and contract employees the only undercover operatives to wonder about the rational for a higher up’s decisions. Emad Salem, the government informer at the center of the World Trade Center bombing plot, raised some very disturbing questions regarding FBI forknowledge of the bombings. Mr. Salem, a 43-year-old former Egyptian Army officer who was working undercover for the FBI and had infiltrated the group that carried out the attacks, questioned why the FBI hadn’t prevented the bombings from taking place in the first place since Mr. Salem had taken the lead in building the bomb. In what proved to be a major embarrassment for the Bureau, Salem secretly taped hundreds of hours of conversations with his FBI handlers which included the initial plans to replace the explosives in the bomb with harmless powder, but were apparently thwarted by the FBI handlers’ supervisor. Mr Salem’s role in the plot was brought up in the trial, along with the fact that he was paid over $1 million by the US government, and the official surveillance tapes of Sheikh Rahman and the others charged. Mr. Salem’s secret tapes of the FBI, however, were not allowed in court and the FBI denies any foreknowledge of the bombings.


Why might the U.S. government protect a militant sheikh linked to numerous
acts of terrorism?

Sheikh Abdel Rahman left Egypt in 1990, in the wake of a series of bloody
clashes between his militant fundamentalist group, Al Gamaat al Islamia,
and the secular Egyptian government. The sheikh traveled to Pakistan, where
he met with representatives of the Afghan mujahedeen, who were providing
training for his underground terrorist group in Egypt, the very same
mujahedeen who were receiving financial aid and training from the CIA in
the war to rid Afghanistan of the Soviet Army.
Even after the Soviets
pulled out of Afghanistan in February 1989, the U.S. and the Saudis
continued to aid the mujahedeen through Pakistan until December 1990, in an
attempt to topple the Afghan government.

According to a very high-ranking Egyptian official, when the sheikh moved
to Brooklyn in May 1990, he worked closely with the CIA, helping to channel
a steady flow of money, men, and guns to mujahedeen bases in Afghanistan
and Pakistan.
The camps became a mecca for disaffected youth from across
the Muslim world.

When it was revealed that Sheikh Rahman was issued a US Visa in 1990 in Sudan despite being on the State Department’s watchlist (which was attributed to clerical error) an uproar in Washington called for an overhaul of the system. The CIA and State Department were also forced to admit that the person delivering the Visa to Rahman in Sudan was a CIA employee, which they asserted was a coincidence(5).


Of course, the mujahedeen's agenda was not exactly the same as the CIA's.
While Abdel Rahman was perfectly happy to accept CIA help to chase the
godless Russians out of Afghanistan, it didn't stop him from teaching his
recruits his revolutionary agenda. The camps, says the high-ranking
Egyptian official, were "schools for jihad," or holy war. The sacred
mission was to be waged on two fronts. In the Middle East, his holy
warriors were to overthrow secular, pro-Western Arab regimes and replace
them with austere Islamic theocracies. The main target was Egypt, the
largest and most powerful nation in the Arab world.
The sheikh believes,
the high-ranking Egyptian official says, "that if you take Egypt, you take
all the Middle East." Mamdouh Zaki Zakhary concurs: "Abdel Rahman
repeatedly preached that Egypt is the hand of Satan, and that you have to
cut off the hand of Satan immediately."

The Great Satan itself, of course, is America, a state that, in the eyes of
the sheikh and his supporters, has routinely committed atrocities against
the Muslim world. "Americans," said the sheikh on a recent Arabic-language
radio broadcast, "are descendants of apes and pigs who have been feeding
from the dining tables of the Zionists, Communism, and colonialism." He
advocates the destabilization of the U.S. by violent attacks on its symbols
of prestige and power, while proselytizing among African Americans and
other disenfranchised minorities. Abdel Rahman's "long-term goal is to
weaken U.S. society and to show Arab rulers that the U.S. is not an
invulnerable superpower," says Matti Steinberg, an expert on Islamic
fundamentalism at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

According to Western intelligence sources, Abdel Rahman has 10,000 fanatic
disciples in
Egypt and several hundred in America. But, as far as anyone
knows, he never issues them direct orders. "He talks about the importance
of jihad in the U.S. without being concrete," says Matti Steinberg. "It's a
form of spiritual brainwashing called Dawa. All it takes is a few angry
people to understand his message." A high-ranking Egyptian official agrees:
"This man is instigating violence in a very clever way. You can't really
hope to establish a direct link" between the sheikh and the World Trade

As we’ve already seen with the terror-financing investigations, establishing a direct link between the individuals charged with terrorist acts and their spiritual leaders or financial/ideological sponsors is a difficult task. It is part of a larger law-enforcement pattern where convictions of lower-level actors are far more common than successful prosecution of their leadership. Whether it’s business corruption, organized crime, or bureaucratic malfeasance, leaders prove time and again their adeptness at avoiding accountability.


Just four months before the bombing, Egyptian intelligence officials warned
the U.S. that the sheikh's principal mosques in America, the El Salaam
Mosque and the El Farouq Masjid Mosque in Brooklyn, were "hotbeds of
terrorist activity," and that the fiery blind Muslim preacher was plotting
a new round of terrorist attacks in Egypt. "There were many, many contacts
between Cairo and Washington," says the official.

The FBI received a violent reminder of the sheikh's agenda on November 12,
1992, when a terrorist hit squad linked to Abdel Rahman machine-gunned a
busload of Western tourists in Egypt, injuring five Germans.
In the last
year, three Western tourists have been killed in Egypt and at least two
dozen have been wounded, crippling the country's $2.5 billion tourist
industry. When asked on an Arabic-language radio show in Washington, D.C.,
about terrorist attacks on foreign tourists, the sheikh replied, "Force is
used with tourists. But tourists should use good manners. Tourism is not
nightclubs, alcohol, gambling, fornicating. They should stay away from
this behavior, the spread of AIDS and corruption with which they have
filled Egypt."

Not all of the red flags regarding criminal activities of groups tied to Sheikh Rahman were of a violent nature. In 1987, former New York police detective Bill Jacobson was hired by NCH, the nation’s top coupon clearinghouse, to investigate cases of possible fraud. What Mr Jacobson uncovered was nothing less than a nationwide money-laundering and coupon fraud operation raising millions of dollars a month for groups like the PLO and Sheikh Rahman. One storefronts involved, Hamada video, even employed Mahmud Abouhalima, who was later convicted for his involvement in the 1993 WTC bombing. In addition to discovering the fund-raising operation, M.r Jacobson also discovered a lack of any law-enforcement interest in pursuing the case (6).

Skipping down in the Village Voice article, we’re now going to finish our look at this Village Voice article with some of the history leading up to the United State’s covert relationship with the blind Sheikh…

In Egypt, Abdel Rahman's name lives in infamy for his role in the October
6, 1981, assassination of Anwar Sadat, who was cut down in a hail of
grenade and automatic-weapons fire while he reviewed a military parade. In
1980, Abdel Rahman had issued a fatwa, or religious decree, that called
Sadat an infidel for turning his back on Islam and for making peace with
. This made Sadat a prime target for assassination, an act eventually
executed by the operational arm of Abdel Rahman's organization, Al Gamaat
al Islamia, which had penetrated the Egyptian army and security services.

During a tumultuous trial in which the defendants publicly charged they had
been tortured by police interrogators, the sheikh was acquitted
. The
sheikh, who continued to agitate against the Egyptian government while his
followers carried on a campaign of lethal bombings, was imprisoned for
three months in 1985, for one month in 1986, and for four months in 1989.
He finally left his homeland in 1990, saying, "It was too much for me."

After brief stays in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, the sheikh slipped into
Pakistan, where he forged operational links with mujahedeen strongman
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the head of a radical Afghan Islamic fundamentalist
army that was being covertly backed by the CIA.
According to Stephen Van
Evera, an affiliate of Harvard's Center for Science and International
Affairs, Hekmatyar "strongly chastised the United States and its 'immoral'
society, even while Washington lavished him with aid."
In Hekmatyar's
guerrilla training camps, American advisers taught everything from using
explosives to shooting down enemy planes with shoulder-held Stinger

If the story of the United States and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in the 80’s is a bit ironic, the situation today is far more troubling, and indicative of the ongoing ambiguity of the role Pakistan plays in the “War on Terror” being currently waged in Afghanistan. Like the drug-fueled wars of South America, Hekmatyar become one of Afghanistan’s top heroin exporters. With the fall of the Afghan Communist government in 1992 Hekmatyar became prime minister in a power sharing agreement between the victorious rebel forces. The agreement dissolved in less than a week and Afghanistan descended back into civil war when President Mujaddidi was nearly killed in a rocket attack blamed on Hekmatyar. Over the next four years 70% of Kabul was destroyed and 50,000 civilians killed. 1994 saw the emergence of the Taliban, whose lightning offensive culminated in the capturing of Kabul within two years. And in a replay of the Pakistani aid started in the mid 70’s for Afghanistan’s warring factions (including those of Gulbuddin Hekmaytar and the legendary Ahmed Shah Massoud), the Taliban had a heavy dose of Pakistani backing.

With the falling of Kabul into Taliban hands, Hekmatyar spent the next six years in exile in Iran. In the wake of the attacks of 9/11, calls were made for the Iranian expulsion of the strongly anti-American Hekmatyar who had made clear his opposition to foreign troops re-entering Afghanistan. Following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, Iran did just that, expelling Hekmatyar in February 2002, days before a visit by Afghani President Hamid Karzai. Perhaps not surprisingly, Hekmatyar returned to Afghanistan where his hardline Islamic party, Hezb e-Islami, had already allied itself with the Taliban. Four years later, Hekmatyar and his group appear to be part of alliance between the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and other groups operating along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border that continue to wage a war against the Afghan government and Coalition forces.

Hekmatyar, Osama bin Laden, and Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad and Osama’s right-hand man, share more than an ideological zeal: They all have a rather amazing penchant for getting away. In March of 2004 Zawahiri was believed to be surrounded and under heavy bombardment by Pakistani troops in the border region of Waziristan, a region that is today essentially a base camp for Taliban fighters waging war in Afghanistan. But alas, Zawahiri was not captured or killed. In 2005, Pakistani President Musharraf publicly questioned the notion that Osama bin Laden was also hiding out in Pakistan, and challenged those who think otherwise to provide his location. In January 2006, a US airstrike in Pakistan along the Afghan border targeting Zawahiri highlights the strength and public support of Islamist groups within Pakistan and the difficulties both the US and Pakistani government face in pursuing suspected Al-Qaeda members believed to be within that region (It also just might highlight Zawahiri’s poetic prowess, depending on one’s taste). Following the airstrike, which resulted in civilian deaths and appears to have been based on faulty information, thousands of Pakistanis across the country spent days in anti-US protests, prompting the Pakistani government to claim that it did not give the US permission to execute the strike.

In early September of 2006 Pakistan signed a peace treaty with the separatist Islamist tribes of Waziristan, a base camp for Taliban fighters waging war in Afghanistan. The agreement also quietly included the Pakistani government taking a hands-off approach to militant leaders affiliated with al-Qaeda. All of these events remind us of the difficult situation we face given the Pakistani ISI’s long-standing support of Islamist militants including Al-Qaeda. Unfortunately, and quite disturbingly, it appears that the Pakistani government continues its strange, murky and at times baffling role as both a sponsor and an enemy of Islamist militants throughout the region. It’s a role that we’ve already seen the US is quite familiar with. And as we’re about to see, it’s a role that successive Egyptian leaders have been trying to play for years.

The ever-evolving Egyptian Islamists

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s evolution from a Pakistani and US trained leader/drug lord and in the 70’s and 80’s to a staunch enemy of the United States is, by now, just one of many examples of the profound “blow-back” that has grown out of the West’s long relationship with the Islamic world’s many inter-related Islamist factions. While it’s possible to characterize it as a relationship pre-dating the Cold War, with the US developing ties with Saudi monarchy back in the 1930’s, the shape of today’s militant Islamic groups is heavily influenced by the Cold War policies and events of the past half century. The 70’s, in particular was decade when Islamist movements exploded in popularity. It was also a time when the Muslim Brotherhood’s influence on Egyptian society grew as well, and it is worth repeating (as boy do we love repeating things in these essays) that Egypt, as the regional Arab power, is an often-forgotten historical focal point for Sunni Islamist movements in the Arab world.

So let’s take a moment to review some of Egypt’s Cold War history. In particular we’re going to focus on the history that led up to the creation of groups like Ayman al-Zawahiri’s Egyptian Islamic Jihad and Sheikh Abdel Rahman’s Gama’a al-Islamiya. Both groups became part of the Afghan Mujahedeen effort and both have factions that either merged into Al-Qaeda or work closely with it. And yet, both groups, especially Gama’a al-Islamiya, also have factions that appear to have accepted non-violence after years of militant struggle. So in addition to the need to understand the Egyptian Islamist militant groups in order to understand “al-Qaeda”, these groups also represent an invaluable case study in the constant merging, morphing, and fractionalizing nature of complicated groups representing even more complicated social movements that unfortunately all tend to fall under the label of “terrorists”.

Nasser gives the Brotherhood a shortlived second chance
In 1964, a decade after the Muslim Brotherhood was banned in Egypt following an assassination attempt on Nasser, an attempt was made to rehabilitate the fraternity by declaring a general amnesty for Brotherhood members. This was done in part to counter the growing influence of the Communists in Egypt, who had also been recently released from prison. Interestingly, it was during this period that the CIA began providing logistical and financial aid to the Brotherhood to help destabilize Nasser, who had been moving Egypt towards the Soviets since the nationalization of the Suez Canal in 1956 (ah, that lovely fog of war).

The Muslim Brotherhood immediately went to work on the Islamization of Egypt’s society, while its militant branch still sought to overthrow Nasser. In 1965 another crackdown ensued after Nasser announced a foiled Brotherhood plot. The Brotherhood was banned, thousands of militants were jailed, and three of the Brotherhood’s historic leaders were hanged, including Sayid Qutb. Qutb, who we looked at in the Part 5, had spent a decade in prison after the 1954 banning of the Brotherhood where he wrote a 30-volume commentary on the Koran that is considered to be one of the foundational collections justifying modern militant Islamic fundmentalism. Following Egypt’s disastrous defeat in the 1967 Six-day war, Sayid Qutb’s writings began to increase in popularity.

Also of note from the 1965 crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood is that Saudi Arabia was accused, by name, for supporting and financing the Muslim Brotherhood for the first time during the subsequent trials.

The Islamist renewal of the 70’s
In 1970, Nasser died of a heart attack, Vice President Anwar Sadat ascended to the Egyptian presidency, and the Muslim Brotherhood was re-legalized in Sadat’s bid to reduce Egypt’s partnership with the Soviets and thwart his enemies in the Egyptian left. Sadat had much better relations with the Brotherhood than Nasser, having been the contact between Nasser’s “Free Officers” and Hassan al-Banna in the 1940’s (and, presumably, having not been nearly assassinated by Brotherhood members a couple of times probably helped in their relations). In 1955 Sadat chaired the World Muslim Congress (WMC)(4), a staunchly anti-semitic international Islamic organization with many ties to the far-Right. Started in 1931 at the urging the Grand Mufti, the WMC took a generally anti-American tone until the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, when the WMC worked closely with the US and Saudi intelligence and effectively acted as the Muslim branch of the Nazi-infested World Anti-Communist League.

In 1971 Sadat registered Islam in the Egyptian Constitution as the state religion and the Muslim Brotherhood leaders were allowed to return from exile. Sadat’s program, implemented with the encouragement of the Saudis and the US as a method for defeat the Egyptian leftists, triggered significant changes in Egypt’s health, education, and economic sectors where the Islamization programs were most significant. Sadat’s hope of mainstreaming instead of suppressing the country’s Islamists proved ineffective at reducing militant attacks inside Egypt or against the government. Within a year of the Brotherhood’s return from exile serious violence broke out between the armed wing of the Brotherhood and the Egyptian Copt community, forcing the Brotherhood back into semi-clandestine status for several more years (5).

Sadat saw Egypt’s Leftists as a greater threat than Egypt’s Islamists. At Sadat’s urging, Islamic fraternities were started in the 70’s on campuses across Egypt as part of the general attempt to counter pro-Soviet Leftists. These Islamic fraternities were form the core of Gama’a al-Islamiya (also spelled “Gama’at al’Islamiya” and “Gamaat al’Islamiya”, and commonly referred to as its translation “the Islamic Group”). Gama’a al’Islamiya has been an avowed enemy of the Egyptian regime since early in its inception. And, as we’ve mentioned, it was the group spiritually lead by Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, currently in prison for his involvement with the 1993 WTC bombing. Gama’a al’Islamiya’s more radical cousin, Egyptian Islamic Jihad (also called “Islamic Jihad”, “Egyptian Jihad”, “Al-Jihad”, and the “EIJ”), was formed in the late 70’s, which was a period of increased radicalization of Islamists in Egypt following the Arab World’s second humiliation with the 1973 Yom Kippur war and Sadat’s subsequent Egypt-Israeli peace initiatives. Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s right man man, was one of Egyptian Islamic Jihad’s founding members. Let’s take a look at Gama’s al-Islamiya’s and Egyptian Islamic Jihad’s early years with this excellent 2002 article in the New Yorker by Lawrence Wright on the history of Ayaman al-Zawahiri:

The Muslim Brothers, who were forbidden to act as a genuine political party, began colonizing professional and student unions. By 1973, a new band of young fundamentalists had appeared on campuses, first in the southern part of the country, then in Cairo. They called themselves Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya—the Islamic Group. Encouraged by Sadat's acquiescent government, which covertly provided them with arms so that they could defend themselves against any attacks by Marxists and Nasserites, the Islamic Group, which was uncompromising in its militancy, radicalized most of Egypt's universities. Soon it became fashionable for male students to grow beards and for female students to wear the veil.

Zawahiri claimed that by 1974 his group had grown to forty members. In April of that year, another group of young Islamist activists seized weapons from the arsenal of a military school, with the intention of marching on the Arab Socialist Union, where Sadat was preparing to address the nation's leaders. The attempted coup d'état was very much along the lines of what Zawahiri had been advocating: rather than revolution, he favored a sudden, surgical military action, which would be far less bloody. The coup was put down, but only after a shootout that left eleven dead.

The Cairo University medical school, where Zawahiri was specializing in surgery, was boiling with Islamic activism. And yet Zawahiri's underground life was a secret even to his family, according to a recent article in the Egyptian press, which quoted his younger sister, Heba, on the subject. It was also a secret to his friends and classmates. "Ayman never joined political activities during this period," I was told by Dr. Essam Elerian, who was a colleague of Zawahiri's and is now the leader of the Muslim Brothers in Egypt. "He was a witness from outside."

Eventually, in the late seventies, the various underground groups began to discover each other. Four of these cells, including Zawahiri's, merged to form Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Their leader was a young man named Kamal Habib. Like Zawahiri, Habib, who had graduated in 1979 from Cairo University's Faculty for Economics and Political Science, was the kind of driven intellectual who might have been expected to become a leader of the country but turned violently against the status quo. Arrested in 1981 on charges related to the assassination of Sadat, he was released from prison after serving a ten-year sentence. In Cairo earlier this year, Habib told me, "Most of our generation belonged to the middle or the upper-middle class. As children, we were expected to advance in conventional society, but we didn't do what our parents dreamed for us. And this is still a puzzling issue for us. For example, Ayman finished his degree as a doctor, specializing in surgery, and set up a clinic in a duplex apartment that he shared with his parents in Maadi. Anybody else would have been happy with this. But Ayman was not happy, and this led him into trouble."

In addition to these newly emerging young militant groups, the old guard of Egyptian Islamism, the Muslim Brotherhood, saw a split between the Egyptian leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood and Said Ramadan’s Swiss-based faction in exile during this period. In 1976, the Egyptian leadership of the Brotherhood was for a political reformation of the Brotherhood and peaceful, active collaboration with Egyptian government. The Ramadan-led faction, still backed by the Saudis at this time, wanted greater power-sharing with the government and an Islamist program implemented in return for moderation (6). So great was the call for Islamist reform amongst some segments of the populace that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt actually lost ground amongst students during this time, with groups like Gama’a al’ Islamiya condemning the apparently non-violent Brotherhood’s attempts at reformism and working with the Egyptian regime. But the Brotherhood had also infiltrated the fraternities like Gama’a al’Islamiya and maintained its dominant position over Egyptian Islamists movements(7). One has to wonder how genuine the calls for peace were by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Egyptian leaders, considering it was infiltrating the new groups that became its violent successors.

The divide between rival factions narrowed with Sadat’s trip to Jerusalem in December 1977, making him the first Arab leader ever to visit the Jewish state. The Brotherhood became openly critical of Sadat, and relations between Sadat and the Brotherhood only worsened as the 70’s wore on. For the first time ever the Muslim Brotherhood even joined forces with the Egyptian left in denouncing Sadat’s peace initiatives. Hostile at the start of the 1978 Camp David peace accords, the Brotherhood was calling for the army to prepare for the necessary “holy war” with the signing of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty in 1979. This led to the temporarily seizure of their newspapers, the banning their political activities on universities, and Sadat openly calling the Egyptian Brotherhood’s leadership a threat to state security.

It was during the late 70’s that Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman developed close relations with Gama’a al’Islamiya. Playing the role of a visionary blind sheikh during his tensure as a professor as the University of Assiut, Abdel Rahman helped radicalize these student groups during this time of tension with Sadat. A Muslim Brotherhood member since the 1960’s, Abdel Rahman had spent time in jail during Nassers first 1954 Islamist repression. In 1977 he toured the Middle East, traveling to Saudi Arabia several times where he befriended Osama bin Laden and even met Sudanese leader (and close bin Laden ally) Hassan al-Tourabi(8).

The Blind Sheik’s fatwa against the Soviets and Sadat
The two years following the Israel-Egypt peace treaty saw the Brotherhood becoming more and more vocal over Egypt’s normalization of relations with Israeli, with additional measures taken by the Egyptian government to reign in the Brotherhood and a massive crackdown in September of 1981. On October 6, 1981 Sadat was assassinated by an Islamist gunman who part of a secret cell of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad that had infiltrated the Egyptian military. While the Egyptian Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility, it appears to have been more of a joint effort by the EIJ and its close cousin, Gama’a al’Islamiya. Sheikh Omar Adbel Rahman was accused of having issued a fatwa declaring Sadat an infidel for making peace with Israel in 1980, making Sadat an assassination target. Again Rahman was released for due to lack of evidence. Two other trials would mostly confirm Sheikh Rahman’s role as the as the spiritual guide of Gama’a Islamiya.

Ayman al-Zawahiri’s role in Sadat’s assassination is, like Sheikh Rahman’s, tangential, but still significant, in that Zawahiri was involved in the recruitment of a number of military members to the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Let’s take a closer look at Zawahiri’s and the EIJ’s role in Sadat’s assassination by turning again to Lawrence Wright’s excellent 2002 New Yorker article:

Zawahiri envisioned not merely the removal of the head of state but a complete overthrow of the existing order. Stealthily, he had been recruiting officers from the Egyptian military, waiting for the moment when Islamic Jihad had accumulated enough strength in men and weapons to act. His chief strategist was Aboud al-Zumar, a colonel in the intelligence branch of the Egyptian Army and a military hero of the 1973 war with Israel. Zumar's plan was to kill the most powerful leaders of the country and capture the headquarters of the Army and the state security, the telephone-exchange building, and the radio-and-television building. From there, news of the Islamic revolution would be broadcast, unleashing—he expected—a popular uprising against secular authority all over the country. It was, Zawahiri later testified, "an elaborate artistic plan."

One of the members of Zawahiri's cell was a daring tank commander named Isam al-Qamari. Zawahiri, in his memoir, characterizes Qamari as "a noble person in the true sense of the word. . . . Most of the sufferings and sacrifices that he endured willingly and calmly were the result of his honorable character." Although Zawahiri was the senior member of the Maadi cell, he often deferred to Qamari, who had a natural sense of command—a quality that Zawahiri notably lacked. "Qamari saw that something was missing in Ayman," said Yasser al-Sirri, an alleged member of Jihad—he denies any affiliation with the group—who took refuge in London after receiving a death sentence in Egypt. "He told Ayman, 'No matter what group you belong to, you cannot be its leader.' "

According to Zawahiri's memoir, Qamari began smuggling weapons and ammunition from Army strongholds and storing them in Zawahiri's medical clinic in Maadi. In February of 1981, as the weapons were being transferred from the clinic to a warehouse, police arrested a man carrying a bag loaded with guns, along with maps that showed the location of all the tank emplacements in Cairo. Qamari, realizing that he would soon be implicated, dropped out of sight, but several of his officers were arrested. Zawahiri inexplicably stayed put.

The evidence gathered in these arrests alerted government officials to a new threat from the Islamist underground. That September, Sadat ordered a roundup of more than fifteen hundred people, including many prominent Egyptians—not only Islamists but also intellectuals with no religious leanings, Marxists, Coptic Christians, student leaders, and various journalists and writers. The dragnet missed Zawahiri but captured most of the other Islamic Jihad leaders. However, a military cell within the scattered ranks of Jihad had already set in motion a hastily conceived plan: a young Army recruit, Lieutenant Khaled Islambouli, had offered to kill Sadat during an appearance at a military parade.

Zawahiri later testified that he did not learn of the plan until nine o'clock on the morning of October 6, 1981, a few hours before it was scheduled to be carried out. One of the members of his cell, a pharmacist, brought him the news at his clinic. "In fact, I was astonished and shaken," Zawahiri told interrogators. In his opinion, the action had not been properly thought through. The pharmacist proposed that they do something to help the plan succeed. "But I told him, 'What can we do?' " Zawahiri told the interrogators. He said that he felt it was hopeless to try to aid the conspirators. "Do they want us to shoot up the streets and let the police detain us? We are not going to do anything." Zawahiri went back to his patient. When he learned, a few hours later, that the military exhibition was still in progress, he assumed that the operation had failed and that everyone connected with it had been arrested.

The parade commemorated the eighth anniversary of the 1973 war. Surrounded by dignitaries, including several American diplomats, President Sadat was saluting the troops when a military vehicle veered toward the reviewing stand. Lieutenant Islambouli and three other conspirators leaped out and tossed grenades into the stand. "I have killed the Pharaoh!" Islambouli cried, after emptying the cartridge of his machine gun into the President, who stood defiantly at attention until his body was riddled with bullets.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which had spent decades declaring its hegemony over Egypt’s various Islamist movements, got much of the blame for the assassination. Since Sadat’s assassination, the Brotherhood has vigorously proclaimed, to this day, its dedication to “peaceful reformism” (9). This is important to note, because the veil of “moderateness” and “non-violence” that is an integral part of the Brotherhood’s public face, including in the United States, emerged as a defensive political response to the assassination of Sadat by a group with close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

A curious side-note to the Sadat assassination involves Mustafa Mashhur, the “supreme guide” of the Muslim Brotherhood from 1996-2002. Having been a member since 1943, Mashhur had taken part in the rebuilding of the Brotherhood’s “Special Order”, the group’s military branch, in the early 70’s upon Sadat’s release of the Brotherhood members from prison. Just a few days prior to Sadat’s assassination he left Egypt. Mashhur returned in 1986 to focus on developing the Brotherhood’s international organization servicing the Arab fighters in Afghanistan. Considering Mr Mashhur’s history, his choice as “supreme guide” in the 90’s certainly does little to dispel doubts that the Brotherhood’s commitment to non-violent reform is as strong as they claim (10).

After Sadat’s assassination
The 80’s were a time of internal crackdown on Egypt’s Islamists as well as and the external battle cry to “holy war” in Afghanistan. That cry for holy war drew in many of today’s Islamist militant veterans. Even with the Afghan war effort channeling much of the Islamist energy and manpower, the 80’s saw the resurgence of violence by Gama’a al-Islamiya and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. We’re now going to review that period with an excerpt from this excellent paper by Cairo professor Mustapha Kamel Al-Sayyid. While he is amongst those that see the Muslim Brotherhood as a genuinely non-violent movement today, Mr Sayyid’s general thesis that all of the various Islamist movements should not be characterized as one entity is quite apt (and given the size of the Brotherhood and the factions within it, he is at the very least partly correct with regard to the Brotherhood). Still, while there do exist networks like the Muslim Brotherhood or factions of the Saudi government that tend to exert an influence on a wide variety of Islamists groups, in the interests of avoiding the horrific pitfall of creating a self-fulfilling “War of Civilizations” it is still vitally important to remember that Islamism is not a uniform phenomena.

So let’s review some of the recent history of the Egyptian Islamist militant by taking a quick look at My Sayyid’s excellent paper “The Other Face of the Islamist Movement” (and with a note that Mr. Al-Sayyid spells Gama’a al-Islamiya as “al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya”):

Waxing and Waning of Political Violence. The assassination of President Sadat was followed by mass arrests of Islamic militants and by the trial of several hundred of them. Although these arrests and trials did nothing to decrease the grievances of the Islamists, the years from 1983 to 1987 were a period of relative calm in Egypt. This was probably due to a tacit understanding that local security forces would tolerate al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya as long as the group limited its activities to preaching in Upper Egypt. It is certain that senior police officers met with some leaders of al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya to convince them of the benefits they would get if they ceased armed operations. In return, al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya leaders asked for the release of their colleagues in prison and an end to the practice of torture. Tal’at Fu’ad Qasem, leader of al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya’s military wing, explained that this policy of restraint was adopted to deter the government’s attacks on the members of the organization.23

On top of Talaat Fouad Qassem’s (also spelled “Tal’at Fu’ad Qasem”) important role the leader of Gama’a al-Islamiya’s military wing, he was also a key organizer of the expansion of the Mujahedeen’s presence to Bosnia in the early 90’s, which we are going cover in more detail in Part 8.

Also, if you’ve just read the part about how Gama’a al-Islamiya’s negotiations with the Egyptian government involved bargaining for an end to the policy of torture, and you thought to yourself “oh wow! Maybe we should be torturing terrorists so then we can negotiate an end to that policy later with them!”, there are a points you should consider on top of all of the obvious reasons why torture is abhorent and un-American: A large number of the militants that are affiliated with al-Qaeda sustained torture and humiliation in prisons in Egypt and elsewhere. According to Lawrence Wright’s article, it was the years in Egyptian prisons enduring torture that converted many of the figures we’re examing from dedicated, militants that wanted to engage in relatively bloodless coups to topple the Egyptian government into individuals that were instilled with a sense of martyrdom and consumed with a violent rage and desire for revenge. As Saad Eddin Ibrahim, an American University sociologist that interviewed al-Zawahiri in 1984 after he was released from prison, put it, “Torture does have that effect on people". Yes, these guys were pretty ideologically scary, and even willing to make assassination attempts on Egyptian leaders before they were sent to prison and tortured, but they left prison extra scary individuals, hell-bent on revenge.

And if your response to that is, “well that’s why it’s so great that we don’t have to apply Habeas corpus to these suspected terrorists. Once we torture them and radicalize them we can just lock ‘em up forever!”, there is a point regarding the recent history of the War on Terror you should consider beyond: There are already been cases where individuals have been kidnapped by the CIA, whisked away to some country (like Syria), tortured, and then found to either be innocent or victims of misidentification. So, on top of all the reasons why we should be torturing people that are actually guilty of involvement with terrorism, there’s will also be innocent people that are subjected to lives of imprisonment and torture.

And if your response to that is, “well, if we have to whisk away innocent people, and detain them indefinitely, and maybe torture them every now and then for as long as we we want, well that’s the price I’m willing to have them pay for my security”, there is a something you should consider: You just might be a psycho.


During this period of quiescence by the militant groups, the Muslim Brothers achieved impressive electoral successes, particularly in 1987, when nearly fifty-eight candidates of the Islamic Alliance, including thirty-five Muslim Brothers, gained legislative seats. The political success of the moderates, however, did not convince the radicals to pursue a peaceful strategy. On the contrary, in 1987 both al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya and the Jihad Organization escalated their violent activities.

This resurgence of violence is explained by a change of leadership and tactics on the part of both the Jihad Organization and al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya. After the two organizations drifted apart over the issue of leadership, each developed new structures and approaches. In 1987, al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya set up a military wing and also moved from its strongholds in Minya and Assyut in Upper Egypt to Cairo, where its presence came to be felt particularly in the Ain Shams district. This move broke the tacit agreement with the security forces. Clashes started when the security forces tried to dislodge members of the organization from the Adam Mosque in Ain Shams, where al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya held its weekly seminar. In the same period, the Jihad Organization also underwent a change of leadership, with Ayman Al-Zawahiri assuming control. Although he had left Egypt for Afghanistan for the third time in 1986, Al-Zawahiri managed to control the organization through some of his loyal followers in Cairo.24

In a later parting between the two groups, Gama’ al-Islamiya and the EIJ had disagreement on how to proceed with their holy war following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989. Egyptian Islamic Jihad leadership wanted to proceed with attacks against their “impious” United States sponsors, while Gama’a al’Islamiya maintained relations with its CIA contacts. And as we’re going to see in Part 8 regarding the expansion of the Afghan Jihad to the Bosnian civil war, the maintenance of contact between the Gama’a al’Islamiya and the CIA may have significantly shaped how that particular European conflict unfolded, laying the foundations for Al-Qaeda’s presence in Europe today(11).


Political violence in Egypt reached a climax from 1992 to 1997 and then decreased steeply.25 During the period of clashes, government forces dislodged militant Islamists from their hiding places or confronted them while they were preaching in mosques. Thousands were arrested, wounded, or killed. Political assassinations became common. The government assassination of Ala’ Muhiel-Din, spokesman for al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya, in 1989 brought militant response in kind. Al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya claimed responsibility for a 1989 attempt to assassinate Interior Minister Zaki Badr, the 1990 assassination of Speaker of the People’s Assembly Ref’at Al-Mahjoub,26 the 1992 assassination of the secularist writer Farag Fouda, a 1993 attempt on the life of Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz, a 1995 attempt on the life of President Mubarak, and multiple attacks on Copts and foreign tourists, culminating in a massacre of some sixty tourists at the Hatshepsut Temple in Deir Al-Bahari near Luxor on November 17, 1997. The Jihad Organization was involved in multiple armed attacks, including three failed assassination attempts aimed at Information Minister Safwat Al-Sherif (April 1993), former interior minister Hassan Al-Alfy (August 1993), and former prime minister Atef Sidqi (December 1993). This violence cost the lives of about one thousand people, for the most part Islamists, but also ordinary citizens, both Muslims and Copts, policemen, and foreign tourists.27

The futility of this confrontation was not lost on many within the Egyptian general public, among intellectuals, but most importantly within the ranks of the two warring factions, as well as among other concerned Islamists who did not believe that the use of force was the way to build the ideal Islamic society. The general public could not understand how acts of murder could be committed in the name of Islam, which prohibits taking of lives of other Muslims or of people of other religions who are at peace with Muslims. Intellectuals saw some of the most prominent in their ranks become targets of successful and unsuccessful assassination attempts. The government was alarmed by the negative impact of a deteriorating security situation on the country’s reputation abroad and on the domestic economy. Concerned Islamist scholars were wary of the increased association in the minds of many people, in Egypt and abroad, between Islamism and violence.

As a result, in 1993 three prominent Islamist scholars tried to mediate between al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya and the government. These men were the Sheikh Mewally Al-Sha’rawi, one-time minister of Waqf (religious endowments) and a popular television preacher; Sheikh Mohammed Al-Ghazali, who was close to the Muslim Brothers; and Sheikh Abdel-Mon’eim Al-Nimr, a Muslim scholar close to the government. The attempt foundered when the government refused to release al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya members who had not been charged with involvement in any violent acts or to allow the group the freedom to preach peacefully in return for ceasing their armed activities. Interior Minister Abdel-Halim Moussa was forced to resign because of the failure of these talks, and other members of the government vowed that they would never negotiate with terrorists.28

Ok, there are some important points that to be made regarding the violence that took place in the 90’s and the related government negotiations: In spite of ability of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (also referred to as “The Jihad Organization”) to carry out multiple attacks, the early also 90’s saw the dismantling of the domestic presence of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad by the government. Gama’a al’Islamiya soaked up many of the remaining EIJ militants and was left as the dominant Islamist militant group in Egypt at the time during the wave of attacks starting in 1992. That was the period when the violence went beyond the traditional targets like the police, the military, and Christian Copts. In keeping with Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman’s “guidance”, foreigners and tourist attractions were also targeted. A subsequent government crackdown on Gama’a al’Islamiya’s military leaders and the jailing of Sheikh Rahman in the United States following the WTC bombing left the group without much of its core domestic leadership. And yet, in spite of the continued violence, the early to mid 90’s were also a time of negotiation between many of those jailed Gama’a al-Islamiya leaders and the government (12).

And finishing our look at Mr. Al-Sayyid’s paper…

Al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya’s Initiative to Cease Violent Operations

Nevertheless, in April 1996, al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya declared it would unconditionally cease all armed operations inside Egypt and abroad. The Initiative of Cessation of Violence was first made public during the trial of some of al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya’s members in Aswan. In July 1997, the group repeated its commitment to nonviolence in the name of the group’s imprisoned “historical leaders.”29 This second declaration, like the first, was read during the trial in front of a military tribunal of some al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya members.

The mass killing of the foreign tourists at Luxor only a few months later showed that not all members of al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya were ready to accept this call for nonviolence. Still, the call gradually gained the support of most, though by no means all, al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya’s leaders at home and abroad. I will return to this point later.

The clearest sign of the widespread acceptance of the call for nonviolence by the followers of al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya and the Jihad Group is that no acts of armed resistance to the government by Islamists have taken place in Egypt since the Luxor massacre. What is perhaps even more remarkable is the high profile the initiative has acquired. Makram Mohammed Ahmad, editor-in-chief of the popular weekly Al-Mussawar and a close associate of President Mubarak, published interviews with the imprisoned historical leaders.30 Egyptian authorities allowed the historical leaders to tour Egyptian prisons in the spring and the summer of 2002 so they could explain the initiative to their followers. Finally, in 2002 the historical leaders published four books that use shari’a to refute the legitimacy of armed Islamist struggle and to justify nonviolence. These books have been widely distributed in Egypt. To dispel any doubts about whether the books represent the position of al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya, each of the four volumes lists the names of those who researched and wrote it, as well as of those who reviewed and approved it. These names include all the historical leaders.

These four works explaining the history and rationale of the initiative have been widely circulated in the Arab world and are likely to wield significant influence there. They have not, however, been translated into English. Because they mark a potentially crucial development in the evolution of al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya and more generally in the thinking of radical Islamists, I will discuss the arguments presented in these books at some length.

While the offers of non-violence by Gama’a al-Islamiya leaders were rejected by the Egyptian government, those leaders went ahead with their non-violence initiative anyways in 1996-97, only to have those offered followed up by the horrific Luxor massacre of November 1997. And following the public outcry of that attack, it appears that Gama’a al-Islamiya has successfully stuck to its pledge of non-violence. So perhaps the Egyptian government was right in their initial rejection of Gama’a al-Islamiya’s peace offerings since the Luxor attacks took place anyways? Well, not quite, because as with so much we’ve seen on this tangled topic, things are murkier than they appear and there is evidence to suggest that the Luxor attacks were not, in fact, an act carried out under the direction of of Gama’ al-Islamiya’s domestic leadership. Instead, it appears that the Luxor attacks represent a split between the members of Gama’a al-Islamiya that are willing to renouncement violence, and those that intent on continuing a violent jihad, a jihad waged in close cooperation with Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda.

Egyptian Islamic Jihad and al-Qaeda: bonded by ideology and, uh, money troubles

Egyptian Islamic Jihad’s ties to al-Qaeda were more extensive than Gama’a al-Islamiya. In fact, Ayman al-Zawahiri was present at the meeting that signifies al-Qaeda’s creation in 1989. At the same time Egypt was cracking down on the EIJ back home, Zawahiri’s international branch played an integral role in the evolution of al-Qaeda. Let’s a turn again to Lawrence Wright’s excellent 2002 New Yorker article and take a look at the intertwined evolution of Egyptian Islamic Jihad and al-Qaeda:


In 1989, after ten years of warfare, the Soviets gave up and pulled their forces out of Afghanistan. More than a million Afghans—eight per cent of the country's population—had been killed, and hundreds of thousands had been maimed. Out of some thirteen million Afghans who survived the war, almost half were refugees. And yet the war against the Soviets was only the beginning of the Afghan tragedy.

After the Soviet pullout, many of the Afghan Arabs returned home or went to other countries, carrying the torch of Islamic revolution. In the Balkans, ethnic hostility among Muslims, Croats, and Serbs prompted Bosnia-Herzegovina to vote to secede from Yugoslavia; that set off a three-year war in which a hundred and fifty thousand people died. In November of 1991, the largely Muslim region of Chechnya declared its independence from Russia—an act that soon led to war. In 1992, civil war broke out in Algeria when the government cancelled elections to prevent the Islamist party from taking power; after a decade of fighting, the conflict has taken a hundred thousand lives. In Egypt, the Islamic Group launched a campaign against tourism and Western culture in general, burning and bombing theatres, bookstores, and banks, and killing Christians. "We believe in the principle of establishing Sharia, even if this means the death of all mankind," one of the Group's leaders later explained. And the war in Afghanistan continued, only now it was Muslims fighting Muslims for political control.

The Arabs who remained in Afghanistan were confronted with the question of jihad's future. Toward the end of 1989, a meeting took place in the Afghan town of Khost at a mujahideen camp. A Sudanese fighter named Jamal al-Fadl was among the participants, and he later testified about the event in a New York courtroom during one of the trials connected with the 1998 bombing of the American embassies in East Africa. According to Fadl, the meeting was attended by ten men—four or five of them Egyptians, including Zawahiri. Fadl told the court that the chairman of the meeting, an Iraqi known as Abu Ayoub, proposed the formation of a new organization that would wage jihad beyond the borders of Afghanistan. There was some dispute about the name, but ultimately the new organization came to be called Al Qaeda—the Base. The alliance was conceived as a loose affiliation among individual mujahideen and established groups, and was dominated by Egyptian Islamic Jihad. The ultimate boss, however, was Osama bin Laden, who held the checkbook.

The fact that Egyptian members constituted half those present at the meeting and yet Osama bin Laden, a Saudi, was the ultimate boss highlights an important, yet obvious, point that we keep coming back to in this series of essay: money matters quite a bit when it comes to terror and he who pays the bills, calls the shots.


In 1989, he returned to Saudi Arabia, ostensibly to work in the family business. The following year, Saddam Hussein ordered the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Bin Laden, who had achieved mythic status in his country because of his role in the Soviet-Afghan war, went to the royal family and offered to defend the Saudi oil fields with his mujahideen companions. The rulers decided to put their faith in an American-led coalition instead, reportedly promising bin Laden that the foreigners would leave as soon as the war was over. But American forces were still in Saudi Arabia a year after the Gulf War ended, and bin Laden felt betrayed. He returned to Afghanistan and began speaking out against the Saudi regime. He also started funding the activities of Saudi dissidents in London.

Make a note of bin Laden’s funding of Saudi dissidents in London. Like Afghanistan, Sudan, and Yemen, London also is an important base for bin Laden’s organization and the larger web of militant Islamists that share his views.


In 1992, bin Laden abruptly left Kabul for Sudan. He was reportedly in despair over the infighting among the various factions of the mujahideen and convinced that the Saudis were scheming to kill him. He arrived in Khartoum with his three wives and his fifteen children, and devoted himself to breeding Arabian horses and training police dogs. He went into business, investing heavily in Sudanese construction projects, including an airport and the country's main highway; he also bought up the entire crop of Sudanese cotton, and he occasionally picked up the tab for the country's oil imports. In those early days in Khartoum, bin Laden felt secure enough to walk to the mosque five times a day without his bodyguards.

Interesting (and depressing) side note: In April of 2006 bin Laden called for al-Qaeda fighters to ready themselves to wage war against UN peacekeepers that might be called in to the Darfur region of Sudan, where a genocidal campaign by the Janjaweed militia, with apparent Sudanese government backing, has driven more than 2 million people from their homes and killed hundreds of thousands more. An apparent lack of will by much of the international community doesn’t help the situation.


Zawahiri's relatives expected him to return to Egypt; throughout the Soviet-Afghan war and for several years afterward, he continued to pay rent on his clinic in Maadi. But he felt that it was not safe for him to return. Eventually, he followed bin Laden to Sudan. There he placed himself under the protection of the philosopher king of Islamist ideologues, Hassan al-Tourabi, a graduate of the University of London and the Sorbonne, who was instituting Sharia and trying to establish in Sudan the ideal Islamic republic that Zawahiri and bin Laden longed for in their countries. In Khartoum, Zawahiri set about reorganizing Islamic Jihad. Jamal al-Fadl said in his testimony in New York that Zawahiri gave him two hundred and fifty thousand dollars to buy a farm north of the Sudan capital, where members of Jihad could receive military training.

Among the members of Jihad who became a part of the Al Qaeda inner circle was Mohamed Atef (he was also known as Abu Hafs al-Masri). A former policeman, whose daughter eventually married one of bin Laden's sons, Atef was placed in charge of the military wing of Al Qaeda. Another powerful figure was Mohamed Makkawi, whose nom de guerre is Seif al-Adl. He had been a colonel in the Egyptian Army's special forces, and his contentious ambitions for a leadership role in Islamic Jihad were thwarted by an erratic and dangerous personality. A prominent Cairo lawyer who is a member of parliament characterized Makkawi to me as a "psychopath." According to the lawyer, Makkawi suggested in 1987 that Islamic Jihad hijack a passenger jet and crash it into the Egyptian People's Assembly. "I believe he is the father of September 11th," the lawyer said.

In the investigations following the 1998 US embassy bombings, a memo written by Mohamed Atef was was discovered by the now-legendary FBI counter-terrorism chief John O’Neill. The memo revealed that al-Qaeda was fully aware of and interested in the secret negotiations taking place between the United States government and the Taliban to open up an oil pipeline through Afghanistan. For years O’Neill warned of the dangers of al-Qaeda, but his warnings were ignored or resisted. O’Neill’s retirement in August of 2001 was due partly frustrations with what he saw as obstructions into his investigations of al-Qaeda by the administration with regard to the Taliban negotiations and at the behest of the oil industry. O’Neill took the job of chief of security for the World Trade Center and died on 9/11.

And finishing our look at Lawrence Wright’s New Yorker article…

One of Zawahiri's most trusted men was in fact a double agent, named Ali Mohamed. Fluent in English, French, and German, as well as Arabic, Mohamed held both Egyptian and American citizenship. From 1986 to 1989, he served in the U.S. Army as a supply sergeant at the Special Warfare School, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he was commended for his exceptional physical fitness. In 1984, Mohamed approached the C.I.A. in Cairo, and after that meeting the agency sent him to Germany. There he made contact with a Hezbollah cell, but apparently he boasted of his C.I.A. connection, and the agency cut him loose. He then began his association with Islamic Jihad. In 1989, he instructed a group of Islamic militants in Brooklyn in basic combat techniques; four years later, some of these militants bombed the World Trade Center. The same year, Mohamed talked to an F.B.I. agent in California and provided American intelligence with its first inside look at Al Qaeda; inexplicably, that interview never found its way to the F.B.I. investigators in New York. In 1994, he travelled to Khartoum to train bin Laden's bodyguards.

The Mysterious Mr Mohamed
The story of Ali Mohamed and his history with what we can only hope was a genuinely blind and dumb United States security apparatus is amongst the more bizarrely revealing and disturbing tales of the history of 9/11, and worthy of our further attention. Be prepared for neck injuries, as much head-spinning awaits you. So let’s start our look at Mr Mohamed with this excellent November 2001 San Fransciso Chronicle article:

Al Qaeda terrorist worked with FBI
Ex-Silicon Valley
resident plotted embassy attacks

Lance Williams and Erin McCormick, Chronicle Staff Writers

Sunday, November 4, 2001

A former U.S. Army sergeant who trained Osama bin Laden's bodyguards and helped plan the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Kenya was a U.S. government informant during much of his terrorist career, according to sources familiar with his case.

Ali Mohamed, an Egyptian-born U.S. citizen and longtime Silicon Valley resident who pleaded guilty last year to terrorism charges, approached the Central Intelligence Agency more than 15 years ago and offered to inform on Middle Eastern terrorist groups, a U.S. government official said.

Later, according to the sources, Mohamed spent years as an FBI informant while concealing his own deep involvement in the al Qaeda terrorist band: training bin Laden's bodyguards and Islamic guerrillas in camps in Afghanistan and the Sudan; bringing Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is bin Laden's chief deputy, to the Bay Area on a covert fund-raising mission; and planning the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, in which more than 200 people died.

The story of Mohamed's dual roles as FBI informant and bin Laden terrorist - - and the freedom he had to operate unchecked in the United States -- illustrates the problems facing U.S. intelligence services as they attempt to penetrate the shadowy, close-knit world of al Qaeda, experts said.

Mohamed "clearly was a double agent," Larry C. Johnson, a former deputy director in the State Department's Office of Counter Terrorism and a onetime CIA employee, said in an interview.

Johnson said the CIA had found Mohamed unreliable and severed its relationship with him shortly after Mohamed approached the agency in 1984. Johnson faulted the FBI for later using Mohamed as an informant, saying the bureau should have recognized that the man was a high-ranking terrorist, deeply involved in plotting violence against the United States and its allies.

"It's possible that the FBI thought they had control of him and were trying to use him, but what's clear is that they did not have control," Johnson said. "The FBI assumed he was their source, but his loyalties lay elsewhere."

The affair was "a study in incompetence, in how not to run an agent," Johnson said.

FBI spokesman Joseph Valiquette declined to comment on Mohamed, as did a spokesman for Manhattan U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White, whose office prosecuted the case of the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

A law enforcement source familiar with the case said the FBI had followed appropriate procedures in attempting to obtain crucial information from Mohamed, whom he conceded was "double-dealing" and difficult.

"When you operate assets and informants, they're holding the cards," this source said. "They can choose to be 100 percent honest or 10 percent honest. You don't have much control over them.

"Maybe (the informant) gives you a great kernel of information, and then you can't find him for eight weeks. Is that a management problem? Hindsight is 20/20."

Yes, Ali Mohamed’s life does indeed illustrate the problems facing US intelligence services. One of those problems includes tendency to attribute instances like Mr Mohamed’s long relationship with the US to “bureaucratic errors”, “agencies not communicating”, “it was the system’s fault”, or maybe it was “just plain stupidity”. This is often followed by promises to “investigate” and “get at the root” of these problems and “clean things up”. Another common response is to throw our hands up say “well that’s government, what can you do?” While all of these responses are, at times, appropriate or at least understandable, what is not seen enough, and would perhaps be appropriate in cases like Mr Mohamed’s, is the investigation into whether there are hidden agendas at work and whether or not our agencies are being honest with us. Ali Mohamed’s on-again-off-again-but-maybe-not-actually-off-again relationship with the CIA and FBI is a topic deserving of that kind of investigation.


Mohamed, 49, is a former Egyptian Army major, fluent in Arabic and English, who after his arrest became known as bin Laden's "California connection." Last year, when he pleaded guilty in the embassy bombing case, he told a federal judge that he first was drawn to terrorism in 1981, when he joined Egyptian Islamic Jihad, a fundamentalist group implicated in that year's assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

For almost as long as he was a terrorist, Mohamed also was in contact with U.S. intelligence, according to court records and sources.

Ok, so apparently during his time in the Egyptian military Ali Mohamed joined the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the same year that a military cell of the EIJ killed Anwar Sadat, and apparently around the same time he came into contact with US intelligence. That was certainly an eventful year for Mr. Mohamed.


In 1984, he quit the Egyptian Army to work as a counterterrorism security expert for EgyptAir. After that, he offered to become a CIA informant, said the U.S. government official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"The agency tried him out, but because he told other possible terrorists or people possibly associated with terrorist groups that he was working for the CIA, clearly he was not suitable," the official said.

The CIA cut off contact with Mohamed and put his name on a "watch list" aimed at blocking his entrance to the United States, according to the official.

Nevertheless, Mohamed got a visa one year later. He ultimately became a U.S.

citizen after marrying a Santa Clara woman. In 1986, he joined the U.S. Army as an enlisted man. He was posted to Fort Bragg, N.C., home of the elite Special Forces.

There he worked as a supply sergeant for a Green Beret unit, then as an instructor on Middle Eastern affairs in the John F. Kennedy special warfare school.

So not only does his visa application suffer from the same “bureaucratic mishap” that Sheikh Rahman’s did, but he was also able to enlist in the US military and get posted to the home base of the US Special Forces. Mr. Mohamed is indeed a lucky fellow.


Mohamed's behavior and his background were so unusual that his commanding officer, Lt. Col. Robert Anderson, became convinced that he was both a "dangerous fanatic" and an operative of U.S. intelligence.

Anderson, now a businessman in North Carolina, said that on their first meeting in 1988, Mohamed told him, "Anwar Sadat was a traitor and he had to die."

Later that year, Anderson said, Mohamed announced that -- contrary to all Army regulations -- he intended to go on vacation to Afghanistan to join the Islamic guerrillas in their civil war against the Soviets. A month later, he returned, boasting that he had killed two Soviet soldiers and giving away as souvenirs what he claimed were their uniform belts.

Anderson said he wrote detailed reports aimed at getting Army intelligence to investigate Mohamed -- and have him court-martialed and deported -- but the reports were ignored.

"I think you or I would have a better chance of winning Powerball (a lottery), than an Egyptian major in the unit that assassinated Sadat would have getting a visa, getting to California . . . getting into the Army and getting assigned to a Special Forces unit," he said. "That just doesn't happen. "

It was equally unthinkable that an ordinary American GI would go unpunished after fighting in a foreign war, he said.

Anderson said all this convinced him that Mohamed was "sponsored" by a U.S. intelligence service. "I assumed the CIA," he said.

Hmm….so Ali Mohamed’s commanding officer couldn’t seem to any action taken against him in spite of the fact that Mr. Mohamed announced he was planning on fighting in a foreign war while on vacation. Considering he was apparently photocopying US military maps and training manuels to give to al-Qaeda during his down time, it is quite unfortunate that Lt. Col. Anderson’s requests got, umm…”lost in the shuffle”.

Another err…”management oversight issue” of Mr Mohamed’s vacation time while in the Army involved his traveling to the New York area to train mujahedeen fighters before they were sent off to Afghanistan. One of those fighters happened to be El Sayyid Norsair, the member of Sheikh Rahman’s mosque that assassinated Rabbi Meir Kahane and took part in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings.

It’s also important to mention that while the CIA gets most of the attention when it comes to the US intelligence community, there are a great many other, less known, agencies working to protect the American people.


In 1989, Mohamed left the Army and returned to Santa Clara, where he worked as a security guard and at a home computer business.

Between then and his 1998 arrest, he said in court last year, Mohamed was deeply involved in bin Laden's al Qaeda. He spent months abroad, training bin Laden's fighters in camps in Afghanistan and Sudan. While in Africa, he scouted the U.S. Embassy in Kenya, target of the 1998 bombing. In this country, he helped al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's top aide, enter the country with a fake passport and tour U.S. mosques, raising money later funneled to al Qaeda.

The period after Mohamed left the Army and before his arrest for involvement in the twin African embassy bombings is quite possibly the most important chapter of Ali Mohamed’s strange career. On top of supervising al-Qaeda traininging camps and train recruits himself, Mr Mohamed also oversaw Osama bin Laden’s move from Afghanistan to Sudan in 1991. It was in Sudan, according to Mohamed’s own court testimony, that he arranged for meeting between bin Laden and Imad Fayez Mugniyeh, a top Hezbollah leader, that resulted in an agreement: Hezbollah would provide training and explosives to al-Qaeda and bin Laden would provide money and manpower for Hezbollah. It’s a chilling reminder of the willingness of extremist groups to cooperate in their common goal to oppose what they perceive to be a shared enemy of the modern world, whether they’re shiite terrorists, sunni terrorists, White supremacists, neo-Nazis, old Nazis gone underground, or a healthy dose of plain old opportunistic criminals looking to make some money (13).

And speaking of the money, a few notes about the trips to the United States by Ayman al-Zawahiri that Mohamed helped facilitate: According to Ali Mohamed’s court testimony, Zawahiri took two separate trips to the United States in the 90’s for fundraising purposes. Zawahiri’s 1993 (or possibly 1989) trip to the United States to raise money from mosques (by claiming to the that the funds were for refugees of the Afghan war) ended rather disappointingly. So much so that the cash-strapped Zawahiri was forced to literally put the EIJ’s members on al-Qaeda’s payroll. This effective merger, which preceded by several years the declared 1998 merger of the EIJ with al-Qaeda, forced Zawahiri and his followers to essentially shift their focuse from the “near enemy” of the Egyptian regime to the “distant enemy” of the United States and Israel.


According to Steven Emerson, a terrorism expert and author who has written about the case, Mohamed by the early 1990s had also established himself as an FBI informant.

"He agreed to serve (the FBI) and provide information, but in fact he was working for the bad guys and insulating himself from scrutiny from other law enforcement agencies," Emerson said in an interview.

One particularly troubling aspect of the case, Emerson says, was that Mohamed's role as an FBI informant gave bin Laden important insights into U.S. efforts to penetrate al Qaeda.

The case shows "the sophistication of the bin Laden network, and how they were toying with us," he said.

Some information about the nature of Mohamed's contacts with the FBI and other law-enforcement agencies is contained in an FBI affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in New York at the time of his 1998 arrest. The document describes contacts between Mohamed and the FBI and Defense Department officials.

At times, Mohamed made alarming admissions about his links to the al Qaeda terrorists, seemingly without fear of being arrested. Mohamed willfully deceived the agents about his activities, according to the affidavit.

In 1993, the affidavit says, Mohamed was questioned by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police after a bin Laden aide was caught trying to enter the United States with Mohamed's driver's license and a false passport.

Mohamed acknowledged traveling to Vancouver to help the terrorist sneak into the United States and admitted working closely with bin Laden's group. Yet he was so unconcerned about being arrested that he told the Mounties he hoped the interview wouldn't hurt his chances of getting a job as an FBI interpreter.

(According to the affidavit, he had indeed applied for the FBI position but never got it.)

In Professor Peter Dale Scott’s 2005 testimony before Congress Ali Mohamed’s 1993 release from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police came after a single phone call to the US secured his release, enabling him to travel to Kenya and scope out the US embassy in Kenya that would be bombed five years later.


Later that year, Mohamed -- again seemingly without concern for consequences -- told the FBI that he had trained bin Laden followers in intelligence and anti-hijacking techniques in Afghanistan, the affidavit says.

In January 1995, Mohamed applied for a U.S. security clearance, in hopes of becoming a security guard with a Santa Clara defense contractor. His application failed to mention ever traveling to Pakistan or Afghanistan, trips he had told the FBI about earlier. In three interviews with Defense Department officials, who conducted a background check on him, he claimed he had never been a terrorist.

"I have never belonged to a terrorist organization, but I have been approached by organizations that could be called terrorist," he told the interviewers.

According to the affidavit, he told FBI agents in 1997 that he had trained bin Laden's bodyguards, saying he loved bin Laden and believed in him. Mohamed also said it was "obvious" that the United States was the enemy of Muslim people.

Another interesting piece of information taken from Peter Dale Scott’s Congressional testimony is that the Egyptian bodyguard unit that Mr Mohamad was a member of was CIA-trained, making for the interesting relationship that bin Laden’s bodyguards were trained by a CIA-trained Egyptian bodyguard.


In August 1998, after the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed, he told the FBI that he knew who did it, but refused to provide the names.

Two weeks later, after lying to a U.S. grand jury investigating the embassy bombings, he was arrested. He pleaded guilty last year, but he has never been sentenced and is once again believed to be providing information to the government -- this time from a prison cell.

"There's a hell of a lot (U.S. officials) didn't know about Ali Mohamed," said Harvey Kushner, a terrorism expert and criminology professor at the University of Long Island. "He infiltrated our armed services and duped them."

Yet, Kushner said, such duplicitous interactions may be a necessary component of intelligence work.

"I hate to say it, but these relationships are something we should be involved in more of. That's the nasty (part) of covert operations. We're not dealing with people we can trust."

Yes, trust, especially misplaced trust, is a crucial element of topics such as this. It’s a trust that’s just important between our intelligence agencies and their “assets” like Mr Mohamed. There is also the trust between different components of our government, most especially in the highly compartmentalized structures of the military and intelligence communities. Systems of trust are systems that can be infiltrated and abused, and as the case of Ali Mohamed demonstrates, the misuse or abuse of trust amongst the various hierarchical systems allowed him to obtain a visa, enter the military, and spend his vacations fighting in foreign wars while apparently being an active member of two of the most notorious terrorist groups of our day.

And the United States is far from the only country that has such a dangerously duplicitous relationship with al-Qaeda. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are obvious examples, but within Europe it’s the United Kingdom that possibly takes the crown in blatantly dubious relationships with militant Jihadists. It was a relationship highlighted following the 1997 Luxor attacks that signaled the end of Gama’a al-Islamiya’s campaign of violence. That’s the final topic we’re going to take a look at in this essay, so get ready for more jaw dropping horrors of our recent history.

The London Implications of the Luxor Massacre

On October 12, 1997, the Egyptian government held a luxurious party on the terrace of the Temple of Hatshepsut, located on Nile, across the city of Luxor Egypt. On the heels of the Egyptian government rejecting a first ever truce proposal offered by the five primary jailed Egyptian militant leaders, the purpose of the party was to celebrate a “final victory” in the ongoing conflict between the militant groups like Gama’a Al-Islamiya and Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the Egyptian government since Sadat’s assassination in 1981. Just over a month later, on that same terrace on the Temple of Hatsheptus, the Luxor Massacre took place, with 62 tourists gunned down in an attack notable for both its brutality and questionable security response.

The six gunmen were members of a local cell of Gama’a al-Islamiya. The letter claiming credit for the attack said it was partly in response to a trial being held at the time centered around Mustafa Hamza, one of Gama’a al-Islamiya’s military leaders-in-exhile. Gama’a al-Islamiya’s leaders-in-exile claimed it was an unauthorized attack. By 1999, the Egyptian government came to the conclusion that the attacks were carried out directly or indirectly at Mr. Hamza’s orders. The government also concluded the attacks were financed by none other than Osama bin Laden.

Mustafa Hamza and Rifai Ahmed Taha, two friends of Osama bin Laden
The 1997 trial of Mustafa Hamza that apparently precipitated the Luxor attack was actually the third trial that resulted in a death-sentence in absentia for the militant leader, including one for the assassination attempt of President Mubarak in 1995. Typically for a leader of these groups, Mustafa (also spelled “Mustapha”) spent seven years in prison following Sadat’s assassination before traveling to Pakistan and onto Afghanistan where Gama’a al-Islamiya’s military wing was founded. Following the disappearance of Talaat Fouad Qassem, Mr. Hamza became leader of the international military wing in 1995 (14).

That same year, Osama bin Laden’s welcomed presence in North Yemen came to a close. Under the protection of his close friend Sheikh Abdallh bin Hussein al-Ahmar, a prominent Yemeni tribal leader and Muslim Brotherhood member, Osama bin Laden was able to turn North Yemen into one of his primary bases of operations following the Afghan war. And, in fact, Bin Laden’s Yemen camps included several hundred Arab “Afghan” veterans. By the end of 1995 circumstances forced bin Laden to cut back his presence in Yemen to camps in the mountains and relocate the rest of their men and facilities. Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, was chosen as a new base, being well situated between Bin Laden’s camps in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Sudan (which bin Laden and Zawahiri were forced to leave following a particularly disturbing incident involving the son of one of bin Laden’s accountants). Somalia, an early casualty of the post-Cold War era, was a prime candidate for Al-Qaeda’s presence following the world community’s pullout in 1995 (which it repeated following the 9/11 attacks). Assisting in this redeployment were Mustafa Hamza, Rifai Ahmed Taha (another top Gama’a al-Islamiya leader in exile) and members of the international branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamza and Taha both settled down in the Egyptian Mujahedeen’s new base of operations around the airport in southern part of Mogadishu (15).

In a somewhat amazing sidenote, on August of 1996, in the midst of Bin Laden’s set up in Mogadishu, top Somali warlord Mohamed Farah Aidid was killed. Aidid came to the world’s attention as a target of the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993 that helped drive the US and UN out of Somalia, with some training assistance of bin Laden’s men. Aidid’s clan was in control of the southern part of Mogadishu where the city’s airport is located and the Egyptian “Afghan” camps were set up. Here’s where things get strange: For a short time the US force in Somalia just happened to included Aidid’s son, Hussein Aidid, a US marine. After his father’s death in 1996 Hussein Aidid left California, returned to Somalia and led his fathers clan, quite successfully too. While the nature of Hussein Aidid’s relationship with his former Marine corp is somewhat ambiguous, what is not ambiguous is the ongoing presence of Islamist forces in Somalia, with Hussein Aidid being forced to flee Mogadishu in June 2006 in a routing by Islamists militias with suspected al-Qaeda ties.

Getting back to the Gama’a al-Islamiya and the Luxor massacre, Rifai Ahmed Taha, who had vehemently opposed the calls for disarmament by Egyptian leaders of Gama’a al-Islamiya, eventually claimed responsibility for organizing the Luxor attack and many view the attacks as his defiant response to Gama’a al-Islamiya’s truce offerings with the Egyptian government. In February of 1998, Mr Taha went on to sign the "Declaration of the World Islamic Front for Jihad against the Jews and the Crusaders," a manifesto put forth by Osama bin Laden and affiliated Jihadists, including Ayaman al-Zawahiri, declaring war against Israel and the United States and imploring all Muslims to take whatever action they can to kill US and Israeli citizens wherever possible. It was a quiet reHYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ladenese_epistle" declaration of the 1996 call to war by bin Laden against the United States. Later that year Mr Taha distanced himself from bin Laden’s statement, having greatly angered Gama’a al-Islamiya’s jailed leadership that was pushing for an end to violent resistance. The apparent divisions between Gama’s al-Islamiya’s leadership lead to Mr Taha being replaced by Mr Hamza as the top leader in exile (and yes, as we already saw, Mr Hamza also apparently became leader of Gama’a al-Islamiya’s military wing in 1995 following Talaat Fouad Qassem’s disappearance and also that Mr Hamza is quite close to Mr Taha. This topic is nothing if not vague and confusing). In late 2004 Mustafa Hamza was extradited from Iran back to Egypt, and faces the unusual situation of a retrial for a death-penalty conviction, which observers suggest indicates the Egyptian government’s leniency given the lack of attacks in Egypt by Gama’a al-Islamiya.

Considering that Egypt’s security response to the violence of the 90’s appears to have left Gama’ al-Islamiya crippled inside Egypt, it remains unclear as to how much actual disagreement there is between the Gama’a al-Islamiya’s jailed leaders and those in exile. It is notable though, that Gama’a al-Islamiya fighters, who were closely allied with Gulbedinn Hekmatyar’s forces, comprised a major contingent of the thousands foreign fighters that fought along side the Taliban in Afghanistan during the US-led attacks in the wake of 9/11. And considering that many of those fighters were allowed to flee their stronghold of Kunduz, that Osama bin Laden and many of his fighters also escaped, that the war raging Afghanistan that once again includes Gulbuddin Hekmaytar’s forces, and that a common role of these veteran Mujahedeen has been to train a new generation of young radicalized fighter, the present day activities of those Egyptian Mujahedeen remains an important question.

Bin Laden’s London Connection
Osama bin Laden was not the only unexpected “accomplice”, so to speak, of the Luxor attacks. In the wake of the Luxor attacks President Mubarak went beyond blaming Egypt’s militant groups and countries like Sudan and Iran for helping make the massacre possible. Mubarak went on to charge a number of European governments with providing aid and refuge to terrorists, most vigorously pointing a finger at Britain, long known as a home to radical clerics of the Sheikh Rahman variety. In a speech on November 23, 1997, Mubarak stated, “On many occasions, we have challeged John Major and his administration. They always find excuses for preventing the extradition of these people who have committed crimes, in particular against Prime Minster Atef Sedqi. We have gotten nowhere. Thus, we solemnly ask once again that Tony Blair and his government hand these people over to us.” (16) And given Egypt’s propensity for issuing death sentences in absentia for suspected terrorists and Britains laws against deportation to a country where they face torture and possible death, it is easy to see how such conflicts can arise. Upon closer examination, though, Britain’s sheltering of, and at times apparent blindness towards, individuals with extensively close ties to major terrorist figures remains one of the great mysteries of modern terror. It’s a mystery so great it’s on par with the US’s own intelligence failures in this regard.

One of the key individuals Egypt sought for extradition is Yasser Taqfiq Ali al-Serri, a self-described close associate of Rifai Ahmed Taha. Arriving in London in 1994, Mr al-Serri set up the Islamic Observation Center (IOC), a publication which helps distribute statements to the media for militant Islamist groups operating in Arab countries, Pakistan and Chechnya. Mr. al-Serri spent seven months in prison following the 9/11 attacks on suspicions of his involvement in the assassination of Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance commander, Ahmed Shah Massoud, but was subsequently released and continues his work in London (17).

A second London resident of interest is Adel Abdel Magid Abd al-Bari, a former lawyer for Egyptian militants, including Sheikh Rahman, who gained political asylum in Britain in 1993. In London Mr al-Bari founded and directs the “International Office for the Defense of the Egyptian People in London” (IODEP), an organization set up to “expose the regime’s aggression against the Egyptian people’s beliefs, dignity, freedom and prosperity”. Al-Bari is also an individual alleged to have been involved in the August 1998 twin embassy bombings that Ali Mohamed admitted playing a role in and also acts as a manager of funds for Osama bin Laden. In 1998, al-Bari was arrested in Britain following the embassy attacks, but given the United State’s death penalty, it wasn’t until December 2001 that British courts allowed his extradition (18).

Along with Mr Al-Bari, Khalid al-Fawwaz was sought by the US in connection to the 1998 twin embassy bombings. A close associate of Osama bin Laden, Mr al-Fawwaz moved to London in 1994 and set up the “Advice and Reform Committee” (ARC). Ostensibly set up to distributed messages and information opposing the Saudi Monarchy and demand an end to US troops in Saudi Arabia, the ARC is known primarily for being a bin Laden mouthpiece. Khalid al-Fawwaz does not deny being a past associate of Osama bin Laden, or even that bin Laden was one of the founders of the ARC although he emphasizes that he no longer supports bin Laden and publicly renounced bin Laden following the 1996 fatwa declaring war against the United States for having troops in Saudi Arabia. Curiously, during the two-year period leading up to the embassy attacks the British assisted the NSA in eavesdropping on bin Laden’s conversations around the world via a satellite Fawwaz obtained for him in 1996 following bin Laden’s move from Sudan back to Afghanistan. The satellite phone’s records indicated hundreds of calls to people in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, and London and appears to have been used to coordinate the embassy bombing attacks. So given the fact that Mr al-Fawwaz’s was under the surveillance of British intelligence during this period, his possible involvement with the 1998 embassy bombings isn’t nearly as curious as the success of these attack. As of July, 2005, Mr al-Fawwaz remained in British custody fighting his extradition.

Another notable London figure is the radical cleric Abu Hamza (also referred to as “Abu Hamza al-Masri”). Hamza was first arrested in 1999 over his suspected involvement in the kidnapping of Western tourists in Yemen, and was convicted in February 2006 on a list of charges that include soliciting murder and inciting racial hatred. Critics characterized his 2006 conviction as long delayed, with one former MI5 agent who had infilitrated Hamza’s mosque asserting that British intelligence met with Hamza regularly and allowed him to operate as long as he didn’t threaten British national security. In July of 2006 Hamza successfully won the right to an appeal, based on argument that the speeches he was on trial for took place from 1997-2000, and the delay in his prosecution combined with the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks subjected him to an adverse media environment that made his fair trial impossible.

Abu Hamza ran the notorious Finsbury Park mosque, whose past attendees include three of the individuals believed to be involved in the Beslan school massacre, convicted shoe-bomber Richard Reid, and “20th hijacker” Zacarious Moussaoui. Mr Hamza’s top aide, Haroon Aswat, is the perceived mastermind of the London 7/7 bombings. US prosecutors in Seattle sought a federal indictment against Aswat in 2002 relating to the involvement of Aswat and Hamza in an attempt to set up a Taliban-affiliate training camp in Bly, Oregon. Their request was denied by higher-level officials in the Justice Department. According to John Loftus, the former Department of Justice prosecutor/Nazi-Hunter/intelligence-whistleblower-go-to-guy, Aswat is an MI6 double agent protected by British intelligence against the efforts of the UK’s local law enforcement (federal vs local law enforcement conflicts appear to be fairly common-place in matters like these, much like the field agent vs managers pattern we see). Britain authorities maintain that they thought Aswat was killed in 2003 fighting for the Taliban. Mr. Loftus, you’ll recall, was also the lawyer that helped trigger the Operation Greenquest raids of March 20, 2002 that uncovered a vast network of Saudi-funded and Muslim Brotherhood-backed charities and institutions run out of Hernden, VA.

According to Loftus, Haroon Aswat’s relationship with British intelligence may have emerged from Aswat’s involvement with al-Muhajiroun, an extremist Islamist group that was allegedly involved in the recruitment of Muslim fighters in Kosovo in the late 90’s under the supervision of British intelligence. Al-Muhajiroun is run by Omar Bakri Muhammed, an radical cleric of the Abu Hamza variety. In 2004, al-Muhajiroun was shut down following an out cry over the description of the 9/11 hijackers as “the magificent 19”, but government officials suspect his followers have regrouped under new organizations. Originally a member of the Syrian Branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Omar Bakri later joined the more strident Hizb ut-Tahrir, a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot that advocates a global Islamic Caliphate, before leaving that to group to start al-Muhajiroun.

British officials frequently claimed before 9/11 that the presence of clerics so closely tied to and supportive of terrorist movements allowed authorities to closely watch these activities and gather vital intelligence, although those assertions appear to have died down in the since the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks. Naturally, this track record has attracted a number of critics, including Michael Meacher, a longtime Labour party MP and Tony Blair’s environment minister from 1997-2003. In a September 10, 2005 article in the Guardian, Mr Meacher lists a number of cases since the Afghan war in which the US and British governments worked with and fostered terrorist groups.

And then there’s the case of David Shayler, a former MI5 officer turned whistle blower, turned defendent, turned candidate, who charges that British intelligence thwarted early attempts to apprehend Osama bin Laden in 1996 and used his al-Qaeda network in a bid to assassinate Libyan President Muammer Gaddafi.

If there is any truth to Mr. Loftus’s, Mr Shayler’s, or Mr Meacher’s information, then it seems the relationship between Britain and radical Islamists like Abu Hamza and Omar Bakri Muhammed may be quite similar to that of the United States and figures like Sheikh Rahman and Ali Mohamed, which could be generously characterized as dangerously confused.

And then there’s the far-rightist connection
Although it professes to be a non-violent group (which been disputed), Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Muslim Brotherhood splinter group that splintered off to form al-Muhajiroun, has been banned by countries across the globe, including Germany where Hizb ut-Tahrir was outlawed in early 2003 following an Hizb ut-Tahrir event that was attended by members of the NPD, the top German neo-Nazi party. And who was at this meeting? Why none other than NPD lawyer Horst Mahler, who, as we saw in an earlier essay, has been familiar with both the far-Right-radical Islamist alliance and far-Left radicalIslamist alliance for decades. Quite disturbingly, the NPD has increasingly managed to turn its economic muscle, through a network of businesses, into political clout in the economically depressed areas of Eastern Germany. Even more disturbing is recent reports that both British intelligence and German intelligence have had long-standing high-level ties with the NPD.

It also turns out that Abu Hamza al-Masri’s February 2006 conviction came on the heels of the partial acquittal of Nick Griffin, the leader of the far-right anti-immigrant British National Party (BNP) on trial for inciting racial hatred against Muslims in the UK. Hamza’s conviction in the light of Griffin’s acquittal lead to charges that Britain’s Muslim community was under attack. Mr. Griffin’s case is an example of that the fact that the Islamists/Neo-Nazi alliance emobodied by Bank al-Taqwa director Ahmed Huber is far from universal (or at least universally acknowledged), and it also brings us to one of the most curious characters in this overview of extremist figures: David Myatt. David Myatt aka Abdul Aziz (and possibly aka Anton Long) was the first leader of Combat 18, a British neo-Nazi group that’s thought to have splintered off from the BNP’s security wing. Although he vehemently denies it, Myatt allegedly had a history in Satanism, having previous attempted to start a Nazi-occultist commune in Shropshire. In 1997 Myatt went on to help found the National Socialist Movement (NSM) an offshoot of Combat 18. In 1999, NSM member David Copeland carried out a series of nail-bomb attacks in London that were said to be inspired by Myatt. Having lost hope that the far Right would be able to combat “Zionism and West”, Myatt later converted to a puritanical form of Islam and changed his name to Abdul Aziz.

In 1999 MI5 investigated members of Combat 18 that had infiltrated the military. This included some members of elite units that are suspected of providing weapons training to fascists groups. In July of 2006 the NY Times reported that large numbers of neo-Nazis may be taking advantage of recruitment and infiltrating the military to acquire the skills necessary for their desired race war (and the White supremacists aren’t the only groups taking advantage of the US military’s lowered recruitment standards). In September of 2006 the Belgium authorities arrested a military cell of neo-Nazis in Belgium intent on carrying out terrorist attacks and destabilizing its institutions. All of these incidents remind us of the obvious fact that figures like Ali Mohamed’s are not the only ones that we need to be concerned about.

Obviously someone like David Myatt is in no way representative of mainstream Muslims (or mainstream occultists for that matter), but he’s an important person to mention as an example of the strange alignment of worldviews that permeates many of the the extremist ideologies of our day, whether it’s fascism, religious zealotry, or umm…Nazi mysticism (ok, hopefully that last one doesn’t permeate our day too much, although it couldn’t hurt to look). While Myatt may lack the resources and historic circumstances that, say, Osama bin Laden possesses to wage his war against what he perceives to be an unholy American-Zionist empire (and there is certainly no shortage at all of legitimate grievances that many people’s around the have against countries like the United States, Israel, or any powerful country for that matter), David Myatt’s strange, violent hate-filled philosophy and path in life helps give us additional insight and perspective into the mind of someone like Osama bin Laden.

Figures like Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, and even David Myatt define our concept of who is executing and supporting terrorism. But until we try to incorporate organizations like the al-Taqwa network or the wealthy supporters that finance and foster these terrorist outfits we can’t hope to come to an understanding of the history leading up to 9/11. As we already saw, al-Taqwa is, on its face, a respectable and “moderate” organization that merely assists in the financial management of various Islamic foundations. But beneath that façade we find a money-laundering network run by folks like Ahmed Huber that was potentially moving funds for bin Laden even months after 9/11.

As were going to see in the next essay, the terrorist money-trail flows through more Muslim Brotherhood and Saudi groups than al-Taqwa and includes organizations and charities that maintain similar duplicitous façade which hides networks, linked by ideology and petro-dollars, that has successfully exported the global struggle for the creation of an Islamic caliphate to conflict-ridden, often desperate, Muslim populations in places like Indonesia, Bosnia, Chechnya, and more. There are plenty more folks and facts in store for us and they’re important for our understanding of who finances terror, so get buckle up and keep reading!!!!!!!

Offline References

(1) Dollars for Terror: The United States and Islam; by Richard Labeviere; Copyright 2000 [SC]; Algora Publishing; ISBN 1-892941-06-6; p125

(2) ibid p223

(3) Blood from Stones: The Secret Financial Network of Terror; by Douglas Farah; Broadway Books [HC] {subsidiary of Random House}; Copyright 2004 by Douglas Farah; ISBN 0-7679-15262-3; p166-167

(4) Dreamer of the Day: Francis Parker Yockey and the Postwar Fascist International; By Kevin Coogan; Copyright 1999 [SC]; Autonomedia; ISBN 1-57027-039-2; p385

(5) Dollars for Terror: The United States and Islam; by Richard Labeviere; Copyright 2000 [SC]; Algora Publishing; ISBN 1-892941-06-6; p130-132, p293-294;

(6) ibid p132

(7) ibid p133

(8) ibid p222

(9) ibid p133-134

(10) ibid p134

(11) ibid p295

(12) ibid p295-296

(13) Blood from Stones: The Secret Financial Network of Terror; by Douglas Farah; Broadway Books [HC] {subsidiary of Random House}; Copyright 2004 by Douglas Farah; ISBN 0-7679-15262-3; p129

(14) Dollars for Terror: The United States and Islam; by Richard Labeviere; Copyright 2000 [SC]; Algora Publishing; ISBN 1-892941-06-6; p130-132, p296

(15) Ibid p89-94

(16) ibid p297

(17) ibid p298

(18) ibid p298