Al-Jama’a Al-Islamiyya was founded in the early seventies of the last century within the Egyptian universities. It had an organizational structure consisting of a shura council headed by Emir (leader), and ends with the group’s shura council, headed by the Supreme Emir (general Emir).
Among the most prominent members are Salah Hashem, the founder of the group in universities, Najeh Ibrahim, the group’s theorist and former member of its shura council, Fouad al-Dawalibi, a former member of the group’s shura council, Usama Hafez, head of the group’s shura council and one of the founders, Hamdi Abdul Rahman, a former member of the group’s shura council, Aboud al-Zumur, a former member of the group’s shura council and jihadist, Abd al-Akher Hammad, mufti of the group, Omar Abdul Rahman, Emir and the godfather of the group, Tariq al-Zumur and Assem Abdel Majid, members of the group’s shura council. Tariq al-Zumur and Abdel Majid fled to Turkey.
The group categorically denies that it has an international organization, and asserts at the same time that it is strongly present on the world scene. Islam al-Ghamri, leader in the group, resident in Turkey, told THE REFERENCE:”The traditional Al-Jama’a Al-Islamiyya is completely different from Al-Jama’a Al-Islamiyya after the intellectual reviews, as well as after the January revolution, as it finally has adopted political activity, and all of the group’s past episodes have been corrected by the reviews, and taking the political course”.
Sudan has opened its doors to fugitives since 1981 after following the assassination of Sadat. Othman al-Samman, Mustafa Hamza, Abd al-Akher Hammad, Ali Abdel Fattah, Mohamed Mukhtar, Ali al-Sharif and many others escaped to Sudan. The group failed to establish a branch, and considered Sudan exit and entry station.
One of the leaders of the group refers to the idea of “planting offshoots” abroad. Refaie Taha and Mustafa Hamza proposed this idea because of the security conditions imposed in Egypt. The beginning was in Afghanistan, which was considered as a destination for residence after Sudan.
The group established a so-called “The Caliphate Camp”. It was aimed at hosting and preparing its members who fled Egypt. Ali Abdel Fattah was the first Emir of the Camp. Dr. Khaled Hanafi, the Camp’s doctor, Abu Suhaib and Abu Yusuf, in charge of training and preparation, were among his fellow members. All of them have been killed.
The Afghan arena was wide open, and the group’s escaped leaders took advantage of that. Between 1981 and 2006, the group’s members intermittently headed to Afghanistan, until the emergence of “Al-Qaeda”, co-founded by Refaie Taha. Al-Qaeda split from the group following Al-Jama’a Al-Islamiyya’s reviews in Egypt in 1999.
Al-Jama’a Al-Islamiyya joins forces with Al-Qaeda
In 2006, Ayman al-Zawahiri announced that a number of Al-Jama’a Al-Islamiyya’s leaders joined Al-Qaeda. He said in a video:”Al-Jama’a Al-Islamiyya is announcing good news to the nation that a large sect, headed by Mohamad al-Islambouli is joining forces with Al-Qaeda”.
Al-Zawahiri added in the video, in which Al-Jama’a Al-Islamiyya leader Mohamed Khalil Al-Hakayma appeared: “Many members have joined Al-Qaeda”. That marked the first attempt to launch an offshoot of the group outside Egypt. For three decades, there have been a number of attempts to this end. In what was considered to be a blessing, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman visited the group.
Omar Abdel Rahman, the general Emir of the group, emerged in the early 1990s in New Jersey near the Muslim communities, and tried to establish a center to propagate the group’s ideas. The Egyptian Intelligence planted a spy named Emad, who recorded some confessions that incited terrorist acts against the United States. Sheilh Abdel Rahman was arrested on charges of involvement in the 1993 bombings in New York, and was given a life sentence. He remained in jail in the US until he died on February 18, 2017.
In an attempt to spread the group’s ideas in Europe, after the arrest of Omar Abdel Rahman, Mohamad Mokhtar el-Moqry, Emir of the group’s in the Upper Egyptian governorate of Minya, fled to Sudan after being accused of the assassination of the former People’s Assembly’s Speaker, Rifaat el-Mahgoub, who was killed on October 12, 1990. Consequently, he moved to Britain, where he established the Islamic Center, which became a funding resource and a refuge for fugitives. El-Moqry returned to Egypt in early 2012 after the January Revolution in 2011.
“I stayed in Saudi Arabia for two years, and before my trip to Nigeria, I tried to form a seed for the group in Saudi Arabia, comprising the group’s members who were able to travel to the kingdom,” said Ali al-Sharif, a senior leader of Al-Jama’a Al-Islamiyya.
“After my return, I found out that well-known leader Osama Rushdi, who came from Cairo and helped organize the formation of the group in Saudi Arabia until there was a dispute between him and Talaat Fouad, another leading member of the group. Rushdi left Saudi Arabia and I took the helm of the group again,” al-Sharif said.
Al-Sharif added in an interview: “I was wanted by the security authorities because I hosted Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the spiritual leader of the group, in my apartment. The security authorities were wary of Sheikh Omar because he issued a fatwa (edict based on Shariah, or Islamic law) that labeled rulers of Saudi Arabia as infidels. Therefore, I left Saudi Arabia and went to Yemen in 1992. That was the fourth attempt to establish the group in Saudi Arabia”.
“In Yemen, we formed a seed of the group comprising Egyptian teachers. I decided not to interfere in the matter of going or returning from Afghanistan, as the group appointed someone to be responsible for this matter. I assumed responsibility for supervising the group in general, and another man was named as a military official, according to a decision made by the group’s leaders imprisoned in Egypt”.
Erdogan gives fugitives free hand
For his part, the leader of the Islamic Group, Osman al-Samman, said to THE REFERENCE: “After the assassination of Sadat we were about to set up the group in Yemen. But Ali Abdullah Saleh, the then president of Yemeni, asked us to go to the presidential headquarters and surprisingly detained us for three years in the late 1990s. The group’s members were deported to Egypt. Consequently, the fifth attempt to form Al-Jama’a Al-Islamiyya’s offshoot failed.
Following the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, several members of Al-Jama’a Al-Islamiyya fled to Turkey, including Assem Abdel Maged, a member of the group’s shura council, Tarik al-Zomor, former head of the Building and Development Party, Mohamed al-Saghir, Islam al-Ghamri and Mamdouh Ali Yusuf, The group has large numbers of members based in Diyarbakir, southern Turkey.
When they moved to Istanbul, the security authorities did not allow them to set up a branch on the Turkish territories. But the authorities have given them freedom of movement and allowed media appearance. However, the authorities have given more freedom after the group played a role in foiling a military coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016.
Since it was founded in the 1970s, Al-Jama’a Al-Islamiyya’s members have left no battlefield without taking part in it form Afghanistan, to Yemen and Syria, headed by Refaie Taha, who was killed in 2016.
Some of Al-Jama’a Al-Islamiyya’s leaders such as Abu Ela Abd Rabbo, who was killed in 2017, Mohamed Abbas, who was killed in early 2018, Abu Mohamed al-Suhagi and Refaie Taha joined forces with Al-Nusra Front or Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.
It is noteworthy that Al-Jama’a Al-Islamiyya masterminded a plot to assassinnate former president Hosni Mubarak in June 1995, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The former president’s convoy was targeted by the group’s members living in Ethiopia. They provided material and logistic support to the assassins. Some of them were married to Ethiopians.