Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya

August 7, 2008

Name: Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, also known as Islamic Group

Type: religious (fundamentalist)


Militant Islamist. The group seeks to establish Islamic rule in Egypt by force and targets any secular establishment that they believe to be heretical, including secular Arab governments.[3] Has targeted government ministers and officials, police officers, secular intellectuals, Christian Copts, foreign tourists, banks (to enforce an Islamic ban on usury), anything considered “morally offensive,” including music performances, film, and video stores.[3]


This organization is a large, loosely organized militant group that has been active since the late 1970s in Egypt, though the group’s last attack in Egypt was in August 1998. Most of the group’s attacks have been against Egyptian and other government officials, Coptic Christians, and Egyptian opponents of “Islamic extremism.”[1,2] Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya is believed to pursue lower-profile targets than other Egyptian Islamist groups. The group issued a ceasefire in March 1999, which was rescinded by al-Rahman in June 2000.

Group Leaders

  • Spiritual leader Sheikh Omar Abd al-Rahman
  • Ayman al-Zawahiri
  • Rifa’i Taha Musa
  • Osama Rushdi
  • Refaei Ahmed Taha
  • Sayyid Qutb (executed in 1966)

Leader Backgrounds

Sheikh Omar Abd al-Rahman, also closely affiliated with Al-Jihad al-Islami, was one of those arrested and convicted for the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.[5] He was later acquitted in 1984, after which he settled in the United States. Abd al-Rahman was later arrested in connection with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and is currently imprisoned in the United States.[6]

Ayman al-Zawahiri was also connected with Sadat’s assassination and was convicted in absentia by Egypt on 18 April 1999 on terrorism charges.[7] He is a known close associate of Usama bin Laden and was a founding member of the World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders, a loose grouping that includes Bin Laden’s Al-Qaida.[7] Zawahiri appeared in an undated video with Usama bin Laden in late 2000 and threatened retaliation for Abd al-Rahman’s imprisonment.

Rifa’i Taha Musa signed Bin Laden’s February 1998 fatwa, which demanded attacks against US civilians.

Usama Rushdi is the group’s media official and lives in the Netherlands and publishes the group’s publication “Al-Murabitoun,” which means “Garrisoned Warriors.” His faction issued a statement vowing to suspend attacks on foreign tourists in late 1997. Refaei Ahmed Taha, who leads an extremist faction that denied this statement, is believed to live in Afghanistan, with or near Usama bin Laden.[3]

Group Ties

The group has a very close relationship with Al-Jihad al-Islami: state sponsorship is unknown. The Egyptian government believes the group has received support from Iran, bin Laden, and “Afghan militant groups.”[1,2] In August 1992, Deputy Egyptian Prime Minister Youssef Wali claimed that weapons were being smuggled into Egypt to Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya from Iran and Sudan: Algerian authorities were also concerned that training camps were being sponsored by Iran and Sudan for militant Islamic fundamentalists.[4] The involvement of Pakistan and Afghanistan has also been highlighted due to the numerous military training camps that are located on the Afghan-Pakistani border.[4] Pakistan has used the services of the Egyptian groups in its campaign against India in Kashmir. Control by the fundamentalist Taliban movement in Afghanistan has further supplemented this growing concern. Furthermore, Usama bin Laden, a known terrorist believed to be located in Afghanistan, has also developed close ties with members of Al-Jihad al-Islami and Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya. Bin Laden is a financier of the Kunar and Khost training camps in Afghanistan where many of the recruits from these groups were trained.[4] Both Ayman Zawahri and Refaei Ahmed Taha, another leader of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, are believed to be living somewhere near, or with, Bin Laden in Afghanistan.[3]


Southern Egypt (Al-Minya, Asyu’t, Qina, and Sohaj); also has some support in Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt; and a “presence” in Sudan, the United Kingdom, Austria, and Yemen.[1,2]

Founded: Late 1970s, in Egypt

Total Members: Unknown; probably includes several thousand hard-core members before the group’s 1999 ceasefire, estimated several thousand more sympathizers; particularly popular with “unemployed graduates and students.”[1,2]


Several of the group’s leading members, also affiliated with Al-Jihad al-Islami, were implicated in the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Members of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya were responsible for the murder of 58 tourists at the temples of Luxor in November 1997.[4]

[1] “Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya,”, accessed on 13 September 2001.
[2] “Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya,” State Department Patterns of Global Terrorism, 2000,, accessed on 13 September 2001.
[3] “Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya,”, accessed on 13 September 2001.
[4] P.B. Sinha, “Threat of Islamic Terrorism,” Institute for Defense and Security Analysis,, accessed on 13 September 2001.
[5] Ibid.
[6] “The World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders,” The Washington Post, The Middle East and Islamic Studies Collection, Cornell University,, accessed on 13 September 2001.
[7] Yoram Schweitzer, “Osama bin Laden and the Egyptian Terrorist Groups,”, accessed on 13 September 2001.

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