COMMENTARY
 
Egyptian Transnational Terrorists Hit Islamabad
The Nation
November 24, 1995
They do not believe in boundaries. All their worldly activity rests on the use of force. They hate and kill people of other religions. And they do not spare their own fellows who refuse to go along with them. They kill them “with the grace of God”. They are transnational Muslim terrorists, some of whom also fought against Soviet communists in the Afghan jihad. Since then, they have become soldiers in search of a war.

On August 19, 1995, their target was in Pakistan’s otherwise peaceful Capital; they attacked the Egyptian Embassy in Islamabad, killing 18 and injuring 62 innocent people. An Egyptian suicide bomber, who drove through main entrance to the Embassy, undertook the first of its kind job in Pakistan. The high intensity explosion destroyed the entire embassy, partly damaging the nearby Japanese Embassy and several other buildings. The majority of the killed and injured were Pakistani nationals; some of them had come to the embassy for visa purposes.

“The platoon of the martyr Khaled Islambuli executed an operation on Sunday which sent skulls, limbs and corpses flying leaving dozens dead and wounded at Egypt’s diplomatic mission in Islamabad,” said a statement issued by the International Justice Group, one of the three outlawed Muslim extremist organizations in Egypt which claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack.

“The building was flattened to the ground leaving a deep hole by God’s grace and the grace of our heroic men in a martyr’s suicide mission whose equal has rarely been seen,” the message further said.

A week before the Islamabad attack, this previously unknown extremist group had also claimed responsibility for the murder of an Egyptian trade official in Switzerland. The suicide attack in Islamabad took place exactly a week after the Riyadh bomb blast in which six US soldiers who used to train the National Guards of Saudi Arabia were killed. A previously unknown Muslim extremist outfit, the Tigers of the Gulf, had claimed responsibility for the Riyadh bombing.

The other two extremist organizations to have claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack on the Egyptian embassy are Gama’a al-Islamiyya and Al-Jihad. All of them function underground, with one common domestic agenda: to bring down the regime of Hosni Mubarak not through elections or other peaceful means but with the resort to arms. They attack the Mubarak regime primarily due to the reason that, like its predecessors, it has pursued peace with the state of Israel, and that it has close relationship with the main protector of Jewish entity in the Middle East: the United States.

The Muslim extremist groups, whether they are based in Egypt, Pakistan, Algeria or any other country of the Muslim world have a transnational Islamic agenda. When the Afghan jihad was going on, hundreds of volunteers from across the Muslim world landed in Pakistan, which remained Afghan mujahideen’s main sanctuary. They came mainly from Egypt, Sudan, Algeria and Jordan. Among them, there were also many Palestinians. But the largest contingent was of the Egyptian extremists. Many leaders and members of Al-Jihad and Gama’a al-Islamiyya constituted the Egyptian Mujahideen component during the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan.

Once the United States and its international partners withdrew their support to Afghan mujahideen after the Soviet troops’ withdrawal in late eighties, like most of their Arab volunteers, the Egyptian extremists stayed back in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The reason was that almost all of them were wanted in Egypt on charges of practicing anti-state terrorism.

As of 1997, Pakistan had extradited close to 100 wanted extremists to Cairo, after it signed with Egypt an extradition treaty in 1996. The decision was taken after after a bloody war between Afridi tribesmen and Arab volunteers in the Khyber Agency in 1996.

However, hundreds of Egyptian extremists were still believed to be present in the country. They were linked to the transnational Islamic movement, whose tentacles had spread from Afghanistan in West Asia to Algeria in North Africa. Backed by Iran and Sudan, they opposed pro-Western Muslim regimes such as that of Egypt, and had an anti-American agenda.

Gama’a Islamiyya and Al-Jihad are extremist offshoots of Egypt’s Ikhwan-ul-Muslimeen, which shares a lot in terms of history and ideology with Pakistan’s leading Islamic party, Jama’at-e-Islami. No surprise that Jamaat-e-Islami was in the forefront of opposing the Benazir Bhutto government’s policy of extraditing Egyptian extremists to Cairo following their battle with Afridi tribesmen. Consequently, most of these extremists were given safe passage to Afghanistan.

That all the extremist groups are interlinked was apparent from the fact that three Egyptian extremist groups were simultaneously claiming responsibility for the terrorist attack in Islamabad. They might be three separate entities, but their aim was common. For instance, Khalid Islambuli was the one who had assassinated former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. His brother Muhammad Islambuli was a leader of Al Jihad, which had claimed responsibility for Sadat’s assassination. Now the International Justice Group had claimed responsibility for the Islamabad bombing as a revenge for the hanging of “martyr Khaled Islambuli.’

In 1997, the Islamabad suicide bombing was the fourth in a row of extremists’ bloody attempts against the Mubarak regime. Two attacks took place in Egypt, and one in Ethiopia, when the motorcade of President Mubarak was attacked by missiles in Addis Ababa. After narrowly escaping the assassination attempt, Mr. Mubarak had to cut short his official visit to the African country.

Surfaced in Egypt back in 70s, Gama’a al-Islamiyya was the first to claim responsibility for the Islamabad attack. The blind Egyptian Mullah, Omar Abdul Rahman—who was convicted in early 1997 by a US court of involvement in the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing in New York, and is serving over 200 years of life imprisonment in the US—is the spiritual leader of this extremist group, which calls for the establishment of a true Islamic state in Egypt through the use of force and urges the Muslims to “defend themselves” against Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority.

In recent times, the outlawed Gama’a al-Islamiyya has been quite active in its terror campaign to overthrow the regime of President Mubarak. Although the Egyptian government had blamed Sudan for the June 1997 assassination attempt on Mr. Mubarak in Addis Ababa, it was again Gama’a al- Islamiyya, which had claimed responsibility for that incident. Although Gama’a al- Islamiyya was not responsible for assassinating Mr. Sadat, it did participate actively in the social unrest preceding his assassination.

Since 1992, nearly a thousand innocent people have lost their lives in terrorist attacks by Egyptian extremist groups. The leaders and foot-soldiers of Gama’a al- Islamiyya are said to be mostly young Egyptians who had fought against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan, and its strongholds are the poverty-stricken southern provinces of Egypt