News that the U.S. State Department issued a visa to Hani Nour Eldin, a member of Egypt’s Gama’a al-Islamiya or Islamic Group, has sparked a roaring controversy over the circumstances and appropriateness of the decision. On June 24, Representative Peter King, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, sent a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano asking for explanations.
But in the midst of the controversy, one important point appears to have largely escaped notice. Not only is the historical leader of Gama’a al-Islamiya none other than Omar Abdel Rahman: the “blind sheikh” who was convicted in 1995 of plotting terrorist attacks on targets in New York City. Not only is Gama’a al-Islamiya formally designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government. Gama’a al-Islamiya is also, in the person of Abdel Rahman’s successor Refai Ahmed Taha, one of the five signatories of Osama bin Laden’s February 1998 “World Islamic Front Statement Urging Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders.”
Presented as a fatwa, the statement, of which a translation is available here, amounts to bin Laden’s declaration of war on the United States of America. It specifically directs Muslims to attack not only American military personnel, but also civilians. Thus, it reads: “The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies – civilians and military – is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it.” The statement continues, “We – with Allah’s help – call on every Muslim who believes in Allah and wishes to be rewarded to comply with Allah’s order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it.”
The “World Islamic Front Statement” would unleash a series of worldwide attacks on American interests including the August 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya, the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, and, of course, the September 11 attacks in 2001. Both the importance of the “World Islamic Front Statement” and the participation of the Egyptian Islamic Group in it are acknowledged in the 9/11 Commission Report. (See pp. 47, 70, and 466.)
German domestic intelligence reports cited by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in 2003 provide a more precise idea how the statement influenced events leading to 9/11. According to the reports, a Syrian-born German citizen by the name of Mohammed Haydar Zammar agitated for jihad by distributing bin Laden’s “Declaration of War” in Hamburg mosques. Zammar’s jihadist proselytism would appear to have borne bitter fruit for America. He is suspected of having been the al-Qaeda recruiter who assembled the Hamburg Cell that would go on to plan and carry out the 9/11 attacks.
John Rosenthal writes on European politics and transatlantic security issues. You can follow his work at www.trans-int.com or on Facebook.
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