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Bin Laden Linked To Two Egyptian Islamic Groups

Islamic militant Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in this week's terrorist strikes in the United States, has had close links with two Egyptian fundamentalist groups through an Islamic movement he founded in 1998.

Both of those organizations were involved in a wave of violence in Egypt in 1992 aimed at overthrowing the regime of President Hosni Mubarak and the head of one of them, jihad, is bin Laden's right-hand man.

jihad, the Arabic word for Holy War, was responsible for the 1981 assassination of Mubarak's predecessor, Anwar Sadat.

According to the Terrorism Research Center, jihad specializes in armed attacks against high-level Egyptian government personnel, including cabinet ministers, and car-bombings against official US and Egyptian facilities.

It claimed responsibility for the attempted assassinations of then interior minister Hassan al-Alfi in August 1993 and prime minister Atef Sedky in November 1993. But it has not conducted an attack inside Egypt since 1993 and has never targeted foreign tourists there.

The second group is Jamaa Islamiya, which claimed responsibility for the 1997 massacre of 58 tourists in the southern Egyptian city of Luxor.

Bin Laden, who has been taking refuge in Afghanistan since 1996 under the protection of the Taliban Islamic militia that now controls most of that country, is surrounded by a network of militants.

One of the best known among them is Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahri, considered to be his right-hand man.

Zawahri is head of jihad and was sentenced to death in absentia in a 1999 in a trial of several hundred Islamist leaders in Egypt. He had left the country in the 1980s after serving a three-year prison sentence for his involvement in Sadat's assassination.

jihad, also implicated in the 1998 bombing attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, joined an organization called the Front for the Liberation of Islamic Holy Places (FLIHP), formed that same year in Peshawar, Pakistan under the aegis of Bin Laden.

Jamaa Islamiya was briefly affiliated with the FLIHS before announcing in 1999 that it was renouncing recourse to violence.

Another defendant in the trial that brought Zawarhi's death sentence was Ibrahim Naggar, who revealed during interrogation what he said was Bin Laden's vision for the FLIHP and its Egyptian affiliates.

The multi-millionaire of Saudi origin allegedly called for Egyptians to drop their attacks on their own government, which he argued were too costly in financial and human terms, and to concentrate on the struggle against the United States and Israel.

Bin Laden's view was that the "Jewish lobby ran US policy and that it was behind the weakening of Muslim peoples and governments," Naggar said.

"Bin Laden set the FLIHP's objective as eradicating from Arab and Muslim lands the American hegemony through launching a guerrilla war against American and Israeli interests, not only in the Arab and Muslim world, but throughout the world," he said.

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