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Sender: owner-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Tue, 9 Dec 97 10:54:49 CST
From: rich@pencil (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: Middle East Security Report: Exiled Islamists
Article: 23640

/** headlines: 129.0 **/
** Topic: Middle East Security Report: Exiled Islamists **
** Written 7:14 PM Dec 8, 1997 by newsdesk in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 6:48 AM Dec 7, 1997 by DEBRA@OLN.comlink.apc.org in hrnet.africa */
/* ---------- Middle East Security Report: No. 46 ---------- */

Exiled Islamists

Middle East Security Report, issue 46, 26 November 1997

Islamist activists based in Europe are likely to face more surveillance and greater restrictions in the wake of mounting criticisms by Arab leaders of the West's reluctance to clampdown on alleged extremist dissidents.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on 23 November blasted countries he said sheltered exiled Islamist radicals linked to groups responsible for attacks like the 17 November killing of 58 foreign tourists in Egypt [MESR 45].

Britain - as well as Afghanistan - came in for particular criticism from the Egyptian president. The British Home Secretary (interior minister) Jack Straw had already pledged to review - by early next year - the law that does not make it an offence in Britain to plot an attack abroad. Israel, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt have long complained that Britain's asylum laws and culture of free speech have enabled extremist Islamist opponents to operate from London.

In response to Mubarak's criticism, Straw issued a statement, saying he intends to tighten anti-terrorism laws by making it illegal to conspire in Britain to commit terrorist acts abroad.

Iran and Sudan have previously drawn most of Cairo's ire for harbouring terrorists.

Meanwhile, the French authorities, which have also accused Britain of harbouring members of Algeria's Armed Islamic Group (GIA), are continuing their efforts to curb the activities of Europe-based Islamist extremists.

In mid-November French customs detained a suspected member of the GIA as he entered France from Germany. He was carrying four stolen Belgian passports and a GIA rubber stamp. On 25 November, following further investigations into the alleged smuggling of forged passports by North African Islamists between France, Italy, Belgium, Turkey and Canada, five people were detained in the northern town of Roubaix. Last year the town witnessed deadly gunbattles between North African immigrants and the police.

The trial of 38 Islamist militants got under way in Paris this week. They are accused of providing logistical support for the 1995 wave of bombings in France in which eight people died and more than 170 were injured. Sixteen of the defendants are Algerian. The GIA was blamed for the attacks, though the actual bombers were never officially identified, and a number of suspects were killed in clashes with the security forces in France and Algeria.

For its part, the Algerian authorities last week sentenced to death in absentia 20 militants, exiled abroad or underground in Algeria, for smuggling weapons from Europe to Algeria.

Among those sentenced was Anwar Haddam, a spokesman for Algeria's Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) currently detained in the US pending a final decision on his asylum request. With the prospect of tighter controls over exiled Islamists, Haddam has been keen to stress this week that FIS members based abroad obeyed the laws of where they resided while working to support guerrillas at home.

On 22 November, Bahrain sentenced eight exiled Shiite opposition leaders to jail terms of between five and 15 years, the official Gulf News Agency reported. The trial in absentia began on 8 November with charges including setting up an illegal group to overthrow the government by force. A number of Bahraini opposition figures are based in Britain.

More than 30 people have been killed in sporadic attacks perpetrated by Bahrain's majority Shiites since 1994 to press for political reforms by the Sunni-led government [MESR 30].

Following the tourist killings in Egypt, the police in Dubai have suggested they will establish a security unit that will conduct studies of terrorism and the tactics used by militants.

Arab states are increasing their level of coordination to combat alleged extremists. On 26 November Arab justice ministers began a two-day meeting in Cairo in which they were to discuss the details of a treaty on fighting terrorism. The agreement aims to facilitate extradition and the exchange of information to prevent terrorism.

The Inter-Arab Anti-Terrorism Treaty was endorsed by a committee of Arab interior and justice ministers in September. It is due to come into effect 30 days after its ratification and submission to the Arab League Secretary General.


In the wake of the 17 November killing of 58 foreign tourists at Luxor by Islamist extremists, Egypt's police are to receive training and support from the army [MESR 45]. The Interior Ministry is, however, to retain overall control of internal security.

Though the divided Al-Gamaat Al-Islamiya claimed responsibility for the Luxor killings, it is not clear whether the attackers received direct orders from the Gamaat's military leader Mustafa Hamza - who is believed to be in exile in Afghanistan - or they were merely inspired by him. A piece of paper reportedly found on the body of one of the six Luxor attackers said: We are at your service, Mustafa Hamza.

The Interior Ministry identified one of the attackers as Medhat Abderrahman, whom they said had left Egypt in 1993 for Pakistan and Sudan, where he received training.

Reports from the Luxor attack suggest that the armed militants have modified their tactics. Attacks on tourists have usually been of a hit-and-run nature, but at Luxor the assailants took their time to shoot and stab their victims at close range. Also evident at Luxor, as well as during an attack on a passenger train five days earlier, was the fact that the militants are making greater efforts not to be captured by the authorities - wounded militants are being shot dead by their comrades.

The US Embassy on 25 November issued a warning to Americans in Egypt that the US government has reason to believe that the Gamaat may be planning attacks against American interests. No US citizens were killed or wounded in the Luxor attack.


The bomb that killed four civilians on 25 November in Jijel province has raised questions over whether the Islamic Salvation Army (AIS) has ended its ceasefire, the Algerian Liberte newspaper said on 26 November [MESR 37]. The bombing took place in an AIS stronghold in the Toualbia region 240 km east of Algiers. The AIS is the armed wing of the outlawed Islamic Salvation Front (FIS).

Meanwhile, reports in the London-based Al-Hayat say that two small rebel groups who had supported the AIS call for a truce, the Islamic League of Jihad and Appeal, and Kitabat Al-Rahman (Merciful Fighters), have threatened to resume fighting because of continued government activity against them.


The safety of aid workers in Somalia has come under continuous threat this week. Five foreign aid workers kidnapped in the self-declared republic of Somaliland were freed unharmed on 24 November after three days of captivity. Their release apparently occurred after extensive negotiations with tribal elders.

The kidnappings were linked to reports of rivalry between charcoal producers and that the aid workers were thought to be carrying money. The internationally unrecognised Somaliland government had protested to the UN and European Union saying the aid workers had not sought permission to enter Somaliland.

Elsewhere in Somalia armed clashes have continued to claim lives. While militiamen killed at least nine people north of Mogadishu on 24 November in a dispute over farmland, two Italian aid workers were briefly taken hostage nearby, and their offices were looted and a driver was wounded.

Faction leaders in the port of Kismayo had pledged not to attack relief workers delivering aid to nearly 250,000 people displaced by the severe flooding in the south [MESR 45]. However, the Rahanwein Resistance Army warned that relief workers could be attacked if they were to be escorted by Hussein Mohamed Aideed's militiamen.

Despite some 2,000 people having been killed in the six weeks of flooding, the area around Baidoa has also seen renewed fighting which is slowing up aid delivery.


A tourist from the UAE was killed when armed robbers reportedly attacked an apparently lost convoy of game hunters in the Medoub Mountain area in western Sudan on 23 November.