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EGYPT: Former militant condemns Zawahiri as 'bloodthirsty'

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Al Qaeda second in command Ayman Zawahiri is a bloodthirsty militant who exerts all possible effort to justify the killing of innocent civilians, according to his former partner with whom Zawahiri co-founded a notorious Islamic militant organization in Egypt three decades ago.

“Zawahiri finds it legitimate to kill anybody whose country fights Muslims,” said Sayed Imam, an iconic ideologue of the Egyptian group Islamic Jihad, on Monday in his new jailhouse treatise quoted in the independent daily Al Masry al Youm. Imam added that Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri are “bloodthirsty and remain determined to commit mass killings.”

The scathing treatise, published in sequels in the local press, seeks primarily to renounce violence and bash Al Qaeda. In today’s installment, Imam, who is serving a 25-year sentence, tears apart the logic of the religious fatwas Al Qaeda uses to rationalize the killing of civilians. 

“The killing of civilians in blocks, trains, markets, mosques or elsewhere is a declaration of impotence to face armies of enemy states and cowardice. Their impotence drew them to kill civilians who Islamic Sharia said should not be killed,” said Imam.

Imam also criticized Al Qaeda’s condoning attacks on tourists visiting Muslim countries: “Zawahiri and his friends call for the killing and kidnapping of tourists; however, Zawahiri himself went to a number of European countries and the U.S. and came out of these countries safe and nobody harmed him there. Nobody kidnapped or killed him.”

In the 1970s, Imam and Zawahiri formed the first cell of Islamic Jihad, which orchestrated the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981 and the attempts on the lives of many Egyptian ministers in the 1990s.  Last year, the number of jailed Islamic Jihad members was estimated at 2,000.

State retribution forced many militants to flee the country to Pakistan and Afghanistan. From there, the group is believed to have plotted several terrorist operations, including the bombing of the Egyptian Embassy in Islamabad in 1995 and the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

In the late 1990s, many Islamic Jihad leaders including Zawahiri joined Al Qaeda in a fatwa, or religious edict, against Americans that was issued under the banner of the  World Islamic Front for Jihad against Jews and Crusaders.

Imam’s treatise marks the latest in the ongoing war of words between him and Al Qaeda. Imam threw himself in a head-on confrontation with Al Qaeda leaders after he drafted his first treatise from his prison cell last year announcing the departure from the group’s initial ideology, renouncing the use of violence and opening fire on Al Qaeda for its killing of civilians. His words elicited a prompt response from his former partner Zawahiri, who released a rebuttal alleging that “crusaders and Jews” inspired Imam’s treatise. 

—Noha El-Hennawy in Cairo

Photo: Ayman Zawahiri. Credit: Wickimedia

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