|Al-Ahram Weekly Online
18 - 24 October 2001
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Egypt's most wantedEgyptian Afghans, the hard core of Al-Qa'ida, are based not only in Afghanistan but across Europe. In the United Kingdom, Germany, and Austria, Bin Laden's lieutenants have for years enjoyed political asylum. Only recently have some found their way to prison, or were delivered -- handcuffed -- to Egypt. Ahmed Moussa reports
Afghan Arabs. Al-Qa'ida. If they stick, these labels can elevate people to the dubious ranks of the most-wanted list. Since 11 September, members of Osama Bin Laden's outfit, blamed for the attacks on New York and Washington, have been the subject of one of the largest manhunts known in modern times.
The men often referred to as Afghan Arabs were mostly young people when they headed to Afghanistan in the early 1980s to fight the Soviets. Mission accomplished, many of them returned home after the war, only to face and cause trouble. Others moved on, taking residence in over 25 countries, obtaining political asylum, often with the blessing of the intelligence services of the host countries. Some, it is claimed, even worked for these intelligence services.
Now the focus of international attention is: who are these men, where are they, and what links have they kept with Bin Laden?
The Egyptian roster of most-wanted men is long. Below is a list of the key figures.
1. Ayman Rabi' El-Zawahri, leader of Al-Jihad group. El-Zawahri was sentenced to death in Egypt in 1999 in a case dubbed the "Returnees from Albania." Born in Giza in 1951, El-Zawahri was the eldest son in the family. Two of his brothers are known militants. Mohamed is in charge of Al-Jihad's military wing. Hussein was convicted for his role in the assassination attempt against former Interior Minister Hassan Abu Basha in 1987.
Security records say El-Zawahri began his terrorist career in 1974 with a group dubbed "Yehya Hashim." In the late 1970s, El-Zawahri joined Al-Jihad and was sentenced to three years in prison in connection with the assassination of President Anwar El-Sadat in 1981. He was released in 1984 and left the country for Saudi Arabia. Later, he moved to Pakistan, where he set up an Al-Jihad office in Peshawar. He met Bin Ladin for the first time in 1989 and the two men became virtually inseparable. In the absence of Bin Laden, security sources believe El- Zawahri is the only man capable of leading Al- Qa'ida. This is why the two have taken shelter in separate hiding places, in anticipation of US strikes.
Former colleagues of El-Zawahri say he travelled in the mid-1990s to the United States where he collected donations to support his group. He is also said to have instructed his aides to buy sophisticated communications technology capable of tracing satellite radio frequencies. El-Zawahri's name appears on US terror lists with a promise of a $5 million reward to anyone providing information leading to his capture. Egypt had given his name to Interpol in 1996 and again in 1997, requesting his arrest and extradition.
El-Zawahri kept in touch with his followers in Europe and other countries, particularly after the 1998 US air raid on Bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan, which he narrowly survived. Two years earlier, he had visited several countries including the United States and the United Kingdom, at one point staying with Bin Laden in a villa in Wembley, north London, owned by the latter. El-Zawahri joined the World Front for the Fight Against Jews and Crusaders, set up by Bin Laden in 1998 with the purpose of striking against US and Jewish interests.
2. Rifa'i Ahmed Taha, a key official of Al- Gama'a Al-Islamiya, received a death sentence in absentia in connection with the case dubbed the "Returnees from Afghanistan." Taha, 51, with a degree in commerce from Assiut University, served a five-year sentence for terrorist activities. Following his release, he left the country and settled in Afghanistan. He is credited with planning the massacre of tourists in Luxor in 1997. He signed the statement Bin Laden issued in support of operations against US interests and Israelis. But he did not join the World Front, the keystone of Al-Qa'ida.
3. Subhi Abdel-Aziz El-Gohari Abu Sittah, who also goes by the names Abu Hafs El-Masri and Mohamed Atif. He is wanted by the United States and is believed to be one of Bin Laden's key planners and a mastermind of Al-Qa'ida's military operations.
Abu Sittah went to Afghanistan in the early 1980s, where he worked in training camps for Arab mujahidin. He became the top military officer in Al-Qa'ida after the death of Ali Amin El- Rashidi, who drowned in Lake Victoria in 1994. A year ago, a daughter of his married one of Bin Ladin's sons.
4. Nasr Fahmi Nasr Hassanein, also known as Mohamed Salah. He received a death sentence in absentia in the "Returnees from Albania" case. Wanted by the United States, Hassanein is a key figure in Al-Jihad.
5. Adel Abdel-Quddus, who received a death sentence in absentia in connection with the attempt on the life of former Prime Minister Atif Sidqi in 1993. At the time, Abdel-Quddus was in charge of Al-Jihad's civilian branch that facilitated the travel of Egyptians to and from Afghanistan. He was relieved from his post following the attempt on Sidqi's life. He lives in Austria where he was granted political asylum and is running Al- Jihad's office there.
6. Mustafa Hamzah, facing three death sentences in Egypt, is believed to be the architect of the attempt on President Hosni Mubarak's life in Ethiopia in 1995. He lived in Kandahar in Afghanistan before moving out last year. He opposed the merger between his organisation, Al- Gama'a Al-Islamiya, and Bin Laden's Front. Since 1997, Hamzah has been a proponent of the truce announced by the imprisoned leader of the Islamic Group.
7. Tharwat Salah Shehata faces two death sentences in Egypt. He served three years in prison in connection with the 1981 Al-Jihad case. In Afghanistan, El-Zawahri put him in charge of Al- Jihad's security committee which provides logistics to the military wing, the special operations, and the individuals involved in terror attacks. In 1993, Shehata went to Yemen and, after the attempt on Sidqi's life, left for Sudan. He went to Afghanistan in 1995, together with El- Zawahri and Bin Laden. He is a key figure in Bin Laden's organisation and is running its civilian branch.
8. Tareq Anwar Sayed Ahmed faces a life sentence in connection with the "Returnees from Albania" case. Before leaving Egypt in 1988, Ahmed had no significant organisational record, except for his detention in connection with Al-Jihad activities. In Afghanistan, he played a prominent role in religious indoctrination and combat training of recruits. Ahmed, who is wanted by the United States, is said to be a senior member of the military wing of Al-Jihad.
9. Mohamed Mohamed Rabie El-Zawahri faces the death penalty in Egypt. He is now in charge of the military wing of Al-Jihad in Afghanistan and a member of Al-Jihad's Shura council. He is also a member of Bin Laden's World Front. He served with the Islamic Relief Agency in Albania in 1994. He lived and travelled in several countries, including Yemen, Sudan, Albania and Azerbaijan. He is in charge of special operations involving work with commandos specialised in suicide attacks.
10. Abdel-Aziz Musa El-Gamal is a key figure in Al-Jihad group. He was in charge of all training camps in Afghanistan and learned to fly gliders in the United States in 1990. He arranged for three members of the group to train in flying gliders in Afghanistan.
11. Abdel-Akher Hammad faces the death sentence in Egypt for his involvement in the "Returnees from Afghanistan" case. He was one of the first members of the Islamic Group, or Al- Gama'a Al-Islamiya, to participate in training in Afghanistan. Hammad, viewed as a doctrinaire of the Islamic Group, went a year ago to Germany and obtained political asylum.
12. Mohamed Shawqi El-Islambuli faces a death sentence in Egypt. He is member of the consultative, or shura, council of the Islamic Group abroad and is close to Bin Laden and the Taliban. He took residence for sometime in Kandahar. At one point, he was in charge of transporting activists from Yemen to Afghanistan via Pakistan. He is a brother of El-Sadat's convicted assassin Khaled El-Islambuli.
13. Ahmed Hussein Ugayzah faces life imprisonment in Egypt. He escaped to Yemen in 1984, then went to Afghanistan where he became assistant to Ayman El-Zawahri. Ugayzah supervised training camps and helped in planning several operations. He fell out with El-Zawahri over the arrest of 800 members of the Vanguards of Conquest in Egypt. Afterwards, he left Al-Jihad to become second in command of the Vanguards of Conquest.
14. Adel Abdel-Bari faces a death sentence in Egypt. He was head of the media committee of Al-Jihad and of Al-Jihad's office in the United Kingdom where he was granted political asylum in 1993. Three years ago, UK authorities arrested Abdel-Bari on charges of distributing a statement in which the World Front claims responsibility for the bombing of two US embassies in Africa. He now faces possible extradition to the United States.
15. Osama Siddiq is a fugitive from several sentences in Egypt. He received military training in Afghanistan camps, then went to Germany where he obtained political asylum. Siddiq also lived in Yemen, Jordan and Sudan where he was in charge of providing militants with housing and logistical support.
16. Alaaeddin Sarhan is a member of Al-Jihad group. He received training in Afghanistan and was placed in charge of training programmes. He was particularly active in recruiting militants for his group and helping them with travel arrangements.
17. Sayed Imam El-Sharif became leader of Al- Jihad group in 1990 and was replaced by El- Zawahri in 1991. He lives in Afghanistan where he focuses on Shari'a [Islamic law] studies and indoctrination.
18. Murgan Mustafa Salim faces a death sentence in Egypt. After serving a prison term in connection with the 1981 Al-Jihad case, Salim went to Afghanistan where he took charge of the civilian branch that was recruiting young Egyptians, sending them abroad for training and bringing them back to Egypt to launch terror operations. He was dismissed from his post in 1994 following the failure of several Al-Jihad operations and the arrest of over 800 members. Afterwards, he became head of the religious committee.
19. Abdallah Mohamed Ragab was sentenced to death in absentia in Egypt in 1999. He is close to Ayman El-Zawahri and acts occasionally as his deputy. He is also in close touch with Bin Laden and the Taliban.
20. Mohamed Zaki Mahgoub faces 15 years in jail in Egypt in connection with a 1999 case. He is a member of the special missions committee of the Vanguards of Conquest, an offshoot of Al- Jihad. He worked in Afghan camps for a while and resided or travelled in Yemen, Sudan, Albania and Germany. Mahgoub applied for political asylum in Canada in 1999 and his request is still pending. Egypt asked for his extradition. He is said to have trained militants abroad and sent them to Egypt to wage terror attacks.
21. Mohamed Ibrahim Makkawi, also known as Sayf El-Adl, is on the US most-wanted list. He was deputy leader of Al-Jihad until 1993. He fell out with El-Zawahri and joined the Vanguards of Conquest. Makkawi was an Egyptian army colonel but was discharged for involvement in the Al- Jihad case of 1987. One year later, he travelled to Saudi Arabia and then Afghanistan, where he forged close ties with leaders of Al-Jihad and the Islamic Group.
22. Ahmed Said Khidr acquired the Canadian nationality before he travelled to Afghanistan and joined Al-Jihad in the mid-1980s. He is a key member and is in charge of raising funds for the group. Egyptian security services believe he lives in Pakistan and suspect him of financing the bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad in 1995.
23. Hani El-Siba'i faces a 15-year prison term in Egypt. He is a key member of Al-Jihad media committee and consultative council. He used to preach in a Cairo mosque in 1990. He left Egypt for Sudan, then Yemen in 1994. El-Siba'i later travelled to the United Kingdom and was granted political asylum. He is credited with circulating the manifesto announcing the formation of the World Front for the Liberation of Islamic Sanctities.
24. Sayed Agami Muhalhal Mu'awwad received a life sentence in Egypt in 1999. He is a key member of Al-Jihad and a member of the special missions committee. He spent several years in Afghanistan before moving to Yemen in 1992. In 1995, he went to London and was granted political asylum.
25. Yasser Tawfiq Ali El-Sirri faces two death sentences in Egypt. One was for his part in the assassination attempt against former Prime Minister Atif Sidqi in 1993; the other for complicity in the "Returnees from Albania" case in 1999. He was dismissed from military service in Egypt in 1982 for taking part in demonstrations and was detained for three months in 1984 for distributing anti-government leaflets. El-Sirri left Egypt in 1989, and first went to Yemen, then to Sudan. He visited Pakistan three times and took part in relief work for Afghan refugees in Peshawar between 1991 and 1992. He went to London in 1994 and was granted political asylum. He runs the London-based Islamic Media Monitor, a media service of the Vanguards of Conquest.
26. Ibrahim Hussein Idarus faces life imprisonment in Egypt for his role in the "Returnees from Albania" case in 1999. He is a member of the Al-Jihad special missions committee and was the man in charge of forging passports for its members. He went to Afghanistan in the late 1980s and travelled with El-Zawahri to several countries, including Sudan and Yemen. In 1996, he went to the United Kingdom and was granted political asylum. He has been in a UK prison for three years after documents found in his possession indicated a connection between Al-Qa'ida and the bombing of two US embassies in Africa.
27. Ahmed Hassan Rabie was head of the Al- Jihad office in Albania in 1996. He went to Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan, Pakistan, Albania and Azerbaijan. Rabie arrived in The Netherlands in 1997 and then moved to the United Kingdom where he obtained political asylum.
28. Ali Abul-Su'ud, a former commando officer in the Egyptian army, resigned in 1985, went to the United States, married an American and joined the US army in 1987. He travelled to Afghanistan in 1990 where he trained a number of Al-Jihad members to fly gliders with the aim of waging airborne attacks in Egypt. Upon Bin Laden's request, he monitored five US embassies in several African countries, including Kenya and Tanzania. The surveillance helped Bin Laden attack the two embassies on 7 August 1998. Abul-Su'ud has been in a US prison for the past three years.
29. El-Sayed Abdel-Maqsud faces 10 years imprisonment in Egypt for his role in the "Returnees from Albania" case. He was head of the Al-Jihad office in Albania until 1998. He fled Albania after US intelligence tracked down several militants there and had them extradited to Egypt. He went to the United Kingdom and obtained political asylum.
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