Egypt Breaks-up al-Ta’efa al-Mansoura Jihadist Group

Publication: Terrorism Focus Volume: 3 Issue: 16

On April 19, the Egyptian Ministry of Interior announced the capture of 22 members of a jihadist group that calls itself al-Ta’efa al-Mansoura (the Victorious Sect), and said that the group was planning to launch terrorist attacks against tourist locations and a gas line and assassinate Muslim and Christian religious figures (al-Hayat, April 20). The group was headed by Ahmed Mohamed Ali Gabr (known as Abu Musab), an Egyptian literature student aided by Ahmad Basyuni (known as Abu Bakr al-Masri), an Egyptian preacher (Elaph website, April 19).

This new group marks the rise of what is known as the third generation of the Salafi-Jihadist movement in Egypt because although the statement did not indicate a connection between the group and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, it did in fact point to the group’s intention to recruit young men to fight “abroad.” This shows that the rise of this group is connected with the transformation of the Salafi-Jihadist movement. Since the Luxor incident in November 1997, when a group of Jamaa Islamiya jihadists attacked two tourist buses visiting Luxor’s Temple of Hatshepsut, a shift in strategy appeared in the militant organization. Jamaa Islamiya, one of the major jihadist groups (which participated in the assassination of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981), conducted a comprehensive review of its ideology and methods, resulting in what is known as the Muraja’at, which consisted of a number of publications by the historical leaders of Jamaa Islamiya in which they rejected violence and called for peaceful conflict.

Since then, the activities of jihadist movements subsided in Egypt, the birthplace of those organizations in the Arab World; aside from Talai’ al-Fath (the Vanguards of Victory), whose group leaders were captured in September 2005, the Sharm el-Sheikh attacks in July 2005, the Taba bombings in October 2004, two bomb explosions in Cairo in April 2005 (which was considered an “act of vengeance” over international conditions) and the recent attacks in Dahab, the activities of ideological fundamentalist groups have subsided in Egypt since the Muraja’at (al-Hayat, April 20).

Based on this, al-Ta’efa al-Mansoura signifies the birth of a new generation closer to the global Salafi-Jihadist way, and a more ideological movement, which is apparent from the social backgrounds of its members if compared with the members of jihadist movements in the early 1980s. While the al-Ta’efa al-Mansoura group emerged in several districts in Cairo, members of the jihadist groups from the 1980s were from Upper Egypt, just as they were from Jeeza and Cairo (see Rifaat Sayed Ahmad’s The Militant Prophet: the Revolutionaries). Furthermore, most of Egypt’s jihadists in the 1980s were workers in simple professions and blue-collar workers (84.6%), and the rest were students (25.7%), white-collar workers (20%), and military personnel (5.7%). While their average age was 24, the average age of al-Ta’efa al-Mansoura members is 25 and most of its members are students (59.1%), and the rest are white-collar workers (13.6%) and workers in simple professions (27.3%) (the above figures were calculated based on the names in Rifaat Sayed Ahmad’s book and the figures concerning al-Ta’efa al-Mansoura from the Egyptian Ministry of Interior’s statement).

This indicates that the rise of the third generation of Salafi-Jihadists in Egypt might correspond with the rise of a more ideological movement, especially since the targets have been vital locations that might undermine Egypt’s economy and civil order.