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Wednesday, November 17, 1999 Published at 14:55 GMT


World: Middle East

Analysis: Islamic militants re-evaluate tactics

Nearly 60 tourists were killed in the massacre at the Luxor temple

By Caroline Hawley in Cairo

It is two years since Islamic militants massacred 58 foreign tourists outside the temple of Queen Hatshepsut in the southern Egyptian city of Luxor.

The attack was the bloodiest, by far, in the militants' struggle to topple the Egyptian Government.

It crippled Egypt's tourism industry, although that has now recovered.

In fact, tourists are now back in Egypt in what officials say are record numbers - and the authorities are taking no chances over their safety.

"The police are everywhere," said a Spanish tourist in Cairo's Egyptian museum.

"At every hotel, every museum, every temple."


[ image: The temple at Hatshepsut attracts tourists once more]
The temple at Hatshepsut attracts tourists once more
Among Egypt's Islamists, the aftermath of the attack - a tough security campaign by the authorities, coupled with public revulsion - has prompted a re-evaluation of tactics.

In March this year, the main Islamic group, the Gamaa' al-Islamiya, agreed to call off its campaign of violence.

Islamic Jihad, the group that gunned down the former Egyptian leader, Anwar Sadat, in 1981 has not, but several of its former members have individually decided to turn their back on militancy and try to enter the political arena.

Mamdouh Ismail used to belong to Islamic Jihad.

He spent three years in jail after the assassination of Anwar Sadat.

But now the 38-year-old lawyer hopes to set up his own political party.

Goals through 'peaceful means'

The aim is the same - to bring about the establishment of Islamic law.

But the method has changed. Mamdouh Ismail says he is committed to achieving his goals through peaceful means.

Last month, he submitted an application for legal approval for a party to be called "Sharia" or "Islamic Law."

Another group of Islamists, led by a journalist, Gamal Sultan, is trying to set up similar party called Islah, or Reform.

The government will almost certainly refuse their applications.

It recently launched a crack-down against the banned, but usually tolerated, Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's oldest Islamist group, which advocates the establishment of an Islamic state through peaceful means.

'Islamists still a threat'

Twenty senior members of the group were arrested last month, and are expected to face military trial.

They have been accused of trying to spread the Muslim Brotherhood's ideas, and of seeking to control Egypt's professional bodies.

Human rights groups have protested. In a letter to President Mubarak, the New York-based group, Human Rights Watch, said no-one should face prosecution for seeking to compete peacefully in elections to professional associations.

It appealed for the ban on the Muslim Brotherhood to be lifted.

But the message of the government's move against the Brotherhood is clear - it still regards Islamists as a political threat, whether or not they advocate violence.



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