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Out There News

Militants linked to US blast hate West

By Paul Eedle 

CAIRO, March 5, Reuter - Egypt's Moslem militants, believed by police to be linked to the bombing of New York's World Trade Centre, regard the United States and Europe as a Christian alliance that has been persecuting Islam for centuries. 

They see an unbroken chain of Western acts of aggression against Islam stretching from the mediaeval Crusades through European colonial rule of the Middle East to the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq and Serb attacks against Moslems in Bosnia today. 

Safwat Abdel-Ghani, an alleged militant leader on trial for the 1990 murder of the speaker of Egypt's parliament, lectured a Cairo court on Thursday on the beliefs and motives of the "Islamic movement" in Egypt. "The West wants to eliminate... the ability of Moslems to protect themselves and calls it terrorism," Abdel-Ghani argued in an echoing exhibition hall converted into a high security court. "When America destroys the infrastructure of Iraq... that is legal. But for a people to defend itself, that is terrorism," he declared. 

A dozen co-defendants, like Abdel-Ghani dressed in the white robes of pious Moslems, listened intently in cages along the side of the courtroom. Abdel-Ghani stood at a lectern piled with Islamic law books, facing a panel of three judges. "Islam is not only a path, it is people. Just as there is a ferocious war against Islam as a path, there is a ferocious war against the people who practise Islam," he argued. 

The group accused of the parliament speaker's murder and which has now been implicated in the Trade Centre bombing are followers of a blind Egyptian preacher living in exile in New Jersey, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman. New Jersey police sources say Mohammed Salameh, who was charged on Thursday with involvement in the bombing, prayed at a mosque regularly addressed by Sheikh Omar. Salemeh was reported to be a Palestinian carrying Egyptian travel documents. 

Sheikh Omar's followers in Egypt were convicted of assassinating President Anwar Sadat in 1981, although he himself was acquitted, and were accused of involvement in the murder of radical Rabbi Meir Kahane in New York in 1990. The organisation in Egypt, known as el-Gama'a el-Islamiya (Islamic Group), is waging an underground war to turn the country into a purist Islamic state. It has carried out a series of gun and bomb attacks on foreigners over the past five months which have devastated the Egyptian tourist industry. 

Abdel-Ghani, who has also been charged with ordering the murder last year of an anti-fundamentalist writer from his prison cell, said the West had deliberately sown division among Moslem nations since the World War Two and had encouraged dictatorial governments. 

Much of his view of the world is also shared by Moslem activists who describe themselves as moderates supporting the 60-year-old Moslem Brotherhood, which is publicly committed to non-violence and working within Egypt's political system. Brotherhood supporters see the Egyptian government's economic reforms, which include widespread privatisation, as a Western-dictated plot to sell the country to foreigners. They regard the two billion dollars a year in aid from the United States as a device to impose Western political control. 

The fundamentalist newspaper al-Shaab headlined a news analysis on Friday: "Government terrorism against Islamists aims at preparing the way for selling companies to foreigners. U.S. conditions for aid: continuing political and economic shame."