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– RIFAAI AHMAD TAHA

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* Rifaai Ahmad Taha, also known asAbu Yasir, was the Amir (Commissioner – commander) of the EGYPTIAN Jamaa Islamiya (EJI) up to his resignation in 1998.

Rifaai  Taha was considered to have been the leading hawk in EGYPTIAN Jamaa Islamiya’sleadership, who was sentenced in Egypt, already in 1992, in absentia, to death. The group became notorious in the 1990s’ for its attacks on secularists, Coptic Christians, tourists, and on members of the government, culminating in the Addis-Ababa Attempt on President Mubarak in 1995. Two years later, in early 1997, a number of the group’s imprisoned leaders called a truce. Hardliners such as Rifai Taha, who was at that time in Afghanistan, rejected the truce.  Rifai Taha is held to have ordered, as a signal of his faction’s refusal to abide by a ceasefire, the Luxor Massacre.

Following the Luxor Massacre in 11/1997, Rifaai  Taha fell out with his successor Mustafa Hamza as the leader of the EGYPTIAN Jamaa Islamiya .

Rifaai Taha became increasingly close to the EGYPTIAN Islamic Jihad and Al Qaeda. Indeed Rifaai  Taha was one of the five signatories, alongside Osama Bin Laden, Ayman Al Zawahiri, Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil and  Sheikh Mir Hamza, secretary of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Pakistan, to the founding charter of the ‘Islamic Front for the Jihad against Jews and Crusaders’ established, on 02/23/1998, when the Fatwa was issued calling for attacks on all Americans, including civilians and is considered as the Al Qaeda manifesto.

It is believed that Osama Bin Laden may have subcontracted the EJI to bomb the USA Embassies in Nairobi and Dar a Salaam, on 08/07/1998. However, immediately prior to the bombing an interview with Rifaai  Taha was posted on Jamaa Islamiya web magazine, al-Murabitun, strenuously distancing the EJI from the Islamic Front (Al Qaeda) – which analysts later interpreted as an attempt to avoid the expected heat of USA retribution.

Rifaai Taha had been intercepted in 2001 on one of his frequent trips between Afghanistan, Iran and Sudan. He was caught in Syria and was extradited from Syria to Egypt in 2001, following The 9/11. Rifaai  Taha is assumed to be in Egyptian jail since then.

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