Muslim Firebrands Challenge Hamas Rule in Gaza

(AP) Karin Laub - Jihadi Salafis, as they are known, have organized into small, shadowy armed groups that have clashed with Hamas forces in Gaza. Besides resuming rocket fire on Israel in recent weeks, they blew up the car of a Hamas chief outside his southern Gaza home. The violent Salafi groups are inspired by al-Qaeda but are not formally affiliated with it, according to a January study by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a U.S. think tank, co-authored by Yoram Cohen, a former Israel Security Agency official. It said al-Qaeda has not established an affiliate in the region nor accepted any of its "locally radicalized, globally inclined jihadists." The U.S. think tank, citing Israeli officials, estimated that 30 to 50 fighters from Yemen, Egypt, France and elsewhere have slipped into Gaza, either to train Salafi fighters or to wage holy war.

2010-02-16 08:20:15

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