Egypt Amends View of Islamists

(Wall Street Journal) Yaroslav Trofimov - Hundreds of Islamic radicals escaped from prison during the Egyptian uprising last month. Now, protesters are pressing for the release or civilian retrial of the country's remaining political prisoners - including, to the alarm of U.S. officials, militants involved in scores of terror attacks. In a narrative taking hold among Egypt's new revolutionaries, these al-Qaeda-affiliated militants are seen as having been pushed to violence by the excesses of the overthrown dictatorship. Now, these people say, the militants represent no threat to the future democracy. Many of the Islamist prisoners in Egypt belong to Gamaa Islamiyya, a movement that was responsible for killing hundreds of foreign tourists, policemen and secular intellectuals, in addition to involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in New York. Some 500 prisoners jailed for links to Gamaa Islamiyya have been set free over the past two weeks. "The euphoria of the popular revolution shouldn't make us Pollyannaish about the reality of terrorism," said Juan Zarate, the U.S. deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism from 2005 to 2009. "Al-Qaeda is trying to take advantage of the events on the ground. One of the primary concerns of the U.S. government is to find out which hard-core jihadis have escaped, and which role could they play in the reinvigoration of al-Qaeda's presence in Egypt."

2011-03-11 00:00:00

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