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International Islamic Front

The earliest version of an Islamist terrorist coalition led by Osama bin Laden was the International Islamic Front, a loose coalition founded in Saudi Arabia in August 1990, which included Egypt's Jihad and Jamaa Islamiya armed outfits, Jordan's Mohammad's Army, Jammu and Kashmir's Ansar Movement and several other factions, including the AI-Muhajirun. However, on February 23, 1998, Osama bin Laden issued an edict (fatwa) calling for attacks on all Americans, including civilians, and announced the creation of the International Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Jews and Crusaders, in association with extremist groups from Egypt, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Jihad leader Ayman El-Zawahri, who is believed to be living in Afghanistan, is known to be a close associate of Osama bin Laden. The two, along with four militant groups, announced the formation of the International Islamic Front for Jihad against Jews and Crusaders.

The organizations whose membership in the International Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Jews and Crusaders was announced are the

Egyptian Jihad Group (Jamaat-ul-Jihad),

Egyptian Armed Islamic Group (Gama'a al-Islamiya),

Pakistan Scholars/Ulema Society (Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Pakistan),

Partisans Movement in Kashmir (Harkat-ul-Ansar),

Jihad Movement in Bangladesh,

Afghan military wing of the "Advice and Reform" commission led by Osama bin Ladin.

Signatories to the February statement, other than Osama bin Laden, were Ayman al-Zawahri, leader of Egypt's Jihad group, Rifai Taha, head of Egypt's Gama'a al-Islamiya, Mir Hamza, secretary general of Pakistan's Ulema Society, Fazlul Rahman, head of the Jihad Movement in Bangladesh.

Earlier, all these organizations were reportedly cooperating and coordinating with one another, but without any specific configuration or mechanism for such cooperation. Moreover, each of these organizations had freedom of action and determined their own objectives independently. Cooperation among these organizations existed only at the level of "those who carry arms," which is one of the organizational levels of each organization. There were no means of cooperation and coordination among "the people of the call," another of the organizational levels. This is due to the fact that Afghanistan enhanced relations among the "carriers of arms" and created a kind of interpersonal cohesion.

The threat posed by this new front is due to the fact that it combines all the organizational levels, by establishing a Shura (consultative council). According to most assessments, Osama Bin Ladin leads this council and resultantly increases the front's effectiveness. Reports also indicate that the Islamic Front has currently moved from the constituent and organizational phase to an operational phase.

According to reports, Osama bin Laden announced the formation of an International Islamic Front for Jihad against America and Israel on May 28, 1998. Osama is reported to have indicated that leaders of Islamist movements in several countries, including Pakistan had evinced interest in joining the front. Aiman Al-Zawahiri, leader of the Jamaat-ul-Jihad in Egypt is believed to have played a crucial role in launching this front. Reports also indicated that various Islamist outfits of Pakistan, like the Markaz Dawa Al Irshad (Centre For Preaching), its armed wing, the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), and the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) have become members of the International Islamic Front For Jihad Against the US and Israel.





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