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Former Egyptian militants turn to politics

The strictest of Egypt's Islamists, some with roots in terrorist groups in the 1980s and '90s, are emerging from the shadows of the Mubarak era to fight for power at the ballot box.

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In the Nile River city of Luxor, assailants bearing knives and firearms massacred 62 foreign tourists and Egyptians in the majestic Temple of Hatshepsut in 1997. Some of the attackers belonged to the Gamaa Islamiyah, a militant group that announced last month it's forming a political party.

The group, led at one time by Omar Abdel Rahman, the "blind sheikh" serving life in a US federal prison for his role in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, is just one of a slew of Islamist organizations mobilizing for a share of the spoils in post-Mubarak Egypt. Though the group renounced violence in a deal brokered with Hosni Mubarak soon after the Luxor massacre, its members still adhere to the hard-line salafi interpretation of Islam.

“It’s fascinating because you essentially have a former terrorist group deciding to throw its [hat] into the political arena,” says Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Institution in Doha, who studies democratization in the region. “That’s always a big deal, and it suggests that everyone wants a piece of the pie.”


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