CAIRO: After the recent arrest of Gamaa Islamiyya’s chairman Essam Derbala, and replacing him with senior members Osama Hafez, an unnamed source within the radical group told Youm7 Monday that its senior members decided not to speak to the media.
Senior members of the group will limit themselves to unified statements on the group’s official online platforms to avoid “floundering.”
Derbala was arrested last week in the Upper Egyptian governorate of Qena over charges of violence and “terrorism.”
Conflicting statements were made by Gamaa Islamiyya members recently, as some called for replacing Derbala with the group’s veteran leader Abbud al-Zumar, who had spent decades in jail for complicity in assassinating late President Anwar Sadat, and was released in 2011. Other members vocally condemned appointing Hafez as a chairman.
“Hafez’s appointment means that Derbala’s violent actions against the state will be more entrenched, and it reflects the uncertain vision of the [group’s] board,” former senior member of the group Awad el-Hattab told Sada el-Balad Saturday.
Brotherhood-Gamaa Islamiyya relations
The Muslim Brotherhood did not react to Derbala’s arrest, sparking concerns among Gamma Islamiyya.
“Why didn’t the Muslim Brotherhood or other islamists and non-islamists political parties condemn Derbala’s arrest?” Senior Gamma Islamiyya member Sayed Farag told the website of the group’s Building and Development party Monday.
Former senior Gamaa Islamiyya member Hesham al-Naggar told Youm 7 Monday the Brotherhood might be disappointed that its ally has “refrained” from protesting in Upper Egypt, where the group is mostly active.
Derbala slammed the Egyptian military when it ousted former president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, as his group is an ally of the Muslim Brotherhood and a member of the pro-Morsi National Alliance to Support Legitimacy.
Several initiatives for reconciliation, aiming to alleviate the crackdown on Islamists, between the regime and the Brotherhood have been signaled by Gamaa Islamiyya leaders; most notably Tarek al-Zumar, chairman of Gamaa Islamiyya’s Building and Development party.
He told Al-Jazeera channel two weeks ago the Brotherhood “needs to recognize their opponents and deal with them.”
Gamaa Islamiyya was an active militant group in the 1990s in Egypt, and is designated as a “terrorist organization” by the European Union as well as the United States.