A member of the newly elected Egyptian parliament has called for al Qaeda’s emir to return to the country “with his head held high and safely.”
Aboud al Zomor, who served as the first emir of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and was later imprisoned for his role in President Anwar Sadat’s assassination, said that he welcomes Ayman al Zawahiri’s return to Egypt and that he would be given safe haven, according to a report published yesterday in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat. The report was translated from Arabic by the Foundation For Defense of Democracies.
“When asked if he saw any danger in al Zawahiri’s return, al Zomor said that ‘he was not a threat to Egypt, the likes of al Zawahiri differed with the previous regime and they were only a danger for this regime and not for Egypt, and now he is liberating Afghanistan and Iraq…'” the report stated. Zomor also lamented that the US would be opposed to Zawahiri’s return to Egypt.
Zomor denied having direct contact with members of al Qaeda, and claims to have renounced violence.
“I’ve distanced myself from that currently because I took the political line and closed the page on the past, as a result of which doors to peaceful action opened for us,” he told Al-Sharq Al-Awsat.
Zomor is one of the primary founders of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the terrorist group that merged with al Qaeda. Zawahiri succeeded Zomor as the group’s emir and presided over its merger with bin Laden’s terror group in the 1990s.
Zomor, who was freed along with his brother Tarek from prison in 2011 after serving more than 20 years for their role in assassinating Sadat, now leads the Building and Development Party, a Salafi Islamist political party that won 16 seats in Egypt’s recent parliamentary elections. His party is allied with Al Nour; together they make up the Islamist Bloc, which won 127 of the 498 seats. Both Zomor’s party and Al Nour call for sharia, or Islamic law. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, which also calls for Islamic law, won 235 of the seats in parliament, giving Islamist parties 362 total seats. The newly elected parliament will appoint the committee to craft Egypt’s new constitution.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.