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Cairo bombers linked to gang that killed Sadat: Attack on minister thrusts authorities into new front in struggle with militants

CAIRO - Bombers who penetrated intense security in the heart of Cairo, almost killing the Interior Minister, were believed to be from a revived Muslim group smashed after shooting dead President Anwar Sadat in 1981.

The Muslim militant group al-Jihad claimed responsibility yesterday for the assassination attempt on the minister, Hassan al-Alfi. 'The Jihad group in Egypt announces its responsibility for the latest assault on Hassan al-Alfi, the Interior Minister of the Egyptian regime, which is fighting Islam and is implementing American and Israeli policy in the area,' al-Jihad said in a statement faxed to an international news agency.

Yesterday the Interior Ministry said one of the attackers who died after being caught in Wednesday's blast belonged to the group New Jihad and had been trained in Afghanistan. The death of Nazih Nushi Rashed, 34, traced by police to a hospital where doctors had amputated his right leg, left Egyptian authorities groping for more clues to the raid. They also appeared to have been thrust into a second front in the 18-month war against Islamic fundamentalists. The bombing that killed four people and wounded 16, was the first time New Jihad had been clearly linked to the political violence gripping Egypt. Another suspected member of the seven-man bomb squad died instantly in the blast. Police identified him as Tarek Abdel-Nabi and security sources said he also belonged to New Jihad.

A sister organisation, el-Gamaat el- Islamiya (Islamic Group) has claimed responsibility for most of the attacks on police, Christians, tourists and officials that have killed more than 175 people and wounded 300 since March last year. It has recruited mainly from poor villages and city slums. Police said New Jihad, a revival of the Jihad (Holy Struggle) group crushed after Sadat's assassination, was founded more recently. It concentrates on infiltrating the armed forces, the ultimate powerbase of President Hosni Mubarak. Fundamentalist sources said that New Jihad was led by a doctor living between Afghanistan and Iran, who was jailed for three years

in connection with Sadat's killing.

ISLAMABAD - The Egyptian cleric Omar Abdel-Rahman, in jail in the US, could further divide Afghanistan's leadership if he accepts an offer of asylum from its fundamentalist Prime Minister, AP reports.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and his political foe, President Burhanuddin Rabbani, are divided over asylum for Sheikh Abdel-Rahman, an Afghan embassy official said yesterday in the Pakistani capital. Mr Hekmatyar has called Sheikh Abdel-Rahman a 'leader of the Islamic nation' and said he was welcome in Afghanistan. But Mr Rabbani has refused asylum for the sheikh, according to a political consular officer at the embassy.