2 terrorist groups threaten attacks against U.S., Israel Groups say their actions would be in retaliation for shelling of Lebanon

April 22, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

CAIRO, Egypt -- Two militant Islamic groups threatened yesterday to kidnap U.S. citizens and to target U.S. and Israeli interests around the world with bombings and sabotage.

The organizations are the Islamic Group, which took responsibility for killing 18 Greek tourists in Egypt last week, and the Vanguards of Conquest, an offshoot of the Islamic Jihad, which sent a suicide bomber to blow up the Egyptian Embassy in Pakistan last year and which assassinated Egyptian President Anwar el Sadat in 1981.

Each group said it wants to avenge U.S. support of Israel in its military campaign in Lebanon, among other things.

Such threats have been made before by both of these groups and by others without much follow-up. In the last few days, several other armed Islamic groups in the Israeli-occupied territories and in Lebanon have made similar threats, undoubtedly motivated by rising tension in the region after Israel's military action in Lebanon against the Iranian-sponsored Islamic militia Hezbollah, or the Party of God.

Security officials in Egypt and in Jordan dismissed yesterday's threats as more empty emotional bombast. But the two groups issuing warnings yesterday have participated in the last decade in several attacks, most of them in Egypt but some elsewhere, including an attempt to bomb the United Nations and other New York landmarks in 1993.

These latest threats come at a time of great consternation in the Arab world over the size and scale of the Israeli military retaliation against Hezbollah for its missile attacks on northern Israeli villages.

The coverage of the offensive has been intense in Arab news media. The most specific threat came in a rare interview with Mostapha Hamza, believed by Egyptian intelligence to be the chief military planner of the Islamic Group. The interview was with the Arab-language daily Al Hayat.

Mr. Hamza asserted in the interview that his organization may kidnap U.S. citizens to win the release of its spiritual leader, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman. The sheik is serving a life sentence in the United States for conspiracy to blow up New York landmarks. He is also a fugitive from Egypt, where he was implicated in the assassination of Mr. Sadat.

Mr. Hamza, 37, is under death sentence in Egypt for planning vTC score of killings of Egyptian officials, police officers and Egyptian Christians. His interview was conducted at a remote area near Afghanistan's border with Pakistan that is controlled by a militant Afghan Islamic organization, the Taliban.

The threat by the Vanguards of Conquest was made in a statement sent to a Western news agency in Cairo.

Pub Date: 4/22/96

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