Gamaa vets go free

I can't quite make up my mind whether this is just the long-awaited payback in exchange for the Gamaa Islamiya having renounced violence or whether there's something more to it:

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian authorities have released some 950 detained former members of the militant Gama'a al-Islamiya (Islamic Group) in the past six weeks, including 300 on Tuesday, police sources said on Wednesday.

The Egyptian government detained many thousands of Gama'a members or sympathizers in the 1990s, when the group was waging a low-level guerrilla war against the security forces, mainly in the south of the country.

Hundreds have come out of detention over the years after renouncing violence to overthrow the government. Gama'a leaders declared a truce with the government in 1997, after an attack on tourists at a pharaonic temple in Luxor.

The big release on Tuesday was to mark the birthday of the Prophet Mohammad, a traditional occasion for setting prisoners free, the police sources said.

The government has never said how many militants remain in detention without trial or charge. The U.S. State Departments cites estimates of 10,000 detainees in all.
The government releases Gamaa Islamiya members as it arrests Muslim Brothers. What plans does the Gamaa have now? Would the state like to see it confront the Muslim Brothers on an Islamist ground? The Gamaa initially started as a government creation to be used against leftists by Sadat. Can it, once again, serve a useful role? And what are the dangers involved? There may be nothing there, but...
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.