April 30, 2005 | Suicide bombings in Cairo

A man and two women detonated suicide bombs near a bus station in Cairo, Egypt, wounding ten people in total.

Suicide bombings terrify us as they appear all but unstoppable, even those in which no innocent person dies

CAIRO, EGYPT – Of all the ideologues who have contributed most to Islamist extremist thought, none is more important than Abdallah Azzam. The Palestinian not only played a pivotal role in the organisation of fighters who beat back the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s but he wrote many, many treatises spelling out why Muslims needed to devote their lives to defeat Islam’s enemies.

It is to Azzam that we owe one of the best explanations of what is known as ‘fard ayn‘ (individual obligation in Arabic). In his Defence of the Muslim Lands he wrote that “if the kuffar (infidels) enter a Muslim land jihad becomes fard ayn for everyone”. Meaning: you, yes you, have to take up arms to expel the enemy from your soil.

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As Norwegian scholar Thomas Hegghammer wrote in his magisterial new book The Caravanclick here for my recent conversation with Thomas – Azzam’s reputation has given rise to many terrorist groups which have opted to include his name. One such group carried out the attack featured today.

Imagine you are waiting for a bus. Do you normally scrutinise those around you? I bet not. I’d wager that you spend your time scrolling through your cellphone watching crazy cat videos or playing Candy Crush, right? Why? Because waiting for a bus is a bland, ordinary event that does not pose a threat, that’s why.

But on this day in 2005 a man who was a suspect in an earlier attack in Cairo blew himself up at a bus station while being chased by police, injuring seven people. Later that same day, two female terrorists opened fire on a bus, wounding three, before they too blew themselves up. All three belonged to the Abdallah Azzam Brigades.

Technically speaking it is hard to see how this action fit into what Azzam was advocating. Those on the buses were not invaders, they were not kuffar, they should not have been targeted. So much for consistency when it comes to terrorism I guess.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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