Members of a militant Islamic group Jund Ansar Allah, stand guard as their leader Abdel-Latif Moussa, right, speaks during Friday prayers in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip Friday, Aug. 14, 2009. Islamic radicals from an al-Qaida-inspired group are staging a shootout with Hamas security in the Gaza Strip that has killed at least seven.
- Jaljalat and Jund Ansar Allah are known as jihadist Salafi groups that call for waging a battle for global Islamic dominance. Both groups include some former Hamas men.
CAIRO, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Egypt's barrier with Gaza reflects Cairo's concern about al Qaeda-inspired militants infiltrating the country after being forced out of the Palestinian enclave by the Islamist group Hamas, analysts told a conference.
Al Qaeda is seen as gaining influence in the region, entering a new phase as a generation of militants who escaped Iraq and fled to Yemen and Gaza to regroup seek to link up with groups in Egypt to train and operate, they said.
Egypt, the only country aside from Israel to share a border with Gaza, is building the underground barrier and a sea anchorage to prevent the flow of militants and arms. Islamists accuse Egypt of acting against Muslims with the projects.
Nonetheless, the analysts said Egypt could become a home for small militant groups such as Jund Ansar Allah (Warriors of God) Jaysh al Islam (Army of Islam) and Jaljalat (War Cry), some former allies of Hamas and other sworn foes that have been squashed by Hamas since it took control of Gaza in 2007.
"Hamas managed to quell these groups which are now looking to Egypt as a safe haven," Samir Ghattas, a Palestinian political analyst, told a conference on regional security in Cairo.
General Nashaat Hilali, a former assistant to Egypt's interior minister, told Wednesday's conference that state security in Egypt was pre-empting a rise in militancy:
"Palestinians and Egyptians have historically crossed their shared border ... and given the threat of a rise in militancy and its flow into Egypt, the country is securing its borders."
Analysts at the conference said these militants shared al Qaeda's ideology of global jihad and believed Hamas broke with Islam by participating in secular politics -- entering the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary election and seeking reconciliation with President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah group.
The groups seek to link up with al Qaeda after failing to consolidate their alliance with Hamas, an offshoot Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and which distances itself from al Qaeda.
Ghattas said these small Palestinian groups may be seeking to use Egypt as a proxy war turf to prove their mettle in the hope of gaining support from al Qaeda.
"One such group known as Jaljalat announced during the anniversary of Israel's war on Gaza that 'until now al Qaeda has not recognised us but we seek to carry out operations that would bring us closer to al Qaeda and its leadership and to eventually gain accreditation from them'," Ghattas said.
Jaljalat and Jund Ansar Allah are known as jihadist Salafi groups that call for waging a battle for global Islamic dominance. Both groups include some former Hamas men.
President Hosni Mubarak's government has been detaining youths it suspects of connecting with Palestinians from Gaza and militants from foreign countries to plan attacks.
He said this week his forces would quash militants and the barrier was to "protect our nation from terrorist plots".
Following President Anwar Sadat's 1981 assassination, the government cracked down on Islamists and suppressed an uprising by Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiya and Egypt's Jihad group in the 1990s.
Palestinians have been involved in attacks in Egypt before. Iyad Said Saleh, who lived in Arish near the Gaza border, led a cell of Egyptian militants in the 2004 hotel and beach bombings in Taba, on the Egypt-Israel border, killing 34 people.
And five of the 26 defendants in a Hezbollah-linked trial accused of plotting attacks in Egypt are Palestinian.
Other analysts said there were Egyptians among militants in the regional al Qaeda-inspired camps but most of those currently active were foreigners with dual nationality with no previous security record and who were able to travel freely.
A failed attack on a U.S. airliner blamed on a Nigerian trained in al Qaeda-affiliated camp in Yemen underscores the ability of a new generation to carry out attacks without direct contact al Qaeda, showing "the emergence of a new transcontinental terrorism", said Makram Mohamed Ahmed, chairman of Egypt's journalist syndicate.