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Islamic Group leader seeking release

WASHINGTON, June 10 (UPI) -- A leader from the Islamic Group, a large Egyptian terrorist organization, is seeking release from prison 20 years into a 25-year sentence for killing Anwar Sadat, it was reported Monday.

The Washington Times reported that Karam Zohdy wants out of prison, citing good behavior and renunciation of violence. The Times interviewed Zohdy, the leader of the Islamic Group, last Tuesday at a prison outside Cairo prison.

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Among his comments were a stated opposition to the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States and a belief that Osama bin Laden has failed because his actions led to the unseating of Islamic governments in Afghanistan and Chechnya.

Bin Laden is accused by the United States of having been the mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks in which U.S. jetliners were hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center and Pentagon. A fourth jet, thought to be targeting the White House, crashed in Pennsylvania. Some 3,000 people died in the events. The attacks led to a U.S. assault on the Taliban leadership of Afghanistan, where bin Laden had been given refuge.

Ayman Zawahiri, who once shared a jail cell with Zohdy, was released and joined with bin Laden in Afghanistan where he helped plan the Sept. 11 attacks, the Washington Times said.

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"We rejected Sept. 11," Zohdy told the Washington Times. "Zawahiri sees jihad as an end in itself. The goal is to look for any hot spot they can find and fight there."

Zohdy has spent 20 years of a 25-year sentence in prison for the killing of Sadat. The Egyptian president was gunned down in 1981 during a military parade.

Zohdy told the newspaper: "No use crying over spilled milk. I approved the order to kill Sadat. We made the decision because some Islamists were arrested and he made peace with Israel. We were young and frustrated."

But Zohdy told the Washington Times that during his time in prison he had studied the Koran and that "led us to change out attitude."

"We declare as the Islamic Group that we are against any crime."

According to the Washington Times, Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak has offered amnesty or reduced sentences to extremists who renounced violence. More than 1,500 members of the Islamic Group have won release from prison in this way since 2000. The Times said Egyptian officials have not yet decided whether they think Zohdy's position on violence has changed.

The Islamic Group had claimed responsibility for several killings, including the deaths of 18 Greek tourists in 1996. The group also killed 59 tourists and 12 Egyptians in Luxor in 1997.

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Zohdy told the newspaper: "I will do the same job, call for Islam and stop the misrepresentation of Islam. I like for Islam to prevail, but not by coercion."

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