The Muslim Brotherhood called for "a long, uncompromising jihad" in Egypt just days after a delegation of the Islamist group’s key leaders and allies met with the State Department, according to an official statement released this week.
Just days after a delegation that included two top Brotherhood leaders was hosted at the State Department, the organization released an official statement calling on its supporters to "prepare" for jihad, according to an independent translation of the statement first posted on Tuesday.
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The State Department meeting was attended by a deputy assistant secretary for democracy, human rights, and labor and other State Department officials.
The Muslim Brotherhood statement also was issued just two days before a major terror attack Thursday in Egypt’s lawless Sinai region that killed at least 25.
"It is incumbent upon everyone to be aware that we are in the process of a new phase, where we summon what is latent in our strength, where we recall the meanings of jihad and prepare ourselves, our wives, our sons, our daughters, and whoever marched on our path to a long, uncompromising jihad, and during this stage we ask for martyrdom," it states.
Preparation for jihad is a key theme of the Brotherhood’s latest call for jihad.
An image posted with the statement shows two crossing swords and the word "prepare!" between them. Below the swords it reads, "the voice of truth, strength, and freedom." According to the statement, "that is the motto of the Dawa of the Muslim Brotherhood."
The statement also invokes the well-known Muslim cleric Imam al-Bana, who founded the Brotherhood and has called for the death of Jews.
"Imam al-Bana prepared the jihad brigades that he sent to Palestine to kill the Zionist usurpers and the second [Supreme] Guide Hassan al-Hudaybi reconstructed the ‘secret apparatus’ to bleed the British occupiers," the statement says.
The Brotherhood’s renewed call for jihad comes at a time when current Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is cracking down on the group and imprisoning many of its supporters, who notoriously engaged in violence following the ouster of Brotherhood-ally Mohamed Morsi.
Egypt experts said the timing of this declaration is an embarrassment for the State Department.
"The fact that the Brotherhood issued its call to jihad two days after its meeting at the State Department will be grist for endless anti-American conspiracy theories about a supposed partnership between Washington and the Brotherhood," said Eric Trager, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP). "The State Department should have foreseen what an embarrassment this would be."
One member of that U.S. delegation, a Brotherhood-aligned judge in Egypt, posed for a picture while at Foggy Bottom in which he held up the Islamic group’s notorious four-finger Rabia symbol, according to his Facebook page.
"Now in the U.S. State Department. Your steadfastness impresses everyone," reads an Arabic caption posted along with the photo.
When asked on Tuesday evening to comment on the meeting, a State Department official told the Washington Free Beacon, "We meet with representatives from across the political spectrum in Egypt."
The official declined to elaborate on who may have been hosted or on any details about the timing and substance of any talks.
The meeting was described by a member of the delegation, Maha Azzam as "fruitful," according to one person who attended a public event in Washington earlier this week hosted by the group.
The call for jihad, while surprising in light of the Brotherhood’s attempts to appear moderate, is part and parcel of organization’s longstanding beliefs, Trager said.
"Muslim Brothers have been committing violent acts for a very long time," Trager explained. "Under Morsi, Muslim Brothers tortured protesters outside the presidential palace. After Morsi’s ouster, they have frequently attacked security forces and state property. "
"But until now, the official line from the Brotherhood was to support this implicitly by justifying its causes, without justifying the acts themselves," he added. " So the Brotherhood’s open call to jihad doesn’t necessarily mean a tactical shift, but a rhetorical one."
Terrorism expert and national security reporter Patrick Poole said he was struck by the clarity of the Brotherhood’s call.
"It invokes the Muslim Brotherhood's terrorist past, specifically mentioning the ‘special apparatus’ that waged terror in the 1940s and 1950s until the Nasser government cracked down on the group, as well as the troops sent by founder Hassan al-Banna to fight against Israel in 1948," he said.
"It concludes saying that the Brotherhood has entered a new stage, warns of a long jihad ahead, and to prepare for martyrdom," Poole said. "Not sure how much more clear they could be."
Poole wondered if the call for jihad would convince Brotherhood apologists that the group still backs violence.
"What remains to be seen is how this announcement will be received inside the Beltway, where the vast majority of the ‘experts' have repeatedly said that the Brotherhood had abandoned its terrorist past, which it is now clearly reviving, and had renounced violence," Poole said. "Will this development be met with contrition, or silence? And what says the State Department who met with these guys this week?"
The State Department did not respond to a request for comment before press time.