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Egyptian Islamic Jihad

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Egyptian Islamic Jihad - Egyptian Islamic Jihad (Arabic: الجهاد الإسلامي المصري ư; also formerly called simply Islamic Jihad,  الجهاد الإسلامي , "al-Jihad," a"the Jihad Group", "the Jihad Organization," ("tanzeem al Jihad)   is a violent Islamist terrorist group dedicated to world Jihad and to overthrow of the Egyptian government, establishment of an Islamic state in Egypt and eventually world domination by Islam in a renewed Caliphate. It was closely allied to, part of, or father to, the Gamaa al Islamiya and shared with it for many years basic ideology, leadership and participation in various terrorist activities. (see here for a detailed account of some of the interrelationships)

The Egyptian Islamic Jihad was founded in 1979 or 1980 by a merger of a group founded by Mohammed Abd al-Salam Farraj in Cairo and a Saidi (Upper Egypt) branch under Karam Zuhdi. In the 80s, the groups may have split apart again, with one branch becoming the Gama'a al Islamiya  (see here). Ayman Zawahiri is a member or leader of both groups .

The charter or founding manifesto of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad was written by the group's founder Mohammed Abd al-Salam Farraj. It is called   "al-Faridah al-Gha'ibah." - the neglected duty.  Farraj begins by stating that "Jihad for God's cause...has been neglected by the Ulema of this age." He goes on to expound the interpretation of Jihad as violent struggle (Jihad by the sword) - a duty incumbent on all Muslims. This theology is familiar from the writings of Sayyed Qutb and Hassan al Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. Islamic Jihad can be viewed as nothing more than the continuation of the original Muslim Brotherhood ideology, after the Ikhwan Muslim brotherhood in Egypt had renounced violence.

Islamic Jihad's initial terrorist operation was the murder of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in October 1981. Sadat was ostensibly murdered because he had reneged on his promise to institute Sha'aria law, because he had made peace with Israel and because of his ties with the United States. In fact however, the assassination was to have been the prelude to an Islamic takeover of Egypt, just as previous attempts on the life of Gamal Abdel Nasser had attempted to achieve. The Egyptian police rounded up a great many leaders of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the Gamaa al Islamiya including Ayman Zawahiri, Farraj, Colonel al Zuhour who apparently had plotted the takeover of the government, Khaled Istambouli who carried out the assassination and roughly 300 others. They were tried in civil and military courts. Farraj, al-Islambouli and his fellow assassins were executed in April 1982, while al-Zumor, Ayman al-Zawahiri and others were given lengthy prison sentences. However, al-Zawahiri won an appeal, and was released and subsequently traveled first to Saudi Arabia, and then to Peshawar Pakistan where he and Osama Bin Laden formed a dilletantish group of Arabs who more or less vicariously participated in the struggle against the Soviet backed government in Afghanistan. Zawahiri became actual leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (or "al Jihad") about 1991.

The Egyptian Islamic Jihad had a blind-cell structure, like that of the Leninist Communist party. Members in one cell did not know the identities or activities of those in another, so that if one member were captured they would not be able to endanger more than a few people. However, Egyptian police captured the membership director of EIJ. The database in his computer listed every member's address, aliases, and potential hideouts. Al-Jihad leader al-Zawahiri bitterly lamented "the government newspapers" elation over “the arrest of 800 members of the al-Jihad group without a single shot being fired."

In August 1993 Al-Jihad attempted to kill the Egyptian Interior Minister, Hasan al-Alfi. who was leading a crackdown on Islamic militants and their terror campaign. A bomb-laden motorcycle exploded next to the minister's car, killing the bomber and his accomplice," but not the minister. The attacked marked the first time Sunni Islamists had made use of suicide in terrorism, a technique made famous by Shia Hezbollah in Lebanon.

A few months later in November Al-Jihad made another bombing attempt, this time to kill Egypt's prime minister, Atef Sidqi. The car bomb exploded close to a girls' school in Cairo as the minister was driven past. The minister, protected by his armored car, was unhurt, but the explosion injured 21 people and killed a young schoolgirl, Shayma Abdel-Halim. This bombing was preceded by two years of terror by al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya that had killed 240, and the patience of the Egyptian public had run short.  A  police crackdown  arrested 280 Egyptian Islamic Jihad members. Six were executed eventually. 

Egyptian Islamic Jihad became increasingly dependent on al-Qaeda. Most of its members were reportedly on the Al-Qaeda payroll. Zawahiri explained to an assistant that joining with Osama Bin Laden was the only way to keep the group afloat.

In June 1995 another failed assassination attempt caused yet a greater setback. Together with Gamaa al Islamiya.  Egyptian Islamic Jihad plotted the assassination of president Hosni Mubarak during a visit to Ethiopia. The attack was planned a year in advance by Mustafa Hamza, a senior Egyptian member of the Al-Qaeda and commander of the military branch of the Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya.

As with the Sadat assassination, the group hoped to decapitate the Egyptian government thereby eliminating the "iron grip" of the state security services, and creating a power vacuum allowing Islamists to take over the government. Two groups of assassins waited for Mubarak en-route from the airport. When the first attack failed however, Mubarak ordered his limousine back to the airport, escaping harm.  Mubarak launched a ruthless campaign to crush anyone involved in Islamist terrorism.

In Sudan the Egyptian Islamic Jihad then enraged the Sudanese intelligence service by executing two sons of senior Egyptian Islamic Jihad members on Sudanese soil after promising not to. The boys, Ahmed, the son of Mohammed Sharraf, and Mus'ab, son of Abu al-Faraj, had been drugged and blackmailed by the Egyptian intelligence service and were collaborating with them. Sudanese intelligence service captured them and allowed Egyptian Islamic Jihad to interrogate them. The boys confessed, were found guilty of "sodomy, treason, and attempted murder," and sentenced to death under Sharia law. Al-Zawahiri ordered their execution by firing squad and distributed videotapes of the execution. The Sudanese ordered the Egyptian Islamic Jihad to leave the Sudan. Osama Bin Laden, then in Sudan, was also weakened, as the Egyptian Islamic Jihad made up the core of his own group.

Because of Sudan's collaboration in the plot against Mubarak, the United Nations voted to impose sanction on the country. Facing pressure from Egypt, the UN, the United States, the Arab League and Saudi Arabia, the Sudanese government pressured bin Laden to leave the country. Bin Laden and many Egyptian Islamic Jihad members  returned to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Bin Laden himself had squandered almost his entire fortune in bankrolling Sudanese development and was relatively impoverished.  

On November 19, 1995, Zawahiri nonetheless demonstrated that he and the Islamic Jihad were still viable, by bombing the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad. This served served as a prototype for attacks by al-Qaeda in 1998 bombings on American embassies in Africa.

In 1997, the sister and rival Gamaa al Islamiya group supposedly renounced violence, apparently as a result of a deal struck with the Egyptian government.  The group would renounce terror, in return for a massive release of its jailed members. In the USA Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman initially gave his blessing to the deal, apparently in hopes of being released from jail. He soon reneged on the his support.

From his exile with Osama Bin Laden,  Islamic Jihad head Ayman Zawahiri organized a massive terrorist attack in Luxor Egypt in 1997, to sabotage the turn to moderation. The attack was planned for a spectacular tourist attraction at the ruins of the temple of Hatshepsut. In the attack, six men dressed in police uniforms machine-gunned and hacked to death with knives 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians. "The killing went on for 45 minutes, until the floors streamed with blood. The dead included a five-year-old British child and four Japanese couples on their honeymoons." Altogether 71 people were killed. The attack stunned Egyptian society, ruined tourism for years, and destroyed much popular support for violent Islamism in Egypt.

Some of the attack's supporters recanted. The day after the attack, Rifai Taha claimed that the attackers intended only to take the tourists hostage, despite the evidence of the systematic nature of the slaughter. Others denied Islamist involvement completely. Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman blamed the Israeli Mossad for the killings, and Zawahiri maintaining the Egyptian police were responsible. However, he added that the attack was praiseworthy, since tourists pollute the land. (Wright, Lawrence, The Looming Tower, pp 256 ff).

In Afghanistan Zawahiri apparently wrote or co-authored the 1998 fatwa for the "International Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders," calling for the killing of Americans and their allies, both civilian and military, which was signed by representatives of several Mujahedin ("jihadi") organizations, including the Islamic Jihad. This represented a departure from the goal of revolution in Egypt and aroused dissent among members. In Egypt itself, the group may have disappeared almost totally. Most group members may have merged with Al Qaeda to form "Qaedat al Jihad" - the base of Jihad. That organization claimed responsibility for the June 2008 bombing of the Danish embassy in Islamabad (see Al Jazeera, June 5), an attack reminiscent of the 1995 bombing of the Egyptian embassy. 

Synonyms and alternate spellings:

Further Information:  See also: Palestinian Islamic Jihad

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Spelling - Spelling of words in Middle-Eastern languages is often arbitrary. There may be many variants of the same name or word such as Hezbollah, Hizbolla, Hisbolla or Husayn and Hussein. There are some conventions for converting words from Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew There are numerous variant renderings of the same Arabic or Hebrew words, such as "Hizbollah," "Hisbulla" etc. It is not possible to find exact equivalents for several letters. 

Pronunciation - Arabic and Hebrew vowels are pronounced differently than in English. "o" is very short. The "a" is usually pronounced like the "a" in market, sometimes as the "a" in "Arafat."  The " 'A " is guttural.  " 'H "- the 'het ('Hirbeh, 'Hebron, 'Hisbollah') designates a sound somewhat similar to the ch in "loch" in Scots pronunciation, but made by touching the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The CH should be pronounced like Loch, a more assertive consonant than 'het.

The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G," designate a deep guttural sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is not like the English "r."

More information: Hebrew, Arabic

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Egyptian Islamic Jihad