|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
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
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
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
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
Palestinian Islamic Jihad