Terrorism Profiles

Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ)

Alternative Names:

EIJ, Islamic Jihad, Liberation Army for the Holy Sites, al-Jihad, the Jihad Group, the Jihad Organization, Egyptian al-Jihad, New Jihad, Tanzim al-Jihad (predecessor), Al-Qaeda (successor)

Location:

Egypt (origin), Pakistan, Afghanistan, Worldwide

Leadership:

EIJ traces its roots to a militant organization known as Tanzim al-Jihad, which was founded and led by Abbud al-Zumar, an Egyptian Islamic fundamentalist. Al-Zumar was formerly an Egyptian Army Colonel and intelligence officer. He was eventually imprisoned for his involvement in the plot to assassinate Egyptian President, Anwar Sadat. After the assassination, the Egyptian government imprisoned many Tanzim-al Jihad members.

In the mid 1980s Tanzim al-Jihad reconstituted as EIJ under the leadership of Sayyed Imam Al-Sharif in Pakistan. Sharif was eventually succeeded by Ayman Al-Zawahiri, whose leadership style was described as autocratic. Under Zawahiri, EIJ became more extreme and developed close ties to Osama bin Laden.

In 1991, Zawahiri took full control of EIJ, transforming the group into a free-floating network without any real ties to its original society.

EIJ has longstanding ties to al-Qaeda. Although associating with al-Qaeda was originally envisioned as a temporary arrangement, EIJ’s leader determined that joining Osama bin Laden was the only way to consolidate EIJ’s relevance in the global jihad movement.

In June 2001, al-Qaeda and EIJ fully merged into Jamaa’at Qa’idat al-Jihad, with EIJ members exerting majority control over al-Qaeda’s ruling council.

EIJ operates based on a compartmentalized blind-cell structure, meaning that operatives in one group are unaware of the identities or activities of members in other cells. This is to ensure that if one member of the group is captured they would not jeopardize the entire organization.

Membership:

EIJ’s members include former Tanzim al-Jihad members, as well as those who fought the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan throughout the 1980s, including prominent mujahideen such as Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden.

Funding Sources:

EIJ initially derived much of its funding from sources in Egypt. However, the group later came to rely on funding from Osama bin Laden and affiliated international donors.

EIJ also received funding from nongovernmental organizations, money laundering, and other criminal acts.

Origins:

EIJ traces its origins to a militant organization known as Tanzim al-Jihad. After many of Tanzim al-Jihad’s leaders were imprisoned for their involvement in the assassination of Egyptian President, Anwar Sadat, the group reconstituted as EIJ in Peshawar, Pakistan, as well as in Afghanistan.

Major Attacks:

October 1981: EIJ militants assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

August 1993: EIJ militants attempted to assassinate Egyptian Interior Minister, Hassan Al Alfi, by detonating a bomb-laden motorcycle next to his motorcade. The attack seriously injured Al Alfi and killed four others including Al Alfi’s bodyguard.

November 1993: EIJ militants attempted to assassinate Egyptian Prime Minister, Atef Sidqi, by detonating a car bomb near his motorcade. The Prime Minister was unhurt, but the explosion injured 21 people and killed a young schoolgirl.

November 1995: EIJ launched an attack on the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. The attack consisted of small arms attacks and a vehicle-borne IED (VBIED) explosion at the perimeter gate, followed by a subsequent VBIED explosion inside the compound. The attack killed the Second Secretary for the embassy, three Egyptian security guards, and 12 others including Pakistani security guards, civilians, and other diplomatic staff.

June 1995: EIJ unsuccessfully attempted to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Ethiopia.

Ideological Roots:

EIJ’s ideology is rooted in Sunni Islamic fundamentalism and the rejection of secular values and government. EIJ broadly opposes Western influence in the Muslim world, including Arab governments aligned with the United States.

Objectives:

The group’s original objective was the violent overthrow of the secular Egyptian government and its replacement with an Islamic state under shari’a Islamic law. It has also articulated its intent to carry out terrorist attacks against United States and Israeli interests in Egypt and abroad.

After developing ties with Osama bin Laden, EIJ committed to reorienting its objectives towards al-Qaeda’s brand of jihadism that was more global in scope.

Tactics:

Hijackings, extortion, bombings, vehicle-borne IED, firearm attacks, assassination.

EIJ primarily targets Egyptian government personnel, including ministers.

Updated on December 10, 2015. 

References


  1. Sageman, M. (2004). Understanding Terror Networks. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
  2. Wright, L. (2006). The Looming Tower. New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
  3. “Mapping Militant Organizations: Egyptian Islamic Jihad.” Stanford University. Last modified October, 2015. Accessed December 10, 2015. https://web.stanford.edu/group/mappingmilitants/cgi-bin/groups/view/401
  4. “Egyptian Islamic Jihad.” Council of Foreign Relations. Last modified May, 2008. Accessed December 10, 2015. http://www.cfr.org/egypt/egyptian-islamic-jihad/p16376
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