By: Stacy Larson
Pace International Law Review, Junior Associate
The Egyptian Islamic Jihad (“EIJ”), a “Designated Terrorist Organization,” was formed in the 1970s. EIJ is also known as al-Jihad, Jihad al-Masri, Egyptian al-Jihad, New Jihad, and The Jihad Group. With membership in the hundreds, its primary areas of operation are Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Yemen and the United Kingdom. Its organizational goals are to overthrow the Egyptian government and install an Islamic state. The group’s targets, historically, have been high-level Egyptian government officials as well as United States and Israeli interests in Egypt and abroad. Regular Egyptian crackdowns on extremists, including EIJ, have greatly reduced EIJ capabilities in Egypt.
EIJ may be most notoriously known for its assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981. It also claimed responsibility for the attempted assassinations in 1993 of Interior Minister Hassan al-Alfi and Prime Minister Atef. EIJ was responsible for the Egyptian Embassy bombing in Islamabad in 1995 and a disrupted plot against the U.S. Embassy in Albania in 1998. Security analysts report that EIJ merged with al-Qaeda sometime between 1998 and 2001. EIJ’s current leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is also the second-in-command of al-Qaeda. Al-Zawahiri is reputedly the intellectual and ideological leader of the International Front for Jihad against Jews and Crusaders, an alliance formed in 1998 of EIJ, al-Qaeda, and a slew of other terrorist groups from the Muslim world. EIJ is largely financed by al-Qaeda as well as various Islamic non-governmental organizations, cover businesses, and criminal acts.
On Sunday, January 31, 2010, Egyptian officials arrested twenty-six suspects who allegedly belong to EIJ and were plotting “terrorist acts” against tourists and state installations. The suspects had firearms, ammunitions, and explosives. EIJ had not conducted an attack inside Egypt since 1993 and has never successfully targeted foreign tourists there. Egyptian prosecutors placed the individuals under arrest and have ordered fifteen days of detention pending further forensic investigations. Egyptian officials are concerned about the possibility that militants inspired by al-Qaeda could infiltrate the country after being forced out of the neighboring Palestinian enclave of Gaza by the Islamist group Hamas. Hamas is also a terrorist organization, but Hamas and EIJ have been at odds with each other for several years because of their differing motives.
Al-Zawahiri has repeatedly accused the Hamas government of falling into the “swamp of surrender” by agreeing to abide by the international agreements signed by the Palestinians when the Hamas movement joined the Palestinian unity government. Thus, he claimed, Hamas joined the humiliation and surrender of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. According to Al-Zawahiri, the Hamas government participated in discussions with secular individuals and “sold Palestine” in order to retain a third of the government seats. Al-Zawahiri believes Palestine cannot be liberated by elections but only by jihad for the sake of Allah.