views updated May 21 2018


ALTERNATE NAMES: Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Jihad Group, Talaa'al al-Fateh (Vanguards of Conquest)

LEADER: Ayman al-Zawahiri


ESTIMATED SIZE: Several hundred

USUAL AREA OF OPERATION: Egypt; Afghanistan; Sudan; Somalia; Pakistan

U.S. TERRORIST EXCLUSION DESIGNEE: The U.S. Department of State declared al-Jihad to be a terrorist organization in October 1997


Al-Jihad (also known as Egyptian Islamic Jihad; Jihad Group; Talaa'al al-Fateh—the Vanguards of Conquest) is an Egyptian Islamist extremist group dedicated to the overthrow of the Egyptian government and its replacement with an Islamic state. It has been implicated in a wide range of atrocities, from the 1981 assassination of the Egyptian President, Anwar Sadat, to the massacre of 58 foreign tourists in Luxor in 1997. Many of its key members have been forced into exile, most notably its former leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is Osama bin Laden's deputy. In June 2001, the group apparently merged with al-Qaeda.


Throughout the 1970s, Egypt's President Anwar Sadat enjoyed and endured a contrary relationship with various Muslim organizations existing within his country. His predecessor, Gamal Abdel Nasser, had generally suppressed such groups, in order to pursue a secular brand of pan-Arabism; but following his death in 1970, and facing the competing demands of pan-Arabism and radical socialism, Sadat had sought to widen his basis of support and legitimacy by embracing the previously suppressed Muslim Brotherhood. In 1971, thousands of Brotherhood members and other Islamists were released from prison, and in subsequent years restrictions on meeting, publications, and other rights of association were lessened.

Sadat's relationship with Islamists nevertheless remained testy as economic dislocation and, in particular, the Camp David Accords of September 1978 (which afforded recognition of and peace with Israel) led to popular dissatisfaction. A number of radical Islamic groups emerged in this period, some obscure, some claiming up to 5,000 members.

Despite harsh measures eventually taken by the Egyptian government to curtail or limit such groups, rather than being weakened, they proliferated. The most dangerous of these appeared in the late 1970s, and was known as al-Jihad, or the Jihad organization. It comprised three militant groups initially formed in a coalition, but from June 1981, it merged into one organization. The group sought to bring down the Sadat regime, to introduce Islamic rule, and to return to the Caliphate (an Islamic state ruled by a spiritual leader; Caliph is the successor to the prophet Muhammad) as the central principle of the Islamic state.

Al-Jihad was strongly influenced by the teachings of the young Muslim thinker, Muhammad Abdel Salam Faraj, who taught that Jihad was the "missing" commandment and the sixth pillar of Islam.

On October 6, 1981, al-Jihad carried out one of the most daring assassinations in modern history. While President Sadat was watching the celebrations marking the eighth anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, a detachment of four soldiers who were al-Jihad members opened fire on him and his party and followed through with grenades. Sadat was killed with 20 others, including four American dignitaries.

The Egyptian authorities moved quickly to stop any uprising and brutally suppressed rioting in the following week. Over subsequent months and years, they set about imprisoning, torturing, and executing al-Jihad members. Faraj was executed for his part in the assassination in April 1982. Under this pressure, the group split into two factions, one led by Ayman al-Zawahiri, retaining the name al-Jihad, and the other by Abdel Omar Rahman, called al-Gama'a al-Islamiyah.

Al-Zawahiri, a doctor from a prominent Cairo family, had been one of the principle architects of Sadat's killing, even allegedly meeting the assassins the night before the murder. Nevertheless, the judicial authorities could not find him guilty of anything more than illegal possession of a gun, and after three years in jail, he was released and left Egypt, initially for Saudi Arabia.

From there, he made several trips to Afghanistan to partake in the war against the Soviets. Further radicalized, he began to reassemble al-Jihad from the so-called Afghan Arab armies, comprised of men who had come to Afghanistan from other Gulf States seeking martyrdom in the war. He trained and formed cells of Jihadis, which he sent back to Egypt.



Ayman al-Zawahiri was born to an affluent and well-connected Cairo family in 1951. He came from a background of anti-colonial agitation: his paternal grandfather was a renowned scholar and resister of British rule, while his maternal grandfather had been the first Secretary of the Arab League.

Al-Zawahiri trained as a doctor, but become radicalized as a student and joined ranks with the emergent Islamist groups in the 1970s. By the time of the Sadat assassination, he was part of the al-Jihad hierarchy, allegedly meeting with Sadat's killers the night before his death. On his way to the airport to escape to Pakistan, he was arrested, brutally tortured, but not found guilty of anything other than illegal possession of a firearm. When he was released from prison in 1984, al-Zawahiri went into exile first in Saudi Arabia, before joining up with Jihadis in Afghanistan, then Sudan.

It was in Sudan that Al-Zawahiri joined forces with Osama bin Laden, and by the mid 1990s, his role and al-Jihad's mission was becoming blurred with that of al-Qaeda. Al-Zawahiri has been accused of masterminding the U.S. embassy bombings and even of being the operational mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks. He has also been described as bin Laden's doctor, spiritual advisor, deputy, or a combination of the three.

Al-Zawahiri's family were reportedly killed in the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan in 2001. He is still at large and usually appears in bin Laden's infrequent broadcasts.

In Egypt, al-Jihad centered its operations on attacks on high-level government officials. In 1993, the group carried out two assassination attempts, one on Egyptian Interior Minister Hassan al-Alfi in August, and the other against Prime Minister Atef Sedky in November.

During the late 1980s and through the 1990s, Egypt was experiencing a large-scale Islamic insurgency, instigated by al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya, which carried out brutal attacks on intellectuals, police officers, Western tourists and businessmen, and, most often, Coptic Christian civilians. Between 1,200 and as many as 10,000 people died in this "silent" war. The full extent of al-Jihad's involvement in this bloodletting is unknown, but is has been accused of holding close ties to al-Gama'a and supplying arms through its cells in other parts of the Middle East.

On November 17, 1997, six insurgents armed with automatic firearms and knives attacked a group of tourists at Deir al-Bahrir, an archeological site and one of Egypt's most popular visitor destinations. In total, they killed 58 Westerners and four Egyptians, beheading and disemboweling some of their victims. Al-Zawahiri's al-Jihad faction, Talaa'al al-Fateh (the Vanguards of Conquest) claimed responsibility for the attack, which decimated Egypt's tourist industry and plunged the country head-long into economic depression.

Increasingly, however, al-Jihad was becoming noted for attacks outside Egypt, including a suicide truck bomb attack on the Egyptian Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, which killed 15 people in November 1995. Moreover, since its leader al-Zawahiri had become increasingly synonymous with an emergent group, al-Qaeda, which was bringing terrorist notoriety to a different level, al-Jihad was linked to a number of attacks for which it may or may not have been responsible.

In 1998, possibly because of al-Zawahiri's relationship with bin Laden, al-Jihad is believed to have been behind the U.S. embassy bombings in Nairobi, Kenya, and in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, as well as for an unsuccessful attack on the American Embassy in Albania. Al-Jihad is also suspected in the October 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in Aden, and the group has been directly implicated in the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Whether these accusations are based merely on the complicity of al-Zawahiri and those who follow him, or whether these attacks were actually carried out in the name of al-Jihad is another matter. Certainly al-Zawahiri's relationship with al-Qaeda had blurred the outlook and identity of the two groups. In 1998, he was the second of five signatories to bin Laden's notorious fatwa (struggle) calling for attacks against U.S. civilians. Three years later, in June 2001, al-Jihad and al-Qaeda reportedly merged. The U.S. Department of State nevertheless continues to list al-Jihad as a separate entity in its designated foreign terrorist organizations.


Al-Jihad is an Egyptian Islamist extremist group dedicated to the overthrow of the Egyptian government and its replacement with an Islamic state. Its members are influenced by the work of the young Islamic thinker, Muhammad Abdel Salam Faraj, who was a member until his execution in April 1982. In his book published in 1980, Faraj advocated an Islamic Caliphate as an alternative to the secular regime in place. This, however, could not happen without Jihad, which, he believed, was the missing commandment, or "sixth pillar" of Islam. Faraj used historical analogy and his interpretation of the Quran to legitimize his work. He was also critical of other groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, for integrating with non-Islamic minorities.

This call for Jihad in Egypt manifested itself in spectacular fashion a year later, when al-Jihad members killed the Egyptian president. This was supposed to inspire revolution, but the Egyptian authorities were quick to crack down on the fledgling rebellion.

Over the following decade, the ranks of al-Jihad were decimated by arrests, executions, and exiles. The group carried out a policy of targeting senior Egyptian politicians, but this later spread to attacks on Westerners. As its leader in exile, Ayman al-Zawahiri moved closer to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, its ambitions and tactics moved correspondingly onto a more global basis. The almost wholesale exile or incarceration of al-Jihad's leading members suggests that its hopes for an Egyptian-based uprising remain on hold.


Al-Jihad is formally constituted out of a preexisting coalition of three Islamist groups influenced by Muhammad Abdel Salam Faraj.
Al-Jihad assassinates Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.
Faraj executed.
Al-Jihad carries out two assassination attempts, one on Egyptian Interior Minister Hassan al-Alfi, and the other on Prime Minister Atef Sedky.
Luxor massacre kills 58 Western tourists and four Egyptians.
Al-Jihad implicated in U.S. Embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya.
Al-Jihad and al-Qaeda apparently merge.


"Why was Sadat assassinated?" asked Youssef Aboul-Enein in Military Review, seeing that this could offer an insight into what motivated an al-Jihad member, Abdul-Salam Abdul-Al. "Abdul-Al, an officer in Egyptian Air Defense, was 28 years old in 1981. During his interrogation, he said he thought Egyptian society was in a state of munkar (decadence). He saw Sadat as the manifestation of Islamic regression and decided he had to kill him. He discussed how he became aware of Egyptian society's obsession with consumerism, the consumption of alcohol, and an accumulation of interest. He said women who took to the hijab were scorned and that religious scholars who preached the truth were jailed. Abdul-Al was happy with the results of the 1979 Iranian revolution, where the mullahs toppled the American-supported Shah. However, he felt that the Shi'ite revolution needed a Sunni counterweight and argued that Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was discrediting the Islamic faith. The creation of an Islamic government in Egypt would balance the religious influence of Iran. He translated Abd al-Halim bin Taymiyyah's thirteenth-century writings, which stated that the Tartars had declared themselves Muslims and pledged to rule with Islamic law but, instead, applied their own indigenous Yasiq laws. They built mosques and Islamic schools while also suppressing Islamic thought."

Redel Halal, assistant editor of the Egyptian newspaper, Al Ahram Weekly, believed that the roots of Egypt's Islamist revival came with the discrediting of pan-Arabism during the Six Day War. "Nasser's brand of Arab nationalism, based on independence and statist modernization, suffered a resounding defeat in the 1967 War with Israel, provoking the emergence of the Islamists and their concept of a jihad, or struggle, to demolish what they thought of as an illegitimate and corrupt system and a 'return' to Islam," he wrote, adding that the repercussions live on. "Consequently, Egyptian society today is once again polarised between Islamisation and Westernisation."

Egypt Executes 3 in a Plot to Kill Mubarak

The Government hanged three Muslim militants today for plotting to assassinate President Hosni Mubarak and trying to topple the Government.

The men, who were silent and wearing the red training suits for prisoners on death row, were executed starting at 8 A.M., according to a spokesman for the military prosecution.

Amnesty International had urged Mr. Mubarak to commute the sentences, which it called "the most extreme form of cruel and inhuman punishment." The group has also criticized the authorities for trying civilians in special military courts.

A military spokesman who insisted on anonymity said: "Each hanging took about half an hour. These men have to hang because they are terrorists. They want to get rid of the Government. They kill civilians and explode bombs."

The hangings, which lasted for an hour and a half, were part of a crackdown that has executed 23 militants, the largest number of political criminals executed here in this century. Thirty-eight men have been sentenced to death since late last year, when Mr. Mubarak began transferring the cases to military courts. Nine are fugitives, and six are awaiting execution.

The spokesman said two of those executed today, Ahmed Muhammed Hammouda and Hisham Taha Selim, were members of Organization 19, a group that was on trial in Alexandria for conspiring to kill Mr. Mubarak and overthrow the Government.

The third militant, Yihya Shahrour, was accused of belonging to the Vanguards of Conquest group. The Government said that group was a revival of Al-Jihad, which assassinated President Anwar el-Sadat in 1981. Mr. Shahrour was among 33 defendants in a separate case in Alexandria involving charges of reforming Al-Jihad and conspiring to bring down the Government.

Al-Jihad is trying to penetrate the armed forces, Mr. Mubarak's power base, Western diplomats said.

Defense lawyers and militant leaders say at least eight army officers and cadets were among four groups of Jihad members on trial in military courts. The militants, headed by the underground Islamic Group and Al-Jihad, have focused on Government officials, police and prison officers, Christians and foreign tourists in their drive to create a strict Islamic state.

The attacks on visitors have hurt tourism. More than 216 people have been killed and 620 wounded in the violence.

Source: New York Times, December 17, 1993

"The Egyptians Ahmed Zewail and Ayman El-Zawahri are symptoms of this polarisation, the former having been awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry and the latter being Osama bin Laden's right-hand man. In 1967, Zewail left Egypt for the U.S. to study, overcoming every barrier and succeeding at the University of California, Berkeley … However, in the same year that Zewail left Egypt for America and for his scientific successes, El-Zawahri was arrested, at the age of 16, for being a member of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. Later, he joined Al-Jihad group, a secretive militant Islamist organisation blamed for the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar El-Sadat in 1981. Later still, El-Zawahri headed for Afghanistan, where he established a faction of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad group, before becoming second in command after bin Laden of the International Front for Fighting Jews and Crusaders in 1998, a group that aims to kill Americans and destroy U.S. interests worldwide. Obviously, Islam means very different things for Zewail and El-Zawahri."

Al-Jihad (AJ) a.k.a. Jihad Group, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, EIJ


This Egyptian Islamic extremist group merged with Usama Bin Ladin's al-Qa'ida organization in 2001. Usama Bin Ladin's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was the former head of AJ. Active since the 1970s, AJ's primary goal has been the overthrow of the Egyptian Government and the establishment of an Islamic state. The group's primary targets, historically, have been high-level Egyptian Government officials as well as US and Israeli interests in Egypt and abroad. Regular Egyptian crackdowns on extremists, including on AJ, have greatly reduced AJ capabilities in Egypt.


The original AJ was responsible for the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. It claimed responsibility for the attempted assassinations of Interior Minister Hassan al-Alfi in August 1993 and Prime Minister Atef Sedky in November 1993. AJ has not conducted an attack inside Egypt since 1993 and has never successfully targeted foreign tourists there. The group was responsible for the Egyptian Embassy bombing in Islamabad in 1995 and a disrupted plot against the US Embassy in Albania in 1998.


Unknown, but probably has several hundred hard-core members inside and outside of Egypt.


Historically AJ operated in the Cairo area. Most AJ members today are outside Egypt in countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, the United Kingdom, and Yemen. AJ activities have been centered outside Egypt for several years under the auspices of al-Qa'ida.


Unknown. Since 1998 AJ received most of its funding from al-Qa'ida, and these close ties culminated in the eventual merger of the groups. Some funding may come from various Islamic non-governmental organizations, cover businesses, and criminal acts.

Source: U.S. Department of State. Country Reports on Terrorism. Washington, D.C., 2004.


In its current incarnation, al-Jihad is quite different from the organization that emerged prior to the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981. Its role and existence is currently blurred by that of its leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri who, as Osama bin Laden's closest lieutenant, has switched his focus, and arguably that of al-Jihad, from Egyptian-based Jihad to Islamic insurrection on a more global scale.



Burke, Jason. Al-Qaeda. New York: Penguin, 2004.


"Egypt Executes 3 in a Plot to Kill Mubarak." New York Times. December 17, 1993.

Wright, Lawrence. "The Man Behind Bin Laden: How an Egyptian Doctor Became a Master of Terror." The New Yorker. September 16, 2002.

Aboul, Youssef. "Why was Sadat Assasinated?" Military Review. July-August, 2004.

Web sites

Islamist Watch. "Jihad: The Absent Obligation." 〈〉 (accessed October 10, 2005).

Federal Bureau of Investigation. "Wanted Poster for al-Zawahiri." 〈〉 (accessed October 10, 2005).


Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya

Islamic Jihad

views updated May 23 2018


Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist resistance movement.

Islamic Jihad emerged from the Islamic revivalist tradition of the association of Muslim Brotherhood in Israeli-occupied Gaza and was formed by Palestinians studying in Egypt. Rather than pursue the Brotherhood's policy of the gradual Islamization of Palestinian society as the basis for future liberation from Israeli occupation, certain militants in the late 1970s began arguing for a more active, armed, Islamic response to the occupation much as secular groups associated with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) had undertaken. Sources of inspiration included such militant historical figures as Shaykh Izz al-Din al-Qassam in Palestine and Sayyid Qutb in Egypt, as well as the revolutionary movements spawned by Muhammad Abd al-Salam Faraj in Egypt (the Jihad Organization) and the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Iran. What tied these traditions together was their belief in active struggle (jihad) in the service of Islam as opposed to mere preaching.

It is believed that Islamic Jihad emerged as an actual organization in 1980. Two early leaders were Abd al-Aziz Awda, deported by Israeli authorities in November 1987, and his successor, Fathi Abd alAziz Shiqaqi, himself deported in August 1988. Shiqaqi operated in Lebanon thereafter until his assassination in Malta in October 1995. Jihad's new head became Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, who moved to Damascus in the mid-1990s. The group has always maintained close relations with Iran. One of Islamic Jihad's first dramatic acts against the Israeli occupation was an attack on a group of soldiers in Jerusalem in October 1986, followed by a series of well-planned attacks on Israeli targets in late 1987. These helped to precipitate the Palestinian uprising, known as the Infidada, against Israeli rule in the occupied territories, which erupted in December 1987. Islamic Jihad has operated as a small, clandestine group of militants who seek the total liberation of all of Palestine through armed struggle rather than a mass-based organization like the Muslim Brotherhood or HAMAS. Its activities were severely hampered by Israeli repression during the Intifada. Jihad operated alongside but separate from the PLO's Unified National Command of the Uprising during the Intifada. Jihad activists were among the 418 Palestinians from the territories deported by Israel in December 1992.

Jihad opposed the IsraeliPalestinian peace talks, which began in 1991, as well as the subsequent 1993 Oslo Accord. In 1992 it joined the "Damascus Ten," a grouping of Palestinian organizations opposed to the peace talks, which changed its name to the National Democratic and Islamic Front in 1993. Jihad continued to attack Israeli targets even after establishment of a Palestinian Authority (PA) in Gaza and the West Bank in 1994, promoting considerable friction between it and the PA leadership. Jihad figures were arrested; Abdullah al-Shami, the group's spokesman and spiritual leader in Gaza, was arrested by the PA on six different occasions for Friday sermons that criticized the PA and its president, Yasir Arafat. Eschewing any compromise with Israel, Jihad activists have resorted to suicide bombings against Israelis during the 1990s.

Jihad and HAMAS were rivals until the al-Aqsa Intifada tended to bring them together in their activities. Jihad also has undergone some internal problems. Abd al-Aziz Awda eventually left Jihad and returned to the PA from his Israel-imposed exile with Arafat's approval. In 2003 al-Shami was pushed out of his positions and quit the movement as well.

see also aqsa intifada, al-; hamas; intifada (19871991); muslim brotherhood; oslo accord (1993); palestine liberation organization (plo).


Abu-Amr, Ziad. Islamic Fundamentalism in the West Bank and Gaza: Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic Jihad. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1994.

Hatina, Meir. Islam and Salvation in Palestine: The Islamic Jihad Movement. Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University, 2001.

michael r. fischbach

Islamic Jihad

views updated May 29 2018


Two groups have the name Islamic Jihad (sometimes called the Organization of the Islamic Jihad), one Egyptian, the other Palestinian. These two movements contend that armed struggle is the Islamically ordained form of striving against a corrupt authoritarian regime in Egypt and military occupation in Palestine. Both were influenced by the teachings of the Muslim Brothers, but grew more critical of its reformist approach.

A small group of students founded the Egyptian Tanzim al-Jihad (Jihad organization) in Alexandria in 1977. The Jihad concentrated its activities in Cairo, while its rival al-Gama˓a al-Islamiyya (The Islamic Group) dominated Upper Egypt. Despite similarities in dogma and membership—and an attempt at unification in 1981—Jihad has not formed a grass-roots movement. The main theorist of the Jihad is Muhammad ˓Abd al-Salam Faraj, who wrote a tract entitled al-Farida algha˒iba (The forgotten obligation). The forgotten obligation among Muslims today is jihad, or the struggle to uproot Muslim leaders perceived by the group as infidels, and replace them with a comprehensive "Islamic state." The main path to its goal is by penetrating the military. The closest the group came to attaining its goal was when members of Jihad assassinated President Anwar Sadat on 6 October 1981, but failed to complete the takeover of the state. Conspirators were executed and hundreds of other members arrested. Arrested members were young, educated, and lower to middle class. It was not until the late 1990s that the Egyptian government succeeded in eliminating the security threat of the Jihad, at a high cost of repression and violation of the basic human right of nonviolent opposition. Some Jihad members escaped into Afghanistan and joined Usama bin Ladin in forming al-Qa˓ida. The most prominent of them is Ayman Zawahiri, second to Bin Laden and linked to the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001.

The Palestinian Harakat al-jihad al-Islami (Islamic Jihad Movement) was founded by Fathi al-Shiqaqi and ˓Abd al-˓Aziz ˓Auda in 1981. Both studied in Egypt and were influenced by the teachings of Egyptian radical Islamists. Another inspiration was the Iranian Revolution. The main goal of this organization is the liberation of Palestine, as the central issue for Muslims, and the establishment of an Islamic state. At least two other groups embrace the same name, but the Shiqaqi faction remains the largest. The group carried out several violent attacks against Israelis prior to the first intifada (1987–1993), in which it was active. Israel retaliated by expelling its two founders, and arresting and even assassinating some of its activists, including Shiqaqi, who was murdered by the Mossad (the Israeli secret service) in Malta in October 1995. Ramadan Shalah succeeded Shiqaqi as the organization's Secretary General. Since the establishment of Hamas in 1988, the Islamic Jihad has lost some of its appeal. Despite hostility in the late 1980s between the two groups, both have closed ranks in their opposition to the Oslo agreement and the Palestinian Authority, and after 1994, were joined in this effort by leftist Palestinian groups. Since the outbreak of the second intifada in September 2000, the Jihad has taken active part in fighting occupation forces and assailing Israeli civilians.

See alsoIkhwan al-Muslimin ; Political Islam ; Qa˓ida, al- .


Faraj, Mohamed ˓Abd al-Salam. Al-Jihad: al-farida al-gha'iba (Jihad: The forgotten obligation). Jerusalem: Maktabet ˓Iz al-Din al-Qassam, 1982.

Ghadbian, Najib. "Political Islam and Violence." New Political Science 22 (2000): 77–88.

Shiqaqi, Fathi al-. Al-Mashrou ˓al-islami al-mu ˓asir fi filastin (The contemporary Islamic project in Palestine). n.p., 1995.

Najib Ghadbian


views updated May 23 2018


Al-Jihad (also known as Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Jihad Group, and Islamic Jihad) is an Egyptian Islamic extremist group active since the late 1970s. Al-Jihad merged with Osama Bin Ladin's al-Qaida organization in June, 2001, but may retain some capability to conduct independent operations. Al-Jihad continues to suffer setbacks worldwide, especially after tightened Egyptian security in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. Al-Jihad's primary goals are to overthrow the Egyptian government and replace it with an Islamic state, and to attack U.S. and Israeli interests in Egypt and abroad.

Organization activities. Al-Jihad specializes in armed attacks against high-level Egyptian government personnel, including cabinet ministers, and car-bombings against official U.S. and Egyptian facilities. The original Jihad was responsible for the assassination in 1981 of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. The organization claimed responsibility for the attempted assassinations of Interior Minister Hassan al-Alfi in August 1993 and Prime Minister Atef Sedky in November 1993. As of May, 2002, Al-Jihad has not conducted an attack inside Egypt since 1993 and has never targeted foreign tourists there. Al-Jihad is responsible for the Egyptian embassy bombing in Islamabad in 1995; in 1998 an Al-Jihad attack against U.S. Embassy in Albania was thwarted.

The actual size of Al-Jihad is unknown, but the organization has at least several hundred hardcore members. Al-Jihad operates in the Cairo area, but most of its network is outside Egypt, including Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, and the United Kingdom, and its activities have been centered outside Egypt for several years.

The Egyptian government claims that Iran supports Al-Jihad. Its merger with al-Qaeda also boosts Osama Bin Ladin's support for the group. Al-Jihad also may obtain some funding through various Islamic non-governmental organizations, cover businesses, and criminal acts.



Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook, 2002. <> (April 16, 2003).

Taylor, Francis X. U.S. Department of State. Patterns of Global Terrorism 2001, Annual Report: On the record briefing. May 21, 2002 <> (April 17,2003).

U.S. Department of State. Annual reports. <> (April 16, 2003).


Terrorism, Philosophical and Ideological Origins
Terrorist and Para-State Organizations
Terrorist Organization List, United States
Terrorist Organizations, Freezing of Assets

Islamic Jihad

views updated May 11 2018


A movement of loosely associated extreme Islamists (known as jihadis) in the Muslim world. There are many tendencies in the movement—Sunni, Shiʿa, pro-Iranian, pro-Egyptian, pro-Saudi. Islamic Jihad in Lebanon is Shiʿite; in Egypt and Palestine, Sunni. The Sunni groups are influenced by the Saudi Wahhabi movement. All jihadis advocate a return to the "genuine Islam" of the prophet Muhammad, with the Quʾran and Shari ʿa as the foundation for state and society. The modern Islamic movement arose at the beginning of the 1970s, after the Arab defeat in the June 1967 Arab-Israel war, an event that encouraged millenial interpretations among both Muslims and ultra-orthodox Jews.

The creation of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) by Saudi Arabia in September 1969 reflected this reality in the Muslim world. The OIC proposed the establishment of an "Islamic nation" according to the strictest laws of the Muslim religion, while favoring "Islamic orthodoxy." This institution also participated in the re-Islamization of society by building schools and mosques and by opening Islamic banks. Backed by Saudi Arabia, Islamist political activity revived in countries where it had been harshly repressed, such as Egypt and Syria. After the Arab-Israel War of 1973, Muslims in many countries, disappointed by the ineffective, secular, nominally socialist politics of so many Muslim countries, turned toward Saudi Arabia and Wahhabism. The proclamation of an Islamic republic in Iran, even though Shiʿite (a minority within Islam), confirmed for the Islamist faithful the value of practicing jihad as "holy war." Resorting to terrorism to achieve their ends, jihadis have been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people (among them Egyptian president Anwar al-Sadat in 1981). At the beginning of the 1980s, many jihadis joined the ranks of the Afghan resistance against the Soviet army. Some of them, called "Afghans," upon returning to their native countries placed the technical expertise they acquired during this conflict (1979–1989) at the disposal of extremist movements in their own countries.

SEE ALSO Arab-Israel War (1967);Muhammad;Organization of the Islamic Conference;Sadat, Anwar al-.

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