After the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in 1981, the Egyptian State Security Investigations Services (SSI) and local police immediately arrested hundreds of Islamic militants and other religious figures suspected of being involved in the assassination. One of the groups that stood out, were Islamic Jihad, a small but tight knit group of members who adhered to the strict interpretation of the Quran. The leaders of certain religious groups were given lengthy sentences. Most of the middle rank members escaped into Pakistan, where during the mid 1980’s they regrouped in Peshawar, Pakistan and reconstituted themselves as the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ).
The leader of this sect would be known many years later, his name is Ayman al-Zawahiri, a physician with close ties with another religious leader of Gamma al-Islamiyya, Omar Abdel Rahman (Blind Sheik). Both of these men would later have historical ramifications inside the United States, most notably New York City. The EIJ was constructed as a blind-cell structure, meaning members in one group 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 the whole organization.
The EIJ would later have close ties with certain Jihadist movements, including Al Qaeda, whom Ayman al-Zawahiri would have an indispensable ally in its emir, Osama Bin Laden, the wealthy Saudi financier whom al-Zawahiri was close to during the 1979 Soviet-Afghan War. With such valuable contacts in Egypt and in Afghanistan, the EIJ began a short bombing campaign against the Egyptian government. In June 1995, operating from its exile base in Sudan, EIJ joined forces with the Egyptian al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya and Sudanese intelligence in an attempt to kill Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak while he was in Ethiopia.
The plotters, which involved a high ranking Egyptian Al Qaeda figure named, Mustafa Hamza, took 12 months to devise the plan which even involved marrying the women in the small town Mubarak was going to visit. Their hope was to decapitate the Egyptian government thereby eliminating the “iron grip” of the state security services, and creating a power vacuum which Islamists could then fill. The attack was foiled by a malfunctioning grenade launcher and Mubarak’s bulletproof limousine.
Mubarak promised to effectively eliminate all radical Islamist groups in Egypt. But in 1995 the EIJ bombed the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad killing 16 and wounding 60 and while the ashes were still hot, the EIG would not be at all pleased with just this one bombing. As the years passed, more terrorist campaigns would transpire. In 2001 the EIJ would align with Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda. Sayyed Imam Al-Sharif would claim that only about 9 members from EIJ, including al-Zawahiri would join Al Qaeda, and many consider al-Sharif the true leader of EIJ..
The Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) still functions to the current day. The organization’s original primary goal was to overthrow the Egyptian Government and replace it with an Islamic state. Later it broadened its aims to include attacking American and Israeli interests in Egypt and abroad.