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Eritrean Islamic Jihad Movement (EIJM) Narrative


Eritrean Islamic Jihad Movement (EIJM)

Last Update

January 2015

Aliases

Abu Sihel Movement; Eritrean Islamic Reform Movement (EIRM); Harakat al Khalas al Islami

History

The Eritrean Islamic Jihad Movement (EIJM) was formally established in 1980. A conference was held in Khartoum, Sudan where the National Eritrean Islamic Liberation Front, the Islamic Vanguard, the Organization of Eritrean Pioneer Muslims, and the Islamic Awakening merged to create and headquarter the EIJM.[1] The large majority of EIJM members are Muslim youth network members, conservative Eritreans, or refugees who have sought asylum in Sudan. In 2003, EIJM changed its name to the Eritrean Islamic Reform Movement.[2]

EIJM has three political goals: (1) jihad against the Eritrean government and its president, Isaias Afewerki[3]; (2) to create an Islamic Eritrean State[4]; and retribution for Eritrea’s history of anti-Muslim discrimination.[5] Led by Khalil Mohammed Amer, EIJM’s violent actions and insurgent operations are mainly focused in western Eritrea.[6] EIJM, the Eritrean Liberation Front, Islah, and the Eritrean Federal Democratic Movement (EFDM) created the Eritrean Solidarity Front (ESF).[7] ESF is the umbrella organization for its member insurgent groups, which still exist separately with their own leadership structures.[8] Even with EIJM’s new membership in ESF, EIJM still remains one of the most vocal insurgent groups against Eritrea, and continues to work in representing the repressed Islamic population.

Home Base

Sudan

Founding Year

1980[9]

Ideology

Religious-Muslim-Sunni-Islamist-Jihadist

Specific Goals

  • To overthrow President Isaias Afewerki’s Christian-led EPLF government through violent jihad[10]
  • To subsequently create an Islamic caliphate within Eritrea[11]

Political Activity

  • EIJM in concert with the Eritrean Liberation Front, Islah, and the Eritrean Federal Democratic Movement created the Eritrean Solidarity Front (ESF), a political movement
    • ESF was coordinated to create a broader, cohesive front against the injustices the Eritrean Muslims face.[12]
    • Together, ESF works to gain the rights of the Eritrean Muslims and to mobilize the population into action.[13]

Financing

  • State Sponsorship: The Eritrean government accuses Sudan for fiscally supporting this organization by providing weapons, food, and money to EIJM.[14]
  • Funded by other violent group: Al-Qa’ida also provides financial support through the offerings of weapons and militant training and support.[15]

Leadership and Structure over Time

  • EIJM has experienced some schisms within its group, with the extreme wing acting as the dominating force and increasing its ties with al-Qa’ida.[16]
    • As of May 3, 2009; EIJM became a member of the organization, the Eritrean Solidarity Front (ESF).[17]
      • This new organization that EIJM partnered with declares jihad against the Eritrean government and is a religious alliance with Shaykh Abu Sihel as leader.[18]
    • Most EIJM members are Eritrean refugees in Sudan.
  • 2010: Khalil Mohammed Amer[19]
  • 2013: Abul Bara Hassan Salman (Deputy Emir)[20]

Strength

Allies and Suspected Allies

  • Al-Qa’ida (ally)
    • EIJM established connections with Osama bin Laden and the al-Qa’ida network in 1996.[28]
    • A number of EIJM members were part of Bin Laden’s Shura Council and al-Qa’ida’s international network council, Majlis al Fatwa.[29]
    • A main source of EIJM support and militant training comes from al-Qa’ida networks[30]
    • Within Afghanistan and Sudan based camps, several hundred EIJM militants were trained by al-Qa’ida.[31] 
  • Sudan (suspected ally)
    • Due to EIJM’s location in Sudan, the Eritrean Government accused Sudan for assisting EIJM, and in 1994 subsequently submitted a formal complaint to the United Nations stating that Sudan was supporting jihadist militant actions.[32]
  • The Eritrean Liberation Front  (ally)
  • Islah  (ally)
  • The Eritrean Federal Democratic Movement  (ally)

Rivals and Enemies

  • Eritrean ELFP-led government (target)
    • EIJM believe the government is a repressive regime that works to disestablish the existence of Muslims within Eritrea.[33]
    • EIJM seeks vengeance through violent attacks against EPLF and Eritrean Defense Forces.[34]

Counterterrorism Efforts

  • No direct counterterrorism activities targeting specifically EIJM were reported.
  • Domestic Political: The Eritrean Penal Code has present laws that criminalize any insurgent group and actions that involve organized crime and acts of terror.[35]
  • Domestic Law Enforcement and Military: Reportedly, Eritrean law enforcement and defense agencies have historically not been systematic and organized enough to lead large-scale counterterror efforts.[36]

United States Government Designations

None

Other Governments’ Designations

None

 

[1] Clint Watts, Jacob Shapiro, and Vahid Brown, “Al-Qa’ida’s (Mis)Adventures in the Horn of Africa,” Harmony Project (West Point, NY: Combating Terrorism Center, June 2010), https://www.ctc.usma.edu/v2/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Al-Qaidas-MisAdventures-in-the-Horn-of-Africa.pdf;Jonathan Miran, “A Historical Overview of Islam in Eritrea,” Die Welt des Islams 45, no. 2 (2005): 177–215, http://modaina.com/files/the_study_of_islam_in_eritrea.pdf.

[2] Jonathan Miran, “A Historical Overview of Islam in Eritrea,” Die Welt des Islams 45, no. 2 (2005): 177–215, http://modaina.com/files/the_study_of_islam_in_eritrea.pdf.; Jennifer Parmelee, “Radicals Gain Strength in Horn of Africa; Muslim Fundamentalist Groups Stepping Up Armed Attacks, Political Expansionism,” Washington Post, January 5, 1994, via LexisNexis; Clint Watts, Jacob Shapiro, and Vahid Brown, “Al-Qa’ida’s (Mis)Adventures in the Horn of Africa,” Harmony Project (West Point, NY: Combating Terrorism Center, June 2010), https://www.ctc.usma.edu/v2/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Al-Qaidas-MisAdventures-in-the-Horn-of-Africa.pdf.

[3] Tekle M Woldemikael, “The Cultural Construction of Eritrean Nationalist Movements,” in The Rising Tide of Cultural Pluralism: The Nation-State at Bay? (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1993), 179–99.

[4] Clint Watts, Jacob Shapiro, and Vahid Brown, “Al-Qa’ida’s (Mis)Adventures in the Horn of Africa,” Harmony Project (West Point, NY: Combating Terrorism Center, June 2010), https://www.ctc.usma.edu/v2/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Al-Qaidas-MisAdventures-in-the-Horn-of-Africa.pdf.

[5]US Department of State, “International Religious Freedom Report for 2013,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, July 28, 2014, http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/222259.pdf.

[6] Clint Watts, Jacob Shapiro, and Vahid Brown, “Al-Qa’ida’s (Mis)Adventures in the Horn of Africa,” Harmony Project (West Point, NY: Combating Terrorism Center, June 2010), https://www.ctc.usma.edu/v2/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Al-Qaidas-MisAdventures-in-the-Horn-of-Africa.pdf.

[7] Awate.com, “Four Eritrean Opposition Groups Merge, to Restore Muslims’ Rights,” BBC Monitoring Africa, May 5, 2009, via LexisNexis.

[8] ESF, “Founding Statement of the Eritrean Solidarity Front” (Eritrean Human Rights Electronic Archive, May 1, 2009), http://www.ehrea.org/eng.pdf.

[9] Clint Watts, Jacob Shapiro, and Vahid Brown, “Al-Qa’ida’s (Mis)Adventures in the Horn of Africa,” Harmony Project (West Point, NY: Combating Terrorism Center, June 2010), https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/al-qaidas-misadventures-in-the-horn-of-africa.

[10] Tekle M Woldemikael, “The Cultural Construction of Eritrean Nationalist Movements,” in The Rising Tide of Cultural Pluralism: The Nation-State at Bay? (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1993), 179–99.

[11] Clint Watts, Jacob Shapiro, and Vahid Brown, “Al-Qa’ida’s (Mis)Adventures in the Horn of Africa,” Harmony Project (West Point, NY: Combating Terrorism Center, June 2010), https://www.ctc.usma.edu/v2/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Al-Qaidas-MisAdventures-in-the-Horn-of-Africa.pdf.

[12] ESF, “Founding Statement of the Eritrean Solidarity Front” (Eritrean Human Rights Electronic Archive, May 1, 2009), http://www.ehrea.org/eng.pdf.

[13] Meskerem.com, “‘Taliban-Led’ Eritrean Front Declares Jihad against State,” BBC Monitoring Africa, August 22, 2009, via LexisNexis.

[14] Jennifer Parmelee, “Radicals Gain Strength in Horn of Africa; Muslim Fundamentalist Groups Stepping Up Armed Attacks, Political Expansionism,” Washington Post, January 5, 1994, via LexisNexis.

[15] David H Shinn, “Ethiopia: Coping with Islamic Fundamentalism before and after September 11,” Africa Notes, February 2002, 11, https://csis.org/files/media/csis/pubs/anotes_0202.pdf.

[16] David H Shinn, “Ethiopia: Coping with Islamic Fundamentalism before and after September 11,” Africa Notes, February 2002, 11, https://csis.org/files/media/csis/pubs/anotes_0202.pdf.

[17]  Awate.com, “Four Eritrean Opposition Groups Merge, to Restore Muslims’ Rights,” BBC Monitoring Africa, May 5, 2009, via LexisNexis.

[18] Meskerem.com, “‘Taliban-Led’ Eritrean Front Declares Jihad against State,” BBC Monitoring Africa, August 22, 2009, via LexisNexis.

[19] Clint Watts, Jacob Shapiro, and Vahid Brown, “Al-Qa’ida’s (Mis)Adventures in the Horn of Africa,” Harmony Project (West Point, NY: Combating Terrorism Center, June 2010), https://www.ctc.usma.edu/v2/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Al-Qaidas-MisAdventures-in-the-Horn-of-Africa.pdf.

[20] Alexius Amtaika and Mustafa Ahmed, “Is the Eritrean Government a Victim or a Sponsor of Islamic Extremism and Terrorism?,” International Journal of Peace and Development Studies 4, no. 4 (2013): 53–66, http://www.academicjournals.org/article/article1381931992_Amtaika%20and%20Ahmed.pdf; Steven Emerson, “Terrorism Financing: Origination, Organization, and Prevention: Saudi Arabia, Terrorist Financing and the War on Terror,” Testimony before the US Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, 2003, http://mail.iwar.org.uk/cyberterror/resources/terror-financing/073103emerson.pdf.

[21] Roy Pateman, “Eritrea: W(h)ither the Jihad?,” Journal of Contingencies & Crisis Management 3, no. 4 (December 1, 1995): 241–46, doi:10.1111/j.1468-5973.1995.tb00103.x.

[22] David H Shinn, “Ethiopia: Coping with Islamic Fundamentalism before and after September 11,” Africa Notes, February 2002, 11, https://csis.org/files/media/csis/pubs/anotes_0202.pdf.

[23] IISS, “Non-State Armed Groups,” in The Military Balance 2004, vol. 104 (International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2004), 362–77, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/725292356.

[24] IISS, “Non-State Armed Groups,” in The Military Balance 2005, vol. 105 (International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2005), 421–34, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/04597220500387720.

[25] IISS, “Non-State Armed Groups,” in The Military Balance 2006, vol. 106 (International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2006), 417–34, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/04597220600782978.

[26] IISS, “Non-State Armed Groups,” in The Military Balance 2007, vol. 107 (International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2007), 421–38, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/04597220601167872.

[27] IISS, “Non-State Groups,” in The Military Balance 2008, vol. 108 (International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2008), 461–82, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/04597220801912960.

[28] US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and US House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, “Joint Inquiry into the Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2011” (Washington, DC, December 2002), https://fas.org/irp/congress/2002_rpt/911rept.pdf.

[29] US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and US House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, “Joint Inquiry into the Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2011” (Washington, DC, December 2002), https://fas.org/irp/congress/2002_rpt/911rept.pdf.

[30] Vernon Loeb, “A Global, Pan-Islamic Network: Terrorism Entrepreneur Unifies Groups Financially, Politically,” Washington Post, August 23, 1998, sec. A, via LexisNexis.

[31] David H Shinn, “Ethiopia: Coping with Islamic Fundamentalism before and after September 11,” Africa Notes, February 2002, 11, https://csis.org/files/media/csis/pubs/anotes_0202.pdf.

[32] David H Shinn, “Ethiopia: Coping with Islamic Fundamentalism before and after September 11,” Africa Notes, February 2002, 11, https://csis.org/files/media/csis/pubs/anotes_0202.pdf;  Roy Pateman, “Eritrea: W(h)ither the Jihad?,” Journal of Contingencies & Crisis Management 3, no. 4 (December 1, 1995): 241–46, doi:10.1111/j.1468-5973.1995.tb00103.x.

[33] Roy Pateman, “Eritrea: W(h)ither the Jihad?,” Journal of Contingencies & Crisis Management 3, no. 4 (December 1, 1995): 241–46, doi:10.1111/j.1468-5973.1995.tb00103.x.

[34] Jonathan Miran, “A Historical Overview of Islam in Eritrea,” Die Welt des Islams 45, no. 2 (2005): 177–215, http://modaina.com/files/the_study_of_islam_in_eritrea.pdf.

[35] US Department of State, “Country Reports on Terrorism 2013” (Washington, DC: US Department of State, April 2014), http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/225886.pdf.

[36] US Department of State, “Country Reports on Terrorism 2013” (Washington, DC: US Department of State, April 2014), http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/225886.pdf.