Established on May 28, 1998 in accordance with a fatwa issued by Osama bin Laden, the International Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders (IIFJ) united, under a single operational umbrella, a number of Egyptian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi terrorist organizations. These included Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Jamaat-ul-Jihad, Gama’a al-Islamiya (a.k.a. Islamic Group), Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Pakistan, Lashkar-i-Taiba, Sipah-e-Sahaba, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, and the Jihad Movement (in Bangladesh).
The Front’s inaugural statement, released in February 1998 and signed by such notables as Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, amounted to a declaration of war against the United States. It echoed bin Laden’s demand for the expulsion of all Americans from Saudi Arabia and the entire Gulf region, first put forth in al Qaeda‘s August 1996 “Declaration of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places.” The IIFJ statement accused the United States of seeking to annihilate all Muslims; of turning the Arabian Peninsula into a “spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Islamic people”; and of forming, with Israel (which he dubbed the “Jews’ petty state”), a “crusader-Zionist alliance” that was responsible for the deaths of more than one million Iraqis.
To answer these alleged crimes, the IIFJ statement concluded that nothing less than total war against America and its allies, the Christian nations of the West and Israel, would suffice. Toward this end, it insisted that “killing Americans and their allies—civilians and military—is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it.” It exhorted “every Muslim who believes in Allah and wishes to be rewarded to comply with Allah’s order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it.”
Though the Front never evolved into more than a loose coalition of terrorist groups, it attempted to realize al Qaeda’s longstanding aim of broadening cooperation among the leaders of such organizations, and of marshalling Islamist fighters under the banner of international jihad. Toward this end, the Front established a directorial body, a Shura consultative council, in order to facilitate correspondence between terrorist figureheads.