The government of Eritrea stands accused by numerous United Nations reports as well as by neighbouring countries, of supporting and sponsoring Islamic insurgents in the Horn of Africa, yet it suppresses its home-grown Islamic insurgents at home. Most interestingly, the Eritrean government is dominated by Christians. This raises questions. What does the Christian-dominated government of Eritrea share or have in common with the Islamic extremists in the Horn of Africa? Why does the Eritrean government support and collaborate with the Islamic insurgents/extremists in the neighbouring countries, when similar groups threaten its existence at home, with the broader objective of establishing an Islamic government? With these questions in mind, this paper argues that the rise and the spread of Islamic extremists in the Horn of Africa did not necessarily come as a result of religious identity, but was motivated by the struggle for political power among the people of this region. This resulted in the existence of two forms of Islamic extremism: (i) ‘state-sponsored’, which commits acts of terror in other countries (external), under the logic of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ and (ii) ‘home-grown ones’, (internal) which poses threats and aims to overthrow the government at home. This has resulted not only in hostilities between Eritrea and its neighbours, but also in the political intolerance between the Eritrean government and domestic Islamic groups.
Key words: Eritrean, Ethiopia, Sudan, terrorism, Islamic extremist, Islamic fundamentalism, Horn of Africa.
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