International Terrorist Organizations
From al-Qaeda to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
by Ben Snowden and Laura Hayes
Pursuant to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, the secretary of state formally desigated 29 organizations as terrorist groups. This is a partial list of those groups and others which were active in 2000. The State Department maintains a complete list.
Source: U.S. Department of State
Abu Nidal Organization (ANO)
Formerly a part of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, this international organization has carried out attacks in 20 countries, killing or injuring almost 900 persons. Although they have not attacked Western targets since the late 1980s, the ANO (which is headquartered in Libya) have proven able to operate over a wide area, including the Middle East, Asia, and Europe. ANO's leader, Sabri al-Banna, aka Abu Nidal, was reported dead in Baghdad on Aug. 19, 2002.
Activities: Attacks in Rome and Vienna airports (1995); Pan Am Flight 73 hijacking (1986).Support: Has received safe haven, training, logistic assistance, and financial aid from Iraq and Syria (until 1987); may continue to receive aid from Libya.
Al-Qaeda ("the base")
Al-Qaeda (also al-Qa'ida) was established c. 1990 by Osama bin Laden to bring together those who fought in Afghanistan against the Soviet invasion. The organization helped finance, recruit, transport, and train Sunni Islamicist extremists for the Afghan resistance. Its current goal is to "reestablish the Muslim State" throughout the world by overthrowing regimes it deems "non-Islamic" and removing Westerners from Muslim countries. In 1998 al-Qaeda issued a statement under the banner of the "World Islamic Front for Jihad Against The Jews and Crusaders" declaring that it is the duty of all Muslims to kill U.S. citizens and their allies. The group comprises several hundred to several thousand members and serves as an umbrella organization for numerous radical Islamicist organizations.
Activities: Bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania; claims to have shot down U.S. helicopters and killed U.S. servicemen in Somalia in 1993; linked to plans for attempted terrorist operations, including the assassination of the Pope; linked to the bombing of the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen; and suspected in the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.Support: Bin Laden, the son of a billionaire Saudi family, uses his own money to finance the group. In addition, al-Qaeda also maintains money-making businesses, collects donations, and illicitly siphons funds from donations to Muslim charitable organizations. Bin Laden and top al-Qaeda members are currently hosted by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
For more information read Al-Qaeda: Osama bin Laden's Network of Terror.
Armed Islamic Group (GIA)/Salafi Group for Call and Combat (GSPC)
An Islamic extremist group that aims to overthrow the secular Algerian regime and replace it with an Islamic state. The GIA began its violent activities in 1992 after Algiers voided the victory of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS)—the largest Islamic opposition party—in the first round of legislative elections in Dec. 1991. The Salafi Group for Call and Combat (GSPC) splinter faction appears to have eclipsed the GIA since approximately 1998 and is currently assessed to be the most effective armed group inside Algeria.
Activities: Between 1992 and 1998 the GIA conducted a campaign of civilian massacres, sometimes wiping out entire villages.Support: Algerian expatriates and GSPC members abroad, many of whom reside in Europe, provide financial and logistic support.
Aum Supreme Truth (Aum)
Established in 1987 by Shoko Asahara, this religious group aims to take over Japan and then the rest of the world. Headquartered in Japan, but has operated in Europe, the U.S., and elsewhere in Asia.
Activities: Sarin nerve gas attack that killed 12 persons and injured more than 5,000 on a Tokyo subway in March 1995. Asahara was arrested for the attack in May 1995 and remains on trial.
Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA)
Spanish separatist group established in 1959 with the aim of establishing an independent Basque homeland.
Activities: Bombings and assassinations of Spanish government officials, as well as some attacks on French interests. Appears to have ties to the Irish Republican Army through the two groups' legal political wings.Support: Has received training at various times in the past in Libya, Lebanon, and Nicaragua. Some ETA members allegedly have received sanctuary in Cuba.
Formed in late 1987 to pursue the goal of establishing an Islamic Palestinian state in place of Israel. Loosely structured, with some elements working openly through mosques and social service institutions. Militant elements of Hamas, operating clandestinely, have advocated and used violence. Hamas also has engaged in peaceful political activity, such as running candidates in West Bank Chamber of Commerce elections.
Activities: Many attacks, including large-scale suicide bombings, against Israeli civilian and military targets, suspected Palestinian collaborators, and Fatah rivals.Support: Palestinian expatriates, Iran, and private benefactors in Saudi Arabia and other moderate Arab states.
Dedicated to the creation of Iranian-style Islamic republic in Lebanon and removal of all non-Islamic influences from the area. Strongly anti-Western and anti-Israeli. Closely allied with and often directed by Iran; may have conducted operations that were not approved by Tehran.
Activities: Numerous anti-U.S. terrorist attacks, including the suicide truck-bombing of the U.S. embassy and U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in Oct. 1983 and the US embassy Annex in Beirut in Sept. 1984. Hijacked a plane en route from Athens to Rome in Sept. 1984, killing an American soldier. Hezbollah members Imad Fayez Mugniyah, Hassan Izz-Al-Din, and Ali Atwa were indicted for the crime in the U.S and were placed on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists list on Oct. 10, 2001. Attack on Israeli embassy in Argentina in 1992.Support: Substantial amounts of financial, training, weapons, explosives, political, diplomatic, and organizational aid from Iran and Syria.
Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group, IG)
Egypt's largest militant group, active since the late 1970s; appears to be loosely organized. Has an external wing with a worldwide presence. The group issued a ceasefire in March 1999, but its spiritual leader, Shaykh Umar Abd al-Rahman, incarcerated in the United States, rescinded his support for the ceasefire in June 2000. The Islamic Group's primary goal is to overthrow the Egyptian government and replace it with an Islamic state.
Activities: Armed attacks against Egyptian security and other government officials, Coptic Christians, and Egyptian opponents of Islamic extremism. From 1993 until the ceasefire, the Islamic Group launched attacks on tourists in Egypt, most notably the Nov. 1997 attack at Luxor that killed 58 foreign tourists. Also claimed responsibility for the June 1995 attempt to assassinate Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.Support: Unknown. The Egyptian Government believes that Iran, bin Laden, and Afghan militant groups support the organization. Also may obtain some funding through various Islamic nongovernmental organizations.
Radical terrorist group formed in 1969 as clandestine armed wing of Sinn Fein. Similarities in operations suggest links to the ETA. Formally stopped its campaign to abolish Northern Ireland and its British links in July 1997
Activities: Bombings, assassinations, kidnappings, extortion, and robberies of British targets in Northern Ireland and mainland Britain.Support: Considerable training and arms from Libya and, at one time, the PLO. Is suspected of receiving funds and arms from sympathizers in the United States.
Read more in the Northern Ireland Primer.
Kach and Kahane Chai
Militant Israeli groups dedicated to restoring the biblical state of Israel. Declared terrorist organizations in March 1994 by the Israeli Cabinet.
Activities: Organization of protests against the Israeli government. Harassment of and threats against Palestinians in Hebron and the West Bank. Several shooting attacks on West Bank Palestinians in which four persons were killed and two were wounded in 1993.Support: Aid from sympathizers in the United States and Europe.
Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)
Established in 1974 as a Marxist-Leninist insurgent group primarily composed of Turkish Kurds. In recent years has moved beyond rural-based insurgent activities to include urban terrorism. Seeks to set up an independent Kurdish state in southeastern Turkey, where there is a predominantly Kurdish population.
Activities: Attacks on Turkish diplomatic and commercial facilities in dozens of West European cities in 1993 and again in spring 1995. Bombings of tourist sites and hotels and kidnapping of foreign tourists.Support: Sanctuary and modest aid from Syria, Iraq, and Iran.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
The most powerful Tamil group in Sri Lanka. Uses overt and illegal methods to raise funds, acquire weapons, and publicize its cause of establishing an independent Tamil state. Began its armed conflict with the Sri Lankan government in 1983. Insular and highly organized, with its own intelligence service, naval element (the Sea Tigers), and women's political and military wings.
Activities: Political assassinations, including the suicide bomber attacks against Sri Lankan president Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1993 and Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991. Two massive truck bombings, one at the Central Bank in Jan. 1996 and another at the Colombo World Trade Center in Oct. 1997.Support: Funds and supplies from large Tamil communities in North America, Europe, and Asia. Information obtained since the mid-1980s indicates that some Tamil communities in Europe are also involved in narcotics smuggling.
The Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ)
A series of loosely affiliated factions (rather than a cohesive group) committed to the creation of an Islamic Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel through holy war.
Activities: Suicide bombing attacks against Israeli targets in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Israel.Support: Financial assistance from Iran and limited assistance from Syria.
Palestine Liberation Front (PLF)
Terrorist group that broke away from the PFLP-GC in mid-1970s. Later split again into pro-PLO, pro-Syrian, and pro-Libyan factions.
Activities: Attack in 1985 on the cruise ship Achille Lauro and the murder of U.S. citizen Leon Klinghoffer.Support: Aid mainly from Iraq; has received support from Libya in the past.
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)
Marxist-leninist group founded in 1967 by George Habash as a member of the PLO. Joined the Alliance of Palestinian Forces (APF) to oppose the Declaration of Principles signed in 1993 and has suspended participation in the PLO.
Activities: Numerous international terrorist attacks during the 1970s. Since 1978 PFLP has carried out numerous attacks against Israeli or moderate Arab targets, including the killing of a settler and her son in Dec. 1996.Support: Financial and military assistance from Syria and Libya.
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)
Largest, best trained, and best equipped guerrilla organization in Colombia. Established in 1966 as military wing of Colombian Communist Party, dedicated to overthrowing the government and ruling class. Has been anti-U.S. since its inception.
Activities: Armed attacks against Colombian political and military targets. Many members pursue criminal activities, carrying out kidnappings for profit and bank robberies. FARC traffics in drugs and has well-documented ties to narcotics traffickers.
Read more about the FARC.
Revolutionary People's Struggle (ELA)
Extreme leftist group that developed out of the opposition to the military junta that ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974. Self-described revolutionary, anti-capitalist, and anti-imperialist group, which is strongly anti-U.S. and seeks the removal of US military forces from Greece.
Activities: Bombings against Greek government and economic targets as well as U.S. military and business facilities. Claimed joint responsibility (with terrorist group 1 May) for more than 20 bombings in 1991.
Read more about terror in Greece.
Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA)
Traditional marxist-leninist revolutionary movement formed in 1983. Aims to establish a marxist regime and to rid Peru of all imperialist elements (primarily U.S. and Japanese influence).
Activities: In Dec. 1996, 14 MRTA members occupied the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima and held 72 hostages for more than four months. Peruvian forces stormed the residence in April 1997, rescuing all but one of the remaining hostages and killing all 14 group members, including the remaining leaders.