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Top Islamic Terrorists Groups

The National Counterterrorism Center ( is ‘the primary organization in the U.S. government for integrating and analyzing all intelligence pertaining to terrorism… and operates as a partnership of organizations to (and with the) …CIA, FBI, DOS, DOD and Homeland Security,’ as well as with Police and other government entities.   The NCTC also provides a timeline of significant terrorist related events at:

Although nearly every Islamic terrorist group desires an Islamic State and opposes western presences, they do not all work together and at times oppose one another.  During the Palestinian Civil War or Fatah-Hamas conflict of 2006-2007; the two Palestinian parties opposed each other, and still have tension; yet are trying to unify.  Likewise, Al-Qaeda and ISIS often have tensions.

The Muslim Brotherhood (Society of the Muslim Brothers) was founded by Iman Hassan Al-Banna, an Egyptian schoolteacher and cleric, who was assassinated and ‘martyred’ by Egyptian secret police in 1949 at the age of 22 in Egypt.  In 1924, al-Banna learned about the abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate by Western Powers after WWI (which he later viewed as a ‘declaration of war against all shapes of Islam.’  In 1927 the YMMA (Young Men’s Muslim Association; led by Muslim ‘revivalist’ cleric al-Qassam) was founded in Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood.  Al-Banna began the Muslim Brotherhood in March 1928; by 1939 it had 500,000 members.  He taught that the Quran was the only acceptable constitution and criticized Western Imperialism and materialism.  He regarded all Muslims as members of a single Nation-community (as in an Islamic State).  He taught ‘jihad of the sword’ and the ‘struggle’ was as important as ‘jihad of the heart.’   His son-in-law, Said Ramadan became a chief leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950s. Its website at remembered ‘the 68th anniversary of the… martyrdom, of Imam Hassan Al-Banna…’ February 2017.

Fatah was founded in Kuwait by Yasser Arafat (head of General Union of Palestinian Students – GUPS; Al-Azhar University – Cairo, Egypt), Khalil al-Wazir (member of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt), Salah Khalaf (1970 – founded Black September Org. – assassinated PM of Jordan) and Khaled Yashruti (head of GUPS in Beirut, Lebanon).     The ‘political party’ began in 1964 attacking Israel and in 1965 as the Palestinian National Liberation Movement.   ‘Fatah’ means ‘conquest by means of jihad;’ Harekat at-Tarir al-Wataniyyeh.   In 1982, Fatah moved its base from Lebanon to Tunisia.   In the 1990s Arafat led the Islam Organization.  In 1993, Fatah’s POL signed peace agreements with Israel at the Oslo Accords and in 1994 the Palestinian Authority was established to govern Muslims in Palestine.  In 2014 Fatah and Hamas signed a reconciliation agreement.   January 2017, Fatah and Hamas have agreed to form a unity government in the Palestinian Authority with a new National Council.

A couple of terms: Mujahideen means ‘those engaged in jihad,’ and is used in the names of various Islamic militant organizations.  Taliban means ‘students’ and the Taliban originated from Islamic schools for Afghan refugees in Pakistan about 1991.

Taliban:  Officially it was founded by (Sunni Islam) Mohammed Omar in 1994, at which time they had about 15,000 student militant members in Pakistan.   Omar named it the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in 1996 and he was accepted as the Supreme Leader of the Muslims.  Omar had fought with the Hezb-e Islami Khalis (formed 1979; came out of Herb-i-Islami, 1975; which came out of the Muslim Youth Organization founded in 1969 at Kabul University by senior students of the Faculty of Islamic Law – namely Abdur Niazi who invited students and professors.  Niazi died just one year after its founding) against the Soviets.  Currently (2017) Mawlawi Akhundzada is the Supreme leader of the Taliban; he assumed the office after the death of Mansour (US drone strike).

Islamic Terrorism almost always involves da’wa (preaching); jihad (fighting) in an fidayeen (‘sacrifice to redeem themselves’) manner; and a goal of ‘liberation (Islamic rule)’ towards an Islamic State with the Quran as it Constitution.   Their fidayeen is to give themselves for the ‘struggle’ towards Islamic States and Sharia rule; and can be a sacrifice through a suicide mission or through service to their causes.  In the April 2007, U.S. Department of State Report on Terrorism was 42 Terrorist Groups listed by their names or aliases.  At that time ISIS/ISIL/IS had not evolved from al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI); but they were included with about 60 terrorists groups on the 2015 Bureau of Counterterrorism… Country Reports on Terrorism 2015, Chapter 6 ( Included in the 2007 report were the following Islamic Terrorist Organizations (listed alphabetically; with 3 added from the 2015 list):

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Abu Nidal Organization (ANO): aka: Fatah Revolutionary Council, the Arab Revolutionary Brigades, and the Revolutionary Organization of Socialist Muslims.  It was created 1974 as a split from the PLO which was from Fatah (1959: Yasser Arafat; led to PLO in 1964); primarily in Lebanon, yet has carried out attacks in at least 20 countries with bombings, shootings, assassinations, kidnapping.

Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG): (‘bearer of the sword’): Founded in 1991 after breaking away from Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF; 1972 splinter of the Muslim Independence Movement in the Philippines – 1968).  It is a small but very violent jihadist group with the goal of an independent Islamic state.   It is headquartered in the Philippines which has a majority Roman Catholic population.   It is responsible for numerous kidnappings, bombings and terrorist tactics. 

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade (AMB): created in 2000 and supported soon after by Fatah.  Joined or allied with Hamas.  Once led by Yasser Arafat (PLO).  Their leaders joined the Fatah Council in 2003.  It uses suicide bombings and joint attacks with Hamas, Hezbollah and others; and is primarily concerned with the Gaza Strip.

Al-Shabaab; aka: Harakat Shabaab al-Mujahidin (HSM): HSM is the military wing of the former Somali Islamic Courts Council.  The Islmaic ‘Mujahidin Youth Movement’ was formed about 2006 and uses guerrilla warfare and terrorist tactics.   They are an affiliate of al-Qaida and AQAP.   They are said to have thousands of members.  In 2010 they conducted suicide bombings in Uganda and in 2015 killed about 150 at a Kenya university.

Jamaat Ansar al-Sunnah (‘Assembly of the Helpers of Sunnah’) (AS): aka: Ansar al-Islam, Kurdish Taliban, Followers of Islam in Kurdistan: Birthed in 2003 out of the US-Iraq War.  The Sunni Islam group is allied Hamas and others; it reached about 1000 members.

Armed Islamic Group (GIA): Created in 1992 out of the (Sunni) Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) political party in Algeria, and a 1992 coup.  Its goal was to ‘purge the land of the ungodly.’  In 1999, the government hunted them down after granting amnesty to many.  The group’s members splinter into the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC, 1998) and in 2007 into al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).  GIA membership reached 4,000 at its height; AQIM’s reached 1000+.

Asbat al-Ansar (League of the Partisans) (AA): Began about 1991 with the goal of an Islamic State in Lebanon.  Its membership reached about 2000; and their tactics include assassinations and bombings.  The Sunni Jihadist group received support from Zarqawi and other leaders of Al-Qaeda in Iraq (pre-ISIS).

Al-Jama’ah al-Islamiyah (‘the Islamic Group{s}’): The Sunni Islamic group began in Egypt with the goal of an Islamic Egypt.  After the 2011 Egyptian Revolution the terrorist organization formed the Building and Development Party which now has members in the Egyptian Parliament.  It came out of the Muslim Brotherhood and spread as a student militant group at universities in the 1970s.  At its height it had 20,000 members in custody in Egypt.  In 1981 they agreed to follow Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman (the Blind Sheikh; died in a US prison February 2017).  It was involved in the Twin Tower World Trade Center 9/11 attacks.

Boko Haram (BH): aka: Nigerian Taliban; Sunni Group for Preaching and Jihad: This African Islamic group formed in 2002 against western powers and culture.  Boko Haram means ‘Western education is forbidden.’  In 2009 it began military operations and has killed thousands and kidnapped hundreds.  It claims to be IS’s ‘West African Province.’   In April 2014, BH raided a Chibok school’s dormitories and adducted 276 girls.  Over 50 escaped jumping out of their trucks; but 219 of the young Borno girls were taken; many of them Christians.  May 2016 one girl escaped and reported that she knew of 6 dead, and several with babies.  August 2016, BH demanded an exchange of imprisoned militants for some of the girls.  Many have been forced to become ‘wives;’ and some were reported as killed by government air strikes.   Videos show about 130 reading the Koran.  October 2016, BH released 21 of the girls.  BH state they have about 9000 troops in Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria.   They have some connections with AQIM.

HAMAS (Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya; aka: Izz al-Din al Qassam Brigades; Students of Ayyash): It was founded in 1987 during the First Palestinian Intifada (uprising).  It grew out of the Muslim Brotherhood; and out of the Black Hand (1930) group.  HAMAS has been reported by the US State Dept. to have a ‘6,000-man Executive Force and tens of thousands of supporters and sympathizers.’  Their primarily focus is Palestine, currently (2017) specifically in Lebanon and Syria.   They receive funding and weapons and recruits from Iran.  HAMAS does not recognize Israel’s right to Palestine and calls for an Islamic Palestinian State (as in Islamic State).  HAMAS rejects all PLO-Israeli agreements towards a two-state solution; although they have entered into occasional ceasefire agreements with Israel.  In 2011, in Moscow, Fatah agreed to let HAMAS join in an interim government National Council under the Palestinian Authority.   In January 2017, Russia asked the Council is opposed to Trump moving the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.   At that time HAMAS and Fatah agreed to create a new unified ‘government’ with a new National Council.   Ahmad abu Marzouk of HAMAS said  ‘the Quartet’s work completely failed… including UN resolutions.’  Quartet – US, Russia, EU & UN.  HAMAS website at states “Hamas is a comprehensive institutional movement taking resistance against the Israeli occupation… Hamas is an integral part of the Arab and Islamic Nation…”

Harakat ul-Mujahedin (HUM): aka: al-Faran; al-Hadith; HUA/JUA: This Pakistan based Islamic militant organization formed in 1980 to fight against Soviet troops in Afghanistan.   It splitered from Harkat ul-Jihad-i-islami which had merged with Harkat ul-Ansar and renamed HUM.  It is aligned with the JUI-F political party in Kashmir Pakistan.   One of its goals is to gain more land and people from India and for their Islamic State.  It is supported by groups from Pakistan, Kashmir, Saudi Arabia and other Islamic states.

Hezbollah: aka: Hizballah, Hizb’allah; ‘Party of God (Allah)’ through Jihad: This Shia Islamic group formed in 1982 in Lebanon during their war with Israel.  It follows the way of the Iranian revolution and teachings of Ayatollah Khomeini and his successors.  It has much support that flows through Iran and Syria.  The Majlis al-Shura is their governing Jihad Council.  In 2007, the US Department of State (Bureau of Counterterrorism) reported that “Hizballah remains the most technically capable terrorist group in the world.  It has strong influence in Lebanon’s Shia community …and (is) recognized (by Lebanon) as a legitimate ‘resistance group’ and political party… with 14 elected officials in the 128-set Lebanese National Assembly.”   Prior to September 11, 2001, Hezbollah was responsible for more American deaths than any other terrorist group.  It has thousands of members and established cells on every livable continent except Australia.  Many of its members were trained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.  Their primarily goal is to destroy or ‘struggle’ with Israel; and according to Hezbollah’s 1985 manifesto, to expel ‘the Americans, the French and their allies definitely from Lebanon…’

Islamic Jihad Union (IJU): aka: Al-Djihad al-Islami; Jihad Group of Uzbekistan: This Uzbek Jihadist group was founded in 2002 after its members splintered from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU).  The group is headquartered in Pakistan and allied with the Taliban, al-Qaeda, IMU and others groups against NATO countries, Afghan and Pakistani forces, Uzbekistan and Russia.  In a 2007 interview, one of their fighters, Ebu Yahya said, ‘After the fall of the Afghanistan Islamic Administration (Taliban) in 2002 we… decided to organize groups which will conduct jihad operations against the infidel… members of our union are not members of a specific tribe or a nation.  As there is no nationalism and tribalism in Islam…”  Another said, “we are the Mujahideen for Allah and we will fight until the only religion in the world is Islam, or until we become martyrs.”

Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU): This Islamist group was founded in 1998.  Their “primary goal is to emancipate Iraq and Afghanistan from the American occupation;” and to create an Islamic State under Sharia Law.   From 1995 to 1998 cofounder Yuldashev was in Pakistan and became close to Osama Bin Laden.  IMU reached about 2000 members in 2000.  The group suffered heavy losses in 2001-2002 during the American invasion of Afghanistan.  They became an ally of al-Qaeda and the Taliban; and in 2015 the IMU became a branch of ISIL/ISIS.  The name IMU is in part because the Arab and Soviet cofounders were from Uzbekistan.

Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM):  aka: Army of Mohammed: This Pakistan based group has the goal to bring Indian Administered Kashmir (IAK) under Islamic Pakistan and Shariah Law.  It was founded about 1999 by Masood Azhar, a member of HuM.   In 2003 it splintered into the JeM, JUF and KUI.  It received funds from the Al Rashid Trust (al Qaeda and Taliban) and other foundations.  And has links to the Sunni SSP and LeJ terrorist organizations.  The group has been involved with many anti-Christian attacks.

Jemaah Islamiya (JI): the ‘Islamic Congregation’ is an Indonesian based militant terrorist group with cells primarily in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.  It formed about 1993 with the goal establishing an Islamic State or caliphate in Southeast Asia.  The possibly 5,000 member group allies with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, HAMAS; as well as Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid (its splinter group) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF, 1978; Philippine based).   Its 2002 Bali attack left over 200 dead, one of the deadliest terrorist attacks since 9/11.

Al-Jihad (AJ):  aka: Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ): This Egyptian Islamic extremist organization began about 1979 with the goal of overthrowing Egypt’s government and replacing it with an Islamic State.  Its secondary goals are to attack Western powers in Egypt and Israel.  It was responsible for the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981 and PM Sedky in 1993.  Its founder, Muhammad Farraj was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and executed at Sadat was killed.  Mohammed al-Zawahiri, one of the most wanted men alive, became its chief leader and was close to Osama bin Laden.  In 1998 they began to merger EIJ into al-Qaeda, though not fully finalized until 2001.  Zawahiri was one of the ‘masterminds’ of the 9/11/2001 attacks.  It is believed to have had hundreds of members at that time.

 Kongra-Gel (KGK/PKK): The Kurdistan People’s Congress (KGK), formerly the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), is a Turkish Kurd group that began in 1984.   They were active in northern Iraq and southeastern Turkey.  It is aligned with the Peoples’ United Revolutionary Movement (HBDH) in Turkey; which has a goal to overthrow the current government (2016).

Lashkar e-Tayyiba (LeT): aka: Lashkar e-Taiba (‘army of the righteous’): This Jihadist group headquartered in Pakistan was founded between 1987 and 1990; and was responsible for about 200 killed in the 2008 Mumbai attack.   Its founder formed Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) in 1985 as an Islamic missionary group which merged with the MDI in 1986.  LeT is the military wing of Markaz-ad-Dawa-wal-Irshad (MDI).  In 2007 it conducted about 700 attacks.  It operates in Pakistan, Kashmir, India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Chechnya and Iraq.  It has thousands of members.  It has openly declared that ‘Hindus and Jews’ are ‘enemies of Islam;’ and India and Israel, ‘enemies of Pakistan;’ and the United States an enemy of Islam.  Its training camps have offered a 3 week (21 day) religious course, 21 day combat course and 3 month advance combat course in Punjab, Pakistan.  It has been estimated that tens of thousands of jihadists have were trained at their camps from the late 1990s to 2004.  LeT has been funded through Saudi-based front corporations and is allied with al-Qaida, the Taliban and other terrorist groups.    

Lashkar I Jhangvi (LJ): LJ is a splinter group from Sipah-i-Sahaba in Pakistan.  It was founded in 1976. It has killed both Shia and Christian religious and community leaders and officials.  Many of its members merged into the Taliban; others into al-Qaeda.  After many were killed and arrested and others left to other terrorist groups; its membership was reduced to a very few. 

Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG): LIFG was founded in 1995 by Islamic Libyans who joined in the jihad against Soviet advances in Afghanistan.  Their primarily goal is an Islamic State in Libya.  They oppose Gaddafi’s regime, which has imprisoned hundreds of their members.  They are affiliated (not allied) with al-Qaeda, but deny it; although hundreds of their members have joined al-Qaeda.  They have been involved in the 2011 and 2014 Libyan Civil Wars.  

Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (MICG or GICM: Groupe Islamique Combattant Marocain): In 1993 Shabiba Islamiya (SI) was formed after members of the mujahedeen jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan returned home.  GICM split off from SI about 1999.  It has the goals of making Morocco an Islamic State and assisting al-Qaida in the ‘struggle’ against Western Nations.  The French speaking Jihadists have cells in North Africa (Morocco, Egypt), the Middle East, Belgium, Denmark, France, Spain, Turkey, the UK and French Canada.  It has strong ties to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK): MKO; aka: People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI): This mixed Islamic/Marxist allied with Saddam Hussein against Iran in the 1980-1988 Iraq-Iran War.  In 1986, Hussein built them Camp Ashraf in Baghdad.   By 2005 they had at least 7 camps in Iraq.  MEK had thousands of members as late as 2010; and according to the UN, about 2,000 in Camp Hurriya in 2013 and 2,400 members in Camp Liberty/Hurriya in 2015.  In 2016, 2000 unarmed MEK members were awaiting resettlement and ‘international protection’ from the UN.   They previously turned over about 2000 tanks and armored carriers in a 2003 cease-fire agreement.  Elaine Chao (wife of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and now Sec. of Transportation for Trump) received about $58,000 for 2 short speeches in 2015 and 2016 to MKO at an Iranian-American Cultural Association event in Missouri.  MEK was/is the largest Islamic militant group opposed to the Islamic Republic of Iran; yet, it also took part in the 1979 US Embassy crisis in Iran and killings of US military at various times.

Palestine Liberation Front (PLF): aka: PLF-Abu Abbas Faction: Muhammad Zaydan (Abu Abbas) was founded in 1961 by Jibril and Shafiq al-Hout (Chief Editor of al-Hawadeth; member of PLO Exec. Committee).  They later established ties with and funding from the PLO.  In 1967 the PLF merged with the Arab Nationalist Movement and the Young Avengers to form the PFLP.  Nine years after Jibril founded the splinter PFLP-GC in 1968 the PLF reorganized in 1977 under Abbas.  At its height the PLF had less than 500 members. Abbas set up headquarters in Baghdad prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003) and was captured and died in a US prison in Iraq.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ): aka: Al Quds Brigades (Jerusalem Brigades): PIJ is a nationalist organization that opposes the existence of Israel.  It was officially founded in 1981 by two students and members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.  Its goal is a sole Islamic State in ‘all of historic Palestine.’   They are Sunni Jihadists that fight with Shia brothers.   They were headquartered in Egypt until 1981, when exiled to Gaza after the assassination of Sadat.  Then in 1987 they were again exiled to Lebanon were they allied with Hezbollah and were trained by the Iranian Revolution Guards.   In 1989 the headquarters were moved to Damascus, Syria.  In 2007 they allied with the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in attacks.  They had at that time about 1000 members and now with pressure on HAMAS there numbers are said to have reached 8,000.  It operates the following website: which states it is ‘The Military Wing of Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine.’  It posts ‘Jihad Operations’ online; and states it has been called the ‘sword of Islam.’

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP): This Islamic organization was founded in 1967 by Habash, who organized a merger of the Arab Nationalist Movement (ANM; students at the American Uni. of Beirut), Youth for Revenge (Young Avengers) and the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF, 1961; Syria).  In 1968, the General Command (GC) militant arm was formed by Ahemd Jibril (founder of PLF).  In 1972, PFLP-SO (Special Operations) was founded by Islamic-Marxist Wadie Haddad and broke off from the PFLP.  It has affiliated political committees such as the Union of Health Workers Committee in Gaza and on the Palestinian Legislative Council.  PFLP is the second largest PLO faction, next to Fatah; and there is often tension between the two.  Additionally, the PLO, Fatah and PFLP have political problems with Hamas.

 Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC): in 1968, PFLP leader Jibril, broke away and form this Jihadist group.  It was originally a secular Marxist organization; but after receiving assistance from Iran beginning in the late 1980s, it began to employ Islamic dogma.  It operates primarily in Israel and Syria; with headquarters in Damascus.  Both Libya and Iran have aided the group.  The group now is more focused on training and equipping groups such as Hamas, PIJ and Hizballah.  In 1985, the group got about 1,150 Arabs freed in return for only 3 kidnapped Israeli reservists.  The Israeli government received harsh public criticism for the poor deal.

Al-Qaida (al-Qaeda); aka: International Front for Fighting Jews and Crusaders; Islamic Army; Islamic Army for the Liberation of Holy Sites; etc.: Al-Qaida was founded in 1988 by Osama bin Laden, Abdullah Azzam and Ayman al-Zawahiri.  Usama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Ladin was born to a billionaire Saudi family.  In 1979, he joined (the ‘Father of Global Jihad’) Abdullah Yusuf Azzam’s Mujahideen forces in Pakistan against the Soviet Union.  Between 1979 and 1989 the US Saudi Arabia gave about $40 billion worth of financial and military aid to the tens of thousands of Mujahideen from 40 Muslim countries. In 1984, bin Laden and Azzam formed the Maktab al-Khidamat (Afghan Services Bureau; to fund the groups).  In 1988 bin Laden aided that Sunni Pakistan Army in the Gilgit Massacre where hundreds of Shia women were raped and masses killed. In 1990 bin Laden denounced Saudi-US relations in the Iraq-Kuwait War.  After being banished from Saudi Arabia in 1992, he moved his base to Sudan until US forces invaded in 1996.  In 1995 al-Qaeda was allied and received recruits from the EIJ.  Then al-Qaeda moved its headquarters to Jalalabad, Afghanistan.   In 1996, al-Qaeda declared war (a fatwa) on the US, until they left Saudi Arabia; and soon after all Islamic lands.  The fatwa was signed by bin Laden and al-Zawahiri from the World Islamic Front for Jihah Against Jews and Crusades.  Due to 1998 US embassy bombings bin Laden was on the FBI’s ‘Ten Most Wanted.’  Bin Laden and al-Qaida orchestrated the September 11, 2001 attack on the US that resulted in 2996 deaths.  In 2004 Osama said that ‘now America could taste some of what we are tasting and to stop killing our children and women.’ Bin Laden married at least 5 or 6 women and fathered over 21 children.  May 2, 2011 by Laden was killed by US forces and al-Zawahiri became the 2nd General Emir of Al-Qaeda.  The Jihadist extremists have been allied with dozens of terrorist groups and operate worldwide and main cells in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan and Syria.

For much more information see: the 2015 Terrorism Research Initiative article, The Evolution of Al Qaeda’s Global Network and Al Qaeda Core’s Position Within it…

In brief part the article states: “The rise of Al Qaeda provides an excellent example of this transition and the globalization of the terrorist threat. Arguably the group with the greatest reach and influence in the last several decades, Al Qaeda Core began as a small and highly selective group that arose out of the Soviet-Afghan War. They maintained this status throughout the 1990s, quietly influencing uprisings throughout the Middle East and biding their time until they entered the world stage with the September 11th attacks. By September 12th, 2001, Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden were household names, and Al Qaeda Core was in the position to foster other militant groups on a much broader scale. It was seen as the hallmark of a new kind of terrorist threat, one that was no longer confined to a specific conflict or geographic area and could pose a legitimate threat to even the most powerful states.”  The article also lists 56 terrorist groups affiliated to al-Qaeda.


Al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI) & ISIS: aka: Al-Qaida Group of Jihad in Mesopotamia (land of 2 rivers): Abu al-Zarqawi formed the Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihah Islamic group in 1999 in Jordan.  Zarqawi and al-Masri pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda in October 2004 and changed their group’s name to AQI.  In 2005, Zarqawi set forth their 4-step Goal: Expel US forces from Iraq; Establish an Islamic authority over Iraq – a caliphate; Continue ‘the jihad wave’ against ‘secular countries near Iraq;’ Continue ‘the clash with Israel’ until there is one Islamic State.  In 2006 the group was part of the Mujahideen Shura Council and in 2006 part of the Islamic State of Iraq which led in 2013 to ISIL/IS.  Zarqawi was killed in an air strike in 2006 and his successor Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (who rekindled the group and birthed ISIS in Camp Bucca US military prison in Iraq), according to the CFR (Council on Foreign Relations), “rebranded AQI as the Islamic State of Iraq, and later, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).  The name refers to a territory that roughly corresponds with the Levant, or eastern Mediterranean, reflecting the group’s broadened ambitions with the onset of the 2011 uprising in Syria…  The group became an al-Qaeda franchise by 2004, but has since broken with the organization …Al-Qaeda focused on attacking the United States and its Western allies… Baghdadi, envisaged the establishment of the caliphate… in 2016… the Islamic State is primarily composed of foreigners… Oil extraction reportedly constituted the Islamic State’s largest source of income… $1 million to $3 million a day… (as well as) taxes in territories under its control, and Christians and other religious minorities who have not fled face an additional tax… Trafficking in antiquities… and random payments… $20 million in 2014… (note: likely reaped some of the billions President Obama give Iran shortly before leaving office.)” Their members were involved in the 9/11/12 attack on the US Embassy in Benghazi, Libya.  ISIS released a video in 2014 beheading US journalist James Foley.  ISIS is the largest terrorist group in Iraq and Syria; and possibly in the world (2017).

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Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM): This Sunni-jihadist group started as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) during the Algerian Civil War in 1998.  They have roots in the Armed Islamic Group (GIA; 1992).  The North African jihadists changed to AQIM in 2007.  They focus on guerilla-style raids, bombings (occasionally suicide), assassinations and kidnapping for ransom, from which they have received over $50 million since 2007.  They oppose the US, France, Spain, Russia, China and several non-Sunni African nations.  Since 2009 they have allied with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).  They have cell groups in Niger, Algeria, Burkina Faso and Nigeria and number in the hundreds.  They help led the 2012 coup in Mali.  Some of their members were suspected to have been involved in the 9/11/12 attack on the US Embassy in Benghazi, Libya.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP):  This group formed in 2009 after a merger of al-Qaeda of Yemen and al-Qaeda of Saudi Arabia.  It had hundreds of members in 2010.  The group operates in Yemen.  In 2014, their second in command al-Wahishi was killed in a drone strike in Yemen.  Many ISIS extremists declared on an ISIS web forum that ‘Al-Qaeda is over.’  Others said that Al-Qaeda is an obstacle ‘blocking our expansion in Syria, Yemen and Chechnya.’

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Table of Associated Groups (touching by column; with founding dates)

1928 Muslim Brotherhood Afghan


Al-Qaeda 1988 Fatah 1959 PLF 1961 MIM 1968  

Al-Qaeda 1988

AQI 2004 PLO 1964 PLO 1964 MNLF 1972
ISIS 2004 PFLP 1967 PFLP 1967 ASG 1991 Taliban 1991
ANO 1974 EIJ 1979 IMU 1998
AQAP Hamas 1987 Hezbollah 1982 IJU 2002
AQIM 2007 AS 2003 PIJ 1981 AQAP 2009

Groups allied with Hamas

PFLP-GC AS 2003 Sinai Province (ISIS affiliate)

Groups supported by or with roots in Fatah

PLO 1964 ANO 1974 AMB 2000

Groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda

EIJ 1979 LeT 1990 AA 1991 LJ 1976 IMU 1998
GICM 1999 IJU 2002 HSM 2006 AQIM 2007 ISIS/IS 2004

ISIS/ISIL/IS 2004: groups affiliated with ISIS:

AQI 2004 ASG 1991 IMU 1998 AQIM 2007 AQAP 2009
Other groups include: Herb-e-Islami 1977 (Afghans; Taliban); JI 1993; Ansar Al-Sharia; IS-Sinai Province; Caucasus Emirate (2007); Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (2008); Islamic Youth Shura Council (Libya); Taliban of Pakistan; and Tehreek-e-Khilafat.

Update: July 2017

25 rebel groups announced their merger under the Deir ez-Zor Liberation Brigade (under ISIS), led by Yasser Izz al-Din al-Turki:   The city of Dier ez-Zor, Syria, has been off and on under siege and or control of ISIS from 2014 to the present (August 2017).

  • Mu’tasim Brigade
  • Revolutionary Shield Brigade
  • Dignity Battalion
  • Abbas Battalion
  • Sons of Islam Movement
  • Brigade of God
  • Omar Battalions
  • Ali ibn Abi Talib Battalion
  • Ansar Battalions
  • Descendants of Mustafa Battalion
  • Sword of Justice Battalion
  • Liberation Brigade
  • Badr Brigade
  • Special Forces Brigade
  • Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas Battalions
  • Euphrates Commando Battalion
  • Dhi Qar Battalion
  • Muhajir Brigade
  • 64th Special Forces Brigade
  • Muhammad Battalions



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