sitemap Background on International Terrorist Groups


     Above all he (J.F. Kennedy) gave the world ... the vision of a leader who greatly understood the terror and the hope, ....and who made people look beyond nation and race to the future of humanity.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.


Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya    

Other Names:  The Islamic Group, [IG]

Description: An indigenous Egyptian Islamic extremist group active since the late 1970s; appears to be loosely organized with no single readily identifiable operational leader. Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman [Shaykh Umar abd al-Rahman] is the preeminent spiritual leader. Goal is to overthrow the government of President Hosni Mubarak and replace it with an Islamic state.

Activities: Armed attacks against Egyptian security and other [government] officials, coptic Christians, Western tourists, and Egyptian opponents of Islamic extremism. [1995 omits "Western tourists"]  It assassinated the speaker of the Egyptian assembly in October 1990 and launched a series of attacks on tourists in Egypt in 1992. The group wounded the Egyptian Information Minister in an assassination attempt in April 1993. [Al Gama'at claimed responsibility for the attempt in June 1995 to assassinate President Hosni Mubarak in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.]

Strength: Not known, but probably several thousand hardcore nembers and another several thousand sympathizers.

Location/Area of Operation: Operates mainly in the Al Minya, Asyu't, and Qina Governorates of southern Egypt. It also appears to have support in Cairo, Alexandria, and other urban locations, particularly among unemployed graduates and students.

External Aid: Not known. Egyptian Government believes that Iran, Sudan, and Afghan militant Islamic groups support the group.


HAMAS (Islamic Resistance Movement)  

Description: HAMAS was formed in late 1987 as an outgrowth of the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and has become Fatah's principal political rival in the occupied territories. Various elements of HA-KAS have used both political and violent means, including terrorism, to pursue the goal of establishing an Islamic Palestinian state in place of Israel. HAMAS is loosely structured, with some elements working openly through mosques and social service institutions to recruit members, raise money, organize activities, and distribute propaganda. Militant elements of HAMAS, operating clandestinely, have advocated and used violence to advance their goals. HAMAS's strength is concentrated in the Gaza Strip and a few areas of the West Bank. It has also engaged in peaceful political activity, such as running candidates in West Bank chamber of commerce elections.

Activities: HAMAS activists, especially those in the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Forces, have conducted many attacks against Israeli civilian and military targets, suspected Palestinian collaborators, and Fatah rivals.

Strength: Unknown number of hardcore members; tens of thousands of supporters and sympathizers.

Location/Area of Operation: Primarily the occupied territories, Israel, and Jordan.

External Aid: Receives funding from Palestinian expatriates, Iran, and private benefactors in Saudi Arabia and other moderate Arab states. Some fundraising and propaganda activity take place in Western Europe and North America.

October 24, 1997   New York Times

In Gaza, the walls are still the major distributor of news, and the dominant message now is Sheik Ahmad Yassin. His stenciled visage looks down from every plastered wall, alongside slogans like "Fatah Greets Yassin!"  .... At his house in the shabby Zeitun section of Gaza, callers wait for hours to be summoned into the presence of the spiritual leader of Hamas, the strongest Islamic movement among the Palestinians. .... The setting is far from regal. Barefoot children scamper in and out, and there are none of the legions of bodyguards and aides so favored by Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority, whose Al Fatah movement has been the core of the Palestine Liberation Organization. .... When he speaks of Israel, it is an almost rhythmic recitation of grievances, the voice rising ever higher in controlled fury. "The Israelis are killing our children, our women and our elders. Why are the Israelis killing us? Why are they destroying our homes? Why are they kicking us out to live in the streets? Why is Israel confiscating our land? Why are they arresting hundreds of people without any reason? The Israelis are choking the Palestinian people and preventing them from living. This is slow murder."  Hamas will not abandon its "military operations," Yassin declared, though he indicated the attacks could be called off if such a move was expedient. "If the movement concludes that the atmosphere is ready, then the movement moves," he said. "If not, it stays quiet. If they find that it is in the interest of the Palestinian people to stay quiet, they keep quiet. If they find it is for the benefit of the Palestinian people to strike, we strike." .... Since his return to Gaza on Oct. 7, Yassin has repeatedly insisted that he is not in conflict with Arafat. But it is unclear whether this is sincere or rather reflects the fact that 80 senior members of Hamas are sitting in Arafat's prisons, under pressure from Israel and the United States. "We are in one trench against one enemy," Yassin said. "We have not weakened the Authority because we are not fighting the Authority. We do not want the government. We want this land, we want to remove the occupier from the land. We have different views on how to liberate our land, but this is the only difference between us. We are brothers, in one trench, against one enemy." .... In Gaza, many of Yassin's militant anti-Israeli statements, including a defense of suicide bombings ("martyr operations" in the parlance of Hamas) as self-defense against Israeli "aggression," are viewed as the boilerplate of his movement, whose full name is the Islamic Resistance Movement. .... That has focused the sharpest attention among Palestinians, at least, on the sheik's cautious maneuvering with the Palestinian Authority. It is there that Yassin could do the greatest damage, if he openly challenged Arafat, and there that he could play a moderating role by allowing Arafat to negotiate with Israel without opposition from Hamas, and above all without further suicide bombings. In the interview, Yassin declared that he had not altered his categorical rejection of the Oslo agreements that Arafat signed, and that he was demanding the release of Hamas prisoners held by the Palestinian Authority. But he also disclosed a keen appreciation of Arafat's dependence on Hamas, not only for internal support, but as a potential card to play against Israel.  "The presence of Hamas is a pressure card in the hands of the Palestinian Authority against Israel," he said. "What else does the Authority have? What other paper does the Palestinian Authority hold to put pressure on Israel to get any concessions? The Palestinian Authority lost all the cards and has not found any new ones, and now the Authority is unable to achieve any progress. The presence of Hamas is a card in the Authority's hand. Hamas as a pressure card is not against the Authority, but with it. I pray to God they understand this."


Hizballah (Party of God)  

Other Names: Islamic Jihad,  Revolutionary Justice Organization , Organization of the Oppressed on Earth , Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine

Description: Radical Shia group formed in Lebanon; dedicated to creation of  Iranian-style Islamic republic in Lebanon and removal of all non-Islamic influences from area. Strongly anti-West and anti-Israel. Closely allied with, and often directed by, Iran, but may have conducted rogue operations that were not approved by Tehran.

Activities: Known or suspected to have been involved in numerous anti-US terrorist attacks, including the suicide truck-bombing of the US Embassy and US Marine barracks in Beirut in October 1983 and the US Embassy annex in Beirut in September 1984. Group also hijacked TWA 847 in 1985. Elements of the group were responsible for the kidnapping and detention of most, if not all, US and other Western hostages in Lebanon. Islamic Jihad publicly claimed responsibility for the carbombing of Israel's Embassy in Buenos Aires in March 1992.

Strength: Several thousand.

Location/Area of Operation: Operates in the [Al Biqa'] (Bekaa valley), the southern suburbs of Beirut, and southern Lebanon. Has established cells in Europe, Africa, South America, North America, and elsewhere.

External Aid: Receives substantial amounts of financial, training, weapons, explosives, political, diplomatic, and organizational aid from Iran.


Jihad Group  

Other Names: al-Jihad,  Islamic Jihad,  New iihad Group,  Vanguards of Conquest,  Talaa'al-Fateh [Tala'i' al Fath]

Description: An Egyptian Islamic extremist group active since the late 1970s; appears to be divided into at least two separate factions: remnants of the original Jihad led by Abbud al-Zumar, currently imprisoned in Egypt, and a new faction calling itself Vanguards of Conquest (Talaa'al al-Fateh [Tala'i' al Fath] or the New Jihad Group). The Vanguards of Conquest appears to be led by Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is currently outside Egypt, specific whereabouts unknown. In addition to the Islamic Group, the Jihad factions regard Shaykh Omar Abdel Rahman [Sheikh Umar Abd-al Rahman] as their spiritual leader. The goal of all Jihad factions is to overthrow the government of President Hosni Mubarak and replace it with an Islamic state.

Activities: The Jihad groups specialize in armed attacks against high-level Egyptian Government officials. The original jihad was responsible for the 1981 assassination of President Sadat. More recently, the newer jihad group led by Zawahiri claimed responsibility for the 18 August 1993 bomb attack in Cairo, which wounded Egyptian Interior Minister Hassan al-Alfi and killed five others, and the 25 November 1993 car-bomb attack in Cairo on Prime Minister Sidqi; although Sidqi was unhurt, a teenage girl was killed and 18 others were injured. Unlike the Islamic Group, [al-Gama'at al-Islamiyya] --which mainly targets mid-and lower-level security personnel, Coptic Christians, and Western tourists -- the Jihad group appears to concentrate primarily on high-level, high-profile Egyptian Government officials, including Cabinet Ministers. It also seems more technically sophisticated in its attacks than the al-Gama'at al- Islamiyya--notably in its use of car bombs.

Strength: Not known, but probably several thousand hardcore members and another several thousand sympathizers among the various factions.

Location/Area of Operation: Operates mainly in the Cairo area. Also appears to have members outside Egypt, probably in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Sudan.

External Aid: Not known. The Egyptian Government claims that Iran, Sudan, and militant Islamic groups in Afghanistan support the Jihad factions.


Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)  

Description: The PIJ originated among militant Palestinian fundamentalists in the Gaza Strip during the 1970s. The PIJ is a series of loosely affiliated factions, rather than a cohesive group. The PIJ is committed to the creation of an Islamic Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel through holy war. Because of its strong support for Israel, the United States has been identified as an enemy of the PIJ. The PIJ also opposes moderate Arab governments that it believes have been tainted by Western secularism.

Activities: The PIJ demonstrated its terrorist credentials when it attacked a tour bus in Egypt in February 1990 and killed 11 people, including nine Israelis. The PIJ also has carried out crossborder raids against Israeli targets in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The PIJ has threatened to attack US interests in Jordan. PIJ agents were arrested in Egypt in September 1991 while attempting to enter the country to conduct terrorism. [PIJ militants have threatened to retaliate against Israel and the United States for the murder of PIJ leader Fathi Shaqaqi in Malta in October 1995. It has carried out suicide bombing attacks against Israeli targets in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Israel.]

Strength: Unknown

Location/Area of Operation: Primarily Israel and the occupied territories and other parts of the Middle East, including Jordan and Lebanon. [The largest faction is based in Syria.]

External Aid: [Probably receives financial assistance from Iran and possibly some assistance from Syria.]


November 17 Organization  
Excerpted From: EmergencyNet NEWS Service-ENNFAX   Monday, January 29, 1996   Vol.2 - 029  By Steve Macko, ENN Managing Editor

It may not be as well known as Islamic Jihad in the Middle East or the Irish Republican Army, but the Greek terrorist organization known as November 17 has been around committing terrorist acts in Greece since 1975. November 17 is known as the most feared group in Greece and is also one of the most deadliest in all of Europe. The signal birth of this group came on December 23, 1975 when Richard Welch, the United States Central Intelligence Agency station chief in Athens was shot and killed by three men as he returned from a party. Welch was killed by a .45-caliber pistol that became the trademark of the terrorist group. The number of murdered victims that can be attributed to November 17 would be considered small. Only 20 since 1975. Their victims include three other American officials and one person who worked for Americans. Two Diplomats from Turkey and 13 Greeks. Through the years the terrorist group has also been responsible for about 35 attacks, mostly bombings and missile attacks, on Greek tax offices and multi-national corporations. But the one thing that distinguishes the November 17 terrorist organization from any other terrorist organization is -- in over twenty years -- not one single member of this group has ever been arrested. The identities of any November 17 members remains unknown to Greek, American and European police and intelligence agencies. No other terrorist group can make that same claim. One Greek politician, who was one of the few to ever survive a November 17 attack, said, "From then until now, Greece is the only country where it has been impossible to not only smoke out terrorism, but even to make a single substantial strike against it." Why has November 17 been able to remain untouched? German authorities were able to destroy the Red Army Faction. France wiped out a terrorist group that was known as Action Direct. In 1987, Italy was able to bring an end to the Red Brigades. In other nations in Europe -- Irish separatists, Basque Separatists in Spain, and Corsican separatists in France have had members arrested. In Greece, it's an altogether different story. The group has several known M.O's. Authorities can tell that the people who make bombs for the organization were apparently trained in the Middle East during the early 1970's.

Greek authorities will not directly comment on terrorism issues. But counter-terrorism experts from other countries believe that the group has between 10 to 25 members. It believed to be very small and and thus able to maintain its secrecy and security. The origin of the group is still somewhat vague, but it is believed that its founders were part of resistance group that was formed during the 1967-75 military dictatorship in Greece. It is also believed that Greek Socialist Premier Andreas Papendreou may had played some hand in its beginnings. After democracy returned to Greece in 1975, it is believed that many of the original members went their own way. Papendreou, who has been seriously ill for a long time, is believed to know the identities of some of the members of the group, but it is expected that he will take those names to his grave. It is said that the name of the group comes from the day in 1973 when the Greek military sent tanks and soldiers to squash a student uprising at Athens Polytechnic University.

The ideology of Novenber 17 leans toward Marxist-Leninism. They are known to be anti-European Union, anti-NATO and anti-American. The United States was picked as a target because it supported the former Greek military dictatorship.They are extremely nationalistic and have recently called for an armed uprising against the middle and upper classes in Greece. Essentially, to cause fear in the population -- a common terrorist tactic. One counter-terrorism expert said that November 17 is unique in that it appears not to lead any political movement. They don't call for a separate state for any one particular ethnic group as do many other terrorist organizations in places like Spain, France or India. But since the Cold War ended a few years ago, it caused an ideological problem for November 17. The group is now shifting targets. The group's last known attack was made in May of 1995 when it fired two anti-tank rockets at a Greek television network building. The television network was called a capitalist tool. There were no injuries in the attack. It was announced by Greek authorities in mid-December that they plan to spend about $30 million to overhaul their anti-terrorism services. But one counter-terrorism expert said that he didn't think that money alone will be able to stop November 17. He said, "We just hope they make a mistake one day."


Some material above was drawn from  where further information may be obtained.  Source of above material is: Patterns of Global Terrorism - United States Department of State Publication 1032.  Other material is from sources as indicated.