References

Terrorist Organizations

This listing includes the 65-plus terrorist groups designated by the US State Department as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs), as well as an additional 10 non-designated, self-proclaimed branches and affiliates of the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS) FTO. The information provided includes details on each cited group's history, goals, leadership, organization, areas of operation, tactics, weapons, size, and sources of support.
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Abdallah Azzam Brigades (AAB)

aka – AAB, Ziyad al-Jarrah Battalions of the Abdallah Azzam Brigades; Yusuf al-‘Uyayri Battalions of the Abdallah Azzam Brigades; Marwan Hadid Brigades; Marwan Hadid Brigade;  Abdullah Azzam Brigades in the Land of Al Sham

history – assessed as disbanded; formed around 2005 as a Sunni jihadist group with ties to al-Qa’ida; formally announced its presence in a 2009 video statement while claiming responsibility for a rocket attack against Israel; in 2013, became involved in the Syrian War where it fought against Iranian-backed forces, particularly Hizballah; has been largely dormant over the past several years and in 2019 announced that it was disbanding

goals – rid the Middle East of Western influence, disrupt Israel's economy and its efforts to establish security, and erode Shia Muslim influence in Lebanon

leadership and organization – Sirajeddin ZURAYQAT (var: Siraj al-Din Zreqat, Siraj al-Din Zuraiqat) was AAB's spiritual leader, spokesman, and commander; was divided into regionally based branches representing fighters in southern Lebanon (Ziyad al-Jarrah Battalions), the Gaza Strip (Marwan Hadid Brigade), and Syria

areas of operation – was based in Lebanon and operated chiefly in Lebanon; was also active in Gaza and Syria, but announced in November 2019 that its forces Syria were dissolving

targets, tactics, and weapons – principal targets were Shia Muslims, the Shia terrorist group Hizballah, and Israel; was responsible for several car and suicide bombing attacks against Shia Muslims in Beirut, Lebanon; claimed responsibility for numerous rocket attacks against Israel and Lebanon; members were typically armed with small arms, light machine guns, grenades, rockets, and improvised explosive devices

strength – was estimated to be down to a few dozen members prior to disbanding

financial and other support – funding support is unknown but probably received donations from sympathizers and engaged in smuggling contraband, including weapons

designation - placed on the US Department of State's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations on 30 May 2012

Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)

aka – al-Harakat al Islamiyya (the Islamic Movement); al-Harakat-ul al-Islamiyah; Bearer of the Sword; Father of the Executioner; Father of the Swordsman; International Harakatu'l Al-Islamia; Lucky 9; Islamic State in the Philippines; Mujahideen Commando Freedom Fighters

history – formed in 1991 when it split from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front; has carried out dozens of attacks in the Philippines; linked to al-Qa’ida in the 1990s and 2000s; in recent years, the group has focused on local violence and criminal activity, especially kidnap-for-ransom operations; some factions have declared allegiance to the Islamic State and have had a large role in the operations of ISIS-East Asia (ISIS-EA) in the Philippines, including the attack on Marawi City in 2017; ASG fighters affiliated with ISIS-EA were reportedly linked to suicide attacks in 2019 and 2020 in Jolo, Sulu province; the commander of an ASG faction, Hatib Hajan SAWADJAAN, was the acting leader of ISIS-EA until his reported death in mid-2020; ASG suffered considerable casualties in 2020 due to Philippine counter-terrorism operations

goals – establish an Islamic State in the southern Philippines and ultimately across Southeast Asia

leadership and organization - loosely structured and family/clan/network-based; factions tend to coalesce around individual leaders; Sulu-based Radullan SAHIRON (aka Putol, Kahal Mohammad) reportedly became the leader in 2017; SAHIRON has not pledged allegiance to ISIS

areas of operation – the southern Philippines, especially Basilan, Jolo, and Tawi-Tawi islands and their surrounding waters, as well as Mindanao; also has been active in Malaysia

targets, tactics, and weapons - targets military and security personnel, facilities, and checkpoints; also attacks civilian targets, such as churches, markets, and ferry boats; conducted the country’s deadliest terrorist attack when it bombed a ferry boat in Manila Bay in 2004, killing 116 people; known for kidnapping civilians, particularly foreigners, for ransom and has killed hostages when ransoms were not paid; tactics include car bombings, ambushes, complex assaults involving dozens of fighters, beheadings, and assassinations, as well as possible suicide bombings; has conducted acts of piracy in local waters; weapons include small arms, light and heavy machine guns, mortars, landmines, and improvised explosive devices

strength – assessed in 2020 to have approximately 300-400 fighters

financial and other support – funded primarily through kidnapping-for-ransom operations and extortion; makes financial appeals on social media; may receive funding from external sources, including remittances from overseas Philippine workers and Middle East-based sympathizers; has received training and other assistance from other regional terrorist groups, such as Jemaah Islamiya; buys weapons and ammunition from corrupt local government officials or smuggles them in from nearby countries 

designation – placed on the US Department of State's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations on 8 October 1997

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade (AAMB)

aka – al-Aqsa Martyrs Battalion; al-Aqsa Brigades; Martyr Yasser Arafat; Kata'ib Shuhada al-Aqsa; The Brigades; al-Aqsa Intifada Martyrs' Group; Martyrs of al-Aqsa Group

history – emerged at the outset of the second intifada in September 2000 as a loosely-organized armed wing of Yasser ARAFAT's Fatah faction in the West Bank; in 2002, some members splintered from Fatah while others remained loyal; the group carried out suicide attacks against Israeli targets between 2001-2007; most of the group’s leaders have been captured or killed by Israel; following an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) after the HAMAS takeover of Gaza in 2007, Israel pardoned some AAMB fighters in return for an agreement to disarm; after a trial period, those that disarmed were absorbed into PA security forces while those that refused were targeted by PA security forces; still others formed splinter groups such as the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades-Nidal al-Amoudi Division and the Popular Resistance Committees in Gaza; some factions participated in attacks against Israeli targets through the 2010s, including the “Stabbing Intifada” of 2015-16 and along the Gaza-Israel border, including rocket attacks

goals – drive the Israeli military and Israeli settlers from the West Bank and establish a Palestinian state loyal to Fatah

leadership and organization – formerly under Zaki al-SAKANI, who was released in late 2016 from HAMAS's custody in Gaza, where he had been held since 2008, only on the condition that he leave Gaza; since al-SAKANI's imprisonment, has operated under a decentralized power structure, with each cell/faction reporting to a local leader and mostly acting independently of each other

areas of operation – appears defunct in the West Bank, but remains active in Gaza; previously planned and conducted attacks inside Israel and the West Bank; has members in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon

targets, tactics, and weapons – primarily employed bombing and small-arms attacks against Israeli military personnel and settlers after the second intifada began in September 2000, but by 2002 had turned increasingly to attacks against civilians inside Israel, including the first female suicide bombing; since 2010, has launched numerous rocket attacks against Israeli communities; largest attack was in November 2012, when it fired more than 500 rockets into Israel during Israeli military operations in Gaza; fighters typically armed with small arms, light and heavy machine guns, grenades, mortars, improvised explosive devices, and rockets

strength – estimated in 2019 to have a few hundred members

financial and other support – Iran has provided AAMB with funds and guidance, mostly through Hizballah facilitators; has cooperate with other terrorist groups throughout its existence, including Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)

designation –placed on the US Department of State's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations on 27 March 2002

al-Ashtar Brigades (AAB)

aka - Saraya al-Ashtar

history – is an Iranian-backed Shia militant group established in 2013 with the aim of overthrowing the ruling Sunni family in Bahrain; in 2018, formally adopted Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps branding in its logo and flag and reaffirmed the group’s loyalty to Tehran; did not claim any attacks in 2019 or 2020, but remained active

goals – foment an insurgency against the ruling Sunni family of Bahrain and, ultimately, replace it with a Shia-based government; also seeks to expel US and other Western military forces from Bahrain

leadership and organization – Qassim Abdullah Ali AHMED (aka Qassim al Muamen) is the Iran-based leader of AAB; operates in cells

areas of operation – located in Bahrain; also active in Iran and Iraq

targets, tactics, and weapons – targets local security forces in Bahrain and plotted to attack oil pipelines; also promotes violence against the British, Saudi Arabian, and US governments; methods include shootings and bombings; equipped with small arms and explosives, including improvised explosive devices

strength – unknown

funding and other support – receives funding, training, and weapons support from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps; also receives training from the Iraq-based Kataib Hezbollah terrorist group

designation – placed on the US Department of State's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations on 11 July 2018

al-Mulathamun Battalion (al-Mourabitoun)

aka – al-Mulathamun Brigade; al-Muwaqqi’un bil-Dima; Those Signed in Blood Battalion (or Brigade); Signatories in Blood; Those who Sign in Blood; Witnesses in Blood; Signed-in-Blood Battalion; Masked Men Brigade; Khaled Abu al-Abbas Brigade; al-Mulathamun Masked Ones Brigade; al-Murabitoun; The Sentinels

history – was part of al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) but became a separate organization; it split from AQIM in 2012 over leadership disputes; merged with the Mali-based Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa to form al-Murabitoun in August 2013; some members split from the group in mid-2015 and declared allegiance to the Islamic State, which acknowledged the pledge in October 2016, creating the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara; in late 2015, al-Mulathamun/al-Mourabitoun announced a re-merger with AQIM and in 2017, joined a coalition of al-Qa’ida-affiliated groups operating in the Sahel region known as Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM); the group remained active in 2020

goals – replace regional governments with an Islamic state

leadership and organization – reportedly now led by Abderrahman al-SANHADJI; founder and emir Mokhtar BELMOKHTAR (aka Laaouar or the One-Eyed) reportedly killed by an airstrike in Libya in 2015 or 2016; operations guided by a governing shura council but specific structure unknown

areas of operation – Algeria, Burkina Faso, Libya, Mali, and Niger

targets, tactics, and weapons – primarily targets Western interests in the Sahel but also regional military forces; known for high-profile attacks with small arms and explosives against civilian targets frequented or run by Westerners, including restaurants, hotels, mines, and energy facilities; in 2013, took over 800 people hostage during a four-day siege at the Tiguentourine gas plant in southeastern Algeria, resulting in the deaths of 39 civilians; has claimed responsibility for suicide car bombings at military bases in Niger and Mali, including a suicide car bombing attack on a military camp in Gao, Mali, that killed at least 60 and wounded more than 100; has been involved in fighting against French and local military forces in Mali; armed with small arms, machine guns, landmines, mortars, and improvised explosive devices 

strength – unknown

financial and other support – engages in kidnappings for ransom and smuggling activities; receives support through its connections to other terrorist organizations in the region; acquired weapons from Libya, battlefield captures, and seized stockpiles from local militaries

designation – placed on the US Department of State's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations on 19 December 2013

al-Nusrah Front (ANF)/Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS)

aka – Jabhat al-Nusrah; Jabhet al-Nusrah; The Victory Front; al-Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant; al-Nusrah Front in Lebanon; Jabhat al-Nusra li-Ahl al-Sham min Mujahedi al-Sham fi Sahat al-Jihad; Support Front for the People of the Levant; Jabhat Fath al-Sham; Jabhat Fath al Sham; Jabhat Fatah al-Sham; Jabhat Fateh al-Sham; Front for the Conquest of Syria; the Front for liberation of al Sham; Front for the Conquest of Syria/the Levant; Front for the Liberation of the Levant; Conquest of the Levant Front; Fatah al-Sham Front; Fateh al-Sham Front; Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham; Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham; Hayat Tahrir al-Sham; HTS; Assembly for the Liberation of Syria; Assembly for Liberation of the Levant; Liberation of al-Sham Commission; Liberation of the Levant Organization; Tahrir al-Sham; Tahrir al-Sham Hay’at

history – formed circa late 2011 when former al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) leader Abu Bakr al-BAGHDADI sent Syrian militant Abu Muhammad al-JAWLANI (var: al-GOLANI, al-JOLANI) to organize al-Qa'ida cells in Syria; split from AQI in early 2013 and became an independent entity; operated as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham briefly in 2016; in 2017, joined with four smaller Syrian Islamist factions (Harakat Nur al Din al Zenki, Liwa al Haqq, Ansar al Din, and Jaysh al Sunna) and created Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS, "Assembly for the Liberation of the Levant") as a vehicle to advance its position in Syria; since 2017, additional groups and individuals have joined; currently is the dominate militant group in northwest Syria and asserts considerable influence and control over the so-called Syrian Salvation Government in the Iblib de-escalation zone; continued to defend against attacks from Syrian Government forces and its allies and consolidate its position in Iblib in 2020; maintains a tense relationship with al-Qa'ida affiliate Hurras al-Din (HAD); has openly clashed with the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS) and regularly arrests ISIS members seeking to use Idlib as a safehaven

goals – unify under its banner the various anti-ASAD jihadist groups operating in Syria and consolidate its control over the Idlib region; ultimately oust Syrian President Bashar al-ASAD's regime and replace it with a Sunni Islamic state

leadership and organization – led by an overall commander (al-JAWLANI) assisted by a small consultative council (“majlis-ash-shura”); has branches for political, religious, military, financial, civilian services, and administrative affairs; as the group is composed of factions, its operational structure varies from clandestine cells to paramilitary/semi-conventional military units organized as battalions and brigades; reportedly operates a special military known as the "Red Bands" or "Band of Deaths" that is  responsible for conducting raids behind regime front lines

areas of operation – headquartered in Syria's Idlib Province in the northwest, operationally active primarily in northwestern Syria after regime advances cleared opposition groups from other areas of the country

targets, tactics, and weapons – primarily attacks Syrian Government and pro-regime forces and other Syrian insurgent groups, including ISIS, as well as some minorities and civilians; engages in conventional and guerrilla-style attacks using small arms and other light weapons, artillery, rockets, landmines, anti-tank missiles, armored combat vehicles, and surface-to-air missiles; also known for using terrorist tactics, including assassinations and suicide attacks incorporating car bombs and explosive vests

strength – assessed in late 2020 to have approximately 10,000 fighters

financial and other support – derives funding from smuggling, extortion, taxes and fines on local populations and at border crossings it controls, and donations from external Gulf-based donors; taxes imposed on local populations include income, business, and services and utilities such as access to electricity, water, and bread; also raises funds through control of the import and distribution of fuel through a front company; has conducted kidnappings-for-ransom operations in the past; maintains training camps and provides some logistical support to like-minded groups

designation – placed on the US Department of State's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations on 15 May 2014; on 31 May 2018, the Department of State amended the designation of al-Nusrah Front to include Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and other aliases

al-Qa'ida (AQ)

aka – al-Qa’eda; al-Qaeda; Qa’idat al-Jihad (The Base for Jihad); formerly Qa’idat Ansar Allah (The Base of the Supporters of God); the Islamic Army; Islamic Salvation Foundation; The Base; The Group for the Preservation of the Holy Sites; The Islamic Army for the Liberation of the Holy Places; the World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders; the Usama Bin Laden Network; the Usama Bin Laden Organization; al-Jihad; the Jihad Group; Egyptian al-Jihad; Egyptian Islamic Jihad; New Jihad

history – formed under Usama BIN LADIN (UBL) circa 1988 and now one of the largest and longest-operating jihadist organizations in the world; helped finance, recruit, transport, and train fighters for the Afghan resistance against the former Soviet Union in the 1980s; in the 1990s, was based in Sudan and then Afghanistan, where it planned and staged attacks; merged with al-Jihad (Egyptian Islamic Jihad) in June 2001; developed a reputation for carrying out large-scale, mass casualty attacks against civilians; has lost dozens of mid- and senior-level operatives to counterterrorism efforts, including UBL in May 2011, which has disrupted operations but continues to recruit, plan, inspire, and conduct attacks; has established affiliated organizations in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia and its contemporary strength is primarily in these affiliates; tied to the Taliban in Afghanistan and remains active there

goals – eject Western influence from the Islamic world, unite the worldwide Muslim community, overthrow governments perceived as un-Islamic, and ultimately, establish a pan-Islamic caliphate under a strict Salafi Muslim interpretation of sharia; direct, enable, and inspire individuals to conduct attacks, recruit, disseminate propaganda, and raise funds on behalf of the group around the world; destabilize local economies and governments by attacking security services, government targets, and civilian targets

leadership and organization – led by Egyptian Ayman al-ZAWAHIRI, who was selected to lead following UBL's death, along with a leadership council (“majlis al-shura”); al-Qa’ida reportedly maintains branches for military, political, religious, financial, and media affairs; affiliates have separate emirs (leaders) and organizational structures that vary by region

areas of operation – based in Afghanistan; employs an affiliate or proxy model, which includes al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (Yemen), al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (North Africa and the Sahel), Hurras al-Din (Syria), al-Shabaab (Somalia), and al-Qa’ida in the Indian Subcontinent (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan); has supporters, sympathizers, and associates worldwide, including in Asia, Europe, North America, and South America; maintains a strong online presence and individuals inspired by AQ’s ideology may conduct operations without direction from its central leadership

targets, tactics, and weapons – considers its enemies to be Shia Muslims, Saudi Arabia, US and Western interests, so-called "apostate" governments perceived to be supporting the US and the West, and the Islamic State; in 2019, leader Zawahiri encouraged followers to attack European (particularly British and French), Israeli, NATO, Russian, and US targets, specificially military bases and forces; targets have included embassies, restaurants, hotels, airplanes, trains, and tourists sites; employs a combination of guerrilla warfare hit-and-run and terrorist tactics against security and military forces; known for use of suicide bombers, car bombs, explosive-laden boats, and airplanes; conducted the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US, which involved 19 operatives hijacking and crashing four US commercial jets—two into the World Trade Center in New York City, one into the Pentagon, and the last into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania—killing nearly 3,000 people

strength – the group’s membership is considerably degraded; as of late 2020, had an estimated 200-500 operatives in Afghanistan; remains a focal point of inspiration for a worldwide network of affiliated groups and other sympathetic terrorist organizations, such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Islamic Jihad Union, Lashkar i Jhangvi, Harakat ul-Mujahideen, the Haqqani Network, and Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan

financial and other support –primarily depends on donations from like-minded supporters and from individuals, primarily in the Gulf States; uses social media platforms to solicit donations and has been channeled funds through cyberfinancing campaigns; has received some funds from kidnapping for ransom operations; historically has acquired money from Islamic charitable organizations

designation – placed on the US Department of State's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations on 8 October 1999

al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)

aka – al-Qa’ida in the South Arabian Peninsula; al-Qa’ida in Yemen; al-Qa’ida of Jihad Organization in the Arabian Peninsula; al-Qa’ida Organization in the Arabian Peninsula; Tanzim Qa’idat al-Jihad fi Jazirat al-Arab; AQY; Ansar al-Shari’a; Sons of Abyan; Sons of Hadramawt; Sons of Hadramawt Committee; Civil Council of Hadramawt; National Hadramawt Council

history – formed in January 2009 when the now-deceased leader of al-Qa’ida (AQ) in Yemen, Nasir AL-WAHISHI, publicly announced that Yemeni and Saudi al-Qa’ida operatives were working together under the banner of AQAP; the announcement signaled the rebirth of an AQ franchise that previously carried out attacks in Saudi Arabia; beginning in 2015, AQAP was able to take advantage of Yemen’s civil war and expand operations in Yemen, controlling a large portion of the southern part of the country by 2016; continues to occupy territory, conduct operations, and pose a significant threat in Yemen and is considered one AQ’s most effective affiliates, although in 2020 it reportedly suffered some losses in numbers due to dissentions, desertions, and casualties

goals – establish a caliphate and sharia in the Arabian Peninsula and the wider Middle East; support the broader goals of AQ’s central leadership

leadership and organization – led by Khalid BATARFI (reportedly arrested in Yemen in late 2020); has a leadership council (“majlis al-shura”) comprised of lieutenant commanders who are responsible for overall political direction and military operations, as well as a propaganda wing to draw in recruits and build support (in 2010, AQAP launched an English online magazine, Inspire, to reach Western sympathizers and potential recruits) and a religious branch to justify attacks from a theological perspective and offer spiritual guidance

areas of operation – most active in southern and central Yemen; limited presence in Saudi Arabia

targets, tactics, and weapons – targets Yemeni Government officials, military and security forces, oil facilities, merchant ships, and Shia Muslims, especially Yemen's Houthi community; targets Saudi Arabian and Western interests, including embassies, diplomats, business people, tourists, and airliners; has waged open warfare with Islamic State elements in Yemen since 2018; employs guerrilla-style and terrorist tactics, including ambushes, complex assaults, assassinations, snipers, bombings, and suicide attacks; equipped with small arms, machine guns, artillery, rockets, landmines, anti-tank missiles, armored combat vehicles, man-portable air defense systems (MANPADs), and improvised explosive devices, including car bombs, road side bombs, and suicide vests

strength – assessed to range from 1,800 to 2,800 members

financial and other support – receives funding from theft, robberies, oil and gas revenue, kidnapping-for-ransom operations, and donations from like-minded supporters; for nearly a year after seizing the city of Mukallah in April 2015, had access millions of dollars from port fees and funds stolen from the central bank; many of its weapons have been seized from the Yemeni military

designation – placed on the US Department of State's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations on 19 January 2010

al-Qa'ida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS)

aka – al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent; Qaedat al-Jihad in the Indian Subcontinent, Qaedat al-Jihad, Jamaat Qaidat al-Jihad fi'shibhi al-Qarrat al-Hindiya,

history – al-Qa'ida leader Dr. Ayman al-ZAWAHIRI announced AQIS's inception in a video address in September 2014; the group has conducted a limited number of small attacks, but has not publicly claimed any attacks since 2017, but continues to be active; some members are fighting in Afghanistan with the Taliban, and Pakistan security forces claimed to have killed or apprehended several AQIS fighters in 2020

goals – establish an Islamic caliphate in the Indian subcontinent; support the broader goals of al-Qai’da’s central leadership

leadership and organization – current leader is reportedly Usama MAHMOOD; former leader Maulana Asim UMAR (aka Sanaul HAQ, Sana-ul HAQUE) was killed in the Fall of 2019 during a US-Afghan military raid in Helmand Province, Afghanistan; UMAR led with a shura council, which, like other AQ affiliates, probably included subordinates for military, religious, propaganda, and political matters; reportedly has regional branches for Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan

areas of operation – primarily in Afghanistan with elements operating in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan

targets, tactics, and weapons – military and security personnel, political parties, foreigners, foreign aid workers, university professors, students, and secular bloggers; has used small arms and improvised explosive devices, as well as crude weapons such as machetes; claimed responsibility for the 2016 machete murders of two editors of a human rights magazine in Dhaka, Bangladesh

membership – estimated in 2019 to have several hundred members

financial and other support – likely receives financial and material support from AQ senior leadership; also engages in kidnapping-for-ransom and extortion to raise funds

designation – placed on the US Department of State's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations on 30 June 2016

al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)

aka – GSPC; Le Groupe Salafiste Pour la Predication et le Combat; Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat; Salafist Group for Call and Combat; Tanzim al-Qa’ida fi Bilad alMaghrib al-Islamiya

history – formed in 1998 in Algeria under Hassan HATTAB, when he split from the Armed Islamic Group; known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) until rebranding itself as AQIM in September 2006; has since undergone various schisms and rapprochements; in 2011, a Mauritanian-led group broke away, calling itself the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA); in 2012, the Veiled Men Battalion split off and rebranded itself the al-Mulathamun Battalion; al-Mulathamun and MUJWA merged to form al-Mourabitoun in 2013; in late 2015, AQIM reincorporated al-Murabitoun and in 2017, the Mali Branch of AQIM and al-Murabitoun joined the Mali-based al-Qa’ida coalition Jama‘at Nasr al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM); continues to be active in 2020 despite losses to counterterrorism operations, especially in using North Africa as a support zone for assisting JNIM operations in Mali and the Sahel, including operating transnational financial networks to move and share funds

goals – overthrow “apostate” African regimes and establish a regional Islamic state across all of North and West Africa; support the broader goals of al-Qai’da’s central leadership

leadership and organization – Abu Obaida al-ANNABI (aka Abu Ubaydah Yusuf al-Anabi, Yazid Mubarak); previous leader (Abdelmalek DROUKDAL killed in northern Mali by French military forces in June 2020; has a 14-member shura council comprised of regional commanders and the heads of the political, military, judicial, and media committees; locally organized into battalions, which range in size from a few dozen to several hundred fighters at any given time

areas of operation – based in northeastern Algeria; also operates in northern Mali, southwest Libya, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Cote d’Ivoire

targets, tactics, and weapons – local and international military and security forces using both terrorist and guerrilla warfare tactics; employs improvised explosive devices, suicide bombers, as well as light weapons, machine guns, mortars, rockets, and landmines; also attacks “soft” civilian targets such as hotels, resorts, and restaurants that cater to Westerners and tourists with small arms, explosives, and suicide bombers; known for assassinations and kidnappings

strength – estimated in 2020 to have about 500-1,000 fighters

financial and other support – engages in kidnappings-for-ransom and other criminal activities, particularly extorting drug trafficking groups and others; arms largely acquired from Libyan stockpiles, battlefield captures, or via illicit regional arms markets

designation – GSPC was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on 27 March 2002; the Department of State amended the GSPC designation on 20 February 2008, after the GSPC officially joined with al-Qa’ida in September 2006 and became AQIM

al-Shabaab (AS)

aka – the Harakat Shabaab al-Mujahidin; al-Shabab; Shabaab; the Youth; Mujahidin al-Shabaab Movement; Mujahideen Youth Movement; Mujahidin Youth Movement; al-Hijra, Al Hijra, Muslim Youth Center, MYC, Pumwani Muslim Youth, Pumwani Islamist Muslim Youth Center

history – descended from Al-Ittihad Al-Islami, a Somali terrorist group whose leaders fought in Afghanistan in the 1990s and formed circa 2003; operates as a core al-Qa'ida affiliate; was the militant wing of the former Somali Islamic Courts Council that took over parts of Somalia in 2006; since the end of 2006, has engaged in an insurgency against the transitional governments of Somalia and supporting foreign military forces and a campaign of violence against Somali civilians; responsible for numerous high-profile bombings and shootings throughout Somalia, and more than 3,000 civilian deaths since 2015; provides rudimentary government services in areas under its control, including rule of law through sharia courts, sharia-based institutions and schools, funding, services (including security), and food; in 2019, was involved in more than 1,000 violent incidents in Somalia and eastern Kenya; continued to conduct widespread attacks through 2020, particularly in central and southern Somalia and the capital Mogadishu

goals – discredit and destabilize the Federal Government of Somalia and establish Islamic rule in Somalia and Kenya's border regions; drive out Western influence

leadership and organization – led by Ahmad DIRIYE (aka Abu UBEYDAH/UBAIDAH, Abu Ubaidah DIREYE, Ahmad UMAR) since September 2014; structure is both hierarchical and decentralized and influenced by Somalia’s many clans; DIRIYE directs a shura council made up of multiple branches, including regional commanders and a media wing (Kata'ib Media); each regional division has military and administrative wings; regional commanders can make decisions and take actions without the approval of the emir or the council

areas of operation – controls a large swathe of the Lower and Middle Juba regions, as well as the Gedo, Bakol, Bay, and Shabelle regions; also maintains a presence in northern Somalia along the Golis Mountains and within Puntland’s urban areas; has conducted attacks in Djibouti, Kenya, and Uganda

targets, tactics, and weapons – Somali Government officials, military units, police, and civilians, international aid workers, journalists, foreign troops, and neighboring countries contributing to military stabilization operations in Somalia, particularly Kenya and Uganda; has attacked hotels, schools, military bases, police stations, shopping areas, and telecommunications towers in Kenya; has clashed with an Islamic State faction operating in northern Somalia; methods include assassinations, suicide bombings, hostage taking, and indiscriminate attacks on civilians; typical attacks consist of a single or multiple suicide bombers, followed by an assault by members carrying small arms and explosives; in March 2019, for example, operatives attacked a hotel in Mogadishu using a suicide bomber and small arms, killing at least 20; has placed truck-mounted bombs in high-density urban areas; such attacks in Mogadishu in December 2019 and October 2017 killed 90 and more than 500 civilians, respectively; uses guerrilla warfare and terrorist-type tactics against Somali and international military forces, including ambushes, hit-and-run attacks, improvised explosive device operations, land mines, mortar attacks, and targeted killings; typically armed with small arms, light and heavy machine guns (including truck-mounted machine guns), mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, improvised explosive devices, and man-portable air defense systems

strength – assessments in 2020 ranged from 5,000 to 10,000 combatants

financial and other support – obtains funds primarily through extortion of businesses, taxation, and zakat (religious donations) collections from the local populations, robbery, and remittances and other money transfers from the Somali diaspora; probably receives training, arms, and bomb-making materials from other al-Qa’ida branches

designation – placed on the US Department of State's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations on 18 March 2008

Ansar al-Dine (AAD)

aka – Ansar Dine; Ansar al-Din; Ancar Dine; Ansar ul-Din; Ansar Eddine; Defenders of the Faith

history – created in late 2011; was among the terrorist groups (including al-Qa’ida) to take over northern Mali following the March 2012 coup that toppled the Malian government; proceeded to destroy UNESCO World Heritage sites and enforce a severe interpretation of Islam upon the civilian population living in the areas under their control; beginning in 2013, French and African military forces forced AAD and its allies out of the population centers they had seized, severely weakening AAD, although the group made a comeback in 2015 and 2016; currently a member of Jama'ah Nusrah al-Islam wal-Muslimin (Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims, JNIM), a coalition of al-Qa'ida-linked groups in Mali that formed in 2017; continues to conduct attacks under the JNIM banner

goals – replace the Malian government with an Islamic state

leadership and organization – led by its founder Iyad Ag GHALI (aka Abu al-FADEL), who also leads JNIM; reportedly has regionally based branches

areas of operation – operates mostly in central and northern Mali

targets, tactics, and weapons – targets Malian military and security forces, French troops, and UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) personnel; uses a mix of guerrilla warfare hit-and-run and terrorist tactics, including ambushes, complex ground assaults involving dozens of fighters, road side bombs, rocket attacks, assassinations, kidnappings, and car and suicide bombings; fighters are armed with small arms, light and heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, landmines, mortars, rockets, trucks mounting machine guns (aka “technicals”), and explosives, including improvised explosive devices

strength – unknown

financial and other support – cooperates with and has received support from al-Qa’ida since its inception; also reportedly receives funds from foreign donors and through smuggling; many of its arms were captured from the Malian Army or taken from Libyan military stockpiles; takes advantage of trans-Saharan smuggling routes to resupply from illicit markets in Libya and elsewhere in the region

designation - placed on the US Department of State's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations on 22 March 2004

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