Terrorist Organizations

This listing includes the 60+ 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.
68 Results

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; in 2019 announced that it was disbanding; had been largely dormant for years prior to the announcement

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: Surajuddin Zureiqat, 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

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, including twin suicide bombs that detonated outside the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon—killing 22 and injuring at least 140; 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 – not available; it was estimated to be down to a few dozen members in 2021

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; continued to be active in 2024, despite considerable losses in members and leaders to counter-terrorism operations by Philippine security forces

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

leadership and organization - leadership fragmented; 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; two suicide bombers affiliated with both ASG and ISIS-EA killed 23 people and wound more than 100 at a cathedral; 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 2022 to have less than 200 armed 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 operations against Israeli targets through the 2010s, including the “Stabbing Intifada” of 2015-16, as well as periodic rocket attacks in 2017-2018; claimed responsibility for several attacks in 2022 following the killing of some militants by Israeli security forces in 2021; active in 2023

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

leadership and organization – not available; most of the group’s original leaders have been captured or killed by Israel; typically has operated as a collection of loosely organized cells with their own leaders and independent operational agendas, although the group reportedly formed a Joint Operations Room with Katibat Jenin (the Jenin branch of Palestine Islamic Jihad) in the West Bank in early 2022 

areas of operation –  Israel, Gaza, 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 2022 to have a few hundred members

financial and other support – Iran has provided AAMB with funds and guidance, mostly through Hizballah facilitators; has cooperated 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; the military arm of the al-Wafa Islamic movement

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; has not claimed any attacks in recent years, but reportedly still active through 2022

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 has claimed more than 20 attacks, some of which caused casualties; has plotted to attack oil pipelines; also has promoted 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 – not available

funding and other support – receives funding, training, and weapons support from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps; has also allied itself with Iranian-backed Iraqi Shia militants and with Lebanese Hizballah for financial and logistic support

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


aka – Al-Murabitun; al-Mulathamun Battalion; 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" or "Guardians"

history – was part of al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) but 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 2023 under the JNIM banner

goals – replace regional governments with an Islamic state; expel Western influence

leadership and organization – unclear; possibly Hamza Tabankort; operations guided by a governing shura council but details on the sub-structure are not available

areas of operation
– most active in Mali; has also operated in Algeria, Burkina Faso, Libya, and Niger

targets, tactics, and weapons – primarily targets Western interests in the Sahel but also regional military forces, including Malian, French (until their withdrawal in 2022), and UN; 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, claimed responsibility for taking 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 in 2017 that killed at least 60 and wounded more than 100; armed with small arms, machine guns, landmines, mortars, and explosives, including ground and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices

strength – not available; dated information suggests a few hundred

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-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 Ladin Network; the Usama Bin Ladin 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 the group 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 remained active there into 2024

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; maintain its traditional safe haven in Afghanistan; establish and maintain additional safehavens elsewhere

leadership and organization – Iran-based Sayf al-'Adl reportedly the group's current de facto leader; Ayman al-ZAWAHIRI, who was selected to lead following UBL's death, was killed in 2022; has a leadership council (“majlis al-shura”); al-Qa’ida reportedly maintains branches for military, security, political, religious, financial, and media affairs; affiliates have separate emirs (leaders) and organizational structures that vary by region

areas of operation – based in South Asia (core members in Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan); 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; opportunistically enters (or secures the allegiance of participants in) local conflicts

targets, tactics, and weapons – considers its enemies to be Shia Muslims, US and Western interests, so-called "apostate" governments (such as Saudi Arabia) perceived to be supporting the US and the West, and the Islamic State; leader ZAWAHIRI has encouraged followers to attack European (particularly British and French), Israeli, NATO, Russian, and US targets, specifically 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 – as of 2023, it was estimated to have about 400 fighters in Afghanistan; the organization remained 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; also recruits followers through social media

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

note - has some ideological and tactical similarities with the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS) and the groups typically operate in the same conflict zones, but the relationship is mostly adversarial, and they compete for resources and recruits, and often clash militarily 

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 2014-2015, AQAP was able to take advantage of Yemen’s civil war and expand operations in the country, controlling a large portion of the southern part of the Yemen by 2016; after 2017, the group began losing territory, fighters, and leaders to internal dissensions, desertions to ISIS, and casualties from clashes with Yemeni and international security forces, the Houthis, and ISIS; nevertheless, as of 2024 the group continued to persist as a local and regional threat

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

leadership and organization – led by Saad bin Atef al-Awlaki; has a leadership council (“majlis al-shura”) comprised of lieutenant commanders who are responsible for overall political direction and military operations; organized in branches or wings for military operations, political, propaganda (recruitment), religious issues (for justifying attacks from a theological perspective while offering spiritual guidance), and security; typically operates in a decentralized manner that allows individual cells to operate independently

areas of operation – most active in central Yemen; probably has a limited presence in Saudi Arabia

targets, tactics, and weapons – chiefly targets Security Belt Forces and other groups affiliated with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in the Shabwa and Abyan governorates, as well as the Houthis in the Bayda governorate; also targets Yemeni Government officials, oil facilities, merchant ships, and Shia Muslims; has targeted Western interests, including embassies, diplomats, business people, tourists, and both commercial airliners; claimed the small arms attack in Feb 2020 that resulted in the deaths of three US military personnel in Florida, as well as an attack in Paris in 2015 that killed 12 civilians at the office of a magazine publisher; 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), armed unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), and improvised explosive devices, including car bombs, road side bombs, and suicide vests

strength – estimated in 2023 to have up to 3,000 fighters, down from as many as 7,000 in 2018

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; recruits through social media, print, and digital means

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 claimed responsibility for a September 2014 attack on a naval dockyard in Karachi in an attempt to seize a Pakistani warship; since the assault, the group has conducted a limited number of small attacks on civilians, but has not publicly claimed any attacks since 2017, although some members fought in Afghanistan with the Taliban; suffered some losses to counter-terrorism operations in 2020-2022; in September and October 2021, the group released two propaganda videos specifically targeting India and Kashmir, and in mid-2022 threatened to conduct suicide bombings in several Indian cities; has strong ties to Lashkare Tayyiba (LeT) and a rivalry with the Islamic State's Khorasan branch

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

leadership and organization – Usama MAHMOOD (alt. Osama MEHMOOD); has a shura council, which, like other AQ affiliates, probably includes subordinates and branches/wings for military/security, intelligence, religious, propaganda, political matters, and recruitment; reportedly has regional branches for Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan; Ansar al-Islam in Bangladesh has claimed to be the official wing of AQIS in Bangladesh

areas of operation – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and possibly Burma

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 2022 to have up to 400 fighters

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

designation – placed on the US Department of State's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations on 1 July 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 (GIA); was 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); continued to be active in 2023 despite heavy pressure from regional and international counterterrorism operations, particularly 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); 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" and "brigades," which range in size from a few dozen to several hundred fighters at any given time

areas of operation – has historically operated in the coastal areas of northern Algeria and in Libya and Tunisia, but counterterrorism efforts have forced it largely into the Sahel region, including Mali; has conducted attacks in Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, and Mali

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 2022 to have up to 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 (HSM); 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; has operated as a core al-Qa'ida affiliate since 2012; 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; has influence in large areas of rural Somalia through coercion, control over local economies and commercial transit points; provides rudimentary government services in areas under its control, including rule of law through sharia courts, sharia-based institutions and schools, funding, services, security, and food; in 2019, was involved in more than 1,000 violent incidents in Somalia and eastern Kenya; in July 2022, it launched an incursion into Ethiopia with several hundred fighters; continued to conduct attacks in Somalia into 2024, particularly in the central and southern regions, as well as the capital, Mogadishu; also was engaged in heavy fighting with the Somali military, which claimed to have re-taken considerable amounts of territory from the group

goals – discredit, destabilize, and overthrow the Federal Government of Somalia; establish Islamic rule in Somalia and the border regions of Somalia-Kenya and southern Ethiopia; 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 reportedly directs both an executive council and a shura (or consultative) council; the executive council runs the group's operations and is made up of committees, ministries, departments, or wings, including for finance, intelligence and security (Amniyat), media/propaganda, politics, education, judicial matters, religion, logistics, explosives (Sanaaca), and military operations (Jabhat), as well as regional commanders/shadow governors in areas that al-Shabaab controls; military operations reportedly includes two sub-branches, one for external operations, and one that enforces sharia in areas under the group's control; the council oversees regional commanders, although regional commanders can make decisions and take actions without the approval of the emir or the council; each regional division has sub-offices or wings, including for police/security and taxation; has shown the ability to mobilize and coordinate significant numbers of fighters for large-scale ground attacks

areas of operation – controls a large swathe of the Lower and Middle Juba regions, as well as the Bakol, Bay, Benaadir, Gedo, 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; especially active in the region of Kenya adjacent to Somalia; has also mounted armed incursions into Ethiopia in 2022 and 2007 (planned attacks inside Ethiopia were reportedly disrupted in 2013 and 2014) 

targets, tactics, and weapons – Somali Government officials, military units, police, and civilians, international aid workers, journalists, foreign troops (including US, African Union), 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, drive-by shootings, guerrilla style ambushes, suicide bombings, hostage taking, indiscriminate attacks on civilians, and roadside IEDs; typical attacks consist of a single or multiple suicide bombers, followed by an assault by members carrying small arms and explosives; in 2022 and 2023, for example, it conducted two complex ground assaults involving vehicle-mounted bombs and hundreds of militants on international military peacekeeper bases that killed more than 50 troops in each incident; in March 2019, operatives attacked a hotel in Mogadishu using a suicide bomber and small arms, killing at least 20; has placed vehicle-mounted bombs in high-density urban areas, including attacks in Mogadishu in October 2022, December 2019, and October 2017 that together killed over 700 civilians; employs insurgent-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, man-portable air defense systems, and unmanned aerial vehicles/drones 

strength – estimated in 2024 to have 7,000 to 12,000 fighters

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 (although these funds are not always intended to support al-Shabaab members); estimated that the group generates $100-$150 million annually from its taxation of all aspects of the Somali economy; probably receives training, arms, and bomb-making materials from other al-Qa’ida branches; operates military training camps in areas it occupies; has captured arms, ammunition, and other materiel from regional and Somali military forces; also purchases arms and ammunition through black markets

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 – formed in November 2011 as a Tuareg rebel group under Iyad Ag Ghali and in mid-2012 began an association with al-Qai'da in the Islamic Maghrib (AQIM), in part because of their shared desire to implement sharia law in Mali; was among the terrorist groups 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; in 2017, joined 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 the same year; continued to conduct attacks under the JNIM banner into 2023

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 and UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) personnel; also targeted French military troops prior to their departure in 2022; uses a mix of insurgent/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 – not available

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 2013

Ansar al-Islam (AAI)

aka – Ansar al-Sunna; Ansar al-Sunna Army; Devotees of Islam; Followers of Islam in Kurdistan; Helpers of Islam; Jaish Ansar al-Sunna; Jund al-Islam; Kurdish Taliban; Kurdistan Supporters of Islam; Partisans of Islam; Soldiers of God; Soldiers of Islam; Supporters of Islam in Kurdistan

history – founded in December 2001 with support from al-Qa’ida; originated in the Iraqi Kurdistan region with the merger of two Kurdish terrorist factions, Jund al-Islam and a splinter group of the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan; from 2003 to 2011, conducted attacks against a wide range of targets in Iraq, including government and security forces, as well as US and Coalition troops; in the summer of 2014, a faction of AAI pledged allegiance to ISIS and the two factions reportedly have fought each other; after 2014, most activity has been in Syria where AAI has fought against Syrian regime forces, although it claimed a bombing attack against members of a Shia militia in Iraq in late 2019; active in Syria in 2023

goals – expel Western interests from Iraq and, ultimately, establish an Iraqi state operating according to its interpretation of sharia; similar goals in Syria

leadership and organization – led by Amir Shaykh Abu Hashim Muhammad bin Abdul Rahman al-IBRAHIM; likely has a cell-based structure

areas of operation – active in central and western Iraq and in Syria (leadership assessed to be in Syria)

targets, tactics, and weapons – historically targeted Iraqi security and police forces, citizens, politicians, and Shia militia forces for assassinations, bombings, and executions; targets Syrian government forces and pro-Syrian regime militias with guerrilla-style hit-and-run assaults and terrorist attacks; equipped with small arms, light and heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, and explosives, including improvised explosive devices

strength – estimated 250-300 fighters

financial and other support – receives assistance from a loose network of associates in Europe and the Middle East

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

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