Famous Terrorist Groups in the World


‘Terrorism’ is a pejorative term, and its use is, therefore, avoided by some news agencies like Reuters which prefers to use terms like ‘bombing’ or ‘militancy,’ etc. There is no universally and unanimously agreed-upon definition of terrorism. According to the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, 28CFR terrorism is defined as ‘the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.’ Terrorism may be domestic, international, or lone wolf type as apparently demonstrated by some inhumane individual killing 20 innocent school children and 6 adults in the  December 14, 2012 Connecticut, U.S. shooting case. The FBI claims to investigate terrorism-related matters regardless of race, religion, nationality, or gender. In order to condemn terrorism, the United Nations General Assembly defined ‘terrorism’ as ‘Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons, or particular persons for political purposes’¦’

1. Al-Qaeda

the flag of al-Qaeda
The flag of al-Qaeda

‘Al-Qaeda’ in Arabic literally means ‘the base.’ It is a terrorist organization traceable to the Soviet war in Afghanistan. It was founded by Osama bin Laden in or around December, 1988. Its network is comprised of individuals belonging to many different nations, and it has its own trained force not backed by any government. Al-Qaeda is known for its 9/11 attacks, the 1988 U.S. Embassy bombings, and the 2002 Bali bombings. The U.S. started the War on Terror in response to the September 11 attacks, which after a long hunt culminated in the killing of its founder Osama bin Laden. Although the central command has been eliminated, yet it operates in the form of isolated and decentralized groups causing no less harm than in the past suicide bombings, and simultaneous bombings at different sites are the typical Al-Qaeda strategies. Al-Qaeda has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S., U.K., E.U., and UN Security Council, NATO, and many other countries.

2. Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya

Members of al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya
Members of al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya

‘Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya’ literally means ‘the Islamic Group.’ It is an Egyptian Sunni Muslim organization designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S., E.U., and some other countries. Its main objective was to overthrow and replace the Egyptian government by an Islamic state. In the 1990s, the group was alleged to have killed hundreds of  Egyptian policemen, civilians, and dozens of tourists. In 2003, the imprisoned leadership of the organization was released in exchange for refraining from further bloodshed. The release was prompted by Omar Abdel-Rahman, the spiritual leader of the organization. After the 2011 elections, the organization has converted into a political party that in 2012 gained 13 seats in the lower house of the Egyptian Parliament.

3. Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia

Flag of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Flag of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)

Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, also known by its acronym FARC, was established in 1964 by Manuel Marulanda with an aim to overthrow the government and replace it with a Marxist regime. It is the top dog of drug trafficking the world over and is considered the richest guerilla organization in the world. It comprises no less than 12,000 combatants and many thousands of supporters. They seize money from the multinational corporations and are said to spend it on the poor in a Robin Hood style. FARC is designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and E.U.

4. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party 

The PKK flag
Flag of Kurdistan Workers Party

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or Part Kerkerani Kurdistan, better known by its acronym PKK, was founded in the village Fis on November 27, 1978. It was led by Abdullah Ocalan. This Kurdish organization has been in armed conflict with the Turkish state in pursuance of its objectives to achieve an autonomous Kurdistan with cultural and political rights for the Kurds in Turkey. Many countries, including the U.S. and the E.U., have listed it as a terrorist organization. The organization converted into a paramilitary group in 1984. It used training camps located in France and attacked government installations including military and civil institutions of the state. Ocalan was captured and sentenced to death, but the punishment was later changed to life imprisonment.

5. Hamas 

Flag of Hamas

Hamas is an acronym of ‘Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyya’ meaning ‘Islamic Resistance Movement.’ It is a Palestinian Sunni Islamic organization which is in control of the Gaza Strip supported by its military wing Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. Hamas was founded in 1987 as an extension of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. According to its co-founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, it aims at liberating Palestine from the Israeli occupation and establishing an Islamic State in Israeli occupied areas. The status of Hamas is quite controversial as it is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S., E.U., Canada, and Japan, while Russia, Iran, Turkey, and the Arab nations do not consider it as a terrorist organization.

6. Osbat al-Ansar

Sheik Abu Sharif Akl, a member of Asbat al-Ansar
Sheik Abu Sharif Akl, a member of Asbat al-Ansar

Osbat al-Ansar, the league of partisans, was established in the 1990s by dogmatist Sunni Muslim groups with an aim to overthrow the secular government and establish an extremist Muslim government. It is listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S., U.K., UN, Australia, and Canada. Following the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. decided to freeze all assets of Osbat al-Ansar as the U.S. suspected it of links with al-Qaeda. It has also been suspected to have links with other terrorist groups including: Osbat al-Nour, Jund Ash Sham, Dinniyeh Group and Takfir wal Hijra. It was first led by Ahmed Abd al-Karim al-Saadi, and after his going underground, it was led by his brother Abu Tariq. The group has attacked nightclubs, liquor stores, and killed a Muslim cleric. In January, 1995 the group killed the leader of Al-Ahbash and consequently its three leaders were convicted and were sentenced to death.

7.  The Taliban

Flag of Taliban
Flag of Taliban

The Taliban is a terrorist organization founded by Sami ul Haq and Fazl-ur-Rehman. Although Mullah Omar was considered to be its founder by a few. It is comprised of the Pashtun tribesmen of Afghanistan. From September, 1996 to October, 2001, it ruled over a large part of Afghanistan, including its capital Kabul. It was recognized as an Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan by Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Pakistan. While in power, it implemented Shariah Law or Islamic Jurisprudence in its most distorted, misinterpreted, and brutally inhumane form. They are especially condemned for their brutal treatment of women.

8. Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia

Flag of AUC
Flag of AUC

Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, known by its acronym AUC, means United Self Defense Forces of Columbia. It was formed in April, 1997 and comprises more than 30,000 militants. It is alleged that the Columbian government and armed forces were at the back of this umbrella organization.  It has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the E.U. According to AUC, its objective was to protect its supporters from the insurgents as the state was ineffective in this respect. According to its former leader, Carlos Castano, the operations of AUC were supported to the extent of 70 percent by cocaine-related income, and the rest was from donations.

9. The Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party”œFront

Flag of the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party
Flag of the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party

The Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party”œFront, also known by its Turkish acronym DHKP/C, is a Marxist-Leninist party in Turkey. It is an anti-U.S. and anti-NATO group which intends to rescue the Turkish government from the undue and undesired American influences. The party’s operations are run mainly by local and European donations. The group attacked security personnel in the 1980s and started targeting U.S. interests in the 1990s including the U.S. military and diplomatic personnel and offices. The group has conducted many suicide attacks. It is designated a terrorist organization by the U.S., U.K., and E.U.


Viewed from different angles, terrorism has different meanings for different people. One nation’s terrorists may be martyrs of another nation. The War on Terror declared and being fought after 9/11 has failed to achieve the desired objectives. Terrorism is on the rise, appearing like an endless chain reaction. It is a bitter fact which is not easily assimilated to those in command of this war. The War on Terror needs a paradigm shift to be viewed completely differently and instantaneously to allowing peace to prevail on the globe.

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2 Responses

  1. Sajin Raj

    January 17, 2014 6:53 am

    Are you saying LTTE is a Terrorist Group, Then you must say Nelson Mandela and Che Guevara also Terrorists. LTTE Fought for the Tamil Peoples in Sri Lanka.

    • Daniel Amato

      October 8, 2015 2:16 am

      It is disgrace to list Tamil Tigers as Terrorist. They have been one of the best progressive forces in the South Asia, sadly demised due to international paranoia in the post 9/11 world.


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