The word ‘Terrorist’ is thrown around a lot lately and has been since the 1970s when modern military capabilities and intelligence units began to advance rapidly, driving guerrilla and resistance movements largely underground.
While some people take the view that any organization, be it a state military or local militia that impact negatively on civilians are ‘terrorists’, the official explanation of a terrorist goes like this:
“Common definitions of terrorism refer only to those violent acts which are intended to create fear (terror), are perpetrated for a religious, political or ideological goal, deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants (civilians), and are committed by non-government agencies.” – Wikipedia, Terrorism.
So the groups below are the U.S. State Department designated terrorist organizations. They are well-known terrorist groups, which have had huge effects on regions throughout the world including Europe, Asia, Africa and both North and South America. Their goal is to create fear in the public so that civilians of the targeted society will put pressure on their leaders to give in to the demands of the opposing organization.
Islam Organisations: Al Qaeda
Although there are several splinter groups of Al-qaida operating around the world, mostly in the middle-east and Africa, the all sing roughly from the same hymn sheet.
A religiously motivated body they aim to attack civilian populations of opposing countries in order to force their governments to withdraw from occupied Muslim lands or simply give into their demands. They rarely attack military or police installations and focus on general population, and are therefore designated terrorists.
Since 9-11 they are most commonly known for their aggression against NATO members (in particular the US, Britain, Germany and Spain) and also against communities in their home countries which support NATO operations.
However they also have several other campaigns such as in Nigeria where they wish to eradicate the Christan population from their various northern strongholds.
IRA and Their Various Splinter Groups
The Irish Republican Army is a name used by various terrorist groups, which has its roots in a group formed in the 1960s. They used the same name as an earlier guerrilla warfare organization, which fought the Irish War of Independence (1921-22). That war won independence for 80% of the island.
This namesake is largely viewed as a move to gain support. Here are a list of IRA splinter groups both past and present since the new 1960s formation.
-->Provisional IRA (PIRA) - 1965 to 2004. Used largely guerrilla warfare (snipers, direct RPG attacks, ambushes and IEDs). Signed the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement and decommissioned all weaponry by 2004. Ceased campaign in 1998.
-->Continuity IRA - Rejected Good Friday Agreement and split from PIRA. Membership is estimated at a few hundred. Uses terrorist tactics alone and does not fight in open, nor does it utilize guerrilla warfare.
--> Real IRA - Rejected Good Friday Agreement and formed in early 2000s after splitting from CIRA. Membership estimated at a few hundred but growing rapidly since economic downturn. Uses terrorist tactics alone and does not fight in open nor does it use guerrilla warfare.
The two splinter groups operate cross border (both in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland). They are politically motivated and wish to regain the other 20% of the island from Britain.
Their goals are extremely unlikely as they have no support from the Irish government and are infiltrated by Irish police and security agencies. Membership has risen rapidly due to discontent among young people because of the economic downturn, however resources are scarce due to constant sting operations and interception of weaponry shipments.
Car-bombs and shootings are still common in Northern Ireland. They operate largely in the Republic of Ireland (bomb factories and rural training camps) and launch attacks in the North.
While they target British security forces (Mostly police and army) in Northern Ireland and not the civilian population directly, their disregard for potential harm to civilians in their actions designates them as a terrorist organisation.
Palestinian Liberation Groups
There are several Palestinian groups designated as terrorist organizations by the State Department. These include the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Palestine Liberation Front.
While the groups can often differ on political aspirations and policies, conflict between themselves is minimal. Their main aim is to liberate Palestine from Israel.
Their ethos goes back thousands of years and is strongly ingrained in their members. Palestine, which is designated roughly as the area around the Mediterranean sea between Jordan and some of Israel, has been occupied repeatedly by several different invaders for hundreds of years.
Their main objection at present is Israel’s claim to their homeland and the expansion of Israeli settlers and construction into the West Bank.
While they operate with a fair amount of autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza due to the fact that Israeli army and police aren’t located there, they are severely oppressed and targeted as soon as they operate over the Israeli border.
They have been known to plant bombs in Israel, attack Israeli officials and recruit largely in Lebanese refugee camps. They have links with Hezbollah who are active in Gaza and Lebanon.
Their disregard for public safety, and their attacks on public buildings and gatherings designate them as a terrorist organisation.
FARC are the most widely known terrorist organization in Columbia and most experts estimate their membership at around the 15,000 mark. Their aim is to overthrow the Colombian government and help the poor by breaking down the class division imposed by the country’s wealthy.
They also oppose US intervention and forces in the country.
They receive funds mostly from the taxation of the country’s illegal international export of cocaine and donations from supporters.
They are designated as a terrorist organisation due to reckless attacks on security forces, which endanger the lives of civilians, as well as attacks on journalists and media outlets, kidnappings and bombings.
Another Colombian organization is the United Self-Defense Forces of Columbia (UAC). They are an umbrella organization that oppose the actions of FARC. The main similarity between the two is that they both use cocaine exports for funding.
The UAC are also known to operate in conjunction (albeit unofficially) with the Colombian military in targeting FARC. They are designated as a terrorist organization by the US and the EU because of their extreme defense methods, which include kidnapping rival supporters, reckless attacks on FARC communities and bombings.
These are just some of the U.S. State Department designated terrorist organizations which have influenced recent history the most. For a complete list, check the U.S. State Department website.