What you should know about key radical religious groups

Taliban
  • Hezbollah: Radical Shia group formed in 1982 in Lebanon. Strongly anti-Western and anti-Israeli. Closely allied with, and often directed by, Iran but may have conducted operations that were not approved by Tehran. Known or suspected to have been involved in numerous anti-U.S. terrorist attacks, including the suicide truck bombing of the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in October 1983 and the U.S. Embassy annex in Beirut in September 1984. Elements of the group were responsible for the kidnapping and detention of U.S. and other Western hostages in Lebanon. The group also attacked the Israeli Embassy in Argentina in 1992 and is a suspect in the 1994 bombing of the Israeli cultural center in Buenos Aires. Operates in the Bekaa Valley, the southern suburbs of Beirut, and southern Lebanon. Has established cells in Europe, Africa, South America, North America, and Asia. Receives substantial amounts of financial, training, weapons, explosives, political, diplomatic, and organizational aid from Iran and Syria.
  • Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ – Al-Jihad, Jihad Group, Islamic Jihad): Egyptian group active since the late 1970s. The EIJ is apparently split into two factions: one led by Ayman al-Zawahiri – who currently is in Afghanistan and is a key leader in the Usama bin Laden (UBL) network – and the Vanguards of Conquest (Talaa’ al-Fateh) led by Ahmad Husayn Agiza. Abbud al-Zumar, leader of the original Jihad, is imprisoned in Egypt and recently joined the group’s jailed spiritual leader, Shaykh Umar Abd al-Rahman, in a call for a “peaceful front.” The group’s traditional goal is the overthrow of the Egyptian Government and creation of an Islamic state. Given its involvement with UBL, EIJ is likely increasingly willing to target U.S. interests. The group has threatened to strike the U.S. for its jailing of Shaykh al-Rahman and the arrests of EIJ cadres in Albania, Azerbaijan, and the United Kingdom..
  • Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ): The PIJ, emerging from radical Gazan Palestinians in the 1970s, is apparently a series of loosely affiliated factions rather than a cohesive group. The PIJ focus is the destruction of Israel and the creation of a Palestinian Islamic state. Due to Washington’s support of Israel, the PIJ has threatened to strike American targets; the PIJ has not “specifically” conducted attacks against U.S. interests; Arab regimes deemed as un-Islamic are also threatened. The group has stated its willingness to hit American targets in Jordan. PIJ cadres reportedly receive funding from Tehran and logistical support from Syria.
  • Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS): Emerging from the Muslim Brotherhood during the first Palestinian intifadah (1987), HAMAS has become the primary anti-Israeli religious opposition in the occupied territories. The group is mainly known for its use of suicide bombers and is loosely organized, with centers of strength in Gaza and certain areas in the West Bank. HAMAS, while condemning American policies favoring Israel, has not targeted the U.S. directly.
  • Al-Gamaat Al-Islamiyya (IG – the Islamic Group, al-Gama’at, Islamic Gama’at, Egyptian al-Gama’at al-Islamiyya, GI): The IG, begun in the 1970s, is the largest of the Egyptian militant groups. Its core goal is the overthrow of the Cairo regime and creation of an Islamic state. The IG appears to be a more loosely organized entity than the EIJ, and maintains a globally present external wing. IG leadership signed Usama Bin Ladin’s February 1998 anti-U.S. fatwa but has denied supporting UBL. Shaykh Umar Abd al-Rahman is al-Gama’at’s spiritual leader, and thus the U.S. has been threatened with attack. From 1993 until the cease-fire, al-Gama’a launched attacks on tourists in Egypt, most notably the attack in November 1997 at Luxor that killed 58 foreign tourists. Also claimed responsibility for the attempt in June 1995 to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Has a worldwide presence, including Sudan, the United Kingdom, Afghanistan, Austria, and Yemen. The Egyptian Government believes that Iran, Bin Ladin, and Afghan militant groups support the organization.