Islamic Terrorism
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Islamic Terrorism

Islamic terrorism, Islamist terrorism or radical Islamic terrorism are terrorist acts against civilians committed by violent Islamists who claim a religious motivation.[1][failed verification][2]

The largest numbers of incidents and fatalities caused by Islamic terrorism have occurred in India, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Yemen and Syria.[3] In 2015 four Islamic extremist groups were responsible for 74% of all deaths from Islamic terrorism: ISIS, Boko Haram, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, according to the Global Terrorism Index 2016.[4] Since approximately 2000, these incidents have occurred on a global scale, affecting not only Muslim-majority states in Africa and Asia, but also states with non-Muslim majority such as United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Sweden, Russia, Australia, Canada, Sri Lanka, Israel, China, India and Philippines. Such attacks have targeted both Muslims and non-Muslims, however the majority affect Muslims themselves.[5] In a number of the worst-affected Muslim-majority regions, these terrorists have been met by armed, independent resistance groups,[6] state actors and their proxies, and elsewhere by condemnation coming from prominent Islamic figures.[7][8][9]

Justifications given for attacks on civilians by Islamic extremist groups come from extreme interpretations of the religious books Quran and Hadith,[10][11] and sharia law. These include retribution by armed jihad for the perceived injustices of unbelievers against Muslims (especially by Al-Qaeda);[12] the belief that the killing of many self-proclaimed Muslims is required because they have violated Islamic law and are actually disbelievers (kafir); the need to restore and purify Islam by establishing sharia law, especially by restoring the Caliphate as a pan-Islamic state (especially ISIS);[13] the glory and heavenly rewards of martyrdom;[11] the supremacy of Islam over all other religions.[Note 1]

Use of the phrase "Islamic terrorism" is disputed. In Western political speech it has variously been called "counter-productive", "highly politicized, intellectually contestable" and "damaging to community relations".[16] Others have condemned the refusal to use the term as an act of "self-deception", "full-blown censorship" and "intellectual dishonesty".[17][18][19][20]


After the Al-Qaeda September 11 attacks, US president George W. Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair repeatedly stated that the war against terrorism had nothing to do with Islam, but was a war against evil.[21] Former US president Barack Obama explained why he used the term "terrorism" rather than "Islamic terrorism" in a 2016 townhall meeting saying,

"There is no doubt, ... terrorist organizations like al Qaeda or ISIL - They have perverted and distorted and tried to claim the mantle of Islam for an excuse for basically barbarism and death ... But what I have been careful about when I describe these issues is to make sure that we do not lump these murderers into the billion Muslims that exist around the world ..."[22]

Replacing the term with "Islamist Terrorism" has been suggested as a way of distancing terrorism from Islam,[23] while others inside and out of the Islamic world (such as Imran Khan, the prime minister of Pakistan, and academic Bruce Lawrence), oppose its use, asserting there is no connection between Islam and terrorism.[24][25]


Some Muslim scholars assert that extremism within Islam goes back to the Kharijites who existed in the 7th century. From their essentially political position, they developed extreme doctrines that set them apart from both mainstream Sunni and Shi'a Muslims. The Kharijites were particularly noted for adopting a radical approach to takfir, whereby they declared that other Muslims were unbelievers and therefore worthy of death.[26][27]


After failed post-colonial attempts at state formation and the creation of Israel, a series of Marxist and anti-Western transformations and movements swept throughout the Arab and Islamic world. These movements were nationalist and revolutionary not Islamic but their view that terrorism could be effective in reaching their political goals generated the first phase of modern international terrorism. In the late 1960s, Palestinian secular movements such as Al Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) began to target civilians outside the immediate arena of conflict. Following Israel's 1967 defeat of Arab forces, Palestinian leaders began to see that the Arab world was unable to militarily confront Israel. During the same time, lessons drawn from revolutionary movements in Latin America, North Africa, Southeast Asia as well as during the Jewish struggle against Britain in Palestine, saw the Palestinians turn away from guerrilla warfare towards urban terrorism. These movements were secular in nature but their international organization served to spread terrorist tactics worldwide.[28]

Religiously motivated groups grew after the failure of Arab nationalism in the Six-Day War against Israel. In the Middle East, Islamic movements came into conflict with secular nationalism. Islamic groups were supported by Saudi Arabia, to counter nationalist ideology.[28]

According to Bruce Hoffman of RAND, in 1980 two out of 64 terrorist groups were categorized as having religious motivation, in 1995 almost half (26 out of 56) were religiously motivated with the majority having Islam as their guiding force.[29][28]


The Soviet-Afghan War and the subsequent anti-Soviet mujahedin war, lasting from 1979 to 1989, started the rise and expansion of terrorist groups. Since their beginning in 1994, the Pakistani-supported Taliban militia in Afghanistan has gained several characteristics traditionally associated with state-sponsors of terrorism, providing logistical support, travel documentation, and training facilities. Since 1989 the increasing willingness of religious extremists to strike targets outside immediate country or regional areas highlights the global nature of contemporary terrorism. The 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, are representative of this trend.[28]


According to research by the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, there were 31,221 Islamist terrorism attacks, which killed at least 146,811 people, between 11 September 2001 and 21 April 2019. Many of the victims were Muslims, including most of the victims who were killed in attacks involving 12 or more deaths.[30][31][32]


Deaths from terrorism have increased dramatically over the last 15 years. The number of people who have died from terrorist activity has increased ninefold since the year 2000.

The motivation of Islamic terrorists has been hotly disputed. Some (such as James L. Payne) attributing it to a struggle against "U.S./Western/Jewish aggression, oppression, and exploitation of Muslim lands and peoples";[33] others to extremist interpretations of Islam.[34][35]

Religious motivation

Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, in their book, The Age of Sacred Terror, argue that Islamic terrorist attacks are purely religious. They are seen as "a sacrament ... intended to restore to the universe a moral order that had been corrupted by the enemies of Islam." It is neither political or strategic but an "act of redemption" meant to "humiliate and slaughter those who defied the hegemony of God".[36]

One of the Kouachi brothers responsible for the Charlie Hebdo shooting called a French journalist, saying, "We are the defenders of Prophet Mohammed."[37]

According to Indonesian Islamic leader Yahya Cholil Staquf in a 2017 Time interview, within the classical Islamic tradition the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims is assumed to be one of segregation and enmity. In his view extremism and terrorism are linked with orthodox Islam and that radical Islamic movements are nothing new. He also added that Western politicians should stop pretending that extremism is not linked to Islam.[38][39]

However, two studies of the background of Muslim terrorists in Europe--one of the UK and one of France--found little connection between religious piety and terrorism. The "restricted" UK report of hundreds of case studies by the domestic counter-intelligence agency MI5 found that

[f]ar from being religious zealots, a large number of those involved in terrorism do not practise their faith regularly. Many lack religious literacy and could actually be regarded as religious novices. Very few have been brought up in strongly religious households, and there is a higher than average proportion of converts. Some are involved in drug-taking, drinking alcohol and visiting prostitutes. MI5 says there is evidence that a well-established religious identity actually protects against violent radicalisation.[40]

A 2015 "general portrait" of "the conditions and circumstances" under which people living in France become "Islamic radicals" (terrorists or would-be terrorists) by Olivier Roy (see above) found radicalisation was not an "uprising of a Muslim community that is victim to poverty and racism: only young people join, including converts".[41]

Roy believes terrorism/radicalism is "expressed in religious terms" because

  1. most of the radicals have a Muslim background, which makes them open to a process of re-Islamisation ("almost none of them having been pious before entering the process of radicalisation"), and[41]
  2. jihad is "the only cause on the global market". If you kill in silence, it will be reported by the local newspaper; "if you kill yelling 'Allahu Akbar', you are sure to make the national headlines". Other extreme causes--ultra-left or radical ecology are "too bourgeois and intellectual" for the radicals.[41]

Interpretations of the Qur'an and Hadith

Donald Holbrook, a Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, analyzes a sample of 30 works by jihadist propagandists and finds several passages of the Quran exploited and distorted to suit the objectives of violent jihad.[10]An-Nisa (4:74-75) is quoted most frequently; other popular passages are At-Taubah (9:13-15, 38-39, 111) and Al-Baqarah (2:190-191, 216). Consider Surah 9:5:

But when these months, prohibited (for fighting), are over, slay the idolaters wheresoever you find them, and take them captive or besiege them, and lie in wait for them at every likely place. But if they repent and fulfill their devotional obligations and pay the zakat, then let them go their way, for God is forgiving and kind.

Holbrook notes they cherry-picked the first part "slay the idolaters" but fail to quote and discuss limiting factors at the end of the ayat, "but if they repent ..." This, Holbrook argues, is how violent jihadists are "shamelessly selective in order to serve their propaganda objectives."[10] Peter Bergen notes that bin Laden cited this verse in 1998 when making a formal declaration of war.[42]

Supporters of bin Laden have also pointed to reports according to which the Islamic prophet Muhammad attacked towns at night or with catapults, and argued that he must have condoned incidental harm to noncombatants, since it would have been impossible to distinguish them from combatants during such attacks.[43] These arguments were not widely accepted by Muslims.[43]

The Pakistani theologian Javed Ahmad Ghamidi blames Muslim madrasas that indoctrinate children with Islamic supremacist views, such as that Muslims are legally superior to unbelievers (particularly former Muslims), and that jihad will eventually bring about a single caliphate to rule the world.[44]

Jihad and Islamic jurisprudence

The Princeton University Middle Eastern scholar Bernard Lewis states that classical Islamic jurisprudence does not allow terrorism, and the "classical jurists of Islam never remotely considered [jihad] the kind of unprovoked, unannounced mass slaughter of uninvolved civil populations".[45] In 2001, Professor Lewis noted:[46]

Being a religious obligation, jihad is elaborately regulated in sharia law, which discusses in minute detail such matters as the opening, conduct, interruption and cessation of hostilities, the treatment of prisoners and noncombatants, the use of weapons, etc.[47]... Similarly, the laws of Jihad categorically preclude wanton and indiscriminate slaughter.[48] The warriors in the holy war are urged not to harm non-combatants, women and children, "unless they attack you first". ... A point on which they insist is the need for a clear declaration of war before beginning hostilities, and for proper warning before resuming hostilities after a truce. What the classical jurists of Islam never remotely considered is the kind of unprovoked, unannounced mass slaughter of uninvolved civil populations that we saw in New York two weeks ago. For this there is no precedent and no authority in Islam.

While techniques of war are restricted by classical Islamic jurisprudence, the scope is not. Lewis states that Jihad is an unlimited offensive to bring the whole world under Islamic rule and law.[49]Classical Islamic jurisprudence imposes, without limit of time or space, the duty to subjugate non-Muslims, according to Lewis.[50]Wael Hallaq writes that in the modern era the notion of jihad has lost its jurisprudential relevance and instead gave rise to an ideological and political discourse.[51] While modernists view jihad as defensive and compatible with modern standards of warfare, some Islamists go beyond the classical theory to insist that the purpose of jihad is the fight against oppressive regimes and conversion of non-Muslims to Islam.[52]

Western foreign policy

According to a graph by U.S. State Department, terrorist attacks have escalated worldwide since the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.[53][unreliable source?]Dame Eliza Manningham Buller, the former head of MI5, told the Iraq inquiry, the security services warned Tony Blair launching the War on Terror would increase the threat of terrorism.[53][better source needed]Robert Pape has argued that at least terrorists utilizing suicide attacks--a particularly effective[54] form of terrorist attack--are driven not by Islamism but by "a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland".[55] However, Martin Kramer, who debated Pape on origins of suicide bombing, stated that the motivation for suicide attacks is not just strategic logic but also an interpretation of Islam to provide a moral logic. For example, Hezbollah initiated suicide bombings after a complex reworking of the concept of martyrdom. Kramer explains that the Israeli occupation of the South Lebanon Security Zone raised the temperature necessary for this reinterpretation of Islam, but occupation alone would not have been sufficient for suicide terrorism.[56] "The only way to apply a brake to suicide terrorism," Kramer argues, "is to undermine its moral logic, by encouraging Muslims to see its incompatibility with their own values."[56]

Former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer argues that terrorist attacks (specifically al-Qaeda attacks on targets in the United States) are not motivated by a religiously inspired hatred of American culture or religion, demonstrating a basic misunderstanding of Islamic dogma, but by the belief that U.S. foreign policy has oppressed, killed, or otherwise harmed Muslims in the Middle East,[57] condensed in the phrase "They hate us for what we do, not who we are." U.S. foreign policy actions Scheuer believes are fueling Islamic terror include: the US-led intervention in Afghanistan and invasion of Iraq; Israel-United States relations, namely, financial, military, and political support for Israel;[58][59][60][61] U.S. support for "apostate" police states in Muslim nations such as Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, and Kuwait;[62] U.S. support for the creation of an independent East Timor from territory previously held by Muslim Indonesia; perceived U.S. approval or support of actions against Muslim insurgents in India, the Philippines, Chechnya, and Palestine.[63]

Maajid Nawaz and Sam Harris argue that many acts of Islamic extremism can not be connected in any way with the Western intervention in Muslim lands.

Nawaz: ... What does killing the Yazidi population on Mount Sinjar have to do with US foreign policy? What does enforcing headscarves (tents in fact) on women in Waziristan and Afghanistan, and lashing them, forcing men to grow beards under threat of a whip, chopping off hands, and so forth, have to do with US foreign policy?
Harris: This catalogue of irrelevancy could be extended indefinitely. What does the Sunni bombing of Shia and Ahmadi mosques in Pakistan have to with Israel or US foreign policy?[64]

Societal motivations

Scott Atran has found the greatest predictors of suicide bombings to be not religion but group dynamics: While personal humiliation does not turn out to be a motivation for those attempting to kill civilians, the perception that others with whom one feels a common bond are being humiliated can be a powerful driver for action. "Small-group dynamics involving friends and family that form the diaspora cell of brotherhood and camaraderie on which the rising tide of martyrdom actions is based".[65] Terrorists, according to Atran, are social beings influenced by social connections and values. Rather than dying "for a cause", they might be said to have died "for each other".[66] Simon Cottee in the New York Times suggested that sexual frustration is a major motivating factor in Islamist suicide bombing.[67]


One ideology that plays a role in terrorism by using the name of Islam, is Wahabism.[68][69][70][71][72] Some allies of Wahabism support war against any one and every one who is not like them. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, al-Qaeda, Al-Shabaab (militant group), Boko Haram, Indonesian Mujahedeen Council, Taliban, Sipah Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi follow Wahabi or Salafi ideology which is commonly opposed by other Muslims.[72][73] Non-Muslims, Sufis, and Shias are attacked by hard-core Wahhabis, Deobandis, and jamaatis in the same way that socialists and other leftist proletarians were assaulted by Mussolini's bandits, Jews and others by the Nazis, and "bourgeois", "kulak", intellectual, Jewish, "Menshevik", and "Trotskyist" dissenters were assaulted by Stalinists.[74] In India, Wahabism was spread in the name of Deobandi movement.[75]

Transnational Islamist ideology, specifically of the militant Islamists, assert that Western policies and society are actively anti-Islamic, or as it is sometimes described, waging a "war against Islam". Islamists often identify what they see as a historical struggle between Christianity and Islam, dating back as far as the Crusades, among other historical conflicts between practitioners of the two respective religions. Osama bin Laden, for example, almost invariably described his enemies as aggressive and his call for action against them as defensive. Defensive jihad differs from offensive jihad by being "fard al-ayn", or a personal obligation of all Muslims, rather than "fard al-kifaya", a communal obligation, that is, some Muslims may perform it but it is not required of others. Hence, framing a fight as defensive has the advantage of both appearing to be a victim rather than appearing to be an aggressor, and giving the struggle the very highest religious priority for all good Muslims.

Many of the violent terrorist groups use the name of jihad to fight against certain Western nations and Israel. An example is bin Laden's al-Qaeda, which is also known as "International Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Jews and Crusaders". Most militant Islamists oppose Israel's policies, and they often oppose its very existence.

According to U.S. Army Colonel Dale C. Eikmeier, "ideology", rather than any individual or group, is the "center of gravity" of al-Qaeda and related groups, and that ideology is a "collection of violent Islamic thought called Qutbism".[34] He summarizes the tenets of Qutbism as being:

  • A belief that Muslims have deviated from true Islam and must return to "pure Islam" as originally practiced during the time of Muhammad.
  • The path to "pure Islam" is only through a literal and strict interpretation of the Quran and Hadith, along with implementation of Muhammad's commands.
  • Muslims should interpret the original sources individually without being bound to follow the interpretations of Islamic scholars.
  • That any interpretation of the Quran from a historical, contextual perspective is a corruption, and that the majority of Islamic history and the classical jurisprudential tradition is mere sophistry.[34]

The historic rivalry between Hindus and Muslims in the Indian subcontinent has also often been the primary motive behind some of the most deadly terrorist attacks in India. According to a U.S. State Department report, India topped the list of countries most affected by Islamic terrorism.

In addition, Islamist militants, scholars, and leaders opposed Western society for what they see as immoral secularism. Islamists have claimed that such unrestricted free speech has led to the proliferation of pornography, immorality, secularism, homosexuality, feminism, and many other ideas that Islamists often oppose. Although bin Laden almost always emphasized the alleged oppression of Muslims by America and Jews when talking about the need for jihad in his messages, in his "Letter to America", he answered the question, "What are we calling you to, and what do we want from you?" with

We call you to be a people of manners, principles, honour, and purity; to reject the immoral acts of fornication, homosexuality, intoxicants, gambling's, and trading with interest (...) You separate religion from your policies, (...) You are the nation that permits Usury, which has been forbidden by all the religions (...) You are a nation that permits the production, trading and usage of intoxicants (...) You are a nation that permits acts of immorality (...) You are a nation that permits gambling in its all forms. (...) You use women to serve passengers, visitors, and strangers to increase your profit margins. You then rant that you support the liberation of women.[76]

Given their perceived piety, The Times noted the irony when an investigation discovered that Jihadists were seeking anonymity through some of the same networks used to distribute child pornography. The paper praised the raid's ability to "improve understanding of the mindsets of both types of criminals".[77] Similarly, Reuters reported that pornography was found among the materials seized from Osama bin Laden's Abbottabad compound that was raided by U.S. Navy SEALs.[78]

In 2006, Britain's then head of MI5 Eliza Manningham-Buller said of Al-Qaeda that it "has developed an ideology which claims that Islam is under attack, and needs to be defended". "This," she said "is a powerful narrative that weaves together conflicts from across the globe, presenting the West's response to varied and complex issues, from long-standing disputes such as Israel/Palestine and Kashmir to more recent events as evidence of an across-the-board determination to undermine and humiliate Islam worldwide."[79] She said that the video wills of British suicide bombers made it clear that they were motivated by perceived worldwide and long-standing injustices against Muslims; an extreme and minority interpretation of Islam promoted by some preachers and people of influence; their interpretation as anti-Muslim of UK foreign policy, in particular the UK's involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan."[79] She also cautioned how difficult it was to gain a proper perspective, saying that although there are more important dangers we face daily without feeling so threatened by them, such as climate change and road deaths, and though terrorist deaths were few, the intelligence services had prevented some potentially large threats and that vigilance was needed.[79]

Colonel Eikmeier points out the "questionable religious credentials" of many Islamist theorists, or "Qutbists", which can be a "means to discredit them and their message":

With the exception of Abul Ala Maududi and Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, none of Qutbism's main theoreticians trained at Islam's recognized centers of learning. Although a devout Muslim, Hassan al-Banna was a teacher and community activist. Sayyid Qutb was a literary critic. Mohammed Abdul-Salam Farag was an electrician. Ayman al-Zawahiri is a physician. Osama bin Laden trained to be a businessman.[34]

Identity-based frameworks for analyzing Islamist-based terrorism

Islamist-based fundamentalist terrorism against Western nations and the U.S. in particular, has numerous motivations and takes place the larger context of a complex and tense relationship between the 'West' and the Arab and Muslim 'world,'[80] which is highlighted in the previous section on motivations and Islamic terrorism. Identity-based theoretical frameworks, including theories of social identity, social categorization theory, and psychodynamics are used to explain the reasons terrorism occurs.[81]

Social identity is explained by Karina Korostelina as a "feeling of belonging to a social group, as a strong connection with social category, and as an important part of our mind that affects our social perceptions and behavior"[82] This definition can be applied to the case of Osama bin Laden, who, according to this theory, had a highly salient perception of his social identity as a Muslim, a strong connection to the social category of the Muslim Ummah or 'community,' which affect his social perceptions and behaviors.[83] Bin Laden's ideology and interpretation of Islam led to the creation of al-Qaeda in response to perceived threats against the Muslim community by the Soviet Union, the U.S. in particular due to its troop presence in Saudi Arabia, and American support for Israel.[84] The Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda has a group identity, which includes "shared experiences, attitudes, beliefs, and interests of in-group members", and is "described through the achievement of a collective aim for which this group has been created",[82] which in this case is to achieve "a complete break from the foreign influences in Muslim countries, and the creation of a new Islamic caliphate".

Social categorization theory has been discussed as a three-stage process of identification, where "individuals define themselves as members of a social group, learn the stereotypes and norms of the group, and group categories influence the perception and understanding of all situations in a particular context"[82] This definition can be applied to the US-led war on terror, in which conflict features such as the phenomenon of Anti-Americanism[85] and the phenomenon of non-Arab countries like Iran and Afghanistan lending support to Islamist-based terrorism by funding or harboring terrorist groups such as Hezbollah[86] and al-Qaeda[87] against Western nations, particularly Israel[88] and the United States[89] are, according to social categorization theory, influenced by a three-stage process of identification. In this three-stage process of identification, the Arab and Muslim world(s) are the social group(s), in which their members learn stereotypes and norms which categorize their social group vis-à-vis the West.[90] This social categorization process creates feelings of high-level in-group support and allegiance among Arabs and Muslims and the particular context within which members of the Arab and Muslim world(s) social group(s) understand all situations that involve the West. Social categorization theory as a framework for analysis indicates causal relationships between group identification processes and features of conflict situations.[91]

Economic motivations

The Muslim world has been afflicted with economic stagnation for many centuries.[92][93] In 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama stated that apart from crude oil, the exports of the entire Greater Middle East with its 400 million population roughly equals that of Switzerland.[94] It has also been estimated that the exports of Finland, a European country of only five million, exceeded those of the entire 370 million-strong Arab world, excluding oil and natural gas.[95] This economic stagnation is argued by historian David Fromkin in his work A Peace to End All Peace to have commenced with the demise of the Ottoman Empire in 1924, with trade networks being disrupted and societies torn apart with the creation of new nation states. Although the Ottoman Empire was referred to as the Sick man of Europe, the parts of the Middle East under Ottoman rule still had a diverse and steady growing economy with more general prosperity.[96]

Profiles of terrorists

According to Scott Atran, a NATO researcher studying suicide terrorism, the available evidence contradicts a number of simplistic explanations for the motivations of terrorists, including mental instability, poverty, and feelings of humiliation.[66]

Forensic psychiatrist and former foreign service officer Marc Sageman made an "intensive study of biographical data on 172 participants in the jihad", in his book Understanding Terror Networks.[97] He concluded social networks, the "tight bonds of family and friendship", rather than emotional and behavioral disorders of "poverty, trauma, madness, [or] ignorance", inspired alienated young Muslims to join the jihad and kill.[98]

Author Lawrence Wright described the characteristic of "displacement" of members of the most famous Islamic terrorist group, al-Qaeda:

What the recruits tended to have in common--besides their urbanity, their cosmopolitan backgrounds, their education, their facility with languages, and their computer skills--was displacement. Most who joined the jihad did so in a country other than the one in which they were reared. They were Algerians living in expatriate enclaves in France, Moroccans in Spain, or Yemenis in Saudi Arabia. Despite their accomplishments, they had little standing in the host societies where they lived.[99]

Scholar Olivier Roy describes the background of the hundreds of global (as opposed to local) terrorists who were incarcerated or killed and for whom authorities have records, as being surprising for their Westernized background; for the lack of Palestinians, Iraqis, Afghans "coming to avenge what is going on in their country"; their lack of religiosity before being "born again" in a foreign country; the high percentage of converts to Islam among them; their "de-territorialized backgrounds"--"For instance, they may be born in a country, then educated in another country, then go to fight in a third country and take refuge in a fourth country"; their nontraditional belief that jihad is permanent, global, and "not linked with a specific territory."[100]

This profile differs from that found among recent local (as opposed to global) Islamist suicide bombers in Afghanistan, according to a 2007 study of 110 suicide bombers by Afghan pathologist Dr. Yusef Yadgari. Yadgari found that 80% of the attackers studied had some kind of physical or mental disability. The bombers were also "not celebrated like their counterparts in other Muslim nations. Afghan bombers are not featured on posters or in videos as martyrs."[101] Daniel Byman, a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution, and Christine Fair, an assistant professor in peace and security studies at Georgetown University, say that many of the Islamic terrorists are foolish and untrained, perhaps even untrainable.[102]

Studying 300 cases of people charged with jihadist terrorism in the United States since September 11, 2001, author Peter Bergen found the perpetrators were "generally motivated by a mix of factors", including "militant Islamist ideology; dislike of American foreign policy in the Muslim world; a need to attach themselves to an ideology or organization that gave them a sense of purpose"; and a "cognitive opening" to militant Islam that often was "precipitated by personal disappointment, like the death of a parent".[103]

Muslim attitudes toward terrorism

Muslim popular opinion on the subject of attacks on civilians by Islamist groups varies. Fred Halliday, a British academic specialist on the Middle East, argues that most Muslims consider these acts to be egregious violations of Islam's laws.[104]Michael Sells and Jane I. Smith (a Professor of Islamic Studies) argues that barring some extremists like al-Qaeda, most Muslims do not interpret Qur'anic verses as promoting warfare today but rather as reflecting historically dated contexts.[105][106] According to Sells, "[Most Muslims] no more expect to apply [the verses at issue] to their contemporary non-Muslim friends and neighbors than most Christians and Jews consider themselves commanded by God, like the Biblical Joshua, to exterminate the infidels."[105] Muslims living in the West denounce the September 11th attacks against United States, while Hezbollah contends that their rocket attacks against Israeli targets are defensive Jihad by a legitimate resistance movement rather than terrorism.[107][108]

Views of modern Islamic scholars

Charles Kurzman and other authors have collected statements by prominent Muslim figures and organizations condemning terrorism.[7]

Although Islamic terrorism is commonly associated with the Salafis (or "Wahhabis"), the scholars of the group have constantly attributed this association to ignorance, misunderstanding and sometimes insincere research and deliberate misleading by rival groups.[109] Following the September 11 attacks, Abdul-Azeez ibn Abdullaah Aal ash-Shaikh, the Grand Mufti of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, made an official statement that "the Islamic Sharee'ah (legislation) does not sanction" such actions.[110] A Salafi "Committee of Major Scholars" in Saudi Arabia has declared that "Islamic" terrorism, such as the May 2003 bombing in Riyadh, are in violation of Sharia law and aiding the enemies of Islam.[111]

Timothy Winter wrote that the proclamations of bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri "ignore 14 centuries of Muslim scholarship", and that if they "followed the norms of their religion, they would have had to acknowledge that no school of mainstream Islam allows the targeting of civilians."[112]

Fethullah Gülen, a prominent Turkish Islamic scholar, has claimed that "a real Muslim", who understood Islam in every aspect, could not be a terrorist.[113][114][115] There are many other people with similar points of view[116] such as Ahmet Akgunduz,[117]Harun Yahya[118] and Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri.[119]Huston Smith, an author on comparative religion, argued that extremists have hijacked Islam, just as has occurred periodically in Christianity, Hinduism and other religions throughout history. He added that the real problem is that extremists do not know their own faith.[120]

Ali Gomaa, former Grand Mufti of Egypt, stated not only for Islam but in general: "Terrorism cannot be born of religion. Terrorism is the product of corrupt minds, hardened hearts, and arrogant egos, and corruption, destruction, and arrogance are unknown to the heart attached to the divine."[121]

In reference to suicide attacks, Hannah Stuart notes there is a "significant debate among contemporary clerics over which circumstance permit such attacks." Qatar-based theologian, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, criticized the 9/11 attacks but previously justified suicide bombings in Israel on the grounds of necessity and justified such attacks in 2004 against American military and civilian personnel in Iraq. According to Stuart, 61 contemporary Islamic leaders have issued fatawa permitting suicide attacks, 32 with respect to Israel. Stuart points out that all of these contemporary rulings are contrary to classical Islamic jurisprudence.[122]

A 600-page legal opinion (fatwa) by Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri condemned suicide bombings and other forms of terrorism as kufr (unbelief),[123] stating that it "has no place in Islamic teaching and no justification can be provided for it, or any kind of excuses or ifs or buts."[124] Iranian Ayatollah Ozma Seyyed Yousef Sanei has preached against suicide attacks and stated in an interview: "Terror in Islam, and especially Shiite, is forbidden."[125][126]

A group of Pakistani clerics of Jamaat Ahl-e-Sunnah (Barelvi movement) who were gathered for a convention denounced suicide attacks and beheadings as un-Islamic in a unanimous resolution.[127] On 2 July 2013 in Lahore, 50 Muslim scholars of the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) issued a collective fatwa against suicide bombings, the killing of innocent people, bomb attacks, and targeted killings. It considers them to be forbidden.[128]

According to Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, the only purposes of Islamic jihad are putting an end to persecution--even that of the non-Muslims--and making the religion of Islam reign supreme in the Arabian peninsula, the latter type being specific to Muhammad and no longer operative;[129] it can only be waged under a sovereign state;[130] there are strict[131] ethical limits for jihad which do not allow fighting non-combatants; acts of terrorism including suicide bombing are prohibited.[132]

Opinion surveys

  • Gallup conducted tens of thousands of hour-long, face-to-face interviews with residents of more than 35 predominantly Muslim countries between 2001 and 2007. It found that more than 90% of respondents condemned the killing of non-combatants on religious and humanitarian grounds.[8]John Esposito, using poll data from Gallup, wrote in 2008 that Muslims and Americans were equally likely to reject violence against civilians. He also found that those Muslims who support violence against civilians are no more religious than Muslims who do not.[133]
  • A subsequent Gallup poll released in 2011 suggested "that one's religious identity and level of devotion have little to do with one's views about targeting civilians... it is human development and governance--not piety or culture--that are the strongest factors in explaining differences in how the public perceives this type of violence." The same poll concluded that populations of countries in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference were slightly more likely to reject attacks on civilians in all cases, both military and individual, than those in non-member countries.[134]
  • Another poll conducted, in 2005 by the Fafo Foundation in the Palestinian Authority, found that 65% of respondents supported the September 11 attacks.[135]
  • In Pakistan, despite the recent rise in the Taliban's influence, a poll conducted by Terror Free Tomorrow in Pakistan in January 2008 tested support for al-Qaeda, the Taliban, other militant Islamist groups and Osama bin Laden himself, and found a recent drop by half. In August 2007, 33% of Pakistanis expressed support for al-Qaeda; 38% supported the Taliban. By January 2008, al-Qaeda's support had dropped to 18%, the Taliban's to 19%. When asked if they would vote for al-Qaeda, just 1% of Pakistanis polled answered in the affirmative. The Taliban had the support of 3% of those polled.[8]
  • Pew Research surveys in 2008, show that in a range of countries--Jordan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Lebanon, and Bangladesh--there have been substantial declines in the percentages saying suicide-bombings and other forms of violence against civilian targets can be justified to defend Islam against its enemies. Wide majorities say such attacks are, at most, rarely acceptable. The shift of attitudes against terror has been especially dramatic in Jordan, where 29% of Jordanians were recorded as viewing suicide-attacks as often or sometimes justified (down from 57% in May 2005). In the largest majority-Muslim nation, Indonesia, 74% of respondents agree that terrorist attacks are "never justified" (a substantial increase from the 41% level to which support had risen in March 2004); in Pakistan, that figure is 86%; in Bangladesh, 81%; and in Iran, 80%.[8]
  • A poll conducted in Osama bin Laden's home country of Saudi Arabia in December 2008 shows that his compatriots have dramatically turned against him, his organisation, Saudi volunteers in Iraq, and terrorism in general. Indeed, confidence in bin Laden has fallen in most Muslim countries in recent years.[8]

Media reporting

Several studies of the US media have found that they give more attention to attacks carried out by Muslims and are more likely to describe those attacks as terrorism.[136][137][138][139]

A 2018 study of UK and Danish reporting using progressive and critical theory found that British reporting was more like to describe lone-wolf terrorist attacks involving far-right actors in terms of mental health issues compared to lone-wolf attacks involving Islamist actors.[140][undue weight? ]


Suicide attacks

Hezbollah were the first to use suicide bombers in the Middle East.[28] An increasingly popular tactic used by terrorists is suicide bombing.[141] This tactic is used against civilians, soldiers, and government officials of the regimes the terrorists oppose. A recent clerical ruling declares terrorism and suicide bombing as forbidden by Islam.[142] However, groups who support its use often refer to such attacks as "martyrdom operations" and the suicide-bombers who commit them as "martyrs" (Arabic: shuhada, plural of "shahid"). The bombers, and their sympathizers often believe that suicide bombers, as martyrs (shaheed) to the cause of jihad against the enemy, will receive the rewards of paradise for their actions.


Islamic terrorism sometimes employs the hijacking of passenger vehicles. The most infamous were the "9/11" attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people on a single day in 2001, effectively ending the era of aircraft hijacking.

Kidnappings and executions

Along with bombings and hijackings, Islamic terrorists have made extensive use of highly publicised kidnappings and executions, often circulating videos of the acts for use as propaganda. A frequent form of execution by these groups is decapitation, another is shooting. In the 1980s, a series of abductions of American citizens by Hezbollah during the Lebanese Civil War resulted in the 1986 Iran-Contra affair. During the chaos of the Iraq War, more than 200 kidnappings foreign hostages (for various reasons and by various groups, including purely criminal) gained great international notoriety, even as the great majority (thousands) of victims were Iraqis. In 2007, the kidnapping of Alan Johnston by Army of Islam resulted in the British government meeting a Hamas member for the first time.

Islamist militants, including Boko Haram, Hamas, al-Qaeda and the ISIS, have used kidnapping as a method of fundraising, as a means of bargaining for political concessions, and as a way of intimidating potential opponents.[143]

Michael Rubin argued in 2005 that hostage-taking became popular among terrorist groups as a tactic that can hold the attention of a public that had become inured to mass death techniques such as suicide bombing, and that it can garner significant "political and diplomatic" payoff. Rubin writes that Islamist kidnappers have the additional, "ideological goals" of using hostages both to "shock the outside world" and to "appeal to their own constituency", and that the public humiliation of hostages is a specific Islamist goal. He also deems hostage taking as an effective technique for cowing a population by making governments appear weak and by inspiring fear of opposing the Islamists. He does not regard kidnapping as an effective recruitment technique.[144]

In his 2007 book, Islamic Terror Abductions in the Middle East,[145] military historian Shaul Shay argued in 2014 that Islamists consider hostage taking as a strategic tool that can effectively gain concessions from targeted governments.[146]

Kidnapping as political tactic

In September 2014, the German Foreign Ministry reported that the Islamist militant group Abu Sayyaf had kidnapped two German nationals and was threatening to kill them unless the German government withdraw its support for the war against ISIS and also pay a large ransom.[147] In September 2014 an Islamist militant group kidnapped a French national in Algeria and threatened to kill the hostage unless the government of France withdrew its support for the war against ISIS.[148]

Islamist self-justifications

According to the International Business Times, in October, 2014 the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) released a five-point justification of its right to take non-Muslims hostage, and decapitate, ransom or enslave them.[149]

Kidnapping as revenue

Nasir al-Wuhayshi leader of the Islamist militant group Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula describes kidnapped hostages as "an easy spoil... which I may describe as a profitable trade and a precious treasure."[150]

A 2014 investigation, by journalist Rukmini Maria Callimachi published in The New York Times demonstrated that between 2008 and 2014, Al Qaeda and groups directly affiliated with al-Qaeda took in over US$125 million from kidnapping, with $66 million of that total paid in 2013 alone. The article showed that from a somewhat haphazard beginning in 2003, kidnapping grew into the group's main fundraising strategy, with targeted, professional kidnapping of civilians from wealthy European countries--principally France, Spain and Switzerland--willing to pay huge ransoms. US and UK nationals are less commonly targeted since these governments have shown an unwillingness to pay ransom.[150]

Boko Haram kidnapped Europeans for the Ransom their governments would pay in the early 2010s.[151][152][153] For example, in the spring of 2013, Boko Haram kidnapped and within 2 months released a French family of 7 and 9 other hostages in exchange for a payment by the French government of $3.15 million.[154]

According to Yochi Dreazen writing in Foreign Policy, although ISIS received funding from Qatar, Kuwait and other Gulf oil states, "traditional criminal techniques like kidnapping", are a key funding source for ISIS.[155]Armin Rosen writing in Business Insider, kidnapping was a "crucial early source" of funds as ISIS expanded rapidly in 2013.[156] In March, upon receiving payment from the government of Spain, ISIS released 2 Spanish hostages working for the newspaper El Mundo, correspondent Javier Espinosa and photographer Ricardo Garcia Vilanova, who had been held since September, 2013.[157]Philip Balboni, CEO of GlobalPost told the press that he had spent "millions" in efforts to ransom journalist James Foley, and an American official told the Associated Press that demand from ISIS was for 100 million ($132.5).[158] In September 2014, following the release of ISIS Beheading videos of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, British Prime Minister David Cameron appealed to members of the G7 to abide by their pledges not to pay ransom "in the case of terrorist kidnap".[]

Holding foreign journalists as hostages is so valuable to ISIS that Rami Jarrah, a Syrian who has acted as go-between in efforts to ransom foreign hostages, told the Wall Street Journal that ISIS had "made it known" to other militant groups that they "would pay" for kidnapped journalists.[159] ISIS has also kidnapped foreign-aid workers and Syrians who work for foreign-funded groups and reconstruction projects in Syria.[159] By mid-2014, ISIS was holding assets valued at US$2 billion,[160] which made it the world's wealthiest Islamist group.[161]

Islamist self-justification

According to CNN, the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant "justifies its kidnapping of women as sex slaves citing Islamic theology" in an article entitled, 'The revival (of) slavery before the Hour,' (of Judgement Day), published in the ISIL online magazine, "Dabiq", claimed that Yazidi women can be taken captive and forced to become sex slaves or concubines under Islamic law, "One should remember that enslaving the families of the kuffar--the infidels--and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Shariah, or Islamic law."[162]

Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, a Nigerian extremist group, said in an interview "I shall capture people and make them slaves" when claiming responsibility for the 2014 Chibok kidnapping.[163]

Kidnapping as psychological warfare

Boko Haram has been described as using kidnapping as a means of intimidating the civilian population into non-resistance.[164][165]

According to psychologist Irwin Mansdorf, Hamas demonstrated effectiveness of kidnapping as a form of psychological warfare in the 2006 capture of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit when public pressure forced the government of Israel to release 1027 prisoners, including 280 convicted of terrorism by Israel, in exchange for his release.[166] According to The New York Times, "Hamas has recognized the pull such incidents have over the Israeli psyche and clearly has moved to grab hostages in incidents such as the death and ransoming of Oron Shaul."[167]

Internet recruiting

In the beginning of the 21st century, emerged a worldwide network of hundreds of web sites that inspire, train, educate and recruit young Muslims to engage in jihad against the United States and other Western countries, taking less prominent roles in mosques and community centers that are under scrutiny. According to The Washington Post, "Online recruiting has exponentially increased, with Facebook, YouTube and the increasing sophistication of people online".[168]

Examples of organizations and acts

The "black flag of Jihad", used by various Islamist organisations since the late 1990s, consists of a white-on-black shahada.

Some prominent Islamic terror groups and incidents include the following:


In the 1990s, a distinct pattern of jihadist attacks in East Africa emerged. In 2006, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) defeated Somali warlords which resulted in an armed jihadist movement controlling a territory of their own. The ICU was later militarily defeated and al-Shabaab was formed from its remnants. Al-Shabaab would later ally itself with al-Qaeda. In 2017, the EUISS noted an increased frequency of jihadist violence in an arc extending across borders from the Red Sea to the Gulf of Guinea.[169]


The Armed Islamic Group, active in Algeria between 1992 and 1998, was one of the most violent Islamic terrorist groups, and is thought to have takfired the Muslim population of Algeria. Its campaign to overthrow the Algerian government included civilian massacres, sometimes wiping out entire villages in its area of operation. It also targeted foreigners living in Algeria, killing more than 100 expatriates in the country. In recent years it has been eclipsed by a splinter group, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), now called Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb.[170][171]

Burkina Faso

In January 2016, terrorists from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) shot and killed 30 people at the Splendid Hotel in Ougadougou.[172]

The terrorist organisation Ansar ul Islam is active in Burkina Faso and has conducted assassinations, looting, attacks on police and has closed hundreds of schools.[172]


Egypt has faced Islamist violence in repeated attacks since the 2011 Arab Spring uprising.[173]

On 17 November 1997, a splinter group of the al-Jama'a al-Islamiyya, an Egyptian Islamist organization, carried out the Luxor massacre where 62 people were killed. Most of the killed were tourists.[174]

On 29 December 2017 in Cairo, a gunman opened fire at the Coptic Orthodox Church of Saint Menas and a nearby shop owned by a Coptic man. Ten citizens and a police officer were killed around ten people were injured in the attack which was claimed by the Islamic state.[175][176]


During the 1990s Muslims in Kenya received religious radical instruction from Al-Qaeda and Somali group l-Itihad al-Islami (AIAI). AIAI sought to create an Islamic government over Somalia and the Ogaden region in Ethiopia. In Kenya, it recruited among Somalis in Kenya living in the North Eastern Province and the Eastleigh district in Nairobi.[177]

On 7 August 1998, Al-Qaeda attacked the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi in an attack which claimed 213 lives.[177]

On 28 November 2002, Al-Qaeda militants attacked an Israeli-owned hotel in Mombasa where 15 were killed. Militants also fired shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles at an airliner which escaped unharmed.[177]

On Saturday 21 September 2013, four Al-Shabaab militans attacked a shopping mall in Nairobi, shooting and throwing grenades at shoppers. The civilian death toll was 61, along with six soldiers and five of the attackers.[178]

In 2015, 147 people were killed by Al-Shabaab militants during the Garissa University College attack.[179]

After Al-Shabaab abducted foreign aid workers and tourists in Kenya, Kenyan troops were sent to Somalia in October 2011 to pursue al-Shabab militants. In the wake of the intervention, Kenya has suffered a number of attacks carried out both by al-Shabaab militants as well as Kenyan Muslim recruited by radical clerics in North-Eastern and Coast provinces.[177]


During the night of Sunday 29 May 2016 and the following morning several gunshots were fired at the French Embassy located in the capital city Port Louis. Graffiti was also painted by the attackers on the front fence of the compound which referred to Islamic State and claims that their prophet Abu Bakr Baghdadi had been insulted.[180][181]


The majority of the perpetrators directly and indirectly involved in the 2004 Madrid train bombings were Moroccans. In the aftermath of that attack, Morocco became a focus of attention for anti-terrorist authorities in Spain.[182]

While Morocco is generally seen as a secure destination for tourists as the last terrorist attack happened in 2011 where 17 people were killed by bomb at a restaurant in Marrakesh, over 1600 people have travelled from Morocco to join the Islamic State in the Syrian Civil War. Moroccan authorities initially ignored the people who joined ISIS but later on realised they could return to commit terrorist offences in Morocco. As a result, the Bureau Central d'Investigations Judiciaires (BCIJ) was formed.[183]

In the 2013-2017 period anti-terrorist authorities in Morocco, in cooperation with their counterparts in Spain, conducted up to eleven joint operations against jihadist cells and networks.[182]

In 2016, the government developed a strategy to further adherence to the Maliki Islamic school of thought. The authorities removed Quranic passages that were deemed too violent from religion education textbooks. As a result, the textbooks were reduced to 24 lessons from the 50 lessons they had before.[182][184]

In 2017 it was estimated that Moroccans and 2000 Moroccan-Europeans had travelled to join the Islamic State caliphate in the Syrian Civil War, which along with other fighters from MENA countries contributed a significant force to ISIS.[182]

According to a researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies, Moroccan authorities appear to have a good grip on the jihadist situation and cooperates with European and US authorities. Moroccans are overrepresented in "diaspora terrorism", that is terrorism which takes place outside the borders of Morocco. For example, two Moroccans were behind the 2017 London Bridge attack and a Moroccan killed people by driving his van into pedestrians in La Rambla in the 2017 Barcelona terrorist attacks.[183]

Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon insurgency by Boko Haram

Boko Haram is an Islamic extremist group based in northeastern Nigeria which began violent attacks in 2009, also active in Chad, Niger and northern Cameroon. In the 2009-2018 period, more than 27 000 people have been killed in the fighting in the countries around Lake Chad.[185][186] Boko Haram consists of two factions, one is led by Abubakar Shekau and it uses suicide bombings and kill civilians indiscriminately. The other is named Islamic State West Africa Province and it generally attacks military and government installations.[186]

Somalia and the Horn of Africa

Al-Shabaab is a militant jihadist terrorist group based in East Africa, which emerged in 2006 as the youth wing of the Islamic Courts Union. A number of foreign jihadists[who?] have gone to Somalia to support al-Shabaab. In 2012, it pledged allegiance to the militant Islamist organization Al-Qaeda. It is a participant in the Somali Civil War, and is reportedly being used by Egypt to destabilize Ethiopia, and attracting converts from predominantly Christian Kenya.[185]

In 2010, the group killed 76 people watching the 2010 World Cup in Uganda.[187]

In 2017, al-Shabaab was estimated to have about 7000-9000 fighters. It has imposed a strict Sharia law in areas it controls, such as stoning adulterers and amputating hands of thieves.[185]


On 11 April 2002, a Tunisian Al-Qaeda operative used a truck bomb to attack the El Ghriba synagogue on Djerba island. The attack killed 19 people and injured 30 and was planned by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and financed by a Pakistani resident of Spain.[188][189]

On 18 March 2015, three militants attacked the Bardo National Museum in the Tunisian capital city of Tunis, and took hostages. Twenty-one people, mostly European tourists, were killed at the scene, and an additional victim died ten days later. Around fifty others were injured.[190][191][192] Two of the gunmen, Tunisian citizens Yassine Labidi and Saber Khachnaoui were killed by police. Police treated the event as a terrorist attack.[193][194]

In June 2015, a mass shooting claimed by the Islamic State was carried out at a hotel by Seifeddine Rezgui. Thirty-eight people were killed, the majority of whom were tourists from the United Kingdom.[195]

Central Asia


According to Human Rights Watch, Taliban and Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin forces have "sharply escalated bombing and other attacks" against civilians since 2006. In 2006, "at least 669 Afghan civilians were killed in at least 350 armed attacks, most of which appear to have been intentionally launched at civilians or civilian objects".[196]


Kyrgyz-American brothers Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing.


The government blamed the IMU (Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan) for training those responsible for carrying out a suicide car bombing of a police station in Khujand on 3 September 2010. Two policemen were killed and 25 injured.[197]


On 16 February 1999, six car bombs exploded in Tashkent, killing 16 and injuring more than 100, in what may have been an attempt to assassinate President Islam Karimov. The IMU was blamed.[198]

The IMU launched a series of attacks in Tashkent and Bukhara in March and April 2004. Gunmen and female suicide bombers took part in the attacks, which mainly targeted police. The violence killed 33 militants, 10 policemen, and four civilians.[199] The government blamed Hizb ut-Tahrir,[200] though the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) claimed responsibility.[201]

Furkat Kasimovich Yusupov was arrested in the first half of 2004, and charged as the leader of a group that had carried out the March 28 bombing on behalf of Hizb ut-Tahrir.[202]

On 30 July 2004, suicide bombers struck the entrances of the US and Israeli embassies in Tashkent. Two Uzbek security guards were killed in both bombings.[203] The IJU again claimed responsibility.[201]

Foreign commentators on Uzbek affairs speculated that the 2004 violence could have been the work of the IMU, Al-Qaeda, Hizb ut-Tahrir, or some other radical Islamic organization.[204][205]

East Asia


South Asia


In Bangladesh, the group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh was formed sometime in 1998, and gained prominence in 2001.[206] The organization was officially banned in February 2005 after attacks on NGOs, but struck back in August when 300 bombs were detonated almost simultaneously throughout Bangladesh, targeting Shahjalal International Airport, government buildings and major hotels.[207][208]

The Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), also called Ansar Bangla is an Islamic extremist organization in Bangladesh, implicated in crimes including some brutal attacks and murders of atheist bloggers from 2013 to 2015 and a bank heist in April 2015.[209]

Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (Arabic: ? ‎, ?arkat al-Jih?d al-Isl?miyah, meaning "Islamic Jihad Movement", HuJI) is an Islamic fundamentalist organisation most active in South Asian countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh and India since the early 1990s. It was banned in Bangladesh in 2005.


Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Al Badr & Hizbul Mujahideen are militant groups seeking accession of Kashmir to Pakistan from India.[210] The Lashkar leadership describes Indian and Israel regimes as the main enemies of Islam and Pakistan.[211] Lashkar-e-Toiba, along with Jaish-e-Mohammed, another militant group active in Kashmir are on the United States' foreign terrorist organizations list, and are also designated as terrorist groups by the United Kingdom,[212] India, Australia[213] and Pakistan.[214] Jaish-e-Mohammed was formed in 1994 and has carried out a series of attacks all over India.[215][216] The group was formed after the supporters of Maulana Masood Azhar split from another Islamic militant organization, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen. Jaish-e-Mohammed is viewed by some as the "deadliest" and "the principal terrorist organization in Jammu and Kashmir".[217] The group was also implicated in the kidnapping and murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl.[217] All these groups coordinate under leadership of Syed Salahuddin's United Jihad Council.

Some major bomb blasts and attacks in India were perpetrated by Islamic militants from Pakistan, e.g. the 2008 Mumbai attacks and 2001 Indian Parliament attack.[218][circular reference]

2006 Mumbai train bombings killed 209 people and injured 700 more. It was carried out by banned Students Islamic Movement of India terrorist groups.[219]


Sri Lanka

The 2019 Sri Lanka Easter bombings, orchestrated by the National Thowheeth Jama'ath,[220] were the deadliest terrorist attack in the country since its civil war ended on May 16, 2009.

Southeast Asia



The Abu Sayyaf Group, also known as al-Harakat al-Islamiyya, is one of several militant Islamic-separatist groups based in and around the southern islands of the Philippines, in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Jolo, Basilan, and Mindanao) where for almost 30 years various Muslim groups have been engaged in an insurgency for a state, independent of the predominantly Christian Philippines. The name of the group is derived from the Arabic , abu ("father of") and sayyaf ("Swordsmith").[221] Since its inception in the early 1990s, the group has carried out bombings, assassinations, kidnappings and extortion in their fight for an independent Islamic state in western Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago with the stated goal of creating a pan-Islamic superstate across southeast Asia, spanning from east to west; the island of Mindanao, the Sulu Archipelago, the island of Borneo (Malaysia, Indonesia), the South China Sea, and the Malay Peninsula (Peninsular Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar).[222] The U.S. Department of State has branded the group a terrorist entity by adding it to the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.[222]


Most of the terrorist incidents in Thailand are related to the South Thailand insurgency.


Lethal attacks on civilians in Europe which have been credited to Islamist terrorism include the 2004 bombings of commuter trains in Madrid, where 191 people were killed, the 7 July 2005 London bombings, also of public transport, which killed 52 commuters, and the 2015 Charlie Hebdo shooting, in Paris, where 12 people were killed in response to the satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo depicting cartoons of Muhammad. On November 13, 2015 the French capital suffered a series of coordinated attacks, claimed by ISIS, that killed 129 people in restaurants, the Bataclan theatre and the Stade de France.[224]

Out of 1,009 arrests for terrorism in 2008, 187 were in relation to Islamist terrorism. The report showed that the majority of Islamist terror suspects were second or third generation immigrants.[225]

In 2009, a Europol report showed that more than 99% of terrorist attacks in Europe over the last three years were, carried out by non-Muslims.[225][page needed] Swedish economist Tino Sanandaji has criticised the use of statistics where the number of attacks are counted instead of the number of killed, since 79% of terrorist deaths 2001-2011 in Europe were due to Islamic terrorism. Therefore, statistics focusing on the number of attacks instead of the number killed are exploited by those who wish to trivialise the phenomenon.[226] The great difference in the number of attacks versus the number of killed is that separaist attacks in Spain, typically involve vandalism and not killing. So in statistics, the global terrorist plot leading to the 9/11 attack and a party headquarters being vandalised and painted with slogans by domestic terrorists each count as one terrorist attack.[226] According to a report by Europol on terrorism in the European Union, in 2016 "nearly all reported fatalities and most of the casualties were the result of jihadist terrorist attacks." A majority of about two-thirds of all terrorist-related arrests in the EU were also jihadist-related.[227]

The majority of deaths by terrorism in Europe from 2001 to 2014 were caused by Islamic terrorism, not including Islamic terrorist attacks in European Russia.[228]

According to the British think tank[229]ICSR, up to 40% of terrorist plots in Europe are part-financed through petty crime such as drug-dealing, theft, robberies, loan fraud and burglaries. Jihadists use ordinary crime as a way to finance their activity and have also argued this to be the "ideologically correct" way to wage jihad in non-Muslim lands.[230]

The pattern of jihadist attacks in 2017 led Europol to conclude that terrorists preferred to attack people rather than causing property damage or loss of capital.[231]

According to Europol, the jihadist attacks in 2017 had three patterns:[232]

The agency's report also noted that jihadist attacks had caused more deaths and casualties than any other type of terrorist attack, that such attacks had become more frequent, and that there had been a decrease in the sophistication and preparation of the attacks.[233]

According to Susanne Schröter, the 2017 attacks in European countries showed that the military defeat of the Islamic State did not mean the end of Islamist violence. Schröter also wrote that the events in Europe looked like a delayed implementation of jihadist strategy formulated by Abu Musab al-Suri in 2005, where an intensification of terror should destabilise societies and encourage Muslim youth to revolt. The expected civil war never materialised Europe, but did occur in other regions such as North Africa and the Philippines.[234]

In April 2018, EU anti-terror coordinator estimated there to be 50,000 radicalized Muslims living in Europe.[235]


In the 1990s Belgium was a transit country for Islamist terrorist groups like the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria (GIA) and the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM).[236]

Belgium has a population of 11 million including large numbers of immigrants from Muslim countries. 100,000 Moroccan citizens live in Belgium, often descended from Moroccans recruited to work in the mining industry in the 1960s; a small fraction of the children and grandchildren of the immigrant generation have been attracted to Militant Islamism and jihad. A tiny fraction of this large Muslim population has participated in terrorist attacks.[237] In a report by the Combating Terrorism Center, of the 135 individuals surveyed in connection with terrorism, there were 12 different nationalities. Of those 65% had Belgian citizenship and 33% were either Moroccan citizens or had ancestral roots there.[238]

In 2016, Belgian researcher estimated that about 562 individuals had travelled to become foreign fighters in the Syrian and Iraqi Civil Wars, the majority of whom joined the Islamic State with others joining the al-Qaida-affiliated group Al-Nusra Front.[239] The majority of those who went to the Syria in the 2012-2016 time span were of Moroccan descent according to U.S. and Belgian authorities.[240]

Belgium has been the base of operations for a number of terrorist attacks in the 2010s, including the November 2015 Paris attacks.[237] It has also been the place where some Islamist militants developed militant views before going to the Middle East to fight with ISIS.[237]

In June 2016, with 451 fighters having travelled to join the Syrian Civil War, Belgium had the highest number of foreign fighters per capita.[236]

The November 2015 Paris attacks in France were coordinated and planned from Belgium. The overall leader of that terrorist cell was believed to be Mohamed Belkaid, an Islamic State operative from Algeria who previously had lived in Sweden. Belkaid was killed in a shootout in the Foret district of Brussels, during which Belkaid was firing on police to allow Salah Abdeslam to escape. Salah Abdeslam was arrested a few days later and the surviving members of the cell, including brothers Najim Laachraoui and Khalid and Ibrahim Bakraoui (previously armed robbers) launched the 2016 Brussels bombings targeting Brussels airport and metro killing 32.[236]

Terrorism experts regard ISIS activities in Europe's Francophone area as a single, French-Belgian nexus of Islamic State activity and attacks.[241]


France its first occurrences with religious extremism in the 1980s due to French involvement in the Lebanese civil war. In the 1990s, a series of attacks on French soil were executed by the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria (GIA).

In the 1990-2010 time span, France experienced repeated attacks linked to international jihadist movements.[182]Le Monde reported on 26 July 2016 that "Islamist Terrorism" had caused 236 dead in France in the preceding 18-month period.[242]

In the 2015-2018 timespan in France, 249 people been killed in terrorist attacks and 928 wounded in a total of 22 terrorist attacks.[243]

The deadly attacks in 2015 in France changed the issue of Islamist radicalization from a security threat to also constitute a social problem. Prime minister François Hollande and prime minister Manuel Valls saw the fundamental values of the French republic being challenged and called them attacks against secular, enlightenment and democratic values along with "what makes us who we are".[182]

Although jihadists in the 2015-onward timeframe legitimized their attacks with a narrative of reprisal for France's participation in the international coalition fighting the Islamic State, Islamic terrorism in France has other, deeper and older causes. The three main reasons France is attacked are, in no particular order:[244]

  • France's foreign policy towards Muslim countries and jihadist fronts. France is seen as the spearhead directed against jihadist groups in Africa, just as the United States is seen as the main force opposing jihadist groups elsewhere. France's former foreign policies such as that as its colonization of Muslim countries is also brought up in jihadist propaganda, for example that the influence of French education, culture and political institutions had served to erase the Muslim identity of those colonies and their inhabitants.[244]
  • France's secular domestic policies (Laïcité) which jihadists perceive to be hostile towards Islam. Also France's status as an officially secular nation and jihadists label France as "the flagship of disbelief".[244]
  • Jihadists consider France as a strong proponent of disbelief. For instance, Marianne, the national emblem of France, is considered as "a false idol" by jihadists and the French to be "idol worshippers". France also has no law against blasphemy and an anticlerical satirical press which is less respectful towards religion than that of the US or the United Kingdom. The French nation state is also perceived as an obstacle towards establishing a caliphate.[244]


In the 2015-2020 time span, there were 9 Islamic terrorist attacks and thwarted terrorist plots where at least one of the perpetrators had entered Germany as an asylum seekers during the European migrant crisis. The Islamic terrorists entered Germany either without identity documents or with falsified documents. The number of discovered plots began to decline in 2017. In 2020 German authorities noted that the majority of the asylum seekers entered Germany without identification papers during the crisis and security agencies considered unregulated immigration as problematic from a security aspect.[245]


Despite its proximity to the Middle East and North Africa, relatively porous borders, and a large influx of migrants from Muslim majority countries, Italy has not experienced the same surge in radicalization as other European countries. Just 125 individuals with ties to Italy left to join jihadist groups, compared with Belgium's 470 and Sweden's 300 such individuals in the same period from their much smaller populations. Since the September 11 attacks in 2001, there have been a small number of plots either thwarted or failed. Two individuals born in Italy have been involved in terrorist attacks, Youssef Zaghba one of the trio of attackers in the June 2017 London Bridge attack while ISIS sympathizer Tomasso Hosni attacked soldiers at Milan's Central station in May 2017.[182]

Deportation (expulsion) of suspects who are foreign nationals has been the cornerstone of Italy's preventive counter-terrorism strategy against jihadists.[246] Deportees are prohibited from re-entering Italy and the entire Schengen Area for at least five years. This measure is particularly effective because in Italy, unlike in other Western European countries, many radicalized Muslims are first-generation immigrants without Italian citizenship. As elsewhere in Europe, prison inmates show signs of radicalization while incarcerated. In 2018, 41 individuals were deported upon release.[246] Of the 147 people deported from 2015 to 2017, all were related to Islamist radicalization and 12 were imams.[247] From January 2015 to April 2018, 300 individuals were expelled from Italian soil.[182] The vast majority of the deportees come from North Africa, with most of the deportees come from Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt. A noted group came from the Balkans, with 13 individuals from Albania, 14 from Kosovo and 12 from Macedonia. A smaller group were from Asia, with Pakistanis constituting the largest group.[247]


In 2012, two men were sentenced in Oslo to seven and a half years in jail for an attack against Mohammad-cartoonist Kurt Westergaard. This was the first sentence under the new anti-terror legislation. A third man was freed from the accusation of terrorism, but was sentenced for helping with explosives and he received a fourth month prison sentence.[248]


In 2015, the terrorist threat level was zero, on its scale which has four levels plus the "zero level". About 20-40 Polish nationals had travelled to the conflict zone in Syria-Iraq.[249]


Beslan school victim photos

Politically and religiously motivated attacks on civilians in Russia have been traced to separatist sentiment among the largely Muslim population of its North Caucasus region, particularly in Chechnya, where the central government of the Russian Federation has waged two bloody wars against the local secular separatist government since 1994. In the Moscow theater hostage crisis in October 2002, three Chechen separatist groups took an estimated 850 people hostage in the Russian capital; at least 129 hostages died during the storming by Russian special forces, all but one killed by the chemicals used to subdue the attackers (whether this attack would more properly be called a nationalist rather than an Islamist attack is in question). In the September 2004 Beslan school hostage crisis more than 1,000 people were taken hostage after a school in the Russian republic of North Ossetia-Alania was seized by a pro-Chechen multi-ethnic group aligned to Riyad-us Saliheen Brigade of Martyrs; hundreds of people died during the storming by Russian forces.[250]

Since 2000, Russia has also experienced a string of suicide bombings that killed hundreds of people in the Caucasian republics of Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia, as well as in Russia proper including Moscow. Responsibility for most of these attacks were claimed by either Shamil Basayev's Islamic-nationalist rebel faction or, later, by Dokka Umarov's pan-Islamist movement Caucasus Emirate which is aiming to unite most of Russia's North Caucasus as an emirate since its creation in 2007.[251] Since the creation of the Caucasus Emirate, the group has abandoned its secular nationalist goals and fully adopted the ideology of Salafist-takfiri Jihadism[252] which seeks to advance the cause of Allah on the earth by waging war against the Russian government and non-Muslims in the North Caucasus, such as the local Sufi Muslim population, whom they view as mushrikeen (polytheists) who do not adhere to true Islamic teachings. In 2011, the U.S. Department of State included the Caucasus Emirate on its list of terrorist organisations.[253]


Jihadists were present in Spain from 1994, when an al-Qaeda cell was established.[254] In 1996, the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria (GIA), an organisation affiliated with al-Qaeda, founded a cell in the province of Valencia.[255] In the 1995-2003 period, slightly over 100 people were arrested for offences releated to militant salafism, an average of 12 per year.[254]

In 2004, Madrid commuters suffered the 2004 Madrid train bombings, which were perpetrated by remnants of the first al-Qaeda cell, members of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM) plus a gang of criminals turned into jihadists.[254]

In the period 2004-2012, the there were 470 arrests, an average of 52 per year and four times the pre-Madrid bombings average which indicated that the jihadist threat persisted after the Madrid attack. In the years after the Madrid attack, 90% of all jihadists convicted in Spain were foreigners, mainly from Morocco, Pakistan and Algeria, while 7 out of 10 resided in the metropolitan areas of Madrid or Barcelona. The vast majority were involved in cells linked to organisations such as al-Qaeda, the GICM, the Algerian salafist group Group for Preaching and Combat which had replaced the GIA, and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan.[254]

In the period 2013, jihadism in Spain transformed to be less overwhelmingly associated with foreigners. Arrests 2013-2017 show that 4 out of 10 arrested were Spanish nationals and 3 out of 10 were born in Spain. Most others had Morocco as country of nationality or birth with its main focus among Moroccan descendants residing in the North African cities of Ceuta and Melilla. The most prominent jihadist presence was the province of Barcelona.[254] In 2013 and 2014 there were cells associated with Al-Nusra Front, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.[254]

In 2017, a terrorist cell based in the province of Bacelona carried out the vehicle ramming 2017 Barcelona attacks, even if their original plans were on a larger scale.[254]

In April 2018 there were an estimated 5000 radicalized Muslims living on Spanish soil.


According to the Swedish Defence University, since the 1970s, a number of residents of Sweden have been implicated in providing logistical and financial support to or joining various foreign-based transnational Islamic militant groups. Among these organizations are Hezbollah, Hamas, the GIA, Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, Al-Shabaab, Ansar al-Sunna and Ansar al-Islam.[256]

In the 2000s, Islamists in Sweden were not primarily seeking to commit attacks in Sweden, but were rather using Sweden as a base of operations against other countries and for providing logistical support for groups abroad.[257]

In 2010, the Swedish Security Service estimated that a total of 200 individuals were involved in the Swedish violent Islamist extremist milieu. According to the Swedish Defence University, most of these militants were affiliated with the Islamic State, with around 300 people traveling to Syria and Iraq to join the group and Al-Qaeda associated outfits like Jabhat al-nusra in the 2012-2017 period[256] and some have financed their activities with funds from the Swedish state welfare systems.[258] In 2017, Swedish Security Service director Anders Thornberg stated that the number of violent Islamic extremists residing in Sweden to number was estimated to be "thousands".[259] The Danish Security and Intelligence Service judged the number of jihadis in Sweden to be a threat against Denmark since two terrorists arriving from Sweden had already been sentenced in the 2010 Copenhagen terror plot.[260] Security expert Magnus Ranstorp has argued that efforts to improve anti-terror legislation has been hampered by human rights activists such as Ywonne Ruwaida, Mehmet Kaplan and the organisation Charta 2008 [sv]. A change in the activism occurred in the 2013/14 time frame due to the number of Swedish citizens travelling to join the Islamic State. He also stated that some of the loudest activists have withdrawn from public debate after being exposed for harassing women in the metoo campaign.[261]

Islamic terror attacks in Sweden

In 2010, Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, an Iraqi-born Swedish citizen, attempted to kill Christmas shoppers in Stockholm in the 2010 Stockholm bombings. According to investigations by FBI, the bombing would likely have killed between 30 and 40 people had it succeeded, and it is thought that al-Abdaly operated with a network.[262]

In April 2017 Rakhmat Akilov, a 39-year-old rejected asylum seeker born in the Soviet Union and a citizen of Uzbekistan, drove a truck down a pedestrian area in Stockholm and killed five people and injured dozens of others in the 2017 Stockholm truck attack. He has expressed sympathy with extremist organizations, among them the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL),[263]


Middle East/West Asia


Historians have said that militant Islamism first gained ground among Kurds before its appeal grew among ethnic Turks and that the two most important radical Islamist organizsations have been an outgrowth of Kurdish Islamism rather than Turkish Islamism.[264] The Turkish or Kurdish Hizbullah is a primarily Kurdish group has its roots in the predominantly Kurdish southeast of Turkey and among Kurds who migrated to the cities in Western Turkey.[264] The members of the IBDA-C were predominantly Kurds, most members if not all are ethnic Kurds like its founder, as in the Hizbullah. The IBDA-C stressed its Kurdish roots, and is fighting Turkish secularism, and is also anti-Christian. The Hizbula reestablished in 2003 in southeastern Turkey and "today its ideology might be more widespread thean ever among Kurds there".[264] The influence of these groups confirms "the continuing Kurdish domination of Turkish islamism". Notable Kurdish Islamists include also[265](an Iraqi Kurd born in Sudan) co-founder of the Islamist terrorist network al-Qaeda. There is a strong Kurdish element in Turkish radical Islamism.[264] Kurdish and Turkish Islamists have also co-operated together, one example being the 2003 Istanbul bombings, and this co-operation has also been observed in Germany, as in the case of the Sauerland terror cell. Political scientist Guido Steinberg stated that many top leaders of Islamist organizations in Turkey fled to Germany in the 2000s, and that the Turkish Hizbullah has also "left an imprint on Turkish Kurds in Germany".[264] Also many Kurds from Iraq (there are about 50,000 to 80,000 Iraqi Kurds in Germany) financially supported Kurdish-Islamist groups like Ansar al Islam.[264] Many Islamists in Germany are ethnic Kurds (Iraqi and Turkish Kurds) or Turks. Before 2006, the German Islamist scene was dominated by Iraqi Kurds and Palestinians, but since 2006 Kurds and Turks from Turkey are dominant.[264]

Hezbollah in Turkey (unrelated to the Shia Hezbollah in Lebanon) is a Sunni terrorist group[266] accused of a series of attacks, including the November 2003 bombings of two synagogues, the British consulate in Istanbul and HSBC bank headquarters that killed 58.[267] Hizbullah's leader, Hüseyin Velio?lu, was killed in action by Turkish police in Beykoz on 17 January 2000. Besides Hizbullah, other Islamic groups listed as a terrorist organization by Turkish police counter-terrorism include Great Eastern Islamic Raiders' Front, al-Qaeda in Turkey, Tevhid-Selam (also known as al-Quds Army) and Caliphate State. Islamic Party of Kurdistan and Hereketa ?slamiya Kurdistan are also Islamist groups active against Turkey, however unlike Hizbullah they're yet to be listed as active terrorist organizations in Turkey by Turkish police counter-terrorism.[268]


The area that has seen some of the worst terror attacks in modern history has been Iraq as part of the Iraq War. In 2005, there were more than 400 incidents of suicide bombing attacks, killing more than 2,000 people.[269] In 2006, almost half of all reported terrorist attacks in the world (6,600), and more than half of all terrorist fatalities (13,000), occurred in Iraq, according to the National Counterterrorism Center of the United States.[270] Along with nationalist groups and criminal, non-political attacks, the Iraqi insurgency includes Islamist insurgent groups, such as Al-Qaeda in Iraq, who favor suicide attacks far more than non-Islamist groups. At least some of the terrorism has a transnational character in that some foreign Islamic jihadists have joined the insurgency.[271]

Israel and the Palestinian territories

Hamas ("zeal" in Arabic and an acronym for Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya) grew in power and began attacks on military and civilian targets in Israel at the beginning of the First Intifada in 1987.[272] The 1988 charter of Hamas calls for the destruction of Israel.[273] Hamas's armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, was established in mid 1991[274] and claimed responsibility for numerous attacks against Israelis, principally suicide bombings and rocket attacks. Hamas has been accused of sabotaging the Israeli-Palestine peace process by launching attacks on civilians during Israeli elections to anger Israeli voters and facilitate the election of harder-line Israeli candidates.[275] Hamas has been designated as a terrorist group by Canada, the United States, Israel, Australia, Japan, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and Human Rights Watch. It is banned in Jordan. Russia does not consider Hamas a terrorist group as it was "democratically elected".[276] During the second intifada (September 2000 through August 2005) 39.9 percent of the suicide attacks were carried out by Hamas.[277] The first Hamas suicide attack was the Mehola Junction bombing in 1993.[278] Hamas claims its aims are "To contribute in the effort of liberating Palestine and restoring the rights of the Palestinian people under the sacred Islamic teachings of the Holy Quran, the Sunna (traditions) of Prophet Mohammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and the traditions of Muslims rulers and scholars noted for their piety and dedication."[274]

Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine is a Palestinian Islamist group based in the Syrian capital, Damascus, and dedicated to waging jihad to eliminate the state of Israel. It was formed by Palestinian Fathi Shaqaqi in the Gaza Strip following the Iranian Revolution which inspired its members. From 1983 onward, it engaged in "a succession of violent, high-profile attacks" on Israeli targets. The Intifada which "it eventually sparked" was quickly taken over by the much larger Palestine Liberation Organization and Hamas.[279] Beginning in September 2000, it started a campaign of suicide bombing attacks against Israeli civilians. The PIJ's armed wing, the Al-Quds brigades, has claimed responsibility for numerous terrorist attacks in Israel, including suicide bombings. The group has been designated as a terrorist organization by several Western countries.

Popular Resistance Committees is a coalition of a number of armed Palestinian groups opposed to what they regard as the conciliatory approach of the Palestinian Authority and Fatah towards Israel. The PRC is especially active in the Gaza Strip, through its military wing, the Al-Nasser Salah al-Deen Brigades.[280] The PRC is said to have an extreme Islamic worldview and operates with Hamas and the Islamic Jihad movement. The PRC has carried out several attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers including hundreds of shooting attacks and other rocket and bombing attacks.[281]

Other groups linked with Al-Qaeda operate in the Gaza Strip including: Army of Islam, Abdullah Azzam Brigades, Jund Ansar Allah, Jaljalat and Tawhid al-Jihad.


Hezbollah first emerged in 1982, as a militia during the 1982 Lebanon War.[282][283] Its leaders were inspired by the Ayatollah Khomeini, and its forces were trained and organized by a contingent of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.[284] Hezbollah's 1985 manifesto listed its three main goals as "putting an end to any colonialist entity" in Lebanon, bringing the Phalangists to justice for "the crimes they [had] perpetrated", and the establishment of an Islamic regime in Lebanon.[285][286] Hezbollah leaders have also made numerous statements calling for the destruction of Israel, which they refer to as a "Zionist entity... built on lands wrested from their owners."[285][286]

Hezbollah, which started with only a small militia, has grown to an organization with seats in the Lebanese government, a radio and a satellite television-station, and programs for social development.[287] They maintain strong support among Lebanon's Shi'a population, and gained a surge of support from Lebanon's broader population (Sunni, Christian, Druze) immediately following the 2006 Lebanon War,[288] and are able to mobilize demonstrations of hundreds of thousands.[289] Hezbollah along with some other groups began the 2006-2008 Lebanese political protests in opposition to the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.[290] A later dispute over Hezbollah preservation of its telecoms network led to clashes and Hezbollah-led opposition fighters seized control of several West Beirut neighborhoods from Future Movement militiamen loyal to Fouad Siniora. These areas were then handed over to the Lebanese Army.[291]

A national unity government was formed in 2008, in Lebanon, giving Hezbollah and its opposition allies control of 11 of 30 cabinets seats; effectively veto power.[292] Hezbollah receives its financial support from the governments of Iran and Syria, as well as donations from Lebanese people and foreign Shi'as.[293][294] It has also gained significantly in military strength in the 2000s.[295] Despite a June 2008 certification by the United Nations that Israel had withdrawn from all Lebanese territory,[296] in August, Lebanon's new Cabinet unanimously approved a draft policy statement which secures Hezbollah's existence as an armed organization and guarantees its right to "liberate or recover occupied lands". Since 1992, the organization has been headed by Hassan Nasrallah, its Secretary-General. The United States, Canada, Israel, Bahrain,[297][298][299] France,[300]Gulf Cooperation Council,[301] and the Netherlands regard Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, while the United Kingdom, the European Union[302] and Australia consider only Hezbollah's military wing or its external security organization to be a terrorist organization. Many consider it, or a part of it, to be a terrorist group[303][304] responsible for blowing up the American embassy[305] and later its annex, as well as the barracks of American and French peacekeeping troops and dozens of kidnappings of foreigners in Beirut.[306][307] It is also accused of being the recipient of massive aid from Iran,[308] and of serving "Iranian foreign policy calculations and interests",[306] or serving as a "subcontractor of Iranian initiatives"[307] Hezbollah denies any involvement or dependence on Iran.[309] In the Arab and Muslim worlds, on the other hand, Hezbollah is regarded as a legitimate and successful resistance movement that drove both Western powers and Israel out of Lebanon.[310] In 2005, the Lebanese Prime Minister said of Hezbollah, it "is not a militia. It's a resistance."[311]

Fatah al-Islam is an Islamist group operating out of the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon. It was formed in November 2006, by fighters who broke off from the pro-Syrian Fatah al-Intifada, itself a splinter group of the Palestinian Fatah movement, and is led by a Palestinian fugitive militant named Shaker al-Abssi.[312] The group's members have been described as militant jihadists,[313] and the group itself has been described as a terrorist movement that draws inspiration from al-Qaeda.[312][313][314] Its stated goal is to reform the Palestinian refugee camps under Islamic sharia law,[315] and its primary targets are the Lebanese authorities, Israel and the United States.[312]

Saudi Arabia



North America


According to recent government statements Islamic terrorism is the biggest threat to Canada.[316] The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) reported that terrorist radicalization at home is now the chief preoccupation of Canada's spy agency.[317] The most notorious arrest in Canada's fight on terrorism, was the 2006 Ontario terrorism plot in which 18 Al-Qaeda-inspired cell members were arrested for planning a mass bombing, shooting, and hostage taking terror plot throughout Southern Ontario. There have also been other arrests mostly in Ontario involving terror plots.[318]

United States

Between 1993 and 2001, the major attacks or attempts against U.S. interests stemmed from militant Islamic jihad extremism except for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.[319] On September 11, 2001, nearly 3,000 people were killed in New York City, Washington, DC, and Stonycreek Township near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, during the September 11 attacks organized by 19 al-Qaeda members and largely perpetrated by Saudi nationals, sparking the War on Terror. Former CIA Director Michael Hayden considers homegrown terrorism to be the most dangerous threat and concern faced by American citizens today.[320] As of July 2011, there have been 52 homegrown jihadist extremist plots or attacks in the United States since the September 11 attacks.[321]

One of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history was committed by a Muslim against LGBT people. Omar Mateen, in an act motivated by the terrorist group Islamic State, shot and murdered 49 people and wounded more than 50 in a gay nightclub, Pulse, in Orlando, Florida.[322]



South America


The 1992 attack on Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, was a suicide bombing attack on the building of the Israeli embassy of Argentina, located in Buenos Aires, which was carried out on 17 March 1992. Twenty-nine civilians were killed in the attack and 242 additional civilians were injured. A group called Islamic Jihad Organization, which has been linked to Iran and possibly Hezbollah,[323] claimed responsibility.

An incident from 1994, known as the AMIA bombing, was an attack on the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (Argentine Israelite Mutual Association) building in Buenos Aires. It occurred on July 18 and killed 85 people and injured hundreds more.[324] A suicide bomber drove a Renault Trafic van bomb loaded with about 275 kilograms (606 lb) of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and fuel oil explosive mixture,[325][326] into the Jewish Community Center building located in a densely constructed commercial area of Buenos Aires. Prosecutors Alberto Nisman and Marcelo Martínez Burgos formally accused the government of Iran of directing the bombing, and the Hezbollah militia of carrying it out.[327][328] The prosecution claimed that Argentina had been targeted by Iran after Buenos Aires' decision to suspend a nuclear technology transfer contract to Tehran.[329]

On 18 January 2015, Nisman was found dead at his home in Buenos Aires,[330][331] one day before he was scheduled to report on his findings, with supposedly incriminating evidence against high-ranking officials of the then-current Argentinian government including former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.[332][333][334]


Al-Qaeda's stated aim is the use of jihad to defend and protect Islam against Zionism, Christianity, Hinduism, the secular West, and Muslim governments such as Saudi Arabia, which it sees as insufficiently Islamic and too closely tied to the United States.[335][336][337][338] Formed by Osama bin Laden and Muhammad Atef in the aftermath of the Soviet-Afghan War in the late 1980s, al-Qaeda called for the use of violence against civilians and military of the United States and any countries that are allied with it.[]


See also


  1. ^ which is encapsulated in the formula "Islam is exalted and nothing is exalted above it".[14] Also World Assembly of Muslim Youth "which has publicly stated that one of its educational goals is to arm the Muslim youth with full confidence in the supremacy of the Islamic system over other systems."[15]


  1. ^ Augustus Richard Norton; Joseph A. Kéchichian (2009). "Terrorism". In John L. Esposito (ed.). The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195305135.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)(subscription required)
  2. ^ Thomas Hegghammer (2013). "Terrorism". In Gerhard Böwering, Patricia Crone (ed.). The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought. Princeton University Press. pp. 545-547.
  3. ^ "Global Terrorism Index Report 2015" (PDF). Institute for Economics & Peace. November 2015. p. 10. Retrieved 2016.
  4. ^ Global Terrorism Index 2016 (PDF). Institute for Economics and Peace. 2016. p. 4. Retrieved 2016.
  5. ^ Siddiqui, Mona (23 August 2014). "Isis: a contrived ideology justifying barbarism and sexual control". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 24 August 2014. Retrieved 2015.CS1 maint: unfit url (link)
  6. ^ Constanze Letsch. "Kurdish peshmerga forces arrive in Kobani to bolster fight against Isis". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015.
  7. ^ a b Charles Kurzman. "Islamic Statements Against Terrorism". Retrieved 2017.
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  9. ^ Christine Sisto (23 September 2014). "Moderate Muslims Stand against ISIS". National Review Online. Retrieved 2015.
  10. ^ a b c Holbrook, Donald (2010). "Using the Qur'an to Justify Terrorist Violence". Perspectives on Terrorism. Terrorism Research Initiative and Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence. 4 (3).
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  14. ^ Yohanan, Friedmann (2003). Morgan, David (ed.). Tolerance and Coercion in Islam: Interfaith Relations in the Muslim tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521827034. OCLC 57256339.
  15. ^ van Natta Jr., Don (17 September 2003). "Flow of Saudis' Cash to Hamas Is Scrutinized". New York Times. Retrieved 2019.
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  27. ^ Mohamad Jebara More Mohamad Jebara. "Imam Mohamad Jebara: Fruits of the tree of extremism". Ottawa Citizen.
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  47. ^ Bukhari 50:891
  48. ^ Quran (8:12)
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  57. ^ Scheuer (2004), p. 9
    "The focused and lethal threat posed to U.S. national security arises not from Muslims being offended by what America is, but rather from their plausible perception that the things they most love and value--God, Islam, their brethren, and Muslim lands--are being attacked by America."
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  62. ^ "Frontline: Al Qaeda's New Front: Interviews: Michael Scheuer". Retrieved 2008. Bin Laden has had success because he's focused on a limited number of U.S. foreign policies in the Muslim world, policies that are visible and are experienced by Muslims on a daily basis: our unqualified support for Israel; our ability to keep oil prices at a level that is more or less acceptable to Western consumers. Probably the most damaging of all is our 30-year support for police states across the Islamic world: the Al Sauds and the Egyptians under [Hosni] Mubarak and his predecessors; the Algerians; the Moroccans; the Kuwaitis. They're all police states.
  63. ^ Scheuer (2004), pp. 11-13
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