Profiles of Major Mideast Terrorist Groups
JERUSALEM — THE Middle East has the highest concentration of terrorist groups in the world. The primary objective of most of them is the creation of pure Islamic states or the destruction of Israel. The groups include:
Founded in late 1987 by members of the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood (the oldest Mideast Islamic movement promoting Islamic rule), Hamas seeks to destroy Israel and create a Palestinian Islamic state in its place.
Hamas has branches scattered throughout Gaza and the West Bank. It has offices in Damascus, the capital of Syria, and representatives in Jordan, Iran, Sudan, and Yemen.
The group has semiautonomous political and military wings, which don't always appear to agree on strategy. It is responsible for most of the recent attacks against Israel.
Its founder, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, is being held in an Israeli jail. Musa Abu Marzuk, leader of the political wing, is currently being held in a US jail.
It collects funds through mosques in Gaza and the West Bank, and from expatriates in the US and Europe and Islamic benefactors in Saudi Arabia and Iran. It is estimated that Hamas receives up to $70 million a year from foreign sources.
Founded in the mid-1980s by breakaway members of the Muslim Brotherhood, its goal also is to create an Islamic state where Israel now exists. It reportedly receives funds from Iran and Libya.
Its leader, Ramadan Abdallah Shalah, is based in Damascus, from where the organization is run. It has a far smaller following than Hamas does.
Founded by Iran in 1982 after Israel's invasion of Lebanon, Hizbullah is based in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. It wants to destroy Israel and create a pure Islamic state in the region. Hizbullah is heavily dependent on massive military supplies from Iran, which have to come through Syria.
Gamaa Islamiya (Islamic Group)
An Egyptian extremist group active since the early 1970s, the Islamic Group seeks to overthrow Egypt's government and replace it with an Islamic state. It regards Sheikh Omar abdel Rahman (recently convicted in the World Trade Center bombing) as its spiritual leader. It receives support from Iran, Sudan, and Afghan militant groups. Its source of funding is not known.
Armed Islamic Group (GIA)
The extremist offshoot of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) has waged a war of terror since Algeria canceled 1992 elections that FIS appeared about to win. Its goal is to nullify the current regime and create a pure Islamic state. Its tens of thousands of victims include government officials, civilians, journalists, and foreign residents.