Few had heard of ISIS before it sent the Middle East into chaos. Now, American lives and dollars are attempting to stop the group from forming a caliphate in the Middle East.
ISIS isn’t alone: There are many other terrorist organizations whose goal is to create havoc and strike the West. Here are the nine biggest threats.
AL-QAEDA IN THE ISLAMIC MAGHREB
Leader: Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud
Operating Theater: North Africa
Stated Aims: al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has threatened targets in Europe and the United States. It’s raised some $50 million over the last decade, mainly through donations and ransoms. The State Department has designated it a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
ISLAMIC STATE OF IRAQ AND SYRIA (ISIS, ISIL, IS)
Leader: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
Operating Theater: Syria and Iraq
Stated Aims: ISIS is attempting to form a caliphate in the Middle East; it has set its sights on land from Saudi Arabia to Israel. While there’s debate about the group’s threat to the west, it has attracted thousands of foreign fighters to its ranks of what some say is over 35,000. The State Department has designated it a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
AL-QAEDA IN THE ARABIAN PENINSULA
Leader: Nasir al-Wuhayshi
Operating Theater: The Arabian Peninsula
Stated Aims: Under the leadership of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American Muslim, the group grew from a disorganized band of militants to a fighting force capable of sending Yemen into chaos. It was responsible for the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, which killed 17 sailors. It’s already been active on American shores; in 2009, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, a member of the group, opened fire on a military recruiting station in Arkansas, killing one. The State Department has designated it a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
Leader: Abubakar Shekau
Operating Theater: Northern Nigeria
Stated Aims: Boko Haram claims to want to form a caliphate in Nigeria, but all its really done since it rose to prominence in 2009 is kill Nigerians. Since then, human rights organizations estimate the group has killed 5,000 people (they’re also infamous for kidnapping almost 300 Nigerian school girls). Recently, the Nigerian government said its leader, Abubakar Shekau, was captured and killed. Last week, a video of him alive and well surfaced. The State Department has designated it a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
Leader: Ahmad Umar
Operating Theater: Horn of Africa
Stated Aims: Al Shabaab wants African troops out of Somalia, and has been waging a campaign of terror in Somalia, Kenya and Uganda in an attempt to accomplish this goal. It’s most successful operation occurred last September, when the group attacked a mall in Kenya, killing 68. They work in concert with Boko Haram and AQIM. U.S. officials are concerned that the group could strike in America, with attackers coming from the large Somali diaspora. The State Department has designated it a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
Leader: Muhsin al-Fadhli
Operating Theater: Syria
Stated Aims: Few had heard of the Khorasan Group before the American campaign against ISIS began. Little is known about the group, but Director of National Intelligence James Clapper stated in September, "In terms of threat to the homeland, Khorasan may pose as much of a danger as the Islamic State (IS)." The nature of this threat is unknown – some officials suspect they want to use explosives on airplanes - but the State Department has designated it a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
Leader: Muhsin al-Fadhli
Operating Theater: Syria and Lebanon
Stated Aims: Al Nusra is the formal al Qaeda affiliate in Syria. With 5,000 to 6,000 fighters, it’s been a great help to rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The group is considered a more regional threat, but as a part of al Qaeda, its stated aim is to strike the West. The State Department has designated it a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
Operating Theater: Southeast Asia
Stated Aims: Jemaah Islamiyah is responsible for the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people in Indonesia. Since then, it’s been involved in a series of smaller terror attacks and remains active in the region. It’s stated goal is to form a caliphate in Southeast Asia. The State Department has designated it a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
Leader: Maulana Fazlullah
Operating Theater: Pakistan
Stated Aims: The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan has come closest to striking America; this group planned the failed 2010 Times Square bombing. It also fights Afghan security forces in efforts to destabilize its neighbor. The State Department has designated it a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
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