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What Are the Ten Worst Terrorist Groups in the World?

Updated on September 3, 2017

Militant organizations use intimidation, robbery, murder and destruction to get what they want

The world seems a violent place. Terrorist groups can be found in countries throughout the planet. They may be religious, economic or political in nature but their goals are similar – the attainment and maintenance of power.

These groups could include entire countries, of course. Some people consider nations such as Iran and Syria, or even Israel and the United States, as terrorist organizations. Are they, or are they not?

This presents the question: Can civilization survive with thousands - or millions - of militant fanatics in existence? Nobody knows for certain, of course, but we’ll find out, one way or another. At any rate, let’s hope such terrorists never use weapons of mass destruction, which would make matters considerably worse.

To answer the question this article asks, please keep reading!

A family of klanspeople
A family of klanspeople

10. Ku Klux Klan

The Ku Klux Klan or KKK is a terrorist group that’s been existence since 1865, when former Confederate soldiers formed an organization whose goals were to advocate white supremacy and weaken or defeat the actions of the Federal Government during Reconstruction after the end of the American Civil War. Over the years, there have been three incarnations of the KKK, the most recent formed in 1946. The KKK has been responsible for numerous murders and bombings, some of which considered among the most infamous crimes in the history of the U.S. These days, the KKK has no central organization, but numerous splinter groups still exist, notably the Knights Party. Once numbered in the millions of members during the 1920s, members of the KKK supposedly total only in the thousands, at present. But, given sufficient stimulus – fear, hate and militant fanaticism - its membership could swell dramatically.

9. Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (People’s Army)

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia or FARC, a Spanish abbreviation, has existed since 1964. FARC is a Marxist-Leninist army of peasants dedicated to establishing agrarianism and anti-imperialism in Colombia. These are not terrible goals, it appears, yet FARC tries to succeed by engaging in kidnapping for ransom, illegal mining, extortion and the sale of illegal drugs. Essentially a guerrilla army numbering in the thousands, FARC has engaged in hostage taking and battles with the military and police for decades, at times controlling thousands of square miles of territory in southern Colombia. FARC has been blamed for numerous human rights violations, including torturing prisoners and inducting children into its army. It seems FARC will remain a threat to peace until the Colombian government either shifts dramatically to the left or wipes out FARC entirely.

8. Taliban

There may be as many as 5,000 Islamic terrorist groups in the world. The Taliban is an Islamic terrorist group that ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, calling its “government” the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Using a strict brand of Islamic law (Sharia), the Taliban governed ruthlessly, often murdering hundreds of civilians at a time and destroying the property of commercial interests that didn’t fall into line with their draconian political philosophy. Their treatment of women was abominable as well; they often executed women or sold them into sexual slavery. Then the U.S. invaded the country in October 2001 and overthrew the Taliban, at which point the Taliban became an insurgency group, some of them fleeing into neighboring Pakistan, from which they have been impossible to extricate. Given the violence and political strife in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it seems the Taliban will exist for some time to come.

7. Hamas

In existence since 1989, Hamas is a Palestinian, Islamic organization dedicated to establishing a Palestinian state, essentially by subduing or destroying Israel. Many countries do not consider Hamas a terrorist organization, though many do, including the United States and Israel. To attain its ends, Hamas has engaged in suicide attacks and bombings, the list of which is a very long one indeed. At times, dozens of people have been killed or injured. Setting off bombs in crowded buses is a tactic Hamas has often employed. Also, Hamas often launches rocket or mortar attacks against civilian targets. Hamas has also aligned itself with other terrorist groups, notably the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Muslim Brotherhood. To conclude, Hamas will probably remain a violent organization until Palestine becomes a nation large enough to give adequate living space to its population.

6. Sinaloa Cartel

There are drug terrorists too. The Sinaloa Cartel is perhaps the most powerful drug dealing, human trafficking and money laundering organization in the world; it may also be the most powerful organized crime syndicate. Operating primarily in the city of Culiacan in the state of Sinaloa in Mexico, the Sinaloa Cartel supplies much of the heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana consumed by folks in the U.S. Because of this, the Sinaloa Cartel is essentially at war with the governments of Mexico and the U.S., and this cartel is fully capable of waging war, being as heavily armed as many armies. Since its inception in 1989, to protect its interests, the Sinaloa Cartel has murdered thousands of people in Mexico and elsewhere. Ironically, the only good thing about Mexico’s many drug cartels is that they tend to fight each other. Nevertheless, only a full scale, government-launched military assault could possibly destroy the Sinaloa Cartel.

5. Al-Shabaab

Al-Shabaab, which means “The Youth,” is a militant jihadist organization which operates in Somalia, an anarchic land of pirates, robbers and murderous insurgents. Closely aligned with other terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and Boko Haram, the youthful men of al-Shabaab murder just anybody who gets in their way, even United Nations aid workers and rangers protecting Somalia’s elephants, which al-Shabab poaches for their ivory and then sells to help pay for expenses. (They reportedly killed 30,000 elephants in 2012.) Interestingly, the U.S. has launched drone strikes in Somalia, targeting al-Shabaab’s leaders, because the U.S. State Department considers al-Shabaab a global threat. This seems a wise decision, since members of al-Shabaab have committed acts of terrorism throughout the world, though they’re a much greater threat in the Horn of Africa.

4. Boko Haram

Parts of central Africa have been engaged in civil wars for decades, particularly countries such as Nigeria, an independent nation since 1960. Operating in Nigeria and other nearby countries, Boko Haram is a militant Islamic guerrilla army whose credo expresses the propagation of Islam and death to every aspect of the Western world. Simply wearing blue jeans in Nigeria could get one shot on sight by the forces of Boko Haram. Shockingly, Boko Haram generates most of its funds by kidnapping for ransom - notably foreign nationals - and robbery of all sorts; it also extorts local governments. Moreover, in recent years, Boko Haram has murdered hundreds of people, both soldiers and civilians. Appallingly, the Nigerian police and military personnel have fought murder with murder, by engaging in atrocities similar in content and scope to those of Boko Haram!

3. Hezbollah

Hezbollah, which means “party of Allah,” is a Shia-aligned political group, whose goals include destroying the nation of Israel – and the U.S., its number one ally - furthering jihad, particularly in the Middle East, and backing political groups that espouse their militant, sectarian philosophy. Based in Lebanon, Hezbollah counts as allies the Assad regime in Syria and the government of Iran. Since the early 1980s, Hezbollah has been blamed for many terror attacks and bombings, including the 1983 Beirut Barracks Bombing, the 1992 Israeli Embassy Attack in Buenos Aires, the 1996 Khobar Towers Bombing, and many others. Scores of these attacks have killed numerous people, including American civilians or soldiers. Also, on some of its infamous raids, Hezbollah has collaborated with al-Qaeda. It appears that as long as Israel and the U.S. exist, so will Hezbollah.

2. Al-Qaeda

Most Americans may think al-Qaeda is the world’s worst terrorist group, since they launched the 9/11 attacks and thereby began America’s War on Terror. Al-Qaeda is also a global terrorist organization, while many others are not. Moreover, it is so powerful that even the death of its leader, Osama bin Laden, perhaps the world’s most notorious terrorist ever, didn’t seem to alter its power, influence and capabilities. Advocating the radical Wahhabi interpretation of Islamic principles, al-Qaeda also seeks to conquer or destroy what it sees as heretics within Islam itself. At any rate, al-Qaeda seems determined to annihilate the U.S. with suicide attacks and bombings, or at least undermine its economy to the point of ruin. More implacable foes to the U.S. may not exist. All things considered, al-Qaeda may be the most difficult terrorist group to obliterate entirely. What horrible plans it may envision are anybody's guess!


ISIS is an acronym which translates as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Operating in these countries, ISIS is a well-organized group of Sunni jihadists that seeks to gain control of all Muslims in the world, beginning with those in the Middle East, particularly the region known as the Levant. ISIS seems as ruthless and horrific as any terrorist group in the world, killing thousands of civilians as it subdues urban and rural areas. Its leaders also like to decapitate people and show the videos on YouTube. Summary executions seem routine for them as well. But these brutal tactics have alienated other terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda, which labels ISIS as having “notorious intractability.” And other jihadist groups have refused to acknowledge the Muslim superiority ISIS seems to think it possesses. At any rate, ISIS is a terrorist organization that could be very dangerous, unless the U.S. and other countries derail its aspirations with potent military action.

© 2014 Kelley


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    • Kosmo profile image

      Kelley 3 years ago from California

      Thanks for the comment, Lerys. ISIS is certainly more of an open threat these days, but al-Qaeda hasn't gone away and remains a worldwide threat. Don't count them out. Later!

    • Lerys profile image

      Lerys 3 years ago

      ISIS is way stronger today than Al-Qaeda was in 2001. The threat Al-Qaeda represented then and the one ISIS is representing now are incomparable.

    • Jay C OBrien profile image

      Jay C OBrien 3 years ago from Houston, TX USA

      Yes, that is what is taught. The term, "Peace Officer" is the official term under the law. It is not my term.

    • Kosmo profile image

      Kelley 3 years ago from California

      Peace officers, or whatever you want to call them, should use nonlethal means when capturing suspects and perpetrators rather than blasting away with firearms, as they usually seem to do. They should all wear cameras too. Later!

    • Jay C OBrien profile image

      Jay C OBrien 3 years ago from Houston, TX USA

      I suggest moving from pacifism to Peace Activism. For example, Peace Officers are Peace Activists. The Texas Administrative Code defines Peace Officers, not police officers. There are courses for Peace Officers to do their job effectively using the least amount of force. We have to teach people to use less forceful techniques in the academy.

    • Kosmo profile image

      Kelley 3 years ago from California

      Yes, Jay C OBrien, thinking ahead is always a wise option to take, and I will do so. As for Jesus, yes he did appear to have an agenda. Anyway, the Buddha was a a peaceful guy, and he died of old age, so maybe pacifism has a chance after all. Later!

    • Jay C OBrien profile image

      Jay C OBrien 3 years ago from Houston, TX USA

      Remember, Jesus allowed himself to be taken so he would be executed in order to resurrect (NDE?) and therefore prove an afterlife actually exists.

      I suggest not allowing yourself to be taken. In other words, get smart, read the papers, watch TV and make an escape plan (physically and financially). Execute the plan if needed. Think ahead.

    • Kosmo profile image

      Kelley 3 years ago from California

      Thanks for the comment, Jay C OBrien. I like your idea of renouncing war and violence. It sounds great in theory but only Jesus actually tried it and look what happened to him. Later!

    • Jay C OBrien profile image

      Jay C OBrien 3 years ago from Houston, TX USA

      There will be wars and rumors of wars forever. Avoid all groups which employ violence. Take the Peace Testimony: Renounce war and violence for any reason or under any pretense whatsoever.

    • Kosmo profile image

      Kelley 3 years ago from California

      Mark the Quark, you're back! Hey, subversive interests are seemingly everywhere. What are we gonna do?!... Later!

    • profile image

      Mark the Quark 3 years ago

      Great article! Nicely frames the wide range of subversive interests at work here and abroad.


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