Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) designations are an important element of our counterterrorism efforts. Designations of foreign terrorist groups expose and isolate these organizations, deny them access to the U.S. financial system, and create significant criminal and immigration consequences for their members and supporters. Moreover, designations can assist or complement the law enforcement actions of other U.S. agencies and other governments.
On September 30, 2015 the following FTO was designated by the Department of State: Jaysh Rijal Al-Tariq Al-Naqshabandi. In 2015, the Department of State also revoked the designations of the Revolutionary Organization 17 November on September 3 and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group on December 9.
Legal Criteria for Designation under Section 219 of the INA as amended:
- It must be a foreign organization.
- The organization must engage in terrorist activity, as defined in section 212 (a)(3)(B) of the INA (8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(3)(B)), or terrorism, as defined in section 140(d)(2) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1988 and 1989 (22 U.S.C. § 2656f(d)(2)), or retain the capability and intent to engage in terrorist activity or terrorism.
- The organization’s terrorist activity or terrorism must threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security (national defense, foreign relations, or the economic interests) of the United States.
U.S. Government Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations:
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aka Abdullah Azzam Brigades; Ziyad al-Jarrah Battalions of the Abdallah Azzam Brigades; Yusuf al-’Uyayri Battalions of the Abdallah Azzam Brigades
Description: Designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on May 30, 2012, the Abdallah Azzam Brigades (AAB) formally announced its establishment in a July 2009 video statement claiming responsibility for a February 2009 rocket attack against Israel. The group is divided into two branches: the Arabian Peninsula-based Yusuf al-’Uyayri Battalions of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades – named after Yusef al-‘Uyayri – and the Lebanon-based Ziyad al-Jarrah Battalions of the Abdallah Azzam Brigades, named after Lebanese citizen Ziad al Jarrah, one of the planners of the September 11 attacks on the United States.
Activities: After its initial formation, AAB relied primarily on rocket attacks against Israeli civilians. It is responsible for numerous rocket attacks fired into Israeli territory from Lebanon targeting – among other things – population centers, including Nahariya and Ashkelon.
In November 2013, AAB began targeting Hezbollah. AAB claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing outside the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, which killed 23 people and wounded more than 140, and warned it would carry out more attacks if Hezbollah did not stop sending fighters to Syria in support of Syrian government forces.
In February 2014, AAB again attacked Hezbollah for its involvement in the Syrian conflict, claiming a twin suicide bomb attack against the Iranian cultural center in Beirut, which killed four people. AAB was also believed to be responsible for a series of bombings in Hizballah-controlled areas around Beirut. In June 2014, AAB was believed to have targeted Lebanese General Security head Major General Abbas Ibrahim in a suicide bombing at a police checkpoint on the Beirut-Damascus highway; Ibrahim narrowly escaped. AAB has also been blamed for a suicide bombing in June 2014 in the Beirut neighborhood of Tayyouneh, which killed a security officer and wounded 25 people.
In February 2015, Lebanon’s military court charged four AAB suspects for their involvement in the June 2014 suicide bombings. During 2015, AAB also continued its involvement in the Syrian conflict. In June 2015, the group released photos of a training camp for its “Marwan Hadid Brigade” camp in Syria, likely located in Homs province.
Location/Area of Operation: AAB is based in Lebanon but operates in both Lebanon and Syria.
Funding and External Aid: Unknown
aka ANO; Arab Revolutionary Brigades; Arab Revolutionary Council; Black September; Fatah Revolutionary Council; Revolutionary Organization of Socialist Muslims
Description: Designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on October 8, 1997, the Abu Nidal Organization (ANO) was founded by Sabri al-Banna (aka Abu Nidal), after splitting from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1974. In August 2002, Abu Nidal died in Baghdad. Leadership of the organization after Nadal’s death remains unclear. ANO advocates the elimination of Israel and has sought to derail diplomatic efforts in support of the Middle East peace process.
Activities: The ANO has carried out terrorist attacks in 20 countries—killing or injuring almost 900 people. It has not staged a major attack against Western targets since the late 1980s and was expelled from its safe haven in Libya in 1999. Major attacks include those on the Rome and Vienna airports in 1985, the 1986 attack on the Neve Shalom Synagogue in Istanbul, the hijacking of Pan Am Flight 73 in Karachi in 1986, and the 1988 attack on the City of Poros day-excursion ship in Greece. The ANO was suspected of assassinating PLO Deputy Chief Abu Iyad and PLO Security Chief Abu Hul in Tunis in 1991, and a senior Jordanian diplomat in Beirut in 1994. In 2008, a Jordanian official apprehended an ANO member planning to carry out attacks in Jordan. There were no known ANO attacks in 2014 or 2015.
Location/Area of Operation: ANO associates may still exist in Lebanon, though they are likely inactive.
Funding and External Aid: Unknown
aka al-Aqsa Martyrs Battalion
Description: Designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on March 27, 2002, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade (AAMB) is composed of small cells of Fatah-affiliated activists that emerged at the outset of the al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000. AAMB strives to drive the Israeli military and West Bank settlers from the West Bank in order to establish a Palestinian state loyal to the Fatah.
Activities: AAMB employed primarily small-arms attacks against Israeli military personnel and settlers as the intifada spread in 2000, but by 2002 turned increasingly to attacks against Israeli civilians inside Israel. In January 2002, the group claimed responsibility for the first female suicide bombing in Israel. In 2010 and 2011, AAMB launched numerous rocket attacks on communities in Israel, including the city of Sederot and areas of the Negev desert. In November 2012, two men recruited by AAMB were arrested in connection with the stabbing of a student in Beersheba, Israel. That same year, AAMB claimed it had fired more than 500 rockets and missiles into Israel during Operation Pillar of Defense, the week-long Israeli Defense Force operation in Gaza.
In February 2015, AAMB declared an open war against Israel. In a TV broadcast in June 2015, AAMB asked Iran for funds to help the group in its fight against Israel. In the same broadcast, an AAMB fighter displayed a new two-mile tunnel crossing the border beneath Gaza and Israel, which the leader claimed would be used in the next rounds of battle. In October 2015, the group announced it had developed a new rocket, the K60, with a 40-mile firing range.
In addition to threatening and preparing for future attacks, AAMB continued attacking Israeli soldiers and civilians. In November 2015, the group claimed responsibility for a series of shootings against Israeli soldiers and civilians, including the October fatal shooting of husband and wife, Rabbi Eitam and Na’ama Henkin, in front of their four children.
Strength: Estimated at a few hundred members.
Location/Area of Operation: Most of AAMB’s operational activity is in Gaza but it has also planned and conducted attacks inside Israel and the West Bank. AAMB also has members in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.
Funding and External Aid: Iran has exploited AAMB’s lack of resources and formal leadership by providing funds and guidance, mostly through Hezbollah facilitators.
aka Jaysh al-Islam; Jaish al-Islam
Description: Designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on May 19, 2011, the Army of Islam (AOI), founded in late 2015, is a Gaza-based terrorist organization that is responsible for numerous terrorist acts against the Governments of Israel and Egypt, as well as British, New Zealand, and U.S. citizens. Led by Mumtaz Dughmush, AOI primarily operates in Gaza. AOI subscribes to a violent extremist Salafist ideology.
Activities: AOI’s terrorist activity includes a number of rocket attacks on Israel, the 2006 kidnapping of two journalists in Gaza (an American and a New Zealander), and the 2007 kidnapping of a British citizen in Gaza. AOI is also responsible for early 2009 attacks on Egyptian civilians in Cairo and Heliopolis, Egypt, and for planning the January 1, 2011 attack on a Coptic Christian church in Alexandria that killed 25 and wounded 100. On July 28, 2012, AOI released a statement that its member Nidal al ‘Ashi was killed fighting in Syria and in November 2012 announced that it had carried out rocket attacks on Israel in a joint operation with the Mujahidin Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC). In August 2013, an Israeli official reported that AOI leader Dughmush was running training camps in Gaza. In August 2014, Israeli forces reportedly intercepted and killed several AOI fighters allegedly planning to attack Israel. In September 2015, AOI reportedly released a statement pledging allegiance to ISIL. In the short post attributed to the group, AOI declared itself an inseparable part of the Sinai Province, the ISIL-branch in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
Strength: Membership is estimated in the low hundreds.
Location/Area of Operation: Gaza, Egypt, and Israel.
Funding and External Aid: AOI receives much of its funding from a variety of criminal activities in Gaza.
aka AAA; Band of Helpers; Band of Partisans; League of Partisans; League of the Followers; God’s Partisans; Gathering of Supporters; Partisan’s League; Esbat al-Ansar; Isbat al-Ansar; Osbat al-Ansar; Usbat al-Ansar; Usbat ul-Ansar
Description: Designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on March 27, 2002, Asbat al-Ansar (AAA) is a Lebanon-based violent Sunni extremist group composed primarily of Palestinians with links to al-Qa’ida (AQ) and other Sunni violent extremist groups. The group’s stated goals include thwarting perceived anti-Islamic and pro-Western influences in the country. The group remains largely confined to Lebanon’s refugee camps.
Activities: AAA first emerged in the early 1990s. In the mid-1990s, the group assassinated Lebanese religious leaders and bombed nightclubs, theaters, and liquor stores. The group has also plotted against foreign diplomatic targets. In October 2004, AAA member Mahir al-Sa’di was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment for his 2000 plot to assassinate then-U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Satterfield. Between 2005 and 2011, AAA members traveled to Iraq to fight Coalition Forces. AAA has been reluctant to involve itself in operations in Lebanon due in part to concerns of losing its safe haven in the Ain al-Hilwah refugee camp. AAA did not publicly claim any attacks in 2015.
Strength: The group has at least 650 members.
Location/Area of Operation: The group’s primary base of operations is the Ain al-Hilwah Palestinian refugee camp near Sidon in southern Lebanon.
Funding and External Aid: It is likely that the group receives money through international Sunni extremist networks.
aka the Islamic Resistance Movement; Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya; Izz al-Din al Qassam Battalions; Izz al-Din al Qassam Brigades; Izz al-Din al Qassam Forces; Students of Ayyash; Student of the Engineer; Yahya Ayyash Units; Izz al-Din al-Qassim Brigades; Izz al-Din al-Qassim Forces; Izz al-Din al-Qassim Battalions
Description: Designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on October 8, 1997, Hamas was established in 1987 at the onset of the first Palestinian uprising, or Intifada, as an outgrowth of the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. The armed element, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, has conducted anti-Israeli attacks, including suicide bombings against civilian targets inside Israel. Hamas also manages a broad, mostly Gaza-based, network of “Dawa” or ministry activities that include charities, schools, clinics, youth camps, fundraising, and political activities. After winning Palestinian Legislative Council elections in January 2006, Hamas gained control of significant Palestinian Authority (PA) ministries in Gaza, including the Ministry of Interior. As of 2015, the group retained control of Gaza.
Activities: Prior to 2005, Hamas conducted numerous anti-Israeli attacks, including suicide bombings, rocket launches, IED attacks, and shootings. Hamas has not directly targeted U.S. interests, although U.S. citizens have died and been injured in the group’s attacks against Israeli targets. In June 2007, after Hamas took control of Gaza from the PA and Fatah; the Gaza borders were closed and Hamas increased its use of tunnels to smuggle weapons into Gaza, using the Sinai and maritime routes. Hamas has since dedicated the majority of its activity in Gaza to solidifying its control, hardening its defenses, building its weapons caches, tightening security, and conducting limited operations against Israeli military forces.
Hamas fought a 23-day war with Israel from late December 2008 to January 2009. From November 14-21, 2012, Hamas fought another war with Israel during which it claims to have launched more than 1,400 rockets into Israel. Despite the Egypt-mediated ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in 2012, operatives from Hamas and Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) coordinated and carried out a November bus bombing in Tel Aviv that wounded 29 people. On July 8, 2014, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge in Gaza with the intent of preventing rocket fire into the country, which had increased following Israeli military operations after Hamas’ kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers. In March 2015, Amnesty International released a report in which it accused Hamas of committing war crimes for launching rockets and mortars into civilian areas in Israel during Operation Protective Edge. In May 2015, Amnesty International published another report declaring Hamas’ abduction, torture, and killing of Palestinians during the 2014 Gaza war was further evidence the group had committed war crimes.
Throughout 2015, Hamas continued preparing for attacks against Israel. In July, Hamas announced on Iranian television that it had built a new tunnel into Israel to carry out attacks. A month later, the group released a video showing members conducting training exercises while moving through its newly reconstructed tunnels. In October, Hamas ordered members to conduct suicide attacks in Israel. In November, Hamas fired two rockets into the Mediterranean Sea as part of its ongoing missile tests in preparation for any future war with Israel.
Strength: Several thousand Gaza-based operatives.
Location/Area of Operation: Since 2007, Hamas has controlled Gaza and also has a presence in the West Bank. The group retains leaders and facilitators that conduct political, fundraising, and arms-smuggling activities throughout the region. Hamas also has a presence in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.
Funding and External Aid: Historically, Hamas has received funding, weapons, and training from Iran. The group also raises funds in the Gulf countries and receives donations from Palestinian expatriates around the world. Hamas also receives donations from its charity organizations. Hamas’s supply lines have suffered since the crackdown on smuggling tunnels in the Sinai Peninsula by the Egyptian military.
aka the Party of God; Islamic Jihad; Islamic Jihad Organization; Revolutionary Justice Organization; Organization of the Oppressed on Earth; Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine; Organization of Right Against Wrong; Ansar Allah; Followers of the Prophet Muhammed
Description: Hezbollah was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on October 8, 1997. Formed in 1982 following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the Lebanon-based radical Shia group takes its ideological inspiration from the Iranian revolution and the teachings of the late Ayatollah Khomeini. The group generally follows the religious guidance of the Iranian Supreme Leader (which in 2015 was Ali Khamenei). Hezbollah is closely allied with Iran and the two often work together on shared initiatives, although Hezbollah also acts independently. Hezbollah shares a close relationship with Syria, and like Iran, provides assistance – including fighters – to Syrian regime forces in the Syrian conflict.
Activities: Hizballah’s terrorist attacks include the suicide truck bombings of the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983; the U.S. Embassy annex in Beirut in 1984; and the 1985 hijacking of TWA flight 847, during which U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem was murdered. Elements of the group were responsible for the kidnapping, detention, and murder of Americans and other Westerners in Lebanon in the 1980s. Hezbollah was implicated, along with Iran, in the 1992 attacks on the Israeli Embassy in Argentina and in the 1994 bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association in Buenos Aires. In 2000, Hezbollah operatives captured three Israeli soldiers in the Shebaa Farms area and, separately, kidnapped an Israeli non-combatant in Dubai. Although the non-combatant survived, on November 1, 2001, Israeli Army Rabbi Israel Weiss pronounced the soldiers dead. The surviving non-combatant and the bodies of the Israeli soldiers were returned to Israel in a prisoner exchange with Hezbollah in 2004.
Hezbollah is believed to have carried out two attacks against UN Interim Force in Lebanon peacekeepers: an attack in late July 2011 that wounded six French citizens and a second attack, days later, which injured three French soldiers. Also in 2011, four Hezbollah members were indicted by the UN-based Special Tribunal for Lebanon, an international tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. A fifth Hezbollah member, Hassan Habib Merhi, was indicted in October 2013.
In January 2012, Thai police detained Hezbollah operative Hussein Atris on immigration charges as he was attempting to depart Thailand. Atris, a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, was convicted of possessing bomb-making materials by a Thai court in September 2013 and sentenced to two years and eight months in prison. He was released in September 2014 and is believed to reside in Lebanon. In July 2012, a suspected Hezbollah operative was detained by Cypriot authorities for allegedly helping plan an attack against Israeli tourists on the island. On March 21, 2013, a Cyprus court found the operative guilty of charges based on his surveillance activities of Israeli tourists
Hezbollah was also responsible for the July 2012 attack on a passenger bus carrying 42 Israeli tourists at the Sarafovo Airport in Bulgaria, near the city of Burgas. The explosion killed five Israelis and one Bulgarian, and injured 32 others.
In May 2013, Hezbollah publicly admitted to playing a significant role in the ongoing conflict in Syria, rallying support for Syrian President Bashar al-Asad. Hizballah’s support for the Asad regime continued in 2015.
In 2015, the group also continued its operations against Israel. In January, Hezbollah fired rockets on an Israeli convoy, killing two Israeli soldiers. In a speech in Tehran in August, Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Shaykh Na’im Qasim declared Israel, the United States, and Takfiri groups as enemies of Islam and urged Muslims to fight against these enemies. In December, Hezbollah leader Nasrallah threatened attacks in revenge for the death of senior Hezbollah militant Samir Kuntar. Nasrallah claimed orders had already been given and fighters on the ground were preparing attacks.
In May 2015, Cypriot authorities arrested dual Lebanese-Canadian national Hussein Bassam Abdallah after finding 8.2 tons of liquid ammonium nitrate in the basement of a residence in Larnaca. Abdallah admitted to Cypriot authorities he was a member of Hezbollah. He was charged on five offenses, including participation in a terrorist organization and providing support to a terrorist organization, by the Republic of Cyprus and sentenced to six years in prison on June 29, 2015.
Strength: Tens of thousands of supporters and members worldwide.
Location/Area of Operation: Hezbollah is based in the southern suburbs of Beirut, the Bekaa Valley, and southern Lebanon. As evidenced by Hizballah’s activities during the course of 2012 and 2013, the group is capable of operating around the globe. Since 2013, Hezbollah fighters have assisted Asad regime forces in many areas across Syria.
Funding and External Aid: Iran continues to provide Hezbollah with training, weapons, and explosives, as well as political, diplomatic, monetary, and organizational aid; Syria has furnished training, weapons, and diplomatic and political support. Hezbollah also receives funding from private donations and profits from legal and illegal businesses. Hezbollah receives financial support from Lebanese Shia communities in Europe, Africa, South America, North America, and Asia. Hezbollah supporters are often engaged in a range of licit and illicit activities that benefit the group financially. These have included smuggling contraband goods, passport falsification, trafficking in narcotics, money laundering, and credit card, immigration, and bank fraud.
aka al-Qa’ida in Iraq; al-Qa’ida Group of Jihad in Iraq; al-Qa’ida Group of Jihad in the Land of the Two Rivers; al-Qa’ida in Mesopotamia; al-Qa’ida in the Land of the Two Rivers; al-Qa’ida of Jihad in Iraq; al-Qa’ida of Jihad Organization in the Land of the Two Rivers; al-Qa’ida of the Jihad in the Land of the Two Rivers; al-Tawhid; Jam’at al-Tawhid Wa’al-Jihad; Tanzeem Qa’idat al Jihad/Bilad al Raafidaini; Tanzim Qa’idat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn; The Monotheism and Jihad Group; The Organization Base of Jihad/Country of the Two Rivers; The Organization Base of Jihad/Mesopotamia; The Organization of al-Jihad’s Base in Iraq; The Organization of al-Jihad’s Base in the Land of the Two Rivers; The Organization of al-Jihad’s Base of Operations in Iraq; The Organization of al-Jihad’s Base of Operations in the Land of the Two Rivers; The Organization of Jihad’s Base in the Country of the Two Rivers; al-Zarqawi Network; Islamic State in Iraq; Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham; Islamic State in Iraq and Syria; ad-Dawla al-Islamiyya fi al-’Iraq wa-sh-Sham; Daesh; Dawla al Islamiya; Al-Furqan Establishment for Media Production; Islamic State; ISIL; ISIS
Description: Al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on December 17, 2004. In the 1990s, Jordanian militant Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi organized a terrorist group called al-Tawhid wal-Jihad to oppose the presence of U.S. and Western military forces in the Middle East and the West’s support for, and the existence of, Israel. In late 2004, he joined al-Qa’ida (AQ) and pledged allegiance to Usama bin Laden, at which point al-Tawhid wal-Jihad became known as AQI. Zarqawi traveled to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom and led his group against U.S. and Coalition Forces until his death in June 2006.
In October 2006, AQI publicly re-named itself the Islamic State in Iraq and in 2013 it adopted the moniker Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to express its regional ambitions as it expanded its operations to include the Syrian conflict. On May 15, 2014, the Department of State amended the Foreign Terrorist Organization designation of AQI to add several aliases, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and to make ISIL the organization’s primary name. ISIL is led by Specially Designated Global Terrorist Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, aka Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri, aka Abu Du’a. In June 2014, ISIL leader al-Baghdadi declared an Islamic caliphate.
Activities: As AQI, ISIL conducted numerous high profile attacks, including IED attacks against U.S. military personnel and Iraqi infrastructure, videotaped beheadings of Americans, suicide bombings against both military and civilian targets, and rocket attacks. ISIL perpetrates the majority of its suicide and mass casualty bombings in Iraq using foreign and Iraqi operatives. In 2014, ISIL was responsible for the majority of deaths of the more than 12,000 Iraqi civilians killed that year. ISIL was heavily involved in the fighting in Syria during 2014, including against other militant opposition groups, and participated in a number of kidnapping incidents against civilians, including aid workers and reporters.
ISIL remained active throughout 2015, conducting several large scale attacks across the globe. In January alone, an ISIL sympathizer killed a policewoman and attacked a Jewish supermarket in Vincennes, France, leaving five dead, including the policewoman. In November, ISIL detonated two suicide bombs in Beirut, leaving 43 dead and an estimated 239 wounded. Also in November, ISIL carried out seven coordinated attacks in Paris – outside restaurants, at a major sporting event attended by French President Francois Hollande and at a rock concert at the Bataclan concert hall – killing at least 130 and injuring more than 350 others. In December 2015, 14 people were killed and 22 injured when two ISIL supporters opened fire on the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California in an act of domestic terrorism.
In Iraq, ISIL’s use of military equipment captured in the course of fighting gave ISIL greater capabilities in line with a more conventional military force, including the reported use of eastern bloc tanks, artillery, and self-developed unmanned aerial drones. According to estimates from the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), acts of terrorism and violence killed more than 7,500 civilians and injured more than 13,800 in 2015. (Please see the Iraq report in Chapter 2,Country Reports on Terrorism, for a list of representative attacks.)
ISIL also committed multiple brutal murders against hostages and other victims in 2015, including beheading Japanese citizens Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto in January in Syria; killing U.S. aid worker Kayla Mueller in February after holding her captive in Syria; burning downed-Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasasbeh while locked in a cage in Syria in February; and the execution-style shootings of Norwegian Ole Johan Grimsgaard-Ofstad and Chinese Fan Jinghui in Syria in November.
Secretary Kerry has asserted that, in his judgment, ISIL is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims; and was also responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at these same groups and in some cases also against Sunni Muslims, Kurds, and other minorities.
In 2015, ISIL abducted, systematically raped, and abused thousands of women and children, some as young as eight years of age. Women and children were sold and enslaved, distributed to ISIL fighters as spoils of war, forced into marriage and domestic servitude, or subjected to physical and sexual abuse. ISIL established “markets” where women and children were sold with price tags attached and has published a list of rules on how to treat female slaves once captured. (For further information, refer to the Trafficking in Persons Report 2015,http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/2015/index.htm.)
Although ISIL has not claimed responsibility, ISIL was likely responsible for several attacks involving chemical-filled munitions in Iraq and Syria, including a sulfur mustard attack in Marea on August 21, 2015. The United States has been proactively working with our allies to dismantle this chemical weapons capability, as well as deny ISIL and other non-state actors access to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN)-useable materials and expertise through interdictions and strengthening the ability of regional governments to detect, disrupt, and respond effectively to suspected CBRN activity.
Strength: Estimates at year’s end suggested between 19,000 and 25,000.
Location/Area of Operation: ISIL’s operations are predominately in Iraq and Syria, but 2015 witnessed the continued creation of external ISIL branches based on preexisting governance boundaries. In 2015, ISIL claimed affiliates in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border (Khorasan) region, northern Nigeria, and the North Caucasus region. In 2014, ISIL had claimed affiliates in Algeria, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. In addition, supporters and associates worldwide inspired by the group’s ideology may be operating without direction from ISIL central leadership.
Funding and External Aid: ISIL receives most of its funding from a variety of businesses and criminal activities within areas it controls in Iraq and Syria. Criminal activities include robbing banks, smuggling oil, looting and selling antiquities and other goods, as well as extortion, human trafficking, and kidnapping for ransom.
aka Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis; Ansar Jerusalem; Supporters of Jerusalem; Ansar Bayt al-Maqdes; Ansar Beit al-Maqdis; ISIL Sinai Province; Islamic State-Sinai Province; Islamic State in the Sinai; Jamaat Ansar Beit al-Maqdis; Jamaat Ansar Beit al-Maqdis fi Sinaa; Sinai Province; Supporters of the Holy Place; The State of Sinai; Wilayat Sinai
Description: Originally designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on April 9, 2014, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM) rose to prominence in 2011 following the uprisings in Egypt. It is responsible for attacks against Israeli and Egyptian government and security elements, and against tourists in Egypt. In November 2014, ABM officially declared allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). In September 2015, the Department of State amended ABM’s designation to add the primary name ISIL Sinai Province (ISIL-SP).
Activities: ISIL-SP has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks against Israeli interests, including a July 2012 attack against a Sinai pipeline exporting gas to Israel and an August 2012 rocket attack on the southern Israeli city of Eilat. In September 2012, ISIL-SP militants attacked an Israeli border patrol, killing one soldier and injuring another.
In October 2013, ISIL-SP claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing targeting the South Sinai Security Directorate in el Tor, which killed three people and injured more than 45. In January 2014, ISIL-SP successfully downed an Egyptian military helicopter in a missile attack, killing five soldiers on board. In 2014 the group also claimed responsibility for four attacks involving car bombs and hand grenades in Cairo, which left six people dead and more than 70 wounded.
ISIL-SP has targeted government officials, including the September 2013 attempted assassination of the Egyptian Interior Minister, and the January 2014 assassination of the head of the Interior Minister’s technical office. In February 2014, ISIL-SP claimed responsibility for the bombing of a tour bus in the Sinai Peninsula, killing the Egyptian driver and three South Korean tourists; the attack was ISIL-SP’s first against foreign tourists.
In October 2014, ISIL-SP beheaded four individuals who it claimed spied for Israel. Also in October, ISIL-SP claimed an attack on a security checkpoint that killed 33 Egyptian soldiers and wounded 26 others, including civilians.
In April 2015, ISIL-Sinai claimed responsibility for three separate attacks on Egyptian security forces on the same day in Northern Sinai, which claimed the lives of 12 people, including one civilian. On November 4, ISIL-SP released an audio recording in which it claimed responsibility for the bombing of a Russian passenger plane carrying 224 people as it flew from the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg, Russia on October 31. All 224 passengers and seven crew members were killed. ISIL-SP also claimed a suicide bombing that killed four Egyptian police officers and wounded at least five civilians in northern Sinai in November 2015.
On August 5, 2015, ISIL-SP claimed responsibility for the July 22 abduction of Croatian citizen Tomislav Salopek, who worked as a topographer for a French energy company. Salopek was kidnapped in the western desert, approximately 20 km west of the Cairo suburb of 6th of October City. ISIL-SP demanded the release of all female Muslims in Egyptian prisons within 48 hours in exchange for Salopek. Salopek was ultimately beheaded and ISIL-SP claimed responsibility for the killing.
Strength: ISIL-SP is estimated to have several hundred fighters in the Sinai Peninsula and affiliated cells in the Nile Valley.
Location/Area of Operation: ISIL-SP operations are based out of the Sinai Peninsula, but its reach extends to Cairo, the Egyptian Nile Valley, as well as possibly more than 200 militants in Gaza.
Funding and External Aid: Although the source of ISIL-SP’s funding is largely unknown, there are indications that it may receive funding from external actors.
aka Islamic Jihad Group; Islomiy Jihod Ittihodi; al-Djihad al-Islami; Dzhamaat Modzhakhedov; Islamic Jihad Group of Uzbekistan; Jamiat al-Jihad al-Islami; Jamiyat; The Jamaat Mojahedin; The Kazakh Jama’at; The Libyan Society
Description: Designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on June 17, 2005, the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) is a Sunni violent extremist organization. The group splintered from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in the early 2000s and has been based in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Najmiddin Jalolov founded the organization as the Islamic Jihad Group in March 2002, but the group was renamed IJU in May 2005. Although IJU remains committed to overthrowing the Government of Uzbekistan, it also has a global agenda, demonstrated by its attacks on international forces in Afghanistan.
Activities: The IJU primarily operates against international forces in Afghanistan and remains a threat to Central Asia. IJU claimed responsibility for attacks in March and April 2004 in Uzbekistan, which targeted police at several roadway checkpoints and at a popular bazaar, killing approximately 47 people, including 33 IJU members, some of whom were suicide bombers. In July 2004, the group carried out near-simultaneous suicide bombings of the Uzbek Prosecutor General’s office and the U.S. and Israeli Embassies in Tashkent. In September 2007, German authorities disrupted an IJU plot to attack U.S. military bases and personnel by detaining and prosecuting three IJU operatives, including two German citizens. Foreign terrorist fighters from Germany, Turkey, and elsewhere in Europe continued to travel to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area to join IJU to fight against U.S. and Coalition Forces. In 2013, two IJU videos showed attacks against an American military base in Afghanistan and an IJU sniper shooting an Afghan soldier at a base in Afghanistan.
According to statements and photos released by the group, IJU participated in the April-September 2015 Taliban siege of Kunduz city. At least 13 police were killed in the attacks and according to a UN report, some 848 civilians were killed or wounded. In June 2015, IJU claimed it carried out multiple attacks in eastern Afghanistan with al-Qa’ida (AQ) and the Taliban, including an attack on an Afghan military base that killed “many apostate soldiers.” On July 22, the IJU stated it had expanded its base of operations and was engaged in activity in southern Afghanistan (in the provinces of Paktika, Paktia, and Nangarhar) and in Badakhshan and Kunduz. On August 20, IJU followed AQ and pledged allegiance to Mullah Mansour, the newly appointed leader of the Taliban.
Strength: 100 to 200 members
Location/Area of Operation: Based in Pakistan and active in Afghanistan; IJU members are also scattered throughout Central Asia and Europe.
Funding and External Aid: Unknown
aka American Friends of the United Yeshiva; American Friends of Yeshivat Rav Meir; Committee for the Safety of the Roads; Dikuy Bogdim; DOV; Forefront of the Idea; Friends of the Jewish Idea Yeshiva; Jewish Legion; Judea Police; Judean Congress; Kach; Kahane; Kahane Lives; Kahane Tzadak; Kahane.org; Kahanetzadak.com; Kfar Tapuah Fund; Koach; Meir’s Youth; New Kach Movement; Newkach.org; No’ar Meir; Repression of Traitors; State of Judea; Sword of David; The Committee Against Racism and Discrimination (CARD); The Hatikva Jewish Identity Center; The International Kahane Movement; The Jewish Idea Yeshiva; The Judean Legion; The Judean Voice; The Qomemiyut Movement; The Rabbi Meir David Kahane Memorial Fund; The Voice of Judea; The Way of the Torah; The Yeshiva of the Jewish Idea; Yeshivat Harav Meir
Description: Kach – the precursor to Kahane Chai – was founded by radical Israeli-American Rabbi Meir Kahane, with the aim of restoring Greater Israel, the term generally used to refer to Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Its offshoot, Kahane Chai (translation: “Kahane Lives”), was founded by Meir Kahane’s son Binyamin, following his father’s 1990 assassination in the United States. Both organizations were designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations on October 8, 1997. The group has attempted to gain seats in the Israeli Knesset over the past several decades but has won just one seat in 1984.
Activities: Kahane Chai has harassed and threatened Arabs, Palestinians, and Israeli government officials, and has vowed revenge for the death of Binyamin Kahane and his wife. The group is suspected of involvement in a number of low-level attacks since the start of the Second Palestinian Intifada in 2000. Since 2003, Kahane Chai activists have physically intimidated Israeli and Palestinian government officials who favored the dismantlement of Israeli settlements. There were no known Kahane Chai attacks during 2015.
Strength: Kahane Chai’s core membership is believed to be fewer than 100. The group’s membership and support networks are overwhelmingly composed of Israeli citizens that live mostly in West Bank settlements.
Location/Area of Operation: Israel and West Bank settlements, particularly Qiryat Arba in Hebron
Funding and External Aid: Kajame Cjao receives support from sympathizers in the United States and Europe.
aka PIJ; PIJ-Shaqaqi Faction; PIJ-Shallah Faction; Islamic Jihad of Palestine; Islamic Jihad in Palestine; Abu Ghunaym Squad of the Hezbollah Bayt al-Maqdis; Al-Quds Squads; Al-Quds Brigades; Saraya al-Quds; Al-Awdah Brigades
Description: Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on October 8, 1997. Formed by militant Palestinians in Gaza during the 1970s, PIJ is committed to the destruction of Israel through attacks against Israeli military and civilian targets and to the creation of an Islamic state in all of historic Palestine, including present day Israel.
Activities: PIJ terrorists have conducted numerous attacks, including large-scale suicide bombings against Israeli civilian and military targets. Although U.S. citizens have died in PIJ attacks, the group has not directly targeted U.S. interests. Between 2008 and 2011, PIJ primarily conducted rocket attacks aimed at southern Israeli cities and attacked Israeli targets with explosive devices. In November 2012, PIJ operatives, working with Hamas, detonated a bomb on a bus in Tel Aviv, wounding 29 civilians. In December 2013, four PIJ operatives were arrested by Israeli authorities for their role in a bus bombing near Tel Aviv. In March 2014, PIJ carried out a wave of rocket attacks into Israeli territory. While the group claimed it fired 130 rockets and mortars, 60 were believed to have reached Israel.
In early 2015, PIJ began re-arming and replenishing its ranks. In March, reports suggested that around 200 new recruits between the ages of 19 and 22 were undergoing various PIJ training programs lasting anywhere from 36 days to six months. Also in March, PIJ revealed its militants were smuggling weapons, including rockets and mortars made inside Gaza, through tunnels in Gaza, in preparation for future attacks against Israel. In May, Israeli forces blamed PIJ for firing a rocket that landed in Gan Yazne, a region close to the Gaza border. The rocket was the first mid-range rocket fired at Israel since the August 2014 ceasefire. In August, four militants, including one PIJ operative, were arrested in conjunction with what Israel’s domestic security agency Shin Bet described as a PIJ plot to attack Jewish worshippers at Joseph’s Tomb in the West Bank. That same month, Israel’s Defense Force claimed PIJ operatives in Syria fired four rockets at the Golan Heights and Upper Galilee.
Strength: PIJ has fewer than 1,000 members.
Location/Area of Operation: Primarily Gaza, with minimal operational presence in the West Bank and Israel. Other leadership elements reside in Lebanon and official representatives are scattered throughout the Middle East.
Funding and External Aid: PIJ receives financial assistance and training primarily from Iran. PIJ has partnered with Iranian- and Syrian-sponsored Hezbollah to carry out joint operations.
aka PLF; PLF-Abu Abbas; Palestine Liberation Front
Description: The Palestinian Liberation Front – Abu Abbas Faction (PLF) – was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on October 8, 1997. In the late 1970s, the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF) splintered from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC); it later split into pro-Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), pro-Syrian and pro-Libyan factions. The pro-PLO faction was led by Muhammad Zaydan (a.k.a. Abu Abbas) and based in Baghdad prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Activities: The PLF was responsible for the 1985 attack on the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro and the murder of U.S. citizen Leon Klinghoffer. The PLF was suspected of supporting terrorism against Israel by other Palestinian groups into the 1990s. In April 2004, Abu Abbas died of natural causes while in U.S. custody in Iraq. After not claiming an attack for 16 years, the PLF claimed responsibility for the March 14, 2008 assault against an Israeli military bus in Huwarah, Israel, and the shooting of an Israeli settler. Following the attacks, a PLF Central Committee member reaffirmed the PLF’s commitment to using “all possible means to restore” its previous glory and to adhering to its role in the Palestinian “struggle” and “resistance” through its military. On February 18, 2010, the PLF claimed responsibility for an IED attack against an Israeli Defense Forces patrol, which caused minor injuries to a soldier; another IED was discovered during a search of the area. The group did not publicly claim any attacks in 2015, but continued to maintain a strong presence in many refugee camps in Gaza, Lebanon, and Syria.
Strength: Estimates have placed membership between 50 and 500.
Location/Area of Operation: PLF leadership and membership are based in Gaza, Lebanon, and the West Bank.
Funding and External Aid: Unknown
aka PFLP; Halhul Gang; Halhul Squad; Palestinian Popular Resistance Forces; PPRF; Red Eagle Gang; Red Eagle Group; Red Eagles; Martyr Abu-Ali Mustafa Battalion
Description: Designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on October 8, 1997, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a Marxist-Leninist group founded by George Habash, broke away from the Arab Nationalist Movement in 1967. The group earned a reputation for large-scale international attacks in the 1960s and 1970s, including airline hijackings that killed at least 20 U.S. citizens.
Activities: The PFLP increased its operational activity during the Second Intifada, illustrated by at least two suicide bombings since 2003, multiple joint operations with other Palestinian terrorist groups, and the assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi in 2001. In 2008 and 2009, the PFLP launched several rockets, primarily from Gaza against Israel, and claimed responsibility for numerous attacks on Israeli Defense Forces in Gaza. In 2010, the PLFP claimed responsibility for numerous mortar and rocket attacks fired from Gaza into Israel, as well as an attack on a group of Israeli citizens. In October 2011, the PFLP claimed responsibility for a rocket attack that killed one civilian in Ashqelon. In 2012, the Israeli Security Agency arrested several members of the PFLP for plotting to carry out attacks on Israeli Defense Forces checkpoints and planning to conduct kidnappings. On November 18, 2014, two Palestinians reportedly affiliated with the PFLP entered a synagogue and attacked Israelis with guns, knives, and axes, killing five people, including three American citizens, and injuring 12. In May, Jerusalem police arrested three suspects, one of whom was affiliated with the PFLP, on suspicion of plotting an attack in East Jerusalem, and in December the PFLP claimed responsibility for several rocket attacks along the Lebanese-Israeli border.
Location/Area of Operation: Gaza, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, and the West Bank.
Funding and External Aid: Unknown
Description: The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on October 8, 1997. The PFLP-GC split from the PFLP in 1968, claiming it wanted to focus more on resistance and less on politics. Originally, the group was violently opposed to the Arafat-led Palestinian Liberation Organization. Ahmad Jibril, a former captain in the Syrian Army, has led the PFLP-GC since its founding. The PFLP-GC is closely tied to both Syria and Iran.
Activities: The PFLP-GC carried out dozens of attacks in Europe and the Middle East during the 1970s and 1980s. The organization was known for cross-border terrorist attacks into Israel using unusual means, such as hot-air balloons and motorized hang gliders. Since the early 1990s, the group has primarily focused on supporting Hizballah’s attacks against Israel, training members of other Palestinian terrorist groups, and smuggling weapons. The PFLP-GC maintained an armed presence in several Palestinian refugee camps, at its own military bases in Lebanon, and along the Lebanon-Syria border. In recent years, the PFLP-GC has been implicated by Lebanese security officials in several rocket attacks against Israel. In 2009, the group was responsible for wounding two civilians in an armed attack in Nahariyya, Northern District, Israel. In 2011, the PFLP-GC targeted Israeli communities in a March 20 rocket attack by its Jihad Jibril Brigades in the city of Eshkolot, Southern District, Israel. The attack caused no injuries or damage.
In November 2012, PFLP-GC claimed responsibility for a bus bombing in Tel Aviv that injured 29 people, although four Palestine Islamic Jihad and Hamas operatives were later arrested for being behind the attack. In 2015, the PFLP-GC reportedly began fighting alongside the Asad regime in Syria, while also receiving logistical and military aid from Hezbollah and Iran. Separately, in December 2015, the PFLP-GC took responsibility for rocket fire aimed at Israeli territory. The attack, in which at least three rockets were fired from Lebanon into northern Israel, landed near Shlomi, a small town near the Lebanese border.
Strength: Several hundred
Location/Area of Operation: Political leadership is headquartered in Damascus, with bases in southern Lebanon and a presence in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and Syria. The group also maintains a small presence in Gaza.
Funding and External Aid: The PFLP-GC received safe haven and logistical and military support from Syria and financial support from Iran.
aka al-Qa’eda; Qa’idat al-Jihad (The Base for Jihad); formerly Qa’idat Ansar Allah (The Base of the Supporters of God); the Islamic Army; Islamic Salvation Foundation; The Base; The Group for the Preservation of the Holy Sites; The Islamic Army for the Liberation of the Holy Places; the World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders; the Usama Bin Laden Network; the Usama Bin Laden Organization; al-Jihad; the Jihad Group; Egyptian al-Jihad; Egyptian Islamic Jihad; New Jihad
Description: Designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on October 8, 1999, al-Qa’ida (AQ) was established in 1988. The group helped finance, recruit, transport, and train Sunni Islamist extremists for the Afghan resistance against the Soviet Union. AQ’s strategic objectives are to eliminate Western influence and presence from the Muslim world, topple “apostate” governments of Muslim countries, and establish a pan-Islamic caliphate governed by its own interpretation of Sharia law that would ultimately be at the center of a new international order. These goals remain essentially unchanged since the group’s 1996 public declaration of war against the United States. AQ leaders issued a statement in February 1998 under the banner of “The World Islamic Front for Jihad against the Jews and Crusaders,” saying it was the duty of all Muslims to kill U.S. citizens – civilian and military – and their allies everywhere. AQ merged with al-Jihad (Egyptian Islamic Jihad) in June 2001. Many AQ leaders have been killed in recent years, including Usama bin Laden in May 2011. AQ’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri remained at-large in 2015.
Activities: AQ and its supporters conducted three bombings targeting U.S. troops in Aden in December 1992, and claimed responsibility for shooting down U.S. helicopters and killing U.S. soldiers in Somalia in 1993. AQ also carried out the August 1998 bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, killing up to 300 individuals and injuring more than 5,000. In October 2000, AQ conducted a suicide attack on the USS Cole in the port of Aden, Yemen, with an explosive-laden boat, killing 17 U.S. Navy sailors and injuring 39 others.
On September 11, 2001, 19 AQ members hijacked and crashed four U.S. commercial jets – two into the World Trade Center in New York City, one into the Pentagon, and the last into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Nearly 3,000 civilians, police, and first responders were killed. The dead included Americans and foreign citizens from at least 77 countries.
In a December 2011 video, al-Zawahiri claimed AQ was behind the kidnapping of American aid worker Warren Weinstein in Pakistan. Weinstein remained in captivity until his death in January 2015.
In February 2014, AQ removed the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as an affiliate. In September 2014, al-Zawahiri and other AQ leaders announced the establishment of Pakistan-based al-Qa’ida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). Two days after the announcement, two Pakistani warships were attacked in Karachi; AQIS took responsibility for the plot, which included commandeering missile systems to attack nearby American warships. AQIS claims the orders came from al-Zawahiri.
In September 2015, five senior AQ leaders were released from Iranian custody in exchange for an Iranian diplomat kidnapped in Yemen. Of the five, Saif al Adel and Abu Mohammed al Masri are wanted for the August 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania; al Adel was a senior lieutenant to al-Qa’ida in Iraq founder Abu Musab al Zarqawi and Abu Mohammed al Masri was AQ’s most experienced operational planner.
In September 2015, with the announcement of Mullah Omar’s death, new Taliban emir Mullah Mansour described AQ’s leaders as the “heroes of the current jihadist era” and bin Laden as the “leader of mujahideen.”
Strength: In South Asia, AQ’s core has been seriously degraded. The death or arrest of dozens of mid- and senior-level AQ operatives, including bin Laden in May 2011, have disrupted communication, financial support, facilitation nodes, and a number of terrorist plots. AQ, however, serves as a focal point of “inspiration” for a worldwide network of affiliated groups – AQAP, AQIM, al-Nusrah Front, and al-Shabaab – and other violent Sunni Islamist extremist groups, including the IMU, IJU, Lashkar i Jhangvi, HUM, and JI. The TTP and the Haqqani Network also have ties to AQ. In addition, supporters and associates worldwide “inspired” by the group’s ideology may operate without direction from AQ central leadership.
Location/Area of Operation: AQ was based in Afghanistan until Coalition Forces removed the Afghan Taliban from power in late 2001. Since then, the group’s core leadership is largely based in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas. AQ affiliates – al-Nusrah Front, AQAP, AQIM, and al-Shabaab – operate in Syria and Lebanon, Yemen, the Trans-Sahara, and Somalia, respectively.
Funding and External Aid: AQ primarily depends on donations from like-minded supporters, as well as from individuals who believe that their money is supporting a humanitarian cause. Some funds are diverted from Islamic charitable organizations.
Sources: United States Department of State