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"It is the means used, and not the ends pursued, that determine whether or not a group is a terrorist group. . . . Because terrorist groups are both outmanned and outgunned by their opponents, they use violence against civilians, not in the expectation of defeating their adversary but rather to communicate a political message."
A terrorist group’s selection of targets and tactics is also a function of the group’s affiliation, level of training, organization, and sophistication. For several years, security forces categorized terrorist groups according to their operational traditions — national, transnational, and international. National groups operated within the boundaries of a single nation. Transnational groups operated across international borders. International groups operated in two or more nations and were usually assumed to receive direction and support from a foreign government. Terrorist groups are categorized by government affiliation to help security planners anticipate terrorist targets and their sophistication of intelligence and weaponry. Three general terrorism categories are shown in the chart.
While the three categories broadly indicate the degrees of sophistication that may be expected, it is important to examine each terrorist group on its own terms. The vast funds available to some narco-terrorists afford them the armaments and technology rivaling some nation-states. Messianic religious cults or organizations have features from all three of the listed categories. They may be "non-state-supported" (e.g., Japan’s Aum Shinrikyo cult or the Abdul-Ramman group that perpetrated the World Trade Center bombing), "state-supported" (e.g., extremist factions of Hamas who believe violence serves their concept of religious servitude), or "state-directed" (e.g., Hizballah is both the "Party of God" and a religious cult organization that employs violence in support of both religion and politics).