A List of Terrorist Groups by Type

From Pre-Modern to Present-Day

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Terrorism is best understood as a modern phenomenon: as a ​violent struggle between non-state organizations and modern states, and because it relies on mass media to spread terror among as many people as possible. However, there are some pre-modern groups who used terror to achieve political ends, and who are often considered precursors to modern terrorists:

Socialist/ Communist

Many groups committed to socialist revolution or the establishment of socialist or communist states arose in the last half of the 20th century, and many are now defunct.

The most prominent included:

National Liberation

National liberation is historically among the most potent reasons that extremist groups turn to violence to achieve their aims. There are many of these groups, but they have included:


There has been a rise in religiosity globally since the 1970s and with it, a rise in what many analysts call religious terrorism. It would be more accurate to call groups such as Al Qaeda religious-political, or religious-nationalist. We call them religious because they use a religious idiom and shape their 'mandate' in divine terms.

Their goals, however, are political: recognition, power, territory, concessions from states, and the like. Historically, such groups have included:

  • Abu Sayyaf(Philippines; Islamist)
  • Egyptian Islamic Jihad
  • Hamas (Palestinian; Islamist) (Hamas is designated by the U.S. and other governments as a terrorist group, but it is also the elected government of the Palestinian Authority)
  • Hezbollah (Hezbollah is designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and other governments, but others argue it should be considered a movement, rather than a terrorist group)

State Terrorism

Most states and transnational organizations (like the United Nations) define terrorists as non-state actors. This is often a highly contentious issue, and there are long-standing debates in the international sphere over a few states in particular, including the United States. There are some states or state actions in history over which there's no dispute, though, such as in Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia.

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Your Citation
Zalman, Amy, Ph.D. "A List of Terrorist Groups by Type." ThoughtCo, May. 29, 2017, thoughtco.com/terrorist-groups-a-list-of-terrorist-groups-by-type-3209111. Zalman, Amy, Ph.D. (2017, May 29). A List of Terrorist Groups by Type. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/terrorist-groups-a-list-of-terrorist-groups-by-type-3209111 Zalman, Amy, Ph.D. "A List of Terrorist Groups by Type." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/terrorist-groups-a-list-of-terrorist-groups-by-type-3209111 (accessed February 21, 2018).