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San Francisco Chronicle July 30, 2006

States within states

Compiled by Anna Badkhen

Some international militant groups that operate outside the realm of control of their host countries:

Al Qaeda (The Base)

Leader: Osama bin Laden

Strength: Probably several thousand members and associates

Funding: Collects financing through Muslim charities and businesses around the world. Some experts say al Qaeda draws on profits from the international drug and diamond trades, runs businesses, is funded by foreign governments and uses bin Laden's own funds. The 9/11 Commission report said there was no credible evidence to substantiate these allegations. Amount unknown.

History: Established around 1988, al Qaeda is a Sunni fundamentalist organization that wants to establish an Islamic caliphate throughout the world. After being forced out of Sudan, it set up training camps in southern Afghanistan as early as 1989, training more than 5,000 militants there. It organized the deadly simultaneous bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and the attack on the U.S. Navy destroyer Cole in a Yemen harbor in 2000. After al Qaeda attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, the United States destroyed al Qaeda's bases in Afghanistan and deposed the Taliban regime, which harbored the organization. It continues to operate worldwide as a decentralized, secretive network. It claimed responsibility for the bombings of two Bali nightclubs that killed 202 people in October 2002; the March 2004 train bombing in Madrid, which killed 191 people; and the July 2005 subway bombing in London, during which 52 people were killed. Al Qaeda in Iraq -- whose former leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed last month -- has proved to be a formidable adversary.

Hamas

(Islamic Resistance Movement)

Leader: Khaled Mashaal (exiled; lives in Damascus, Syria)

Strength: More than 1,000 active members; hundreds of thousands of supporters and sympathizers, mostly Sunni.

Funding: Mostly from Palestinian expatriates, Muslim charities, Persian Gulf donors and Iran. Now that Hamas controls the government, it also has access to Palestinian public funds. The organization's annual budget is estimated between $40 million and $70 million.

History: Founded in Gaza as the Palestinian political arm of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood in December 1987. Its founding charter commits the group to the destruction of Israel, and the creation of an Islamist state across what is now Israel and the Palestinian territories. Hamas is believed to have killed more than 500 people in more than 350 separate terrorist attacks on Israelis since 1993. Most of the attacks have been carried out by suicide bombers, but the organization also uses mortars, short-range rockets and small arms. In addition to its military wing, Hamas runs schools, orphanages, mosques, hospitals and soup kitchens. In January 2006, Hamas won the Palestinian Authority's parliamentary elections, and Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas became prime minister. Its continuing refusal to recognize Israel has led to economic sanctions against the Palestinian government.

Hezbollah (Party of God)

Leader: Hassan Nasrallah

Strength: About 500 full-time fighters, all or mostly Shiite Arabs.

Funding: Mostly from Iran, an estimated $20 million to $40 million a month; also from Muslim charities.

History: Founded with the help of Iran in Lebanon, in response to the Israeli invasion and occupation of 1982-2000. In October 1983, Hezbollah sent a truck laden with explosives smashing into the multinational force barracks in Beirut, killing 241 U.S. Marines and 56 French troops. Over the last 24 years, Hezbollah has evolved into a political and social organization that holds seats in Lebanon's parliament and one Cabinet post. Hezbollah maintains cells in North America and Europe, and receives financial aid, weapons and training from Syria and Iran. According to the Department of State, the group boasts several thousand supporters and several hundred militant operatives. The U.S. government has designated Hezbollah an international terrorist organization.

Jaish-e-Mohammed

(Army of Mohammed)

Leader: Maulana Masood Azhar

Strength: Several hundred armed supporters.

Funding: Probably al Qaeda, Pakistani expatriates. Amount unknown.

History: Jaish-e-Mohammed was founded in Pakistan in March 2000, allegedly after Azhar's meeting with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. Its aim is to unite Indian Kashmir with Pakistan. One of the group's leading members, Sheikh Omar Saeed, has been sentenced to death for the 2001 murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl. After the group was founded it enjoyed state support and Pakistan's state-owned television station broadcast Azhar's recruitment rallies for the fight in Kashmir. In December 2001, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf banned the group, which the United States lists as a terrorist organization. India says it helped carry out the 2001 attack on Parliament in New Delhi. Indian and foreign observers say Pakistan's intelligence agency has actively aided some of the insurgent groups operating in Indian Kashmir, a predominantly Muslim province in northern India. Pakistan denies that it provides these groups with any support.

Lashkar-e-Tayyaba

(Soldiers of the Pure)

Leader: Abdul Wahid Kashmiri

Strength: Several thousand members in eastern Pakistan and Kashmir

Funding: Donations from the Pakistani community in the Persian Gulf and Britain, Islamic charities, Pakistani and Kashmiri businessmen. Also solicits funding through a Web site of its political wing, Jamaat ud Daawa. Amount unknown.

History: Lashkar-e-Tayyaba is one of the three largest and best-trained groups fighting in Kashmir against India. It was created in Pakistan in 1989, is based in Pakistan and is thought to include members of the Taliban. The United States lists Lashkar-e-Tayyaba as a terrorist organization linked to al Qaeda. India holds Lashkar-e-Tayyaba responsible for the December 2001 attack on India's parliament in New Delhi, which killed nine security personnel and parliamentary staff and put the two nations on the brink of a nuclear war. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf banned Lashkar-e-Tayyaba in January 2002 under pressure from the United States. India says Lashkar-e-Tayyaba may be behind the July 11 commuter-train bombings in Bombay, which killed more than 180 people.

Taliban (The Students)

Leader: Mohammad Omar

Strength (current): Several hundred. The core of insurgents is surrounded by a mix of local tribesmen, paid recruits and gangs linked to drug smugglers.

Funding: Rich Middle Eastern and Pakistani donors, drug trade. Amount unknown.

History: The Taliban was formed in September 1994 in southern Afghanistan. Its fighters were initially trained by the Frontier Constabulary, a paramilitary force of Pakistan's Interior Ministry. Heavy infighting between Afghan warlords, which followed the 1989 withdrawal of Soviet troops after a decade-long occupation, paved the way for the Taliban's sweep to power in two-thirds of Afghanistan by mid-1997. In October 2001, after the Taliban refused U.S. demands to extradite Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda members operating in Afghanistan, the United States led a successful military campaign to oust the Taliban. It has since regrouped in Pakistan and operates in southern and southeastern Afghanistan, launching almost daily attacks on international and Afghan forces. Pakistan, which struggles to rein in its western provinces, says it now has no control over the Taliban.

Sources: San Francisco Chronicle archives, Associated Press, BBC, Boston Globe, Center for Contemporary Conflict, Center for Defense Information, Council on Foreign Relations, Federation of American Scientists, GlobalSecurity.org, U.S. State Department


Copyright 2006, San Francisco Chronicle