Islamic extremist organizations generally align with one of the two main sects of Islam: Sunni and Shia. Though the sects share core religious beliefs and cultural practices, a stark and bitter rift dating back centuries exists between the two. This rift further deepened in the late 20th century, causing violence to erupt in many parts of the Middle East as extreme Sunni and Shia organizations battled for religious and political supremacy. Extremist organizations affiliated with these two sects often treat each other as arch-enemies.
The main Sunni Islamic extremist organizations are:
- al-Qaeda (AQ)
- Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS)
The main Shia Islamic extremist organizations are:
There are many “off-shoot” or localized Islamic extremist groups that are loosely affiliated with the larger, international organizations. These groups refer to themselves as “battalions” or “regiments” of the larger parent organizations. The main “cost” of membership to the parent group, particularly with groups like the Islamic State, is a pledge of fealty or “Bi’ah.”
Here is a list of the prominent terror organizations with their general areas of influence or control, as provided by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence: