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From Al-Qaeda To ISIS: Terrorist Groups, Their Modus Operandi And The Deadly Attacks

Outlook looks at some of the world's most notorious militant terrorist networks and the deadly attacks they have carried out across the globe.

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Members of Free Syrian Army (FSA) celebrate in Syria's Al Bab, after taking control of the district's centrum (representative image) Photo: Getty Images
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The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack on Russia’s Crocus City Hall which killed about 115 people and left over 100 injured. According to the Associated Press, US Intelligence Agencies confirmed that ISIS-K, the group’s Afghanistan branch, was behind the Moscow attack.

Over the past decade, the Islamic State group has orchestrated hundreds of attacks worldwide, resulting in the deaths of thousands of innocent people. Outlook looks at some of the world's most notorious militant terrorist networks and the deadly attacks they have carried out:

ISIS

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is a militant organisation that emerged as an offshoot of Al Qaeda in 2014. It quickly took control of large parts of Iraq and Syria, declaring the creation of a caliphate and imposing strict Islamic rule. The group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared himself the caliph, claiming to rule all Muslims. However, the introduction of this new caliphate was not welcomed by various Muslim countries. ISIS, ISIL, and IS are all mostly synonymous.

Modus Operandi: ISIS is a terrorist group known for its extreme interpretation of Islam. It believes in using violence to establish Islamic rule based on the Shari'a law. ISIS considers anyone who doesn't support its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as their enemy including Westerners, Christians, Jews, and other Muslims. ISIS militias are well-trained in guerilla warfare.

Attacks: ISIS has committed widespread abuses in areas under its control in Syria, Iraq, and Libya. It has also claimed responsibility for deadly attacks in various other countries, including Afghanistan, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and the United Kingdom, killing thousands of people over the last decade.

Here are some of its deadliest attacks around the world:

Yemen suicide bombings of 2015: Coordinated attacks by ISIS targeting mosques in Sana'a, killing 142 people, mostly Shia Muslims.

Yemenis gather around the site of a bomb attack which targeted a military hospital in the Ferai street of Sanaa, Yemen on June 30, 2015
Yemenis gather around the site of a bomb attack which targeted a military hospital in the Ferai street of Sana'a, Yemen on June 30, 2015 Photo: Getty Images
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Brussels bombings of 2016: Suicide attacks at Brussels Airport and a metro station by ISIS terrorists, resulting in 32 deaths and over 300 injuries.

An injured man lies amongst debris following a suicide bombing at Brussels Zaventem airport on March 22, 2016 in Brussels, Belgium
An injured man lies amongst debris following a suicide bombing at Brussels Zaventem airport on March 22, 2016 in Brussels, Belgium Photo: Getty images
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Metrojet Flight 9268 bombing: Flight en route from Egypt to Saint Petersburg was bombed killing all 224 people on board.

2015 Paris attacks: Coordinated terrorist attacks including suicide bombings and mass shootings at multiple locations, including a concert hall, stadium, and restaurants. About 130 people were killed and hundreds others injured.

2017 Palm Sunday church bombings: Two suicide bombings targeting Coptic churches in Egypt during Palm Sunday services, resulting in at least 45 deaths and over 100 injuries.

Battle of Marawi: A five-month-long armed conflict in Marawi, Philippines between Philippine government security forces and ISIS-affiliated militants. It led to the death of more than 1200 people, injured and displaced many more, and caused significant destruction in the city.

2019 Sri Lanka Easter bombings: Suicide bombings targeting churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, resulting in at least 259 deaths and over 500 injuries.

Al Qaeda

Al-Qaeda is an extremist militant organisation which emerged in the early 1980s to support Afghan fighters against the Soviet Union occupation. After the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda evolved into a global jihadist network under the leadership of Osama Bin Laden. Its primary goal became inciting Muslims worldwide to engage in holy war against perceived enemies of Islam including the United States and its allies.

Al Qaeda was responsible for the 9/11 attacks which killed more than 3000 people, and numerous other atrocities around the world , which led to the US-led War in Afghanistan, known as Operation Enduring Freedom, leading to Bin Laden's death in 2011. In 2022, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Bin Laden’s right hand was also killed in a drone strike.

Modus Operandi: Al-Qaeda's strategy has been to carry out big, coordinated attacks to cause as much harm and fear as possible. Their attacks often include suicide bombings. They target places that represent Western power, like embassies and landmarks.

Attacks: Al Qaeda's 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon were among the deadliest terrorist attacks in history. Three hijacked planes were flown into major U.S. landmarks, destroying New York's World Trade Center towers and crashing into the Pentagon. At least 3,044 people were killed in the attacks.

Al-Qaeda is responsible for many other attacks around the globe such as the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, the 2002 Bali bombing, the 2003 Saudi Arabia bombings, the 2004 Madrid bombing, and the 2005 London bombing.

Smoke pours from the World Trade Center after being hit by two planes September 11, 2001 in New York City
Smoke pours from the World Trade Center after being hit by two planes September 11, 2001 in New York City Photo: Getty Images
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Lashkar-e-Taiba

Lashkar-e-Taiba (LT) is an Islamist militant group that originated in Pakistan in the late 1980s as the militant wing of Markaz-ud-Dawa-wal-Irshad. Initially the militant group only operated from the India-Pakistan Kashmir border but by the 21st century, it expanded its reach into India, conducting attacks against Indian troops and civilians in Jammu and Kashmir, as well as inside India. LT's main objective is to merge Kashmir with Pakistan. 

Modus Operandi: LT is known for using small arms, explosives, and grenades in violent attacks. They have also been involved in suicide attacks, where small groups of armed jihadists have targeted symbolic locations in Kashmir and rest of India. Initially, LT attacks were limited to the Indian military and police, but in the late 1990s they also started targeting civilians.

Attacks: in 2000, The Lashkar-E-Taiba attacked the Red Fort. More high-profile attacks followed, including the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament and the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

The 26/11 Mumbai attacks, carried out by ten LT gunmen, lasted four days and targeted multiple locations, killing 166 people and injuring many more.

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Security Guards on the arms position with Gun at the Parliament attack by terrorist in New Delhi
Security Guards on the arms position with Gun at the Parliament attack by terrorist in New Delhi Photo: Getty Images
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Firefighters attend to a fire as it burns at Taj Mahal Palace & Tower Hotel following an armed siege on November 29, 2008 in Mumbai
Firefighters attend to a fire as it burns at Taj Mahal Palace & Tower Hotel following an armed siege on November 29, 2008 in Mumbai Photo: Getty Images
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Jaish-E-Mohammed

Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) was founded by Pakistani cleric Masood Azhar in 2000 after he was released from Indian prison in 1999, in exchange for hostages aboard a hijacked Indian plane. JeM’s main aim was to challenge the Indian control of Kashmir which it did through attacks on Indian military and government landmarks. Azhar, previously associated with Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and linked to al-Qaeda, is believed to have formed JeM with support from Osama bin Laden and the Afghan Taliban.

Attacks: Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) is responsible for several major attacks targeting government buildings or symbols in India. In 2001, JeM, along with Lashkar-e-Taiba, orchestrated an attack on the Indian Parliament in New Delhi. 

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Security forces near the damaged vehicles at Lethpora on the Jammu-Srinagar highway, on February 14, 2019 in Srinagar, India
Security forces near the damaged vehicles at Lethpora on the Jammu-Srinagar highway, on February 14, 2019 in Srinagar, India Photo: Getty Images
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More recently, JeM claimed responsibility for the Pulwama attack in 2019, where a suicide bomber affiliated with the group rammed an explosive-led vehicle into a convoy of Indian paramilitary personnel in Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir, resulting in the deaths of at least 40 personnel.

In 2016, JeM was suspected of being responsible for an attack on the Pathankot airbase in India

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