Driven by ideology and a desire for revolution people throughout history have often banded together in pursuit of lofty and noble goals. Although violence is oftentimes a necessary evil, every once in a while the goals being fought for fall somewhere between less-than-lofty and downright despicable. When this happens the so-called guerrillas doing the fighting tend to resort to some rather horrendous tactics in an attempt to leverage fear and terror. These are the 25 most feared guerrilla groups ever.
An Islamic fundamentalist movement in Afghanistan led by its spiritual leader Mohammed Omar; they are known for enforcing their strict interpretation of Sharia law while in power. They were condemned for their brutal treatment of women and have been accused of using terrorism to further their ideological and political goals. They were also responsible for 75% of Afghan civilian casualties in 2010, and 80% for the successive years of 2011 and 2012. The majority of its members are made up of the Pashtun tribesmen, who were influenced by Deobandi fundamentalism and strictly follow the social and cultural norm known as Pashtunwali.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad
A faction of the Islamic Jihad Movement, its Palestinian counterpart has been tagged as a terrorist group by a number of nations. While the Islamic Jihad Movement emerged as an ideological stream within Sunni Islam, primarily from within the Moslem Brotherhood; its Palestinian counterpart espoused militancy and violence in the struggle to establish an “Islamic alternative.’ They rejected the ‘brotherhood truce’ with most of the existing regimes in the Arab world and are responsible for a number of attacks including more than 30 suicide bombings.
A global militant Islamist organization founded by Osama Bin Laden between August 1988 and 1989, it operates as a network comprising both a multinational stateless army and a radical Sunni Muslim movement calling for global Jihad and a strict interpretation of Sharia law. Besides opposing man-made laws, they also believe that a Christian-Jewish alliance is conspiring to destroy Islam. Considered a terrorist organization by many nations, al-Qaeda attacks include suicide bombings and simultaneous bombings of their targets, which include the September 11 attacks, the US embassy bombings in 1998, and the 2002 Bali bombings.
Abu Sayyaf Group
One of several militant Islamist separatist groups based in and around the southern Philippines, specifically in the Bangsamoro region of Jolo and Basilan; they have been engaged in an insurgency for an independent province in the country for almost 30 years. Since its inception in the early 1990s, the group has carried out a number of bombings, assassinations, and kidnappings armed with bombs, grenades, rifles, rocket launchers, and machine guns. The group was also classified as a terrorist group by the US Department of State.
An Asian militant Islamic terrorist organization, which means “Islamic Congregation,” this group has been dedicated to establishing a Daulah Islamiyah or a regional Islamic caliphate in Southeast Asia. Linked to other terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the Islamic Liberation Front, and Jamah Ansharut Tauhid; it is a trans-national organization with cells in the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. Besides the 2002 Bali bombings, the group was also behind the 2003 JW Marriot hotel bombing and the 2004 Australian embassy attack, both in Jakarta, Indonesia. The group has an active presence in Indonesia where it publicly maintained a website as of January 2013.
Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement
Named after Túpac Amaru II, an 18th century revolutionary leader; the Tupamaros was a Marxist revolutionary group that was active in Peru from the early 1980s to 1997. One of the main actors in the armed internal conflict in Peru, it was led by Victor Polay Campos or ‘comrade Rolando’ until his incarceration, and later by Nestor Cerpa Cartolini or ‘comrade Evaristo’ until his death in 1997. It was considered by the Peruvian government to be a terrorist organization and was only removed from the US List of Foreign Terrorist Organizations on October 5, 2001.
Armed Islamic Group of Algeria
An Islamic organization that wants to overthrow the Algerian government, they are known for conducting violent campaigns of civilian massacres, sometimes wiping out entire villages between the years of 1992 and 1998. The group adopted violent strategies in 1992 after the military government voided the victory of the Islamic Salvation Front. The group has also killed more than 100 men and women expatriates through bombings,
The followers of the Communist Party of Kampuchea in Cambodia, it was formed in 1968 as a derivative of the Vietnam People’s Army from North Vietnam. The ruling party from 1975 to 1979 led by Pol Pot, its social engineering policies led to widespread famine and the Cambodian genocide, where arbitrary executions and torture were carried out by its cadres that included purges of its own ranks against perceived subversive elements.
The Japanese Red Army
A communist militant group founded by Fusako Shigenobu in 1971 in Lebanon; the group’s goals were to overthrow the Japanese government and monarchy and start a world revolution. It has very close ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which provides them with financing, weaponry and training. Some of the group’s infamous activities include the Lod airport massacre that killed 26 people and injured 80 others; hijacking of Japan airlines, and the Laju incident in Singapore where they attacked a Shell facility and took 5 people as hostages.
The Ñancahuazú Guerrilla
Also known as the Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional de Boliovia (ELN), this group of mainly Bolivian and Cuban guerrillas was led by Che Guevarra. Active in the Bolivian Cordillera Province from 1966 to 1967, it was intended to work as a ‘foco’ or a point of armed resistance as a first step to overthrow the Bolivian government and create a communist state. The guerrilla group was able to successfully defeat several Bolivian patrols before its members were wiped out and Che Guevarra was captured and executed.
Alfaro Vive, Carajo!
Also known as the Eloy Alfaro Popular Armed Forces named after a popular government leader and general, Eloy Alfaro; this was a left-wing group in Ecuador that was founded in 1982. Some of the group’s leaders were believed to be affiliated with other militant groups from other Latin American countries including the M-19 and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement. They became infamous when they first broke into a museum in 1983 and stole the swords used by Eloy Alfaro. Between 1986 and 1987, they were also involved in kidnappings, robberies, took over a number of radio stations to broadcast their manifesto, and the killing of four police officers while retrieving a group member from their custody.
19th of April Movement
Also known as M-19, this was the second largest guerrilla in Colombia next only to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. After its demobilization, it became the M-19 Democratic Alliance, while its origins can be traced back to the allegedly fraudulent elections on April 19, 1970 where the election of the National Popular Alliance (ANAPO) of former military dictator Gustavo Rojas Pinilla was denied an electoral victory. By mid-1985, the group’s active members were estimated at between 1,500 and 2,000.
A Croatian anti-communist guerrilla army, their activities started after the surrender of the Independent State of Croatia, a Nazi puppet state, in 1945 until the end of World War II. The formation of this group was in preparation for changing sides and struggle against Yugoslav Partisans that will also fight behind the front lines; the elimination of communism, reestablishment of independent Croatia, and destruction of Yugoslavia. Members were mostly former soldiers NCOs and officers of the Armed Forces of the NDH whose activities include the elimination of state representatives, political and military leaders; robbing the supporters of the Communist regime, destruction of their properties, and disruption of traffic.
Irish Republican Army
An Irish republican paramilitary organization whose aim was to remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom and bring about a socialist republic with a united Ireland by force or political persuasion; it was responsible for planting a bomb at the Canary Wharf towers in London in January 1996, which the police diffused.
A self-declared guerrilla group in Primorsky Krai in Russia; it was led by Andrei Sukhorada, a former member of the National Bolshevik Party. In a video that the group released on October 9, they declared guerrilla war against corruption and Russian Militsiya. Their numerous attacks included the raiding of a village police station, stabbing to death a police officer, and shooting of traffic policemen on roads.
New People’s Army
Also known as ‘Bagong Hukbong Bayan,’ the Maoist NPA group is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Formed on March 29, 1969, the group conducts its armed guerilla struggle based on the strategic line of ‘protracted people’s war.’ Designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the US and European nations, they forcefully extract ‘revolutionary taxes’ from business owners in areas where they operate. Led by Jose Maria Sison, who now lives in the Netherlands in exile, the group mostly operates in rural areas where they often target government informers, military, police, and rural residents who refuse to pay the revolutionary taxes.
An offshoot of the Karen National Union, this was an armed, revolutionary force that opposed the military government of Burma. Based along the Thailand-Burma border, they were led by brothers Johnny and Luther Htoo, who were only 10 years old when the band was formed in 1997.
Movimiento Peronista Montonero
Popularly known as Montoneros, this was an Argentine leftist urban guerrilla and terrorist group that was active during the 1960s and 1970s. In 1970, they initiated a campaign to destabilize by force what they deemed as a pro-American regime by kidnapping and executing former dictator Pedro Eugenio Aramburu and his collaborators, which include politicians, unionists, businessmen, and diplomats as an act of retribution for the June 1956 Leon Suarez massacre and the execution of Jose Valle.
Democratic Army of Greece
An army founded by the Communist Party of Greece during the Greek Civil War from 1946 to 1949, it was believed that it had a strength of 50,000 members at its height. The group was formed after the liberation of Greece where the persecutions of left-wing citizens were rampant and thousands of suspected communists were killed. The group’s official armed struggle started with their attack on the Greek Gendarmes station on March 31, 1946 where 12 Gendarmes and 2 civilians were killed.
The Angry Brigade
A small British militant group that operated in Britain from 1970 to 1972, this group was responsible for a series of bomb attacks with the use of small bombs to maximize media exposure for their demands while keeping the collateral damage to a minimum. Included in the 25 bombings that were attributed to them by the police were the bombings in the Miss World event in 1970, embassies, banks, and the homes of Conservative MPs.
Communist Youth of Austria
An independent Marxist-Leninist youth organization, it was founded in 1918 as the Youth Organization of the Communist Party of Austria. It became the most important anti-fascist youth movement in Austria in 1934, where 250 of its members joined the International Brigades. They also fought against the Nazi regime though a number of them were executed or murdered in concentration camps. Nowadays, they fight against war, neofascism, cuts in social welfare, and the Austrian membership in the European Union.
Free Papua Movement
A militant organization that was established in 1965 to encourage the violent overthrew of the current governments in the Papua and West Papua provinces of Indonesia; the group’s funding came from Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya and training from the Maoist guerrilla group New People’s Army. One of their infamous activities include the kidnapping of several Western and Indonesian scientists, where after weeks of failed negotiations, the Indonesian Army launched a rescue operation that resulted in the death of two hostages and six guerrillas.
The Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization
A revolutionary national liberation movement in the Ottoman territories in Europe, it operated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Though its aim when it was founded in 1893 was to gain autonomy for the Macedonia and Adrianople regions in the Ottoman Empire, it later became an agent that served Bulgarian interests in Balkan politics. In 1896, it started using guerrilla tactics to establish a state within a state in some regions. This escalated into the 1903 llinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising where 15,000 IMRO members fought with 40,000 Ottoman soldiers.
A terrorist group based in India, it was infamous for carrying out several attacks against civilian targets. It is believed by some to be a front for the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba to create tensions between India’s Muslim and Hindu communities and has as its ultimate aim the goal of creating an ‘Islamic caliphate’ across South Asia.