There are different kinds of structures for various terrorist groups and movements. Paramilitary troops and organizations such as Al Qaeda are controlled by their leaders, whereas movements such as Earth Liberation Front (ELF) or Army of God operate though the principle of leaderless resistance. This is one of the main differences between these organizations. Paramilitary armies such as Al Shabaab and Hamas normally have headquarters and hierarchical structure that determine their strategy, plans and tactics, while leaderless movements consist of independent groups of people united by similar ideas and acting on their own without any orders from above.
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Motivation plays a key role in the recruitment and training of the members of the organizations of both types. At the same time, paramilitary groups have strict control of knowledge and behaviors within their organizations; and leaderless movements allow individual interpretations of their main ideas and the ways of achieving goals. Root causes and ideologies of paramilitary terrorism lie not only in geopolitics but in economics, social situation and demographic features of the areas where they occur (Ehrlich & Liu 2002). Leaderless movements such as Earth Liberation Front and the Army of God have individual moral views as the main source of their ideology and root causes.
For example, ELF members believe that any measures are good to save the nature, and Army of God members believe that weapons are suitable means of fighting the practice of abortion, which they consider to be unacceptable. Besides, paramilitary non-state actors such as Al Shabaab and Hamas have much stronger influence on the population of the areas where they base; they spread framed information and propaganda, which allows them to practice upstream recruitment of the younger generations. Scales and Ollivant (2014) notice that the strategies of the modern terrorism have become smarter and deadlier since today terrorist organizations are a mix of a techno media savvy and a well trained and disciplined soldier ready to put their life for the idea.
The authors call this phenomenon a “Darwinian process” that forces the terrorists to improve their practices or get eliminated (Scales & Ollivant 2014). The contemporary terrorists became better organized and are controlled by qualified and well-informed leaders, besides, the weapons they employ today are of new generation and are much more dangerous and precise than the ones they used before (Scales & Ollivant 2014). Basically, the new terrorist movements have strong leadership, disciplined, organized and loyal soldiers, improved equipment, vehicles and weapons and sufficient amounts of cash flows allowing them to carry out more complex tasks and missions and to present a much bigger danger for the opponent armies and the civilians.
Ehrlich, P. R. & Liu, J. (2002). Some Roots of Terrorism. Population and Environment, 24(2), 183-192.
Scales, R. & Ollivant, D. (2014). Terrorist Armies Fight Smarter and Deadlier than Ever. Web.