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Terrorist Organizations: Al-Qaeda and ETA Essay

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Updated: May 21st, 2020

Over the centuries, several security challenges have threatened the existence of governments, institutions, and other authoritative bodies. Terrorism has been a focal point in the security issue due to the existence of insurgent groups in many nations. Many countries have countered these groups that try to overthrow governments while they advance their causes. These groups have been known to undertake their attacks on national and transnational levels. Despite the establishment and implementation of counterterrorism strategies, operations of these terrorist movements have adversely affected the world economies, people’s way of living, and general security.

Al-Qaida, a middle-east established terrorist group, is renowned for its radical insurgencies and perpetration of terrorist causes. The most significant attack perpetrated by Al Qaeda in the September 2001 attack of the World Trade Center. Al-Qaida was established in Pakistan and has transformed into a global movement with diverse forms of operations and independence. It was formerly headed by Osama bin Laden, who acted as a principal source of authority. The current head, known as Ayman al-Zawahiri, succeeded Osama’s leadership while training new recruits and spreading propaganda (Atwan, 2006). The leaders are related to conservative Islamic groups who adopted militant views.

Associates within other countries who perpetrate terrorist causes in countries like Somalia have since joined the group. Al-Qaida’s affiliates have diversified its activities, which the original group pursued while they continually perpetrate violence-related activities against the United States of America and its interests. Al-Qaida’s existence is perpetual, which is evident after the former chief executive Osama died. However, his death weakened the central leadership of the movement and reduced its capabilities to perpetrate large-scale attacks. Osama’s death and decentralization of the movements’ activities created an increased dependence on affiliates and allies in carrying out its activities. The monetary funding and political motivation provided by Osama also considered having waivered in the current regime. Other leaders have been arrested or killed by military operations, while the key associates have been significantly weakened. In the recent past, the operatives have tried defending its reputation despite the recantations of its popular members (Gunaratna, 2009).

Al-Qaida’s way of financing its operations has been a challenge to the international intelligence bodies. Its developed network provides an avenue to source funds, which support its activities and members. Monetary facilitators provide support through various avenues, such as couriers and financial organizations. The funds were generated from donations, charitable contributions by mosques, and individuals. Large amounts of donations are thought to originate from Saudi Arabia, especially throughout the holy month of fasting. Islamic teachings encourage the donation to Islamic causes, and for that reason, the heavy reliance on Imams to obtain support for their radical activities. Allegations of the use of drug trade, diamond smuggling, and remote state support have been brought up in several instances. In the recent past, fundraisers have also been providing support to groups with Al-Qaida links. Couriers that maintain low profiles have been entrusted with the task of moving the funds from the financiers to the operatives without exclusive disclosure of causes in which funds are utilized (Atwan, 2006).

On many occasions, the Al-Qaida have utilized the media to spread propaganda and recruit it, members. The movement, which believes in holy war, commonly known as Jihad, relies on media to make their statements and relay messages to broader audiences with more concise approaches. Researchers argue that this mode of communication is used to seek attention and gain the respect and legitimacy of their activities. On the other hand, Al-Qaida views western media as an enemy due to their biased reporting of events and disregard for motivations behind their activities. They view the media houses as inclined to exaggeration of military powers of the United States while creating a notion of worldwide acceptance of military violence against its members. Additionally, same treatment is accorded to media houses that distort or do not broadcast their messages (Gunaratna, 2009).

Establishment of Al Jazeera is portrayed as a significant step in broadcast of independent Arab view of Al-Qaida’s operations unlike in other media stations regulated by governments. Availability of internet facilities has championed recruitment of members through social network platforms. The possibility of an indirect approach to media through an internet platform offered security while disseminating messages and organizational intentions. Internet platforms provided an avenue to relay untainted messages without filters or alterations being used.

The Islamic jihadist group, which is known to perform its attacks through affiliates such as the Taliban, has in many times taken responsibility of attacks against Americans and other Western interests. Sporadic terrorist activities, for instance, the September 2011 hijacking of United States’ airplanes and bombing of its embassies in Kenya and Tanzania have affected the security of American citizens and interests. Main forms of attacks they utilize are bombings, assassinations, hijacking and suicide hits. Recent reports include intentions to use chemical and nuclear weapons to target America and its allies (Atwan, 2006).

United States’ main objective of invading Afghanistan was to target the Al-Qaida. Military forces were deployed in the country to prevent the reestablishment of a strong organization and avert attacks on its interests. America’s launch of anti-terrorist strategies in Afghanistan resulted in the death of the terrorist group’s leaders and fundamental players.

Another popular terrorist group is known as Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA), which operates in Spain. Unlike the Al-Qaida, the group was established with an aim to obtain a sovereign native land based on Marxist guidelines on Northern provinces in the country. Jurdan Martitegui is known as the current leader of ETA, an organization whose strength is unknown. ETA is thought to be a revolutionist movement against the National party that uses terrorist activities to express its discontent with the nationalism issues. In contrast to the Al-Qaida group, ETA is a smaller organization with regard to the scope of activities and location of operations (Alexander & Swetnam, 2008).

Spanish politicians, military personnel and judicial figures were victim to the ETA attacks especially through assassination and bombings. These attacks varied from the former terrorist groups since they issued warnings before undertaking them. Political mileage was the main target of the operatives dissimilar to Al-Qaida’s pursuit of religious jihadist motives against the western countries. Recently ETA stated its intention to stop terrorists’ activities and join the political practice. However, its willingness to uphold ceasefire is uncertain since its retaliation to the government’s interference in its election.

Unlike the Al-Qaida, ETA organizational structure is cellular, with a minimum of two cells designated to a region. One cell is active while the other cell acts as a reserve. Overall leadership is commanded by a council, which mandates the operatives to perform their terrorist activities. Funds are collected through extortionist practices, tax levies, robberies and from supporters. Its network is useful in blackmailing business owners and threatening them in order to obtain funds. Some individual have been blacklisted by United States since the disclosure of their sponsorship of ETA activities. Recruitments and training of ETA operatives has been undertaken in countries with ally groups, for instance Libya and Lebanon (Anderson, 2007). ETA commonly uses hooded members who issue statements and warnings regarding their planned attacks.

Spain established measures to curb ETA terrorist activities through reorganization of the nation’s intelligence and security personnel. Reforms were carried out on security infrastructure and improve coordination between the security forces. In addition, it created a forum used to update judicial and legal framework to specialize in terrorist prevention and investigation. The Spanish government ratified international laws in order to obtain support and coordination with other international bodies that fight terrorism. Furthermore, detentions centers were modified to cater for imprisonment of ETA apprehensions since some of them were highly skilled and dangerous.

ETA operations differ from Al-Qaida operations and do not have a direct impact on the United States. However, this concern has not prevented the designation of ETA as a terrorist group by US and administered sanctions against supporters of the group and freezing of wealth held by alleged supporters in the US. Regular government forces have been useful in apprehending ETA members, and as a result, required minimal use of military force (Alexander & Swetnam, 2008).

Al-Qaida’s and ETA terrorist activities have had a long-term effect on domestic and global security. Their unpredictable attacks provide a significant challenge to pursuance of domestic and international safety. Intensity of consequences suffered from terrorist activities may differ, but human loss, reconstruction costs and other repercussions resulting from them negatively affect human life and safety. A broader understanding of the groups’ objectives and operations is necessary in order to manage the vice.


Alexander, Y., & Swetnam, M. S. (2008). ETA: profile of a terrorist group. Ardsley, NY: Transnational Publishers.

Anderson, W. (2007). The ETA: Spain’s Basque terrorists. New York: Rosen Pub. Group.

Atwan, A. B. (2006). The secret history of al Qaeda. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Gunaratna, R. (2009). Inside Al Qaeda: global network of terror. New York: Columbia University Press.

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