The Training of Terrorist Organizations


by Major David E. Smith USMC



Islamic Fundamentalists are now cooperating effectively in their

aim of establishing an Islamic Republic combining church and state

throughout the Middle Eastern Moslem world. They do not accept

the Western point of view that international borders are sacrosanct.

Ahmed Tahir captured this point in his book Holy Terror:

"Islamic terrorism has played a constant key role in revivalist movements in the Muslim world during the past l5O years. And, despite vehement protests from Western Moslem intellectuals, the idea of murdering, maiming, and menacing the enemy for the purpose of hastening the final triumph of Islam has always held a very strong appeal among the Muslim masses."

Iran became the first example of a radical Islamic state when

Ayatollah Khomeini assumed power there during l979. The Iranian

government had played a major role in promoting the

fundamentalist movement. It should be noted, though, that Iran is

not the sole force in the Shia Muslim terrorist movement. Muslim

terrorists are a diverse group that employ different tactics and

operate with varied intensity. "In Beirut alone, the Shia groups

differ from neighborhood to neighborhood and are often in

disagreement with one another."35

In l979 Iranian students seized the American embassy in

Teheran. The Iranian Revolutionary Government did not return the

captives and embassy property to the United States as stipulated by

international law. Instead, government forces were employed to

maintain their captivity and exploit the seized facility.36 This was

the first example of Iranian state directed terrorism. The pattern of

Iranian direct involvement has continued to date. In November

l992, French officials arrested two Iranian nationals for the murder

of Kazein Rajavi, an Iranian dissident in exile, in Switzerland during

l99O. Additionally, Iranian intelligence has been linked to the

assassination of former Iranian Prime Minister Shahpur Bakhtiar and

an assistant near Paris during l99l. Three men are being held by

France in connection with the murders. Among them are a nephew

of President Rafsanjani who was employed by the Iranian Embassy,

and a nephew of the late Ayatollah Khomeini. Many other Iranian

dissidents have been murdered by professional assassins throughout

Europe. Their effectiveness indicates a high level of training

presumably attained in Iran.37 The Iranian government has also

called for the death of Salmon Rushdie, author of SatanicVerses

demonstrating an intention to continue to employ state directed

terrorism to enforce the regime's positions.

In addition to employing its own intelligence agents in a terror

role, Iran has sponsored Hizballah, the Party of God. Hizballah

operates out of the Shia villages in Southern Lebanon, and in the

Bekaa Valley of that nation. The group has a global network of

supporters in India, Indonesia, South America and Australia.3 8

Hizballah employs camps in the Syrian controlled Bekaa Valley to

train its recruits. They are instructed by veteran terrorists from the

movement as well as by Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The principal

training camp is located at Janba, while another major facility is

located at Wadi Mnaira. Recruits are provided with courses in close

quarter combat, hit and run tactics, infiltration, and mine laying.

They are also taught to handle automatic weapons, explosives, rocket

launchers, recoilless rifles, "Sagger" antitank missiles and SA-7

surface-to-air missiles. In addition, the recruits are provided with

substantial religious indoctrination. Hizballah also trains in small

unit tactics, and is employing l5 to 3O man units in operations

against Israeli forces in Southern Lebanon. Local commanders

usually recruit young men who are familiar with the terrain in their

area of operations.

The Islamic Jihad (Hizballah' s military wing) may work directly

for the Iranian government in some cases. "Senior Palestinian police

sources have revealed that they have found faxes that encouraged

stepped up attacks on Israeli targets while detaining Islamic Jihad

activists during September l994."39 Other reports indicate that

Hizballah forces have obtained a new surface-to-air missile (possibly

the Stinger) from Afghanistan via Iran.40 If so, it would be logical to

assume its members had been trained in its operation given their

historical link with Iranian instructors.

The Afghan link with terrorist training has been clearly

established in a number of instances. By l982 foreign Muslims were

participants in combat against the Soviets in Afghanistan.41 "At the

height of the foreign involvement in the conflict (l989-

l99l), conservative estimates suggest that, at any given time, 3,OOO

to 4,OOO foreign fighters were training or fighting in Afghanistan, or

resting in Peshawar. Over the years, well over ten times that

number spent time on the Afghan battlefield."42 Many of the

participants were from Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and the Occupied

Territories. Many were connected with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Later, many North Africans fought there along with Muslims from

the Indian Subcontinent. A camp at Jawar, Pakistan evolved into a

base for foreigners desiring to serve in the struggle in Afghanistan.

Recruits received extremely rudimentary training prior to moving

across the border. Their real education was obtained in on the job

training during combat. Foreign units were often employed

independently for platoon and company sized operations. Many

Middle Eastern Arabs developed credible tactical skills through

practical application while serving in Afghanistan.

By l99l Mujaheddin loyal to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar were training

and advising insurgents in Kashmir and along the Bangladesh-Burma

border.43 It is estimated that there are currently fewer than 1,000

trainees in Afghanistan. Although numbers have decreased, the

quality of the training they receive may be improving. Reports

indicate that there are four major camps in Afghanistan that provide

terrorist training to foreigners. Students are instructed in the use of

weapons, methods of booby trapping cars, and conducting suicide

operations. These skills have been employed effectively by

movements in the Middle East and North Africa. A camp at Shahar

Siyab is alleged to house 2OO trainees. The largest camp, in Baktia

Province (See Map Six), conducts day and night courses and

reportedly has over 5OO students billeted there.44 Ironically, some

of the weapons employed in the training camps and exported to

support Islamic movements throughout the world were supplied by

the American Central Intelligence Agency for use against the Soviet

invasion force. The defeat of that invasion force has superseded the

Mujaheddin' s need to maintain cordial relations with the United

States. That, in conjunction with the sweeping tide of Islamic

fundamentalism, could conceivably result in weapons we envisioned being employed against the USSR being turned against us in the future.

There is every indication that Afghanistan will continue to

provide sanctuary, training facilities, instructors, and weapons to

radical Muslims. In fact, Ibrahim el-Mekkawi, a former Egyptian

Army Colonel who fled from Egypt after the assassination of Anwar

Sadat in October l98l, travels between Peshawar, Pakistan and

Afghanistan where he operates camps and bases. El-Mekkawi is said

to be operating the Islamic campaign in Egypt from Pakistan.

Additionally Khalid al-Islambouli, who was sentenced to death in

absentia for planning to kill Hosni Mubarak and other Egyptian

leaders, maintains a base near Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan (See

Map Six).45

Islamic fundamentalists also find sanctuary and training

opportunities in Sudan. The Sudanese government has close ties to

Iran and has allegedly provided Iranian forces with access to Port

Sudan on the Red Sea in exchange for weapons and ammunition.

Reports also indicate that there are two Iranian facilities for terrorist

training located at Shondi and Wadi Saydna (See Map Seven). These

camps are employed to train members of Hizballah in guerrilla

tactics, bomb manufacturing, weapons employment, intelligence,

purchasing weapons, and clandestinely contacting embassies.46

The Sudanese government attempts to keep its assistance to

terrorist organizations secret in order to avoid international

condemnation. Some training takes place inside mosques. Mosques

were also employed as training locations for the alleged World Trade

Center bombers, several of whom are Sudanese.47 Other recruits

train in Iran: Alsu Aja, former Deputy Speaker of the Sudanese

Parliament, revealed that groups of Sudanese citizens are sent to

Iran for six month periods of training. He further stated that all

Sudanese diplomats were trained in Iran.48 Since Iranian diplomats

have been implicated in actual terrorist attacks and support

activities, Sudanese diplomats trained in that country should be

suspect as well.

Iranian Revolutionary Guards operate camps in Sudan that are

financed by Iran. These camps accommodate personnel who have

been forced out of Lebanon and Libya as those nations tone down

their support for terrorism.49 Sudan's border with Egypt makes it a

logical location for supporting the growing Egyptian Islamic

Fundamentalist movement, and is a source of concern to moderate

Arab governments, as well as the United States and Israel. Sudan

has maintained contact with a wide range of terrorist groups

including Hamas, ITizballah, and the Egyptian Gama'at al Islamiyya.50

The Iran, Afghanistan, Sudan connection clearly demonstrates the

international cooperation among radical Islamic governments.

The cooperation among Islamic fundamentalists may have

expanded into portions of the former Soviet Union. Reports indicate

that Iran is providing military training for Muslims of the Islamic

Renaissance Party (IRP) who oppose the government of Tajikistan.

Twenty seven Tajik militiamen completed training conducted at the

Iranian base at Shardi, Sudan. They were provided with a three

month course of instruction on guerrilla tactics, intelligence

gathering, infantry weapons, and artillery employment. The top six

graduates were transferred to Iran for officer training, including

spiritual guidance, at Qom. While in Qom, attempts may have been

made to recruit them as agents of the government of Iran. The

remaining graduates returned to Tajikistan.51 Tajik Muslims have

continued a fundamentalist pattern of storing weapons in mosques in

that region.52

There is also evidence of cooperation between Islamic terrorists

in the Middle East and the Western Pacific. On 7 February l995,

Romzi Ahmed Yousef was arrested in Islamabad, Pakistan in

connection with the World Trade Center bombing. Prior to his arrest

he had reportedly operated in the Philippines with the assistance of

the Muslim terrorist group Abu Sayaff.53 Abu Sayaff has been

implicated in a number of bombings and shootings. Military

intelligence information claims the 3OO member group has received

training from Pakistani veterans of the Afghan War. It further states

"Sayaff's lieutenants are composed mainly of Filipino Muslim

volunteers who joined the International Islamic Brigade which

fought the Soviets in Afghanistan."54