The Training of Terrorist Organizations


by Major David E. Smith USMC



The widespread cooperation that is evident among large segments

of the fundamentalist Islamic movement is not apparent in other

regions of the world. Consider Central and South America.

Geographical separation hampers teamwork among many in this

region. There is a further problem of vastly different ideologies of

the various groups. Even if they are not well coordinated, active

terrorist movements in South America do exhibit a wide variety of

training methods.

Peru is a good example of a South American nation where

terrorism is thriving. The Shining Path Organization (Sendero

Luminoso) is among the most ruthless terrorist groups in the world.

Sendero forces originally operated in the Peruvian countryside.

Members occupy a village, set up a revolutionary government, and

organize a popular school in the community. Once established, the

school is used to increase the literacy of the villagers and

propagandize. Teachers constantly evaluate the students to identify

potential recruits. All recruiting is instigated by the movement in

order to reduce the possibility of organizational penetration. Once

identified, candidates spend approximately one year receiving

political indoctrination and conducting propaganda activities such as

slogan painting on walls. They also take instruction on guerrilla

strategy. As the candidate progresses, he or she is trained in the use

of firearms and explosives. Physical training is also emphasized.

Members who have been fully accepted into the group are assigned

to a terrorist cell.55 The real education for Sendero active cadre is

provided by on the job training in military action against

government forces, organized peasants, or other terrorists such as

Tupac Amaru collaborators. To date there has been no substantiated

evidence of external training being provided to Sendero members.

The movement prefers self sufficiency.

Colombia is another South American nation facing a substantial

indigenous terrorist threat. Its l9th of April Movement (M-l9),

famed for its daring l985 seizure of the Supreme Court Building in

Bogota, has demonstrated remarkable resiliency. In l99O only three

of the movement's approximately 27O fighters refused to accept a

government deal requiring them to lay down their arms. Since then

the group has swelled to 25O members.56 The training methods of

M-l9 are not well known, but it is presumed that current members

receive instruction in Colombia.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is a large

group consisting of 4-5,OOO members. In contrast to the

independent methods typical of South American terrorist groups,

FARC leadership has supported the creation of the Simon Bolivar

Guerrilla Coordinator (SBGC), which is designed to harmonize the

efforts of disparate Colombian terror groups. If successful, SBGC may

potentially lead to cooperative training among the terrorist groups of


Central and South American terrorism is often associated with

right wing political movements. So called "death squads", often

comprised of military or police personnel, are active in many

countries. They employ their law enforcement and martial skills in

the conduct of their operations. Right wing terrorists with

government connections (state-support) also enjoy virtual immunity

from prosecution, although they risk retaliation from the enemies

they attack. Right wing groups are also likely to have access to high

quality weapons, explosives, and detonators from state arsenals.