U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Classification of Terrorist Groups

NCJ Number
Terrorism Volume: 1 Issue: 3 and 4 Dated: (1978) Pages: 331-346
A Merari
Date Published
16 pages
This article suggests a functional classification of terrorist groups, based on their target population (fighting against foreigners or one's own countrymen) and on domestic or foreign bases of operations.
Four basic types of organizations are delineated: domestic-based xenofighters, foreign-based xenofighters, domestic-based homofighters, and foreign-based homofighters. On the basis of the operational objectives and specific limitations of these types of terrorist groups, it is proposed that xenofighters tend to adopt more indiscriminate tactics than homofighters, and that foreign-based groups tend to perpetrate international terrorism and are dependent on foreign countries' support. Countermeasures against domestic terrorists, who are dependent on local population support, essentially become a struggle for domestic public opinion. Denying foreign-based terrorists their base of operations can be achieved by varied means, ranging from subtle threats to the selective use of force. For example, the United States-Cuban agreement on the extradition of hijackers was an attempt to reduce each side's commitment to international terrorism. Finally, the most important factor in a country's willingness to cooperate with others in counterterrorist measures seems to be the extent to which that country itself is a target for terrorist attacks. One table and 9 references are provided.