Terror groups vary in terms of their intentions as well as their organization, they exhibit some similar characteristics. In most cases they tend to commit similar crimes in an effort to ensure their sustainability. They engage in mail fraud, burglary as well as racketeering so as to boost their economic or financial well being. To ensure that they have efficient finances to operate effectively and efficiently it is important that they have good leadership or center of command. Most terror gang or groups are headed by charismatic leaders for instance Osama bin Laden in Al Qaeda, Shoko Ashara in Aum Shinrikyo, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara in Latin American Revolutionary and Michael Collins of the Irish Republic Army. This paper will draw attention to the importance of the leadership element in terror groups while focusing and analyzing the mentioned leaders.
Hamm in the document, ‘crimes committed by Terrorists Groups’ noted that IRA is a good example of how terror groups’ use their own members to commit crime as a source of revenue. (Hamm M, 2005). Under Osama bin Laden’s leadership the Al Qaeda terror group was able to establish networks in various countries. The networks operate in dispersed or less centralized locations making it difficult to effectively eliminate them. The leader is of significant influence on his followers to the extent that there is no need for frequent center of power. All the networks are united by a common ideology which was spread by the leaders at inception. An effective structure is what has made the Al Qaeda group remain significant as is bore witness by their continued attacks. Despite the strong strategies that have been adopted by the Western countries especially the US nobody is confidence regarding their safety and they live in fear of attack. (National strategy for combating terrorism, 2006). The mention of Al Qaeda still creates jitters in many people as no one is immune to the attacks. Osama has successfully made allies with some countries who share his ideologies and such countries have been used to harbor or shelter some of his followers. The effective use of propaganda has also by and large affected the level at which Al Qaeda has acquired supporters as well as sympathizers.
Use of the modern media has enabled the Al Qaeda group remain strong despite the intensive fight against terrorism. The internet has been used to aid the group locate regions or areas of interest, acquisition of vital information that helps in the manufacturing of explosives , recruiting new members and training them as well as seeking for finances. (National strategy for combating terrorism, 2006). A great advantage of this approach is that it is difficult to be traced and hence a major cause for the unsuccessful fight against terrorism, The increased use of sophisticated media can be blamed for the open declaration in the media by Osama that he intends to acquire and apply weapons of mass destruction against the US, its allies and partners if certain conditions are not met. Leadership in terror groups evolves with time making it futile to completely curb international terrorism. Osama bin Laden who is perceived to be the mastermind of various attacks that are blamed on Al Qaeda has been successful in ensuring a common vision, set of ideas and goals.
The US argues that Osama uses the Islamic religion to alienate Muslims and make them believe that all their problems have been precipitated by the Western countries. He has instilled in them the ideology of oppression, violence as well as hate making them too willing to sacrifice their own lives for what they believe is a holy war or jihad. (National strategy for combating terrorism, 2006). Osama is a radical who is determined to liberate his people in the way or manner that he deems right. Although he is accused of exploiting the Islam religion for his own political ambitions he makes it very clear that his bone of contention is the US policies and actions against the Muslim world. He has a point despite the US arguing that all his works are surrounded by propaganda. The fact that Muslims across the globe have believed that the US is truly the cause of their turmoil as argued by their leader Osama makes it difficult to completely eliminate the Al Qaeda group. Bin laden is quick to question the US dependence on the Arab world oil rather than seek alternative energy sources. To him, this is a clear indication of a high magnitude of exploitation and alienation. (Bergen P, 2006). As Michael in ‘Imperial Hubris’ points out Osama is a man who keeps to his word as he does what he publicly declares to do in due time. (Scheuer M, 2004).
The threat that he poses to international security is heightened by the fact that his ideas are backed by tenets of Islam which is a world wide religion with millions of people across the globe. Islam tends to be more than an issue of practice but an identity and loyalty. To Osama, the operations of Al Qaeda are acts of war and not terrorism as most people especially the West tend to perceive. Their acts are justified as defensive jihads which are sanctioned by Allah in the holy book, Koran. To Osama, the US should stop its aid to Israel; remove all the western forces from Arab peninsula as well as from Iraq, Afghanistan and other Muslim countries. (Scheuer M, 2004).
Charles Selengut in his distinguished book ‘Sacred Fury’, says that Osama is a radical Islamic Sheik who was born into a wealthy and prominent family. He declared the most feared or dangerous holy war against the US. The thousands Muslims who are his loyal followers are committed in his program. (Selengut C, 2003). They perceive the US as a ‘satanic empire’ that is characterized by sexual immorality, idolatrous beliefs whose main aim is to exploit the Muslim countries for their oil and other natural resources. (Selengut C, 2003). Osama points out the humiliation that the US creates on Muslims while it arrests and imprisons the Muslim leaders. This ‘rhetoric’ according to Charles has been of much influence on the faithful Muslims community and can be blamed for the increased popularity and religious standing. (Selengut C, 2003). Osama calls upon his brothers in faith to rise up against their enemies as their forefathers did. He invokes significant ancestral scholars like Ibn Taymiyyah and Abdes Salaam who are great figures in the Islamic history. This ensures that most Muslims view him as part of the long line of Islamic warriors. He uses Arabic poems which are recited by Muslims across the globe. These poems remind Muslims of the good old days and the era of Muslim supremacy. As a result, Osama has acquired much respect as well as financial assistance. Those who are faithful to Al Qaeda are not viewed or rather perceived as terrorists but are revered as dedicated traditionalists with a historic view of Islam as is presented in the Koran.
Charles argues that the holy war has been translated into ‘a highly organized and strategically successful terrorist attack’. Stunning attacks include the 911 suicide bombing at the World Trade Center and Pentagon, attacks on American naval vessels and military installations located overseas for instance the August 7th 1998 attack in the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. (Selengut C, 2003). Although the US counters attacks have weakened Al Qaeda it has not been successful in capturing Osama who is still in hiding but plays the leadership role significantly. He still advocates or rather campaigns for jihads. Despite the challenges at hand Al Qaeda movement remains determined to continue with violent campaigns of jihads against the US. Bin Laden ultimate objective is to destroy the ‘infidel’ US regime and the establishment of a world wide Muslim society where Muslims clerics and religious authorities would take charge. Osama uses mosques and religious schools to recruit warriors. It is quite difficult to dismiss his religious arguments as he continues to recruit people even in US, Great Britain and Canada. Training into the movement is technically sophisticated and severe and it calls for total commitment.
Michael Collins the IRA leader was also a radical who according to Amy in ‘ the everything Irish History and Heritage’ book knew far to well that although terrorism would not see the English out of Ireland it would send signals or rather provoke them to respond aggressively. He was born in 1890 and died in 1922 after performing various roles such as being a spy master, a leader in the guerilla, a diplomat as well as a tragic martyr and a minister for finance. (Blackwell A and Hackney R, 2004). As early as 1916, Michael was involved in the Rising where he was acknowledged for his sense of duty despite the fact that he played minimal contribution. In 1917, he was already indulged in illegal in activities like sourcing money to fund rebellion, the formation of assassination group, smuggling of arms as well as the creation of an intelligent network. Michael recruited a large terror or murder gang. According to Radu, Michael was a typical Latin American leftist intellectual whose central point was to see to it that a revolution was attained. (Coogan T, 2002).
Shoko Ashara was the leader of Aum Shinrikyo which is a good example of ‘catastrophic apocalyptic group’ where members believe that it is their duty or obligation to actively initiate the apocalypse through violence as well as religious confrontation. It is believed that such movements may invoke violence but this is assumed to be guided by divine or supernatural authority. (Selengut C, 2003). The ideology here is that the transformation or redemption of human conditions would involve violence. There is need for such movements to strike a balance between the human transformation and the violence involved. Aum Shinrikyo was a religious movement founded by Shoko Ashara, a blind acupuncturist and healer in 1987. Shoko had studied Yoga and Buddhism and in the early days of Aum Shinrikyo he taught small groups of mediation, self improvement as well as on methods of liberation. Initially he was ‘typical Japanese who led an upcoming religious movement and offered meaning to the rapidly evolving Japan. In 1990, Ashara claimed to have received a divine revelation that from the Hindu god, Shira informing him that he would be the Japanese messianic leader and redeemer who would see Japan transform from ‘materialistic technocratic country that it had now become. It would turn to a harmonious society or the’ kingdom of Shambala’. In order to realize the objective of transforming Japan, Ashara taught his followers of the ‘Lotus village plan’ which entailed the development of independent communities. (Selengut C, 2003). Some people were attracted to these communities and to Ashara teaching and they included scientists as well as spiritual seekers. The Ashahara communities lived communally under his leadership. Soon the movement adopted catastrophic view of human condition. The violent approach is thought to have been caused by the fact that it did not attract large numbers of people according to the intended expectations; again there were conflicts with the Japanese society.
Despite his efforts to create much awareness about his movement the turn out remained significantly low and failed to reach the intended 30000 which was a requirement to transform Japan. (Selengut C, 2003). In the communities Ashara had categorically set strict rules and regulations to be adhered to. Those who intended to defect from his movement could be hidden, drugged or even murdered to maintain its public face. However, this did not deter people from defecting significantly. There was also increased community rejection as well as police surveillance. Soon it was eminent that the movement was headed for a violent approach. (Selengut C, 2003). Ashara soon wrote of the coming of a nuclear war that would destroy the world. He further argued that only his followers who had been liberated by his teachings would escape the great tragedy. To him, the genuine followers would ‘grow full and shine like sun’. Soon Ashara predicted the days of doom which he later changed or modified to fit the apocalyptic rhetoric. However, as the days passed on the movement was surrounded by much suspicion and registered intensive police surveillance. There were fewer recruitments but the levels of defection raised eye brows. In other words Ashara’s movement lost popularity. With this disillusionment Shoko and his followers opted to work towards bringing the catastrophe rather than waiting for it. He sought the backing of Christian right wing whose school of thought justified the use of catastrophic goals. Jewry, freemasonry and western secularism were blamed for the destruction of traditional Japanese society as well as its values and norms. Ashara concluded that it was necessary to destroy the world before the realization the desired ‘kingdom of shambala’. To the Aum the non members were considered as outsiders and criminals. The movement was not pleased with the treatment they got from police. The group could produce drugs and poisonous gases against its enemies and this also had the effect of scaring members contemplating withdrawal. (Selengut C, 2003). Scientist members provided well funded laboratories and could produce poisonous gases that could destroy massive populations. The first attack was on March 25th 1995 which injured over 5000 while killing at least 12 people. Before the police discovered of the danger Aum posed to national security it has already established networks in the USSR and the US. Although some people may argue that Shoko’s followers are criminals they perceive themselves as the strict or committed religionist who were drowned by the modern Japanese society. (Selengut C, 2003).
Ernesto (Che) Guevara de la Serna was born in 1928 and died in 1967. He was a renowned leader of the Latin America Revolutionary whose death just like Michael Collins created a legend that lived way after they were gone. To him, the guerilla band was able to succeed or was strong not due to the fact that it was supported by many people. (Radu M, 1988). Guevara like Osama was born into a wealthy Argentine family.
To him, guerillas tactics were a popular insurgence in Latin America. From a tender age Ernesto portrayed a great degree intellectual curiosity social awareness. In his later years he acted as the voice of the voiceless and aired concerns of neglected people in society. (Radu M, 1988). He voiced the needs or concerns of the middle class regarding public safety. Ernesto gained popularity internationally in 1939 where he and Fidel Castro were able to see the dictator ‘Fulgecio Batista’ out of power. According to Gabriela and Graciela in ‘Argentina Reader’ he held various positions in the revolutionary government before he met his death. He was killed by the Bolivian national army hence becoming a rebellion icon of his time’. Guevara argued that ‘only tactical violence would level Latin America deep economic inequalities and the struggle for national liberation would eventually set pace for all the peripheral countries on the common path towards freedom. (Nouzeilles G and Montaldo G, 2002).
This paper has by and large analyzed major leaders of various terror gang or group. The leadership of a terror groups is a very important aspect in the undertakings of any terror group. The entire leaders analyzed seem to be radical and charismatic who are ready to go the extra mile to attain a revolution. More often than not the aspect of religion has been incorporated to cement the objectives of the leaders. They aim at changing the current systems which seem exploitative to them.
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