These descriptions are excerpted directly from the U.S. State Department's "Patterns of Global Terrorism, 2000," except for the background on the Muslim Brotherhood, which is based on Encyclopedia of the Orient.
Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ - Al-Jihad, Jihad Group, Islamic Jihad): Active since the late 1970s, the group's traditional goal is to replace the current Egyptian government with an Islamic state. The group has threatened to strike the U.S. for jailing its spiritual leader, Sheik Omar Abdel Al Rahman. EIJ's current leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is a key partner of Osama bin Laden.
Al-Gamaat Al-Islamiyya (IG - the Islamic Group, al-Gama'at, Islamic Gama'at, Egyptian al-Gama'at al-Islamiyya, GI): The IG, begun in the 1970s, is the largest of the Egyptian militant groups. Its core goal is the overthrow of the Cairo regime and creation of an Islamic state. IG leadership signed Osama bin Laden's February 1998 anti-U.S. fatwa and claimed responsibility for an assassination attempt on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Also thought to be responsible for the attack in November 1997 at Luxor that killed 58 foreign tourists. The Egyptian Government believes that Iran, bin Laden, and Afghan militant groups support the organization.
Hezbollah: Radical Shia group formed in 1982 in Lebanon. Strongly anti-Western and anti-Israel. Closely allied with Iran and supported by Syria. Known or suspected to have been involved in numerous anti-U.S. terrorist attacks, especially in Lebanon in the 1980s. Operates in the Bekaa Valley, the southern suburbs of Beirut, and southern Lebanon.
Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS): Emerging from the Muslim Brotherhood during the first Palestinian Intifada (1987), HAMAS has become the primary anti-Israeli religious opposition in the occupied territories. The group is mainly known for its use of suicide bombers and is loosely organized, with centers of strength in Gaza and certain areas in the West Bank. HAMAS, while condemning American policies favoring Israel, has not targeted the U.S. directly.
Al Qaeda (The Base): Established by Osama bin Laden, ... Al Qaeda aims to coordinate a transnational mujahedeen network whose stated goal is to "reestablish the Muslim State" throughout the world via the overthrow of corrupt regimes in the Islamic world and the removal of foreigners -- primarily America and Israel -- from the Middle East. Al Qaeda provides financial, manpower, transportation, and training support to extremists worldwide. In February 1998 bin Laden issued a statement under the banner of "The World Islamic Front for Jihad Against The Jews and Crusaders," saying it was the duty of all Muslims to kill U.S. citizens, civilian or military, and their allies. Allegedly orchestrated the bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, on August 7, 1998. Claims to have been involved in the 1993 killing of U.S. servicemen in Somalia and the December 1992 bombings against U.S. troops in Aden, Yemen. Al Qaeda serves as the core of a loose umbrella organization that includes members of many Sunni Islamic extremist groups, including factions of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), the Gama'at al-Islamiyya (IG), and the Harakat ul-Mujahidin (HUM).
Muslim Brotherhood: Founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, the Muslim Brotherhood focused on Islam-based social reform until 1939 when it shifted its central focus to the establishment of an Islamic government. In 1948 the group unsuccessfully attempted to assassinate Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, blaming him for defeat in the first war between Arabs and a newly established Israel. The Brotherhood was outlawed between 1954-1984 but spread to several other countries, including Syria. The Brotherhood also sparked the creation of the Palestinian group HAMAS. Though Anwar Sadat eased restrictions on the group when he assumed the presidency of Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood eventually assassinated him in retaliation for his signing of a peace treaty with Israel.