Is there a term for militant groups like the LRA and Boko Haram?



I'm no expert but from various things I've read there seems to be a subtype of militant group that seems to be becoming more widespread.

Examples include the LRA and Boko Haram, and possibly also ISIS, Anti-Balaka, maybe groups in the Liberian war, which seem to have characteristics along the following lines:

  • Raids towns, recruiting child soldiers and raising funds from these raids (e.g. via kidnapping)
  • Creates regional fear through indiscriminate attacks and brutal collective punishments
  • Builds a cult-like part religious, part mystical mythology or mystique around itself and/or leader
  • Has a vague ideology but practical aims are more around fuelling own growth
  • Originated as a semi-religious protest group against a local power seen as being oppressive, and became extremely violent following an attempted crackdown
  • Government crackdowns seem to make them stronger
  • There seems to be something important along the lines of, operating like a network of self-sustaining militias that fuel themselves through raids and kidnapping and are loosely steered by a central leadership that sets main targets, punishes disloyalty and has relationships with corrupt officials, but doesn't micro-manage these groups or try to reign in their violence. Sort of like a bandit franchise.
  • (Less sure about this one) Drug use by militants encouraged, particularly amphetamines

They seem to be very different to other "militant" or "rebel" groups (e.g. those in European conflicts or in South Sudan), and very different to "terrorist" networks.

I'd like to find out more about these kinds of groups, about whether they are something modern or whether there are similar examples through history, whether it's a particularly African thing or whether it exists elsewhere, etc ... but to do this I need to know what it is I'm trying to research.

Is this any recognised sub-type of militant group along these lines?


Posted 2014-10-30T18:14:53.740

Reputation: 1 524

"whether there are similar examples through history" - sans drug use, Middle Ages european feudal system fits your description... – Danila Smirnov – 2018-06-15T04:47:58.793

@user4012 i would expect insurgents to have a political agenda and ideology. A group like LRA are armed thugs, more like a maffia that instead of subverting state officials chooses a low-level conflict with the state. I'd like to know the answer to this question too. – Ivana – 2018-12-06T13:30:12.530

"Insurgents" seems to fit, no? – user4012 – 2014-10-30T19:03:08.540

They are insurgents, but insurgency seems too broad - it applies to all armed rebellions against an authority. Is there any recognised sub-type of chaotic, loosely organised insurgency like the above driven by a loose network of militias that fuel themselves through indiscriminate raids and don't have much in the way of political aims beyond growing and fighting? – user56reinstatemonica8 – 2014-10-31T09:18:14.693

1"much in the way of political aims beyond growing and fighting" is incorrect when applied to ISIS or Boko Haram. They are both Islamist groups with clear ideology and goals. – user4012 – 2014-10-31T16:28:01.273

I understand your criteria, but could you explain what you are trying to distinguish them from? – indigochild – 2014-12-24T19:00:13.937

No answers