How are groups selected for inclusion in the project?

We focus on violent non-state groups interacting with each other in specific conflict ecosystems.  Our premise is that it is very rare for a government to face a single challenger; most often there are multiple adversarial actors that are connected to each other.  We define these types of linkages as allies, affiliates, splinters, mergers, and rivals.  Their interactions influence the course of the conflict and are important to government policy.

To construct our maps, MMP researchers began by investigating one prominent group operating in the conflict environment of interest (e.g., the Islamic State). Focusing on this first group, MMP researchers compile, analyze, and synthesize open-source materials to compose a long-form group profile that document the group’s organizational history, leadership, ideology, intergroup connections, and other organizational characteristics. MMP researchers then use this profile to identify other organizations connected to the initial group – whether through alliances, affiliations, rivalries, splinters, or mergers – that should be included on the map. MMP researchers follow the same procedure with these connected organizations, creating new group profiles and adding them to a growing conflict map. 

It is important to note that this sampling procedure selects on the most visible and active militant organizations. Our sample is not systematically collected, meaning that some organizations and relationships are missing from our sample. The data also selects on the existence of relationships and thus cannot be used directly to determine whether the presence or absence of ties between actors are frequent or infrequent or if they are associated with certain organizational characteristics, behavior, or outcomes.

However, this sampling method has several advantages. First, it can allow us to quickly get a sense of the nature and types of relationships that exist among prominent militant organizations operating in a shared conflict space. This is useful for policymakers, academics, journalists, and other professionals seeking an overview of the conflict and its major players. Second, it can also enable us to qualitatively assess, conditional on having a relationship, how the nature of intergroup ties might influence the organizational behavior, motivations, and resources of groups in our data. The detailed information collected for each group allows us to analyze how transnational connections affect the development of group structures, resources, ideologies, membership, leadership, and tactics and strategies.

For an example of how this sampling process is applied to a specific map, see Martha Crenshaw and Kaitlyn Robinson. “Transnational Ties Between Selected US and Foreign Violent Extremist Actors: Evidence from the Mapping Militants Project.” National Counterterrorism Innovation, Technology, and Education Center, 2023. 

What information is included in the profile of a militant organization?

The Mapping Militants Project currently hosts over 110 complete profiles of both active and disbanded militant groups. These profiles are written according to a standard format to facilitate comparison across cases. Full profiles include the following sections:

  • Overview/Narrative Summary
  • Organizational Structure
    • Leadership
    • Name Changes
    • Size Estimates
    • Resources
    • Geographical Locations
  • Strategy
    • Ideology and Goals
    • Political Activities
    • Targets and Tactics
    • Major Attacks
  • Interactions
    • Designated/Listed as Terrorist Organization
    • Community Relations
    • Relationships with Other Groups
    • State Sponsors and External Influences

The information included in the project’s profiles is extensively cited in a references section. The Mapping Militants Project relies on open-source publications, and sources are carefully chosen to maximize the veracity and reliability of our published profiles. However, it is important to note that acquiring information on covert organizations is challenging. Some profiles are more comprehensive than others, and some sections may be left blank if no reliable information is available.

Some groups included on the maps have only short or summary profiles with minimal information.  To know which groups have full or summary profiles, see  This Profile Directory also allows users to distinguish between active and inactive groups.  

Contemporary violent extremist groups that are racially or ethnically motivated (e.g., white supremacists) and/or anti-government pose a challenge for researchers, in that their organizational structure is often informal and amorphous.  Their membership is fluid and shifting.  It can be difficult to identify leaders.  We include such groups because they pose an increasing security risk, particularly for the United States homeland, and their transnational linkages are growing.

What are “maps,” and how do I read them?

The Mapping Militants Project presents interactive diagrams that “map” relationships among interconnected groups and show how those relationships change over time. Most maps focus on violent non-state actors in conflicts in specific regions or countries, but some are transnational in scope.  

One set of visualizations shows the evolution of “family trees” and another displays network diagrams.  Users can change settings to display different features and adjust the time scale. Types of relationships (e.g., splits, mergers, rivalries, affiliations, alliances) among groups and the date of the onset of the connection are displayed with different types and colors of lines, which are described in a legend accessible to users.  Additionally, users can click on specific groups to learn more about them. The option to trace a specific group on a family tree map allows users to observe the types of interactions that a specific organization has engaged in over its lifetime.  Each genealogical map has a list of all groups featured on the map. Some of the network diagrams are animated to show change over time.  

At present, genealogical maps of conflicts include Syria (including a map specifically of the Aleppo theatre), Iraq, North Africa/Sahel, Italy, North Caucasus, Philippines, Somalia, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan. There are two Pakistan maps: The “Pakistan” map records only UN-designated terrorist organizations, while the “Pakistan — ALL” map chronicles a broader set of groups.  

In addition, several maps track transnational relationships between militant organizations. The Global Islamic State map and Global Al Qaeda map are international in scope, as they document the connections among dozens of militant organizations operating in a variety of geographical areas. A Global Right-Wing Extremism map shows the links among violent groups with extreme far-right ideologies, such as white supremacism, Neo-Naziism, and accelerationism.   

Can I download Mapping Militants data?

The Mapping Militants Project offers three main sources of data. First, each group profile page has been saved in PDF form and is available for download. Second, users can also download a comprehensive list of all groups documented on the Mapping Militants site. Finally, new data on the types of linkages between groups that are captured on the various maps is now available to users.

How do I cite the Mapping Militants Project?

All information sourced from the Mapping Militants Project should be acknowledged and cited.   Each profile on our website has a “How to Cite” section with citation directions. In general, the citation format is as follows:

Mapping Militants Project. “[Group, map, or network diagram name].” Last modified [month, year]. [Page URL]

 For example, the citation for the project’s page on Boko Haram would read:

Mapping Militants Project. “Boko Haram.” Last modified June 2018.

The citation for the Somalia map would read:

Mapping Militants Project. “Somalia.” Timeline interval 1984-2023.