Cell Strategy and Terrorist Groups

Definition, History and Causes



Structure Depends on Organization

Cell Strategy refers to the organizational technique of dividing terrorist organizations into small sub-units that usually interact in a larger network.  Cells can be composed of anywhere between 3-10  individuals.  Many present-day terrorist organizations use some variation of cell strategy.  Cell strategy can be understood to form a continuum ranging from cells that serve as units in a broader hierarchical network to   cells that are self-sustaining units in a non-hierarchical network, depending on the interests and methods of the leadership of the organization. Photo: 2005 Cells in a microscope.  http://www.flickr.com/photos/easternblot/28379387/

The three most common forms of cell strategy include the

Vladimir Lenin as Pioneer

Cell strategy is not new to terrorist organizations, although changes in the international security arena have made it more prevalent now than in the past.  Vladimir Lenin is among the most well-known pioneers of cell strategy.  Leninist parties were built on coalitions of individual cells in a broader network of revolutionaries in order to enhance the security of the rebellion. The same strategy has been used by organizations all over the world in the 20th and 21st century.  

Types of Organizations Who Use Cell Strategy

Hezbollah March in SyriaRobert Bolivar DePugh used cell strategy in establishing the right wing Minutemen organization in the 1960s.  DePugh once claimed that the organization boasted 25,000 members divided into cells of 5-15 men (Marks 1996). The strategy has also been used by, among others, the Basques in Spain, the IRA in Northern Ireland, The Sandistas in Nicaragua, the Army of God in the United States, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.  Photo: 2011, Hezbollah March in Lebanon.  http://www.flickr.com/photos/politicalworlds/5452778402/

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