The September 11, 2001 attacks and the
"war on terror" declared by the United States in response to
those attacks have ignited interest in "transnational armed groups".
One of these groups, Al Qaeda, was responsible for the attacks and is the
main, declared enemy in the "war on terror". It is uncontroversial
to state that international terrorism represents a considerable challenge
to the international community and that international law must meet this
challenge. What is controversial is whether this challenge must, or at
least may, be met by classifying terrorism as "war" or, in the
terminology of contemporary international law, as "armed conflict".
Similarly, can the enemy engaged in such a war be duly regarded as an "armed
group"? The two questions are interrelated, as an armed conflict cannot
exist without two or more parties which must be either states or armed
groups. The result or, for some, the aim of such a classification as an
armed conflict would be the application of the law of armed conflict, which,
in conformity with contemporary practice, I prefer to call international
humanitarian law (IHL).