Cicer reticulatum, C. echinospermum, C. bijugum, C. judaicum, C. pinnatifidum, C. cuneatum and C. yamashitae are wild annual Cicer species and potential donors of valuable traits to improve chickpea (C. arietinum). As part of a large project to characterize and evaluate wild annual Cicer collections held in the world gene banks, AFLP markers were used to study genetic variation in these species. The main aim of this study was to characterize geographical patterns of genetic variation in wild annual Cicer germplasm. Phylogenetic analysis of 146 wild annual Cicer accessions (including two accessions in the perennial C. anatolicum and six cultivars of chickpea) revealed four distinct groups corresponding well to primary, secondary and tertiary gene pools of chickpea. Some possible misidentified or mislabelled accessions were identified, and ILWC 242 is proposed as a hybrid between C. reticulatum and C. echinospermum. The extent of genetic diversity varied considerably and was unbalanced between species with greatest genetic diversity found in C. judaicum. For the first time geographic patterns of genetic variation in C. reticulatum, C. echinospermum, C. bijugum, C. judaicum and C. pinnatifidum were established using AFLP markers. Based on the current collections the maximum genetic diversity of C. reticulatum, C. echinospermum, C. bijugum and C. pinnatifidum was found in southeastern Turkey, while Palestine was the centre of maximum genetic variation for C. judaicum. This information provides a solid basis for the design of future collections and in situ conservation programs for wild annual Cicer.