Al-Qaida

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Al-Qaida, meaning "the foundation" or "the base," is an Islamist international terrorist network led by Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri. The group's name can also transliterated as al-Qaeda, al-Qa'ida, al-Quaida, el-Qaida, äl-Qaida, al Qaeda.

Al-Qaida has other names that it goes by, such as the "Islamic Army," "World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders," "Islamic Army for the Liberation of the Holy Places," "Osama bin Laden Network," "Osama bin Laden Organization," "Islamic Salvation Foundation," and "The Group for the Preservation of the Holy Sites."

Contents

Overview

Al-Qaida was established by Osama bin Laden in 1988 to expand the resistance movement against the Soviet forces in Afghanistan into a pan-Islamic resistance movement.

Although "al-Qaida" is the name of the organization used in popular culture, the organization does not use the name to formally refer to itself. The name al-Qaida was coined by the United States government based on the name of a computer file of bin Laden's that listed the names of contacts he had made in Afghanistan, which talks about the organization as the "Qaida-al-Jihad" — the base of the jihad.

Al-Qaida's religious inspiration has its roots in the Wahhabi sect, the creed embraced by the current rulers of Saudi Arabia. The ultimate goal of al-Qaida is to establish a Wahhabi Caliphate across the entire Islamic world, by working with allied Islamic extremist groups to overthrow regimes it deems "non-Islamic" (i.e., non-Wahhabi Islamist). It sees western governments (particularly the U.S. Government) as interfering in the affairs of Islamic nations in the interests of western corporations. The largest attacks for which al-Qaida is believed to have been responsible were the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and The Pentagon in Washington DC. Al-Qaida is also suspected of carrying out the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings.

The military leader of al-Qaida is widely reported to have been Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was reportedly arrested in Pakistan in 2003. Its previous military leader, Muhammed Atef, was allegedly killed in a U.S. bombing raid on Afghanistan in late 2001.

History of al-Qaida

Al-Qaida evolved from the Makhtab al-Khidamat — a mujahideen resistance organization fighting the Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Osama bin Laden was a founding member of the MAK along with Palestinian militant Abdullah Azzam. Towards the end of the Soviet occupation, many mujahedeen wanted to expand their operations to include Islamist struggles in other parts of the world. A number of overlapping and interrelated organisations were formed to further those aspirations.

One of these was al-Qaida, which was formed by Osama bin Laden in 1988. Bin Laden wished to extend the conflict to non-military operations in other parts of the world; Azzam, in contrast, wanted to remain focused on military campaigns. After Azzam was killed in 1989, the MAK split, with a significant number joining bin Laden's organization.

Since other parts of the world were often not in such open warfare as Afghanistan under the Soviet occupation, the move from MAK to al-Qaida involved more training in terrorist tactics. Other organizations were formed, including others by Osama bin Laden, to carry out different types of terrorism in different countries.

After the Soviet union withdrew from Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden returned to Saudi Arabia, while al-Qaida continued training operations in Afghanistan. He spoke against the Saudi Government during the Gulf War for harboring American troops on Saudi soil, and was encouraged to leave Saudi Arabia. In 1991 he moved to Sudan, whose Islamic government was fighting a civil war at the time. Money poured in from false charitable trusts such as Benevolence International, and several groups that bin Laden's brother-in-law Mohammed Jamal Khalifa started. Bin Laden sent men to Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe, and the United States. Money and arms flowed through cities like Chicago, Illinois, Houston, Texas, Kansas City, Missouri, Santa Clara, California, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

In 1996 he was expelled from Sudan after possible participation in the 1994 attempted assassination of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak while his motorcade was in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Osama bin Laden returned to Afghanistan with some of his Sudanese operatives.

Al-Qaida training camps trained thousands of militant Muslims from around the world; some of whom later applied their training in various conflicts around the world such as Algeria, Chechnya, the Philippines, Egypt, Indonesia, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Somalia, Yemen, Kosovo and Bosnia. Other terrorists came from parts of Africa, the People's Republic of China (Uighurs), and in one case, the United Kingdom. These terrorists intermingled at their camps, causing all of those causes to become one. Despite the perception of some people, al-Qaida members are ethnically diverse and are connected by their fundamentalist version of Islam.

In February 1998, bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri of Egyptian Islamic Jihad issued a fatwa under banner of "the World Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Jews and Crusaders" saying that "to kill Americans and their allies, civilians and military, is an individual duty of every Muslim who is able."

From January 5, to January 8, 2000, al-Qaida held the 2000 al-Qaida Summit in a condominium in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Malaysian authorities found out about the summit beforehand and provided videotapes after the summit occurred. Several September 11 hijackers attended the summit. However, wiretaps were not conducted, so authorities did not hear what they were discussing.

Benevolence International Foundation, a non-profit charity group accused by U.S. authorities of funding al-Qaida was branded as a terrorist organization in 2002.

In September 2002, the Lackawanna Cell was discovered by the Americans, leading to the arrests of the Buffalo six.

Al-Qaida has used London's Finsbury Park mosque as a recruitment ground, as well as areas in Manila, Philippines. The Finsbury Park mosque was raided in 2003.

The United States government now claims that two-thirds of the top leaders of al-Qaida are in custody or dead.

Al-Qaida terrorist actions

The first terrorist attack that al-Qaida allegedly carried out consisted of three bombings which were targeted at U.S. troops in Aden, Yemen, in December 1992. Two Austrian tourists died in the bombing.

They claim to have shot down U.S. helicopters and killed US servicemen in Somalia in 1993. It is also sometimes suggested that they were involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Al-Qaida members Ramzi Yousef, who was involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and Khalid Sheik Mohammed planned Operation Bojinka, a plot to destroy airplanes in mid-Pacific flight using explosives. An apartment fire in Manila, Philippines exposed the plan before it could be carried out. Youssef was arrested, but Mohammed evaded capture until 2003.

They are believed to be responsible for a bombing at a U.S. military facility in Riyadh in November 1995, which killed two people from India and five Americans. Al-Qaida is also thought to be responsible for the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing which killed American military personnel in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

Al-Qaida is believed to have conducted the bombings in August 1998 of the US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killing more than 300 people and injuring more than 5,000 others.

On January 3, 2000, al-Qaida also planned attacks against U.S. and Israeli tourists visiting Jordan for millennial celebrations, however the Jordanian authorities thwarted the planned attacks and put 28 suspects on trial. Al-Qaida also attempted the bombing of the Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California during the millennium holiday, although the bomber Ahmed Ressam was caught at the U.S.-Canadian border with bombs in the trunk of his car. Also, al-Qaida planned to attack USS The Sullivans, but that effort failed due to too much weight being put on the small boat meant to bomb the ship.

For more information about those three plots, see: 2000 celebration terrorist attacks plot

They are also thought to be responsible for the October 2000 USS Cole bombing. German police foiled a plot to destroy a cathedral in Strasbourg, France in December 2000. That plot was probably being carried out by al-Qaida. See: Strasbourg cathedral bombing plot

The most destructive terrorist act ascribed to al-Qaida was the series of attacks in the U.S.A. on September 11th, 2001, an attack the group's spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghaith defended on widely-distributed videos in October 2001.

Several attacks and attempted attacks since September 11, 2001 have been attributed to al-Qaida. The first of which was the Paris embassy terrorist attack plot, which was foiled. The second of which involved the attempted shoe bomber Richard Reid (who proclaimed himself a follower of Osama bin Laden — he got close to destroying American Airlines Flight 63)

More subsequent plots included the synagogue bombing in Djerba, Tunisia and attempted attacks in Jordan, Indonesia, Morocco, and Singapore. See: Singapore embassies terrorist attack plot. The network has also been implicated in the Limburg tanker bombing, of complicity in the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and suspected of complicity in the October 2002 Bali car bombing of a nightclub in Bali, Indonesia. Al-Qaida was also involved in the assassination of US diplomat Laurence Foley in Jordan, a terrorist car bombing in Kenya in November 2002, the Riyadh Compound Bombings, and the Istanbul Bombings in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2003.

Al-Qaida has a worldwide reach, with cells in a number of countries and strong ties to Sunni extremist networks. Bin Laden and his lieutenants took shelter in Afghanistan during the Taliban regime in the 1990s. The group had a number of terrorist training camps there, and in the late 1990s the Taliban itself became effectively subordinate to al-Qaida. Since the American attack, members of the group are suspected of fleeing to the tribal areas of the Northwest Frontier Province and Baluchistan, Pakistan.

Al-Qaida has strong links with a number of other Islamic terrorist organizations including the Indonesian Islamic extremist group Jemaah Islamiyah.

Organizational specialists point out al-Qaida's network structure, as opposed to hierarchical structure is both its strength and a weakness. The decentralized structure enables al-Qaida to have a worldwide base; however, acts involving a high degree of organization, such as the September 11, 2001 attacks, take time and effort. American efforts to disrupt al-Qaida have been partially successful. Attacks made by al-Qaida since then have been simpler and involved fewer persons.

The UN Security Council, on January 16, 2002, unanimously established an arms embargo and the freezing of assets of bin Laden, al-Qaida, and the remaining Taliban.

In the aftermath of several March 11, 2004 attacks on commuter trains in Madrid, a London newspaper reported receiving an email from a group affiliated with al-Qaida, claiming responsibility and a videotape claiming responsibility was also found.

The chain of command

Osama bin Laden is the emir, or the ruler of the group.

His second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri is the head of the Shura council. The shura council is made up of 30 aides who deal in policymaking.

Next down in the line are three committees:

  • The Military committee is responsible for training, weapons acquisition, and planning terrorist attacks.
  • The Money/Business committee runs business operations. The travel office provides air tickets and false passports. The payroll office pays al-Qaida members, and the Management office oversees money-making businesses.
  • The Islamic study/fatwah committee issues fatwahs meant to promote al-Qaida's cause

There was once a Media committee, which ran the now defunct newspaper Newscast and did public relations.

How al-Qaida strikes

Al-Qaida sets up groups of members called "terrorist cells" all over the world. To do this, members obtain false passports and travel to wherever they are assigned.

Some cells are immediately put to work on performing a terrorist attack. Other cells are "sleeper cells". Sleeper cells blend in with the community and remain inactive until the leadership sends them further instructions. Some cells launder money and/or make false passports.

Members have some say in recent terrorist plots. Mohammed Atta chose the date which the September 11, 2001 attacks occurred.

Countries where al-Qaida has operated

According to the United States Department of State as of 2001, al-Qaida has operated in the following countries.

Al-Qaida is additionally suspected to be responsible for the March 11, 2004 Madrid attacks in Spain.

Internet Activities

Al-Qaida had allegedly possessed several websites. Several others offered al-Qaida content. Some of the websites were taken over by American hackers.

Alneda.com and Jehad.net were perhaps the most significant of the websites, and both were probably owned by al-Qaida. Alneda was initially taken down by an American, but the operators kept trying to put the website back up.

Al-Qaida also claimed responsibility for two of its attacks on Jehad.net. Its members had also allegedly signed up for free electronic mail accounts and used steganography to transmit messages.

Some believe that al-Qaida is actively trying to recruit members using the Internet. They are believed to use public internet cafes.

Al-Qaida-backed crackers probably were behind an October 16, 2003 denial of service attack against a website called Internet Haganah (web). The DDoS attack originated from a server in Malaysia. Internet Hanagah is an Israeli site that states that it is there to uncover and shut down websites and message boards run by al-Qaida sympathizers. See: [1]

A website associated with Al-Qaida posted a video of a man named Nick Berg being decapitated in Iraq.

Did US actions create and/or support al-Qaida?

Many believe that al-Qaida would not have come into being without the U.S. funding and training given to the Afghan mujahideen fighting the Soviet invasion of 1979 to 1989. The Pakistani military regime may have tended to supply the most extreme Islamist Afghan fighters with the lion's share of the imported weaponry.

Critics of U.S. and Western policies in the Middle East and worldwide note that some actions have caused a great deal of opposition among Arab and Islamic people, and regard terrorism as a predictable reaction. Examples of controversial policies are

Other trivia

In December of 2003, two days after an announcement by Ariel Sharon that Israel had "hard evidence" of terrorist activities in the Gaza Strip, the head of the Palestinian Preventive Security Services in the Gaza Strip asserted that Mossad agents had been trying to recruit members for a phony "al Qaeda cell" in a similar manner to criminal entrapment by a police force, for the purpose of making it appear as if terrorists were being harbored in the Gaza strip.

See Also

External links

  • Al-Qaida's Internet Activities may cause problems
  • Open directory
  • $US40 billion investment to form al-Qaida
  • Al-Qaida history to end of 1998, and explanation of its origins.
  • Al-Qaida history up to 11th September 2002, and list of further links.
  • Two accounts of al-Qaida terrorist activities, and background on three mujahideen leaders.
  • Peter Marsden Does al-Qaida exist?
  • Brendan O'Neill Does al-Qaida exist?
  • Al-Qaida does not exist -- links to skeptics
  • Al-Qaida has more connections to Britain[2] than to Iraq [3] [4]
  • Terrorism files info on al-Qaida
  • State Department letter with list of countries al-Qaida operates in
  • Who is winning the war?; BBC; 21 March 2004.
  • "Top al Qaeda man" works for MI5 -- Investigation of the Madrid bombing has reopened months-old European complaints about Abu Qatada
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