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Al-Qaeda Facts


Al-Qaeda Facts: Facts about the international, radical Islamic group, once famously led by Osama Bin Laden.

Definition and Summary of the Al-Qaeda Facts
Summary and definition:
Al-Qaeda is defined as an international, radical Islamic group, famously led by Osama Bin Laden, that was formed between 1988 - 1989 from international Muslim brigades who had fought against the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The intensely anti-American Al-Qaeda organization consists of loosely affiliated terrorist cells that carry out attacks and bombings in the United States and Western nations.

The goal of Al-Qaeda is to disrupt the influence and economies of the West and to advance Islamic fundamentalism that seeks to institute Islamic law, including strict codes of behavior. The terrorist network known as Al-Qaeda dispenses money and supplies logistical support and training to radical Islamic groups and has terrorist cells in more than 50 countries.

What does Al-Qaeda mean? The term 'Al-Qaeda' means "the base" in Arabic. Al-Qaeda is the "base" or foundation of a wider jihad and revival in Islam that encourages new jihads (holy wars).

Leaders of Al-Qaeda? Al-Qaeda leaders include Abdallah Azzam (1988–1989), Osama bin Laden (1989–2011) and Ayman al-Zawahiri (2011–present).

Al-Qaeda vs Taliban? Al-Qaeda is closely allied to another Sunni fundamentalist movement called the Taliban. The word 'Taliban' derives from the Arabic word meaning "student" as the group originated among students in the Pakistani-trained mujahideen (engaged in Jihad) during the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

Al-Qaeda vs Taliban? Al Qaeda consists of Sunni Muslims who practice Wahhabism, which is considered to be the most extreme form of Islam and a jihadist group. The Taliban are another hard-line Islamic group consisting of Sunni Muslim Pashtuns who live primarily in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Facts about Al-Qaeda Facts
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on Al-Qaeda Facts.

Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, aka "Father of Global Jihad" (1941 – 24 November 1989) was a Palestinian Sunni Islamic scholar and founder of Al-Qaeda.

In 1988 Azzam encouraged jihad (holy war) by Muslims to help the Afghan Mujahideen against the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The headquarters of Al-Qaeda were based in Afghanistan and Peshawar, Pakistan.

The Taliban, one of the Mujahideen factions meaning "those engaged in jihad", was formed during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

Azzam began raising funds for Al-Qaeda and stepped up efforts to recruit and organize the international Islamic volunteer effort of Afghan Arabs which he had encouraged throughout the 1980's.

Abdullah Yusuf Azzam was the mentor of Osama Bin Laden, a multi-millionaire Saudi dissident, who provided considerable finances to fund the Al-Qaeda training camps. On November 24, 1989 Azzam was assassinated via a car bombing attack by unknown assailants and Osama Bin Laden took over the position of the leader of Al-Qaeda.

In 1991 Al Qaeda was headquartered in the Sudan until approximately 1996 when it relocated to Afghanistan. During this time, Osama Bin Laden forged close relations with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Al Qaeda functioned both on its own and through some of the terrorist organizations and jihad groups in other countries, including the Sudan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Bosnia, Croatia, Albania, Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon, the Philippines, Tajikistan and Azerbaijan

The Al-Qaeda organization consisted of loosely affiliated terrorist cells in countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Kenya, Tanzania and Malaysia whose members could carry out attacks and bombings in the United States and Western nations or were able to target westerners in other countries.

Al Qaeda developed a command and control structure that approved and then supported major terrorist operations and established training camps in Afghanistan.

The Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan were used to instruct recruits in the use of guns, explosives, chemical weapons, security, counterintelligence methods and to use the latest technology to monitor media reports of its operations.

Osama Bin Laden bitterly opposed the military and political policies of the United States including their support of Israel, the presence of US military in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War. He was infuriated at the American's presence in Saudi Arabia, the location of the holiest Muslim shrines in Medina and Mecca.

On February 26, 1993, at 12:18 p.m. a small cell of terrorists, detonated explosives in the underground parking garage at the World Trade Center. The Islamic Group who perpetrated the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing are believed to have links to Osama Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network

On 4 October, 1993 eighteen US servicemen were killed in Somalia after members of a Somali militia, trained by Al-Qaeda, shot down two Black Hawk helicopters.

A fatwa is an Islamic religious ruling or decree. In 1996 Osama Bin Laden issued his declaration of Jihad, or "Holy War" against the United States of America, which called on Al Qaeda followers and associates to kill American soldiers.

  • In 1992 Fatwahs were issued against American Troops in Saudi Arabia and Yemen

  • In 1992 / 1993 Fatwahs were issued against American Troops in Somalia

In 1996 Osama Bin Laden issued another Fatwah from the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan with the intent to "Expel the Heretics from the Arabian Peninsula" which was tantamount to an Al Qaeda declaration of War.

In June 1996 a bomb ripped Khobar Towers, a US military housing complex near Dhahran in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 Americans. Al Qaeda was believed to have been involved in the Khobar Towers bomb attack.

On February 23, 1998 Osama Bin Laden published a Fatwah against American Civilians, with the support of other extremist groups under the banner of the World Islamic Front for Jihad against Jews and Crusaders,  This fatwah advocated the killing of Americans, including civilians, anywhere in the world

The issues of the Fatwahs advised members of Al Qaeda that it was Islamically correct to engage in violent actions against "infidels" (nonbelievers), even if others might be killed by such actions. This was justified by stating that if any 'others' killed were "innocent" they would go to paradise, and if they were not "innocent," they deserved to die.

Following the declarations in the Fatwahs, United States embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed by Al Qaeda in 1998.

The 1998 attacks on the US embassies, linked to local members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and Al-Qaeda, brought Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda to the attention of the American public for the first time. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) subsequently placing Osama bin Laden on its ten most-wanted fugitives list.

Following the embassy attacks, the United States retaliates with air strikes against alleged al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan

In 1998 Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden declared that acquiring and using weapons of mass destruction was his Islamic duty and played integral part of his jihad. Al Qaeda made every attempt to purchase or develop nuclear and biochemical weapons of mass destruction.

On 12 October 2000 two suicide terrorists rammed a boat carrying explosives into the USS Cole near the Yemeni port of Aden, killing 17 US sailors. Six al-Qaeda militants are later charged by a Yemeni court in connection with the attack

The 9/11 terrorist attacks: On 11 September 2001 members of Al Qaeda hijacked four planes and flew them into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, and a field in Pennsylvania. The 9/11 terror attacks shocked the world and were worst ever attacks on the US homeland, killing over 3000 people.

On 23 December 2001 a British Al Qaeda terrorist called Richard Reid is arrested on a flight from Paris to Miami after trying to blow up the plane with explosives hidden in his shoes.

The Bali bombings: On 12 October 2002 two bombs exploded in a busy nightclub area in the Bali town of Kuta, killing 202 people most of them foreign tourists. The bombing is believed to have been perpetrated by the South East Asian militant network, Jemaah Islamiah, which had links to Al-Qaeda.

2002 Mombasa attacks: On 28 November, 2002 an Al-Qaeda group bombs an Israeli-owned hotel in Mombasa, Kenya.

In March 2003 the Iraq War (20 March 2003 – 18 December 2011) erupted as the US launched a "shock and awe" bombing campaign the government of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. It was strongly believed that Saddam Hussein was harboring and supporting Al-Qaeda in Iraq, increasing fears of Al-Qaeda's on-going intent to acquire weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).

Riyadh compound bombings: On 12 May 2003 at least 34 people were killed in a series of Al-Qaeda bomb attacks in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. On 16 May 2003 Al Qaeda Bomb attacks in Casablanca, Morocco included a Spanish restaurant a five-star hotel, a Jewish community centre and the Belgian consulate. The terrorist attacks killed 33 victims.

Canal Hotel bombing: On 19 August 2003 the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, Iraq is bombed killing 22 people including UN envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello. The Canal Hotel was used as the United Nations (UN) headquarters in Baghdad

2003 Istanbul bombings: On 15 December 2003 57 civilians were killed and more than 300 injured in two devastating Al Qaeda suicide attacks on synagogues in the Turkish city of Istanbul, Turkey. The first attacks were followed on 20 December 2003 by attacks on the British Consulate and the HSBC bank offices in Istanbul.

2004 Madrid train bombings: On 11 March 2004 ten bombs exploded on four packed early-morning commuter trains in Madrid, Spain killing 191 people and leaving over 1800 people injured.

2004 Khobar Massacre: Gunmen, from a terrorist group linked to Al-Qaeda, attack offices and the Oasis housing compound in the eastern city of Khobar, Saudi Arabia in the hub of the Saudi oil industry

2005 London bombings: On 7 July 2005 fifty-two people were killed and 700 were injured as bombs exploded on three underground tube trains and one bus in central London.

2007 Algiers bombings: On 11 December 2007 the Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghrebin claim responsibility for the Algerian capital Algiers in which fifty people were killed.

2008 Islamabad Marriott Hotel bombing: Al-Qaeda are responsible for the bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Pakistan on September 20, 2008 in which a truck bomb killed 54 people and injured 266 others.

By 2009 the role of Osama bin Laden in Al Qaeda changed to the ideological figurehead of the organization. Ayman al-Zawahiri emerged as the operational and strategic commander of the Al Qaeda organization.

2011 Death of Osama bin Laden: Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan on May 2, 2011 by United States Navy SEALs when they overtook a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Ayman al-Zawahiri became the official leader of Al Qaeda following the death of Osama bin Laden. Islamic militants of Ansar al-Sharia a Libyan terror group, closely linked to Al-Qaeda, mount the Benghazi attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, killing U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) grew out of Al-Qaeda. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), it was formed in April 2013 and affirmed the group's allegiance to Al-Qaeda and Ayman al-Zawahiri.

ISIS and ISIL merged creating a caliphate, renamed itself the Islamic State (IS) and claimed absolute authority over all of the world’s Muslims.

In September 2015, Ayman al-Zawahiri urged the Islamic State (ISIL) to stop fighting  in Syria and to unite with all other jihadists against western and Middle East alliances.

ISIS has since been disavowed by Al-Qaeda, but has become one of the main jihadist groups fighting government forces in Iraq and Syria.

Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, do not adhere to the rules of war, they do not represent any state or government nor or they party to international treaties or conventions.

Al-Qaeda remains a major threat across the Middle East and North Africa and its Jihads are gaining ground, exploiting new opportunities and continuing plans for more terrorist attacks. For additional facts refer to the War on Terror.

US American History
1990 - Present: The Modern Era
Death of Osama bin Laden
Islamic State (IS)

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Updated 2018-01-01

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