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Al Qaeda: Facts About the Terrorist Network and Its History of Attacks

Al Qaeda: Facts About the Terrorist Network and Its History of Attacks


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Before September 11, 2001, many Americans knew little of al Qaeda or its founder, Osama bin Laden. But the roots of the militant Islamist network, whose name is Arabic for “the Base,” date back to the late 1970s and the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.

Since declaring a holy war on the United States, Jews and their allies, al Qaeda has been found responsible for nearly 3,000 deaths on 9/11, and numerous other deadly attacks around the world. The global terror network has been linked to radical groups across the Middle East and beyond.

Bin Laden and the Origins of al Qaeda

During the 1979-1989 Soviet-Afghan War in Afghanistan, in which the Soviet Union gave support to the communist Afghan government, Muslim insurgents, known as the mujahideen, rallied to fight a jihad (or holy war) against the invaders. Among them was a Saudi Arabian—the 17th child (of 52) of a millionaire construction magnate—named Osama bin Laden, who provided the mujahideen with money, weapons and fighters.

Along with Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian Sunni Islamic scholar, preacher and mentor of bin Laden, the men began to grow a large financial network, and when the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, al Qaeda was created to take on future holy wars. For Bin Laden, that was a fight he wanted to take globally.

Azzam, conversely, wanted to focus efforts on turning Afghanistan into an Islamist government. When he was assassinated in a car bombing in Pakistan in 1989, bin Laden was left as the group’s leader.

The al Qaeda Network

Exiled by the Saudi regime, and later stripped of his citizenship in 1994, bin Laden left Afghanistan and set up operations in Sudan, with the United States in his sights as enemy No. 1. Al Qaeda took credit for the attack on two Black Hawk helicopters during the Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia in 1993, as well as the World Trade Center Bombing in New York in 1993, and a car bombing in 1995 that destroyed a U.S.-leased military building in Saudi Arabia. In 1998 the group claimed responsibility for attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and, in 2000, for the suicide bombings against the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen, in which 17 American sailors were killed, and 39 injured.

Expelled from Sudan in 1996, bin Laden returned to Afghanistan under protection of the Taliban, where he provided military training to thousands of Muslim insurgents. In 1996, he announced a fatwa against the United States, “Declaration of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places,” with a second declaration of fatwa issued in 1998, citing protests against the United States, Israel and other allies.

“The U.S. today, as a result of the arrogant atmosphere, has set a double standard, calling whoever goes against its injustice a terrorist,” bin Laden said in a 1997 interview with CNN. “It wants to occupy our countries, steal our resources, impose on us agents to rule us, and then wants us to agree to all this.”

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the terrorist network’s violent opposition of the United States stemmed from its support of “infidel” governments, including those of Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, along with the United Nations, and America’s involvement in the 1991 Persian Gulf War and in Somalia’s ’92-’93 Operation Restore Hope mission.

“In particular, al Qaeda opposed the continued presence of American military forces in Saudi Arabia (and elsewhere on the Saudi Arabian peninsula) following the Gulf War,” the Council reports, adding that “al Qaeda opposed the United States Government because of the arrest, conviction and imprisonment of persons belonging to al Qaeda or its affiliated terrorist groups or those with whom it worked. For these and other reasons, Bin Laden declared a jihad, or holy war, against the United States, which he has carried out through al Qaeda and its affiliated organizations.”

The U.S.-Led War on Terror

After September 11, 2001, when four passenger airplanes were hijacked by al Qaeda terrorists, resulting in the mass murder of 2,977 victims in New York, Washington, D.C., and Somerset County, Pennsylvania, Bin Laden was named as the orchestrator and prime suspect.

The attacks led to the U.S. War in Afghanistan, a.k.a. Operation Enduring Freedom, launched on October 7, 2001, driving bin Laden’s protector, the Taliban, from power, although the war continued. Bin Laden was forced into hiding—he had an FBI-issued $25 million bounty on his head. Bin Laden evaded authorities until May 2, 2011, when a covert operation by U.S. Navy SEALs, shot and killed the terrorist leader at a private compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Read more: How SEAL Team 6 Took Out Osama bin Laden

Al Qaeda's Continued Threat

And while al Qaeda was weakened, the group began “quietly rebuilding” following instability in the wake of the Arab Spring, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. “… It appears that al Qaeda was among the regional forces that benefited most from the (2011) Arab Spring’s tumult,” the nonpartisan think tank reports. “Seven years later, Ayman al-Zawahiri has emerged as a powerful leader, with a strategic vision that he has systematically implemented. Forces loyal to al-Qaeda and its affiliates now number in the tens of thousands.”

Other jihadist groups, including the Taliban and the Islamic State—often called ISIS or ISIL—also remained active in their fight against the United States and Western culture.

Sources

The 9/11 Commission Report, July 22, 2004, The 9/11 Commission

“’Black Hawk Down’ Anniversary: al Qaeda’s Hidden Hand,” October 4, 2013, ABC News

"Islamic State, the Taliban and Al Qaeda: How Are They Different?” August 22, 2017, Forces Network

“Osama bin Laden Fast Facts,” (updated) June 6, 2017, CNN

“Al-Qaeda’s Resurrection,” March 6, 2018, Council on Foreign Relations

“Frontline: Background: Al Qaeda,” January 7, 2002, PBS

“Quick Guide: Al Qaeda,” BBC

“Al Qaeda,” (updated) June 6, 2012, Council on Foreign Relations


Overriding concern: more terror attacks / Al Qaeda strike a question of when

2004-06-20 04:00:00 PDT Washington -- Perhaps the most alarming finding of the commission examining the Sept. 11 attacks, after more than 1,000 interviews, 16 months of investigation and 12 public hearings, is the broad consensus that those who struck in 2001 are poised and determined to kill again.

The commission heard chilling recounts last week of the moments leading up to the murderous crashes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania countryside.

They also heard from numerous experts who testified that the al Qaeda terrorist network remained a dangerous threat, as well as disturbing details of earlier schemes to pump poison into air conditioning systems, crash airplanes onto crowded city streets and take over a Russian military installation in order to fire a nuclear missile at a U.S. city.

"It may strike next week, next month or next year, but it will strike," a top official at the CIA's counterterrorism center identified only as "Dr. K" told the panel.

The clear and present threat to the United States is among the reasons that the commission's work is nearly impossible to gauge for its effect on President Bush's standing and the coming political campaign.

The focus of much media attention this week was on a staff finding that there was no credible evidence of a collaborative relationship between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, a conclusion that undermines the credibility of Bush's justification for the war in Iraq. The panel's staff also provided the most detailed account yet of the administration's behavior in the minutes and hours after the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center and offers a sketch that is at odds with the White House version in which Bush took firm control and command.

Yet the fallout from the commission's report -- due on July 26, the opening day of the Democratic National Convention -- may also provide Bush's re-election hopes a boost if it reminds Americans of their Sept. 11 fears and validates Bush's warnings of the "gathering threat" ahead.

No one can predict with certainty what will be on voters' minds on Election Day 4 1/2 months from now. But if the contest between Bush and Democratic Sen. John Kerry comes down to which candidate Americans believe will better protect them, current polls show that Bush is the favorite. Even in California, where Bush's approval rating has plummeted, and voters voice a clear preference for Kerry, the latest Field Poll found that on the issue of keeping the nation safe from terrorism, Bush holds an advantage of 14 percentage points.

"On September the 11th, 2001, we learned that threats gathering on the other side of the world can arrive suddenly and bring tragedy to our great nation," Bush told troops in Fort Lewis, Wash., on Friday, repeating a popular applause line he has used in dozens of speeches over the past two years. "On that day, the enemy declared war on the United States of America. And war is what they got. . America is more secure today because Saddam Hussein sits in a prison cell."

Kerry has not disputed the threat from terrorists, but he has criticized Bush for making the nation less safe by failing to spend enough on firefighters and police and by diverting his attention from al Qaeda in order to fight a war in Iraq.

"The report is yet another blow to the president's credibility as he struggles to find the exit door in Iraq, and opens him up to new criticism on the wisdom to taking on Saddam with (al Qaeda's) leadership still at large," Kerry said on CBS News.

The beheading of Paul Johnson in Saudi Arabia served as a gruesome reminder of the dangers that lurk ahead. The preliminary findings of the Sept. 11 commission, formally known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, suggested the terrorists were interested in attacks on a much grander scale.

"Al Qaeda is actively striving to attack the United States and inflict mass casualties," concludes a staff report presented this past week at the panel's final public hearing.

The panel found that while there was no evidence of collaboration between al Qaeda and the government in Iraq, there were substantive meetings with officials in Iran and with Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based terrorist organization. The investigation found that al Qaeda might have had a role in the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 Americans and injured 372.

With as many as 20,000 men trained by al Qaeda in Afghan camps prior to September 2001, there may be thousands of men scattered throughout the world still plotting attacks against the United States.

"Al Qaeda is like a cancer that metastasized and spread, and it's terrible," Patrick Fitzgerald, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, told the commission this week.

The 2 1/2-year war on Iraq and Afghanistan has helped destroy the central core of the terrorist group and may have prevented some attacks, experts said. The crackdown has made it more difficult for al Qaeda to raise money and may have slowed its pursuit of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. At the same time, the dispersal of its central command has made it more difficult for the United States to monitor and penetrate the group.

"It's a positive thing that the leadership has been decimated in many respects," Fitzgerald said. "But it should not give us great comfort in the sense that we . just have a different danger that may be more far-flung."

In the long run, each of the experts brought before the commission this week agreed that future attacks appeared certain.

"How in the world do we ever expect to win this war?" asked commission member Jim Thompson, the former governor of Illinois.

The question evoked long pauses and foreboding responses.

"The long-term solution is to win their hearts and minds," responded Fitzgerald. "But we're not going to win the hearts and minds of the people who are already sworn to kill us. They're lost to us. They want to kill us."


Al Qaeda

Al Qaeda (Arabic for “the base”) is a complex international Islamist terrorist network made up of regional affiliate organizations and clandestine cells with varying degrees of communication with Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, the group’s ideological and operational leaders.

In order to achieve its ultimate goal of establishing its version of Islamic rule across all Muslim territory, Al Qaeda continually adopts new patterns of operations in response to global counter-terrorism efforts, which have in recent years resulted in the capture and death of several of its top commanders. In its current incarnation, Al Qaeda relies less on centralized operations, such as a hierarchical command structure and training camps. Instead, much of its activities are carried out by independent cells and like-minded organizations with loose ties to its core leadership. It has also increased its reliance on the Internet for communication and propaganda.

Al Qaeda is responsible for executing some of the most deadly terror acts in the past decade, including the September 11th attack on New York City and the Pentagon, the 1998 bombing of two American embassies in East Africa and the March 2004 Madrid train bombings. Following the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq by American and coalition forces, Al Qaeda has also been associated with much of the terror and guerrilla war in those two nations.

Structure

Al Qaeda’s core leadership and operatives are made up of veterans of the war against the Soviet Union’s occupation of Afghanistan during the 1980s. It is commanded, to a degree, by Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri. Since 1998 Al Qaeda has operated through a coalition of terror organizations known as the International Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Jews and Crusaders. The Front was formed to coordinate activities through a council (shura) led by bin Laden. At its formation it included bin Laden’s Al Qaeda, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad led by Zawahiri, and other organizations engaged in terrorism around the world. The U.S.-backed toppling of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan following the September 11th terrorist attacks, which forced bin Laden to go into hiding, drastically changed the previously hierarchical nature of Al Qaeda.

Veterans of more recent conflicts, in particular the wars in the Balkans and Chechnya, make up the second generation of Al Qaeda commanders, who, although more loosely affiliated with the central command, have helped consolidate Al Qaeda’s dominance over the global Jihad movement. Al Qaeda has also expanded by aligning itself with regional groups, including Al Qaeda in Iraq, whose leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the most well-known insurgent commander in Iraq, swore allegiance to bin Laden.

Al Qaeda also relies on other Islamic militants whose talents it can exploit. For example, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who masterminded the September 11th attacks, and Mohamed Atta, leader of the operation’s Hamburg cell, did not rise through the ranks of the organization by fighting in a guerrilla war. Instead, they were recruited into Al Qaeda to fill a specific role. The alliance was mutually beneficial since these operatives felt that Al Qaeda was best suited to help them realize their radical ideology and schemes. Other key figures contracted by Al Qaeda, such as Indonesia-born terrorist Riduan Isamuddin (Hambali), who is currently held in U.S. custody, maintain their independence by not swearing allegiance to bin Laden.

Outside the circle of Al Qaeda activists and affiliated organizations there are terrorist individuals, cells and ad hoc organizations that may have little direct contact with Al Qaeda operatives but nevertheless carry out attacks in its name. For example, based on information currently available, the attacks on resort towns in the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt (Taba in October 2004 and Sharm el Sheik in July 2005) were planned and carried out primarily by locally organized Bedouins with no apparent help from the outside. Yet an organization claiming to be affiliated with Al Qaeda, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades in Syria and Egypt, took responsibility for the attacks, which employed tactics characteristic of Al Qaeda. More importantly, the Sinai attacks, as well as a subsequent Al Qaeda missile attack on American warships in nearby Aqaba, Jordan, have in effect opened a new front in the global Jihad movement dominated by Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda’s ideological pull also attracts many would-be terrorists, including some Americans.

It is debated exactly how much independent operational capability Al Qaeda’s central command holds at the present. The extent to which it may control and direct the various affiliated, or Al Qaeda-inspired, organizations around the world is unclear. Some view Al Qaeda more as a movement than an organization, and bin Laden as a source of incitement for the international jihad movement, rather than its commander. But evidence suggests that despite official assessments by the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, Al Qaeda’s control in at least some of the fronts in which the global Jihad movement is engaged is unbroken and its network of operators still fill important roles in terrorist plots carried by local radicals.

Al Qaeda’s continued capability following the Taliban’s demise was underscored as it launched a new terror campaign in 2002 to destabilize Saudi Arabia, relying on its own operatives and command, when its high commanders were supposedly on the run. A top Al Qaeda commander, Moroccan Karim Mejjati, was sent with orders from Afghanistan to activate Al Qaeda cells inside the Kingdom. Al Qaeda’s campaign started with the May 2003 attack on a residential complex in Riyadh and continued with several bombings and kidnappings. Mejjati apparently also directed a May 2003 attack in Casablanca, Morocco, initially thought to be entirely the work of a local group. He was killed in a gun battle with Saudi security in March 2005, but speculations regarding other terrorist operations he might have put in motion abound, including a possible plan for an attack on U.S. soil, where he spent several months between 1997 and 1999.

Similarly, the London bombings on July 7, 2005, and a second wave of bombs, which did not detonate, were initially thought to be the work of homegrown radicals with no substantial outside help, or at least no Al Qaeda connection. However, evidence suggests that the London bombers were part of an international network connected to Al Qaeda operatives who were contracted by by the top Al Qaeda leadership. One of the bombers, Mohammad Sidique Khan, was an Al Qaeda recruit, and in 2001 he met Hambali, Al Qaeda’s top operative in Southeast Asia. Also, based on information obtained by British security agency, MI5 from a terrorist caught in Pakistan, it appears that an Al Qaeda-trained bomb-maker, Azhari bin Husin, helped make the explosives used in the London attacks. Husin, killed by Indonesian forces in November 2005, was involved in a number of Al Qaeda related attacks around the world.

Goals & Strategies

In the near term, Al Qaeda seeks to expel Westerners, specifically Americans, from historically Muslim lands, such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia and North Africa. Al Qaeda has long considered American influence and power to be one of the largest impediments to the establishment of a pan-Islamic nation, as they believe it is propping up “apostate,” or non-Islamic, governments in the region.

Al Qaeda’s strategy to drive the U.S. out of Muslim lands is to wage an extended campaign of terror causing substantial physical, political and economic damage that would force the U.S. to withdraw from the region. The central Al Qaeda leadership, however, does not have the capability to wage this war by itself rather, it depends on local affiliates and allies to strike at U.S. and Western interests. Al Qaeda’s leaders believe that the removal of U.S. and Western power would significantly weaken and allow them to topple “the apostate rulers,” creating a power vacuum which Al Qaeda and its affiliates could fill. This strategy includes not just terror attacks on U.S. interests within the region, but around the world, including within the U.S. itself. Al Qaeda and its affiliates also attack the “apostate rulers” themselves, attempting to weaken them directly and incite Islamic revolution.

After their short-term goals are realized and local leaders begin to fall, Al Qaeda seeks to establish Islamic rule in their place. Realizing that not all regimes will fall at the same time, it advocates immediately replacing fallen regimes with a religious autocracy similar to the former Taliban rule in Afghanistan. In most cases, these governments will be formed by local Al Qaeda affiliates in conjunction with local leaders who join the Al Qaeda cause. These governments will then be used as foundations for expanding jihadi influence and rule around the region.

Ultimately, Al Qaeda hopes join all of these separate Islamic governments to resurrect the Islamic empire, known as a caliphate, that would rule all Muslim lands and fight to expand them.

Tactics

Al Qaeda employs a number of different terrorist tactics, including suicide bombing, car bombing, roadside bombing, hijackings and paramilitary operations against civilian and military targets. Most of the organization’s attacks are well-planned and often evolve over a number of months, if not years. One of Al Qaeda’s most distinguishing tactics is the multiple suicide bombing examples of this are the July 2005 bombings in London and the November 2005 bombings in Amman. In this type of attack, a number of suicide bombers, generally two to five, coordinate their attacks to strike a number of targets at roughly the same time. This tactic not only causes significantly more damage and casualties than a single bomb, it also creates a greater sense of panic among victims.

Al Qaeda is also adept at using the media to further its goals. Its attacks are constantly shown on news channels around the world and its taped messages are broadcast to millions of listeners. Though most media outlets seek to delegitimize Al Qaeda, they unwittingly spread its message by heavily covering the group’s activities and proclamations.

Finances

Bin Laden’s personal fortune and a variety of his investments and business partnerships all over the world throughout the years have contributed to the pool of Al Qaeda funds. Additionally, Al Qaeda received funding from charities and many for-profit organizations and individuals have been accused of providing funds to the organization. In the months after the September 11th terrorist attacks, the U.S. government moved to shut down a number of charities, including the Al-Haramain Foundation and the Holy Land Foundation, which allegedly were funding Al Qaeda. Other nations, too, moved to shut down sources of Al Qaeda funding or money laundering, disrupting to an unknown extent the pre-September 11 funding network. However, Al Qaeda does not need massive amounts of money to survive.

Internet

After the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and the subsequent destruction of the Al Qaeda infrastructure there, the organization was forced to develop new methods to continue planning, conducting and inspiring terror attacks. The now-dispersed leadership began relying more heavily on the Internet to communicate to its members and the public. Soon, Al Qaeda shifted many of its activities to cyberspace. The Internet compensated for the loss of a secure base and allowed Al Qaeda terrorists to disseminate information and communicate with each other in relative safety. Al Qaeda operates Internet-based publications such as Muaskar Al Battar (Camp of the Sword) and Sawt Al Jihad (The Voice of Jihad), through which it gives general instructions and encourages sympathizers to conduct terrorist activities. A quotation from one Al Battar article illustrates the important role the Internet can play in realizing Al Qaeda’s vision of a loosely connected network working towards the same cause: “Oh Mujahid brother, in order to join the great training camps you don't have to travel to other lands. Alone, in your home or with a group of your brothers, you too can begin to execute the training program.”

Since September 2005, a video newscast that claims to be the “voice of Al Qaeda on the Internet” has been posted on the Internet as well. Modeled after standard newscasts, the Arabic-language Sout Al Khilafa (Arabic for “Voice of the Caliphate”), is divided into segments and employs an anchor who discusses world events and presents stories about terrorist activities against U.S. forces in Iraq and in other parts of the world. The program also includes video footage of terrorist attacks.

Historical Background

Al Qaeda was founded in 1988 by Osama bin Laden to consolidate the international network he established during the Afghan war. Its goals were the advancement of Islamic revolutions throughout the Muslim world and repelling foreign intervention in the Middle East.

Bin Laden, son of a billionaire Saudi businessman, became involved in the fight against the Soviet Union’s invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, which lasted from 1979 to 1988 and ended with a Soviet defeat at the hands of international militias of Muslim fighters backed by the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Together with Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood leader, Abdullah Azzam, bin Laden ran one of seven main militias involved in the fighting. They established military training bases in Afghanistan and founded Maktab Al Khidamat, or Services Office, a support network that provided recruits and money through worldwide centers, including in the U.S.

Bin Laden and Azzam had different visions for what to do with the network they had established. Bin Laden decided to found Al Qaeda, based on personal affiliations created during the fighting in Afghanistan as well as on his own international network, reputation and access to large sums of money. The following year Azzam was assassinated. After the war ended, the Afghan-Arabs, as the mostly non-Afghan volunteers who fought the Soviets came to be known, either returned to their countries of origin or joined conflicts in Somalia, the Balkans and Chechnya. This benefited Al Qaeda’s global reach and later helped cultivate the second and third generations of Al Qaeda terrorists.

Following the first Gulf War, Al Qaeda shifted its focus to fighting the growing U.S. presence in the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s most sacred shrines. Al Qaeda vociferously opposed the stationing of U.S. troops on what it considered the holiest of Islamic lands and waged an extended campaign of terrorism against the Saudi rulers, whom bin Laden deemed to be false Muslims. The ultimate goal of this campaign was to depose the Saudi royal family and install an Islamic regime on the Arabian peninsula. The Saudi regime subsequently deported bin Laden and revoked his citizenship in 1994.

In 1991 bin Laden moved to Sudan, where he operated until 1996. During this period, Al Qaeda established connections with other terror organizations with the help of its Sudanese hosts and Iran. While in Sudan, Al Qaeda was involved in several terror attacks and guerilla actions carried out by other organizations. In May 1996, following U.S. pressure on the Sudanese government, bin Laden moved to Afghanistan where he allied himself with the ruling Taliban.

Between 1991 and 1996, Al Qaeda took part in several major terror attacks. Al Qaeda was involved in the bombing of two hotels in Aden, Yemen, which targeted American troops en route to Somalia on a humanitarian and peacekeeping mission. It also gave massive assistance to Somali militias, whose efforts brought the eventual withdrawal of U.S. forces in 1994. Bin Laden was also involved in an assassination attempt against Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in Ethiopia in June 1995. Two major terrorist actions against the U.S. military in Saudi Arabia, a November 1995 attack in Riyadh and the June 1996 Khobar Towers bombing, also fit Al Qaeda’s strategy at the time, but their connection to Al Qaeda is not entirely clear. There is little evidence to suggest a significant connection between bin Laden and the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993.

After moving to Afghanistan, bin Laden escalated his anti-American rhetoric. In an interview with the Independent in July 1996, bin Laden praised the Riyadh and Dhahram attacks on U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia, saying it marked “the beginning of war between Muslims and the United States.” He did not take responsibility for the attacks, but said that “not long ago, I gave advice to the Americans to withdraw their troops from Saudi Arabia.” On August 23, 1996, bin Laden issued Al Qaeda’s first “declaration of war” against America, his “Message from Osama bin Laden to his Muslim brothers in the whole world and especially in the Arabian Peninsula: declaration of jihad against the Americans occupying the Land of the Two Holy Mosques (Saudi Arabia) expel the heretics from the Arabian Peninsula.”

In February 1998 bin Laden and several leading Muslim militants declared the formation of a coalition called the International Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Jews and Crusaders to fight the U.S. Member organizations included Al Qaeda, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad led by Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian Islamic Group, and organizations engaged in Kashmir and Bangladesh. Bin Laden was appointed to head the Front’s council (shura). The militants signed a fatwa (religious opinion) outlining the Front’s ideology and goals. The fatwa was published in a London-based Arabic paper, Al Quds Al Arabi it called on all Muslims to “kill the Americans and their allies - civilians and military,” wherever they may be.

Subsequently, Al Qaeda escalated its war against the U.S. In August 1998, Al Qaeda bombed two U.S. embassies in East Africa (Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania) killing more than 200 people, including 12 Americans. In retaliation, the U.S. attacked targets in Sudan and Afghanistan. In October 2000, Al Qaeda bombed the U.S.S. Cole, an American guided-missile destroyer at Aden, Yemen, killing 17 American servicemen. It committed its most devastating attack on September 11, 2001, when 19 Al Qaeda operatives hijacked four passenger planes and drove two into the Twin Towers in New York City and one into the Pentagon a fourth plane crashed in rural Pennsylvania. Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the attack.

Al Qaeda’s War Against the Jews

Anti-Semitism, the hatred of Jews, is intrinsic to Al Qaeda’s ideology and motivation. Specifically, Al Qaeda’s ideology derives from the particular anti-Semitism that was developed by the original ideologues of Islamist terrorism, well before Al Qaeda was formed. According to this theology, the ideal man is the Muslim holy warrior who is prepared to be martyred for the sake of God and the Jews represent his opposite. The Jews are the Muslims’ eternal enemy, and, unlike the Christians, cannot be converted or even accommodated as an inferior minority and therefore must be fought until they are annihilated. The battles currently being fought by Islamic terrorist groups may directly target the U.S. or secular Arab regimes, but Al Qaeda considers the Jew to be the true evil the opposite image of the true believer in God and the force that commands all other forces fighting Islam.

Despite anti-Semitism’s central role in Al Qaeda’s ideology, the organization has only attacked distinctly Jewish targets since 2002. In the years since, Al Qaeda has also attempted to establish a foothold within Israel and the Palestinian territories though so far with little success. Aside from the identification of the targets as “Jewish” all the attacks have had additional strategic aims whether it was against the local regime, the regime’s ties to Israel or global stability in general. Still, the “Jewish” identity of the target is not random, carrying an important significance to the terrorists themselves.

Indeed, several of the terrorists involved in the September 11th attacks were to a great extent motivated by their hatred toward Jews. Mohamed Atta and Ramzi Binalshibh, a key member of the Hamburg cell responsible for the attacks, considered New York City as the center for a global Jewish conspiracy, and Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who masterminded the attack, had previously developed several plans to attack Israeli and Jewish targets. In their view, New York, as a center of world finance, was the quintessential Jewish target.

Al Qaeda has been involved in a number of attacks on Jewish targets, including: an attack on a Jewish synagogue in Tunisia on April 2002 the coordinated bombing of an Israeli-owned resort and an attempt to down an Israeli airliner in Mombassa, Kenya on November 2002 an attack on several Jewish-associated targets in Casablanca, Morocco on April 2003 the bombing of two Jewish Synagogues in Istanbul on November 2003 and an attack on several tourist resorts in Sinai, Egypt that are popular with Israelis on October 2004. Several additional plots around the world have failed.

Al Qaeda has always defined its enemies as the “Jews and Crusaders,” referring even to the American forces in the first Gulf War as the “Crusader-Jewish alliance.” Bin Laden, in one of his early public statements, which he issued in 1994, also attacked what he considered the Saudis’ official endorsement of the Oslo peace accord. Still, until 2002, Israel and the Jews were only on Al Qaeda’s peripheral view as a strategic target. Al Qaeda was, like many in the Middle East, committed in principal to the liberation of all Muslim lands and holy places, among these the Palestinian areas and the Al Aksa mosque in Jerusalem, but it was busier attacking its primary target- America and did not direct any recourses toward attacking Israel or Jews.

There are several explanations to what brought Al Qaeda and its affiliates to change their strategy to include Israel and the Jewish people among their strategic targets. First, the terror campaign against Jews seems to have been initiated and timed by the leadership, as evident from declarations made by Al Qaeda leaders and spokesmen. At first, post-September 11th declarations in support of the Palestinians may have been motivated by need for popularity. But in 2002 it became apparent that Al Qaeda had made an ideological and strategic shift, making its enmity toward Jews more central. In a video of bin Laden that was shot around the time of Al Qaeda’s attack on the synagogue in Tunisia, he declared: "The war is between us and the Jews. Any country that steps into the same trench as the Jews has only herself to blame." Several months later, an Al Qaeda spokesman expressed a similar idea, saying, “we will continue to hit America until it gets up and leaves these trenches, so that the confrontation can be between us and the Jews who are enemies of Allah.”

Another reason for this trend is associated with Al Qaeda’s relative weakness and its fragmentation. Following the American invasion of Afghanistan, Al Qaeda has relied more on locally-based organizations. And often these tend to choose ‘soft targets,’ lightly-guarded gathering spots such as night clubs or tourists or buildings associated with the local Jewish community. Attacking Jews also has an added propaganda value to Al Qaeda, which relies on the fact that anti-Semitic feelings are widespread in Muslim countries. As an example, the video of the murder of American-Jewish reporter Daniel Pearl, which shows him being beheaded after he “confessed” to being Jewish, was distributed in Saudi Arabia and posted to extremist Web sites as a way to recruit for Al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda Affiliate Groups

Since Al Qaeda’s rise to prominence in the 1990’s, Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda successfully convinced other leading terrorists groups to ally with the organization. In effect, this has allowed Al Qaeda to increase its influence by helping to fund, train and direct smaller, more regionally-focused terrorist groups. Following the toppling of the Taliban in 2001 by the U.S., and its subsequent military campaigns in Afghanistan, Al Qaeda’s operational methods and capabilities became more decentralized and its ties to other groups became a correspondingly larger aspect of its operations. Whereas Al Qaeda had previously planned and executed select missions with its own operatives, the destruction of its military headquarters and training camps by the U.S. military forced the organization to turn to other methods. Al Qaeda has thus been able to continue its war against targeted governments by proxy, helping to plan attacks actually carried out by operatives from regional groups.

It is worth noting that there is an ongoing debate as to the amount of influence Al Qaeda has on its regional allies. Recent investigations by various governments into terrorist individuals and attacks, however, have indicated that the organizations listed below are linked to Al Qaeda. It should also be noted that the groups listed below are the largest and most important Al Qaeda allies, but do not constitute a complete list.

Jemaah Islamiyah

Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) is Southeast Asia’s largest and deadliest terrorist group. Founded in 1993, the group operates primarily out of Indonesia and seeks to overthrow regional governments and replace them with a totalitarian Islamic state. Its ideology and anti-Western rhetoric closely resembles that of Al Qaeda, making the two organizations natural allies. It is responsible for many of the Indonesia’s most lethal terror attacks, including a massive triple suicide bombing outside of a popular nightclub in Bali which killed 202.

Jemaah Islamiyah has maintained high-level ties with Al Qaeda since the 1990’s, and in 1998 then-JI leader Abdullah Sungkar reportedly accepted Osama bin Laden’s offer to formally ally the two terrorist groups. Shortly thereafter, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, senior JI leader Nurjaman Riduan Ismuddin, aka Hambali, met with Al Qaeda leaders Khalid Sheik Mohammed and Mohammed Atef, the two planners of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Hambali soon began working closely with Mohammed and Atef to increase JI’s operational capabilities. The men reached an arrangement to coordinate attacks whereby JI would scout potential targets and provide supplies. In turn, Al Qaeda would provide funding, expertise and a number of willing suicide bombers. Fortunately, many of these attacks never came to fruition and Hambali was arrested in Thailand in 2003.

In addition to its assistance in planning attacks in Southeast Asia, Al Qaeda provided guerrilla training to JI operatives at its camps in Afghanistan. Between 1998 and November 2001, many JI members were trained there, including its senior explosive expert, Dr. Azahari Husin.

Despite the incarceration of several top leaders, JI continues to pose a threat to the stability of security of Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia. Indonesian authorities believe that the organization is behind an October 2005 suicide bombing in Bali which killed at least 22. Though the extent of coordination between Al Qaeda and JI in this attack is unknown, authorities believe that several of the planners, including Azahari Husin, were trained by Al Qaeda.

Abu Sayyaf Group

The Abu Sayyaf Group is a small militant Islamic organization operating out of the southern Philippines, where it seeks to establish an Islamic state. Founded around 1990, it is known for its brazen kidnappings and brutal beheadings. It has also conducted a number of large attacks on Filipino and foreign civilians, including a February 2004 bombing of a ferry in Manila harbor which killed 194 people.

Prior to 1996, intelligence officials directly linked Abu Sayyaf with Al Qaeda, alleging that Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law provided the group with start-up funding and that Abu Sayyaf’s first leader, Aburajak Janjalani met with Bin Laden in Pakistan in the early 1990’s. Additionally, intelligence officials believe that Abu Sayyaf members have trained in Al Qaeda terrorist camps in Afghanistan. Despite their past cooperation, the current operational links between Al Qaeda and Abu Sayyaf are unclear.

According to police reports stemming from recent arrests in the Philippines, Abu Sayyaf also trains and coordinates attacks with the Al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah.

The Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC)

The Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC are the initials for the group’s French name) was formed in 1998 as an outgrowth of the once-powerful and extremely violent Groupe Islamique Armée (GIA), whose popularity drastically declined following a series of massacres in which it killed thousands of Algerian civilians. Repudiating the GIA’s brutal tactics, a former leader, Hassan Hattab, created the GSPC. Hattab declared that the new group would refrain from attacking civilians. Largely due to this policy, the GSPC quickly rose to prominence in Algeria's rural areas, where most of its support is located. Although the GSPC has not wholly avoided non-combatants, it has eclipsed the GIA as the most deadly terrorist organization in Algeria. It repeatedly attacks the Algerian military and also kidnaps Western tourists in an effort to weaken and ultimately overthrow the Algerian government, replacing it with Islamic rule based on a "pure" interpretation of the Koran.

The group is now closely allied with Al Qaeda, from which it receives material and financial support. According to French intelligence officials, the GSPC also maintains close ties with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his Al Qaeda in Iraq group. Members of the organization have stated that that bin Laden himself ordered the creation of the group and continues to bankroll it. Intelligence officials also believe that the two terrorist groups have worked closely on planning major terrorist attacks, such as the foiled “Millennium Plot” to blow up the Los Angeles airport.

In addition to its terrorist infrastructure in Algeria, the GSPC has an extensive network of operatives in Europe. In the past, the group has targeted France, and in September 2005 it issued a statement threatening the country with more attacks. Around the same time, a GSPC operative in Algerian custody divulged information about a cell in France which was allegedly planning to carry out major terrorist attacks on the Paris subway, Orly airport and the headquarters of the French intelligence service. Members of the organization have been arrested in major raids in Italy, France and Spain.

Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM)

Though its significance and ability have gone relatively unnoticed in the international community until recently, the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (more commonly known by its French acronym GICM), has evolved into one of Al Qaeda’s most lethal affiliates. It espouses the same rigid Salafist ideology as Al Qaeda. Intelligence services hold the group accountable for several major terrorist attacks, including the 2004 Madrid train bombings that killed over 190 people and injured at least 1,400. They also believe GICM was behind a May 2003 suicide bombing in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in which 20 people were killed. In its manifesto, the GICM proclaims its intention to fight Jews and Christians around the world.

The GICM was founded in the late 1990’s by a group of Moroccan Islamic militants with the dual goal of overthrowing the Moroccan monarchy and supporting Al Qaeda in its “jihad” against the West. European and U.S. intelligence officials claim that the GICM maintains close links with Al Qaeda according to his purported confession, senior GICM member Noureddine Nfia met with Ayman al-Zawahiri to secure financing and political support. Nfia, currently incarcerated in Morocco, reportedly described the GICM as a “derivative structure” of Al Qaeda. Nfia played a central role in a May 2003 GICM attack on Jewish and Western targets in Casablanca which killed 45 people.

Intelligence services contend that the GICM maintains operatives throughout Europe, and it is known to be active in Belgium, Italy, France, Spain, Britain and Canada. French intelligence is also concerned about the GICM’s links with another Al Qaeda related organization, the Algerian Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC).

Al Qaeda in Iraq

Al Qaeda in Iraq was formed shortly after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who initially named the group Jama'at al-Tawhid Wa al-Jihad (Organization of Monotheism and Jihad). The immediate goal of the group was to end the American occupation of Iraq by killing Americans and their Iraqi supporters. In October 2004, however, Zarqawi publicly allied himself with Osama bin Laden and renamed his organization the Al Qaeda in Iraq. The two organizations are known to jointly plot strategies and tactics.

The group has been responsible for some of the most deadly terrorist attacks in Iraq, often targeting Iraqi police recruits and government officials. It has targeted Shiites in an attempt to destabilize relations between Iraq's Sunni and Shiite populations, and it has also beheaded foreigners, including American Nick Berg. It is considered the most dangerous terrorist organization in the country.

Ansar al-Islam

Ansar al-Islam was formed in 2001 by Kurdish Islamists and militants loyal to Osama bin Laden, who allegedly helps fund the group. At its founding, the group sought to establish an Islamic nation in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq, but after the U.S. invasion in 2003, Ansar al-Islam shifted its goals to include fighting the U.S. and Iraqi governments. The group has claimed responsibility for a number of high-profile suicide bombings in Iraq.

In 2001, Ansar al-Islam seized control of a small piece of territory in northern Iraq, near the Iranian border. Under the direction of its spiritual leader Mullah Krekar, Ansar al-Islam enforced a strict form of Islamic rule in its newly-acquired territory. Shortly thereafter, Al Qaeda operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi joined with Ansar al-Islam and set up a number of alleged terrorist training camps in the area.

In one of the first operations of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, U.S. Special Forces, alongside Kurdish partisan fighters, attacked and destroyed the Ansar al-Islam headquarters in the village of Sargat in March 2003. The U.S. has claimed that soldiers found evidence of an incipient chemical weapons program in the village. Krekar was arrested in Norway in 2004 and is awaiting extradition to Iraq.

Ansar al-Sunna

Since 2003, Jaish Ansar al-Sunna (Arabic for "Army of the Followers of the Teachings") has carried out some of the most lethal terrorist attacks in Iraq, including many suicide bombings, in an effort to achieve its ultimate goal of establishing a fundamentalist Islamic government in the country. Among the deadliest attacks claimed by Ansar al-Sunna is a bombing in Erbil that killed 109 people in February 2004, and a suicide bombing at a U.S. military base near Mosul that killed 22 people, including 14 U.S. soldiers. The group, described by U.S. officials as the "principal organized terrorist adversary in Iraq," follows a Salafist ideology and has attracted followers within Iraqi as well as supporters worldwide.

Ansar al-Sunna grew out of Ansar al-Islam, a militant Kurdish Islamic group founded by Kurdish cleric Mullah Krekar in 2001 to establish an Islamic government in Iraq. According to U.S. and Iraqi intelligence officials, a schism between members of Ansar al-Islam, coupled with the deaths of many of its leaders following the U.S. invasion of Iraq, led to the formation of the Ansar al-Sunna in September 2003.

Ansar al-Sunna also maintains strong links with Al Qaeda and its leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who joined Ansar al-Sunna after fleeing Afghanistan in 2001. The full extent of their links is unclear however, captured members of Ansar al-Sunna have reportedly described Zarqawi as having a leadership role in the group (some Ansar al-Sunna followers have also reportedly described a rift between their leaders and Zarqawi). It is clear, however, that Ansar al-Sunna and Al Qaeda maintain some sort of operational links.

Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET)

Lashkar-e-Taiba (Army of the Pure) is a Pakistani-based Islamic terrorist organization which seeks to drive out Indian forces from the Jammu and Kashmir region of South Asia and establish an Islamic caliphate. The organization was founded in the 1980’s under the direction of both Osama bin Laden and the Pakistani government (which also opposes the Indian presence in Kashmir) as the armed wing of the Markaz Dawa al-Irshad, an Islamic social welfare group. Intelligence services consider LET to be the most hardcore of the Kashmir-based Islamic militant groups, and it is known for its many deadly attacks, including a daring raid on the Indian parliament in 2002 which killed 14.

Intelligence services have discovered a number of direct operational links between LET and Al Qaeda, which are allies in bin Laden’s International Islamic Front (IIF). Before its camps in Afghanistan were destroyed by the United States in 2001, Al Qaeda frequently hosted and trained LET operatives who went on to fight in Kashmir. Conversely, since the destruction of those camps, LET has hosted Al Qaeda trainees, including Shahzad Tanweer, one of the suicide bombers in the July 7, 2005 London Underground attack. Additionally, senior Al Qaeda leaders, such as Abu Zubeida have been arrested at LET compounds and LET operatives have reportedly been recruited for planned Al Qaeda attacks on American interests.

LET is known for its expertise in suicide bombing and conventional assault tactics. It is alleged by numerous intelligence officials that LET has members around the world, including in the U.S., Europe and Australia. Also, some American citizens who have been arrested on terrorism-related charges have undergone training at LET camps in Kashmir and Pakistan.

Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU)

Established in 1996, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is a conglomeration of Islamic militants from throughout Central Asia. The IMU’s stated goal is to overthrow the current Uzbek regime and establish an Islamic state throughout Central Asia. The group aims to achieve this objective by conducting terrorist activities, including suicide bombings, kidnappings and shootings in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Its rhetoric is anti-American and anti-Semitic, and it has targeted Westerners in past terrorist operations.

The IMU is closely linked with Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden allegedly helps fund the group. Members of the IMU have also reportedly been placed in leadership roles within Al Qaeda and many have served as a type of defense force for senior Al Qaeda leaders.


Al Qaeda: Facts About the Terrorist Network and Its History of Attacks - HISTORY

Good morning, Madam Chairwoman and Members of the Subcommittee. My name is J.T. Caruso and I am the Acting Assistant Director of the FBI's Counterterrorism Division. I am pleased to appear before the Subcommittee to discuss Al Qaeda International.

AL-QAEDA INTERNATIONAL

"Al-Qaeda" ("The Base") was developed by Usama Bin Laden and others in the early 1980's to support the war effort in Afghanistan against the Soviets. The resulting "victory" in Afghanistan gave rise to the overall "Jihad" (Holy War) movement. Trained Mujahedin fighters from Afghanistan began returning to such countries as Egypt, Algeria, and Saudi Arabia, with extensive "jihad" experience and the desire to continue the "jihad". This antagonism began to be refocused against the U.S. and its allies.

Sometime in 1989, Al-Qaeda dedicated itself to further opposing non-Islamic governments in this region with force and violence. The group grew out of the "mekhtab al khidemat" (the Services Office) organization which maintained offices in various parts of the world, including Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States. Al-Qaeda began to provide training camps and guesthouses in various areas for the use of Al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups. They attempted to recruit U.S. citizens to travel throughout the Western world to deliver messages and engage in financial transactions for the benefit of Al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups and to help carry out operations. By 1990 Al-Qaeda was providing military and intelligence training in various areas including Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Sudan, for the use of Al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups, including the Al-Jihad (Islamic Jihad) organization.

One of the principal goals of Al-Qaeda was to drive the United States armed forces out of Saudi Arabia (and elsewhere on the Saudi Arabian peninsula) and Somalia by violence. Members of Al-Qaeda issued fatwahs (rulings on Islamic law) indicating that such attacks were both proper and necessary.

Al-Qaeda opposed the United States for several reasons. First, the United States was regarded as an "infidel" because it was not governed in a manner consistent with the group's extremist interpretation of Islam. Second, the United States was viewed as providing essential support for other "infidel" governments and institutions, particularly the governments of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the nation of Israel and the United Nations organization, which were regarded as enemies of the group. Third, Al-Qaeda opposed the involvement of the United States armed forces in the Gulf War in 1991 and in Operation Restore Hope in Somalia in 1992 and 1993, which were viewed by Al-Qaeda as pretextual preparations for an American occupation of Islamic countries. In particular, Al-Qaeda opposed the continued presence of American military forces in Saudi Arabia (and elsewhere on the Saudi Arabian peninsula) following the Gulf War. Fourth, Al-Qaeda opposed the United States Government because of the arrest, conviction and imprisonment of persons belonging to Al-Qaeda or its affiliated terrorist groups or with whom it worked, including Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who was convicted in the first World Trade Center bombing.

From its inception until approximately 1991, the group was headquartered in Afghanistan and Peshawar, Pakistan. Then in 1991, the group relocated to the Sudan where it was headquartered until approximately 1996, when Bin Laden, Mohammed Atef and other members of Al-Qaeda returned to Afghanistan. During the years Al-Qaeda was headquartered in Sudan the network continued to maintain offices in various parts of the world and established businesses which were operated to provide income and cover to Al-Qaeda operatives.

AL-QAEDA TIES TO OTHER TERRORIST ORGANIZATIONS

Although Al-Qaeda functions independently of other terrorist organizations, it also functions through some of the terrorist organizations that operate under its umbrella or with its support, including: the Al-Jihad, the Al-Gamma Al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group - led by Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and later by Ahmed Refai Taha, a/k/a "Abu Yasser al Masri,"), Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and a number of jihad groups in other countries, including the Sudan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Somalia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bosnia, Croatia, Albania, Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon, the Philippines, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, the Kashmiri region of India, and the Chechen region of Russia. Al-Qaeda also maintained cells and personnel in a number of countries to facilitate its activities, including in Kenya, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States. By banding together, Al-Qaeda proposed to work together against the perceived common enemies in the West - particularly the United States which Al-Qaeda regards as an "infidel" state which provides essential support for other "infidel" governments. Al-Qaeda responded to the presence of United States armed forces in the Gulf and the arrest, conviction and imprisonment in the United States of persons belonging to Al-Qaeda by issuing fatwahs indicating that attacks against U.S. interests, domestic and foreign, civilian and military, were both proper and necessary. Those fatwahs resulted in attacks against U.S. nationals in locations around the world including Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Yemen, and now in the United States. Since 1993, thousands of people have died in those attacks.

THE FATWAH'S OF AL-QAEDA

The Fatwah Against American Troops in Somalia

At various times from about 1992 until about 1993, Usama Bin Laden, working together with members of the fatwah committee of Al-Qaeda, disseminated fatwahs to other members and associates of Al-Qaeda which directed that the United States forces stationed in the Horn of Africa, including Somalia, should be attacked. Indeed, Bin Laden has claimed responsibility for the deaths of 18 U.S. servicemen killed in "Operation Restore Hope" in Somalia in 1994.
February, 1998 Fatwah

On February 22, 1998, Bin Laden issued a fatwah stating that it is the duty of all Muslims to kill Americans. This fatwah read, in part, that "in compliance with God's order, we issue the following fatwah to all Muslims: the ruling to kill the Americans and their allies, including civilians and military, is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it." This fatwah appears to have provided the religious justification for, and marked the start of logistical planning for, the U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

In February 1998, Usama Bin Ladin and one of his top lieutenants and leader of the Al-Jihad organization in Egypt, Ayman Al Zawahiri, endorsed a fatwah under the banner of the "International Islamic Front for Jihad on the Jews and Crusaders." This fatwah, published in the publication Al-Quds al-Arabi on February 23, 1998, stated that Muslims should kill Americans -- including civilians -- anywhere in the world where they can be found. In or about April 1998, one of the defendants in the East Africa trial, Mohamed Sadeek Odeh, discussed the fatwahs issued by Bin Ladin and Al-Qaeda against America with another defendant, Mustafa Mohamed Fadhil. This discussion took place in Kenya.

THE TRIAL IN NEW YORK CITY

As was revealed at the trial that took place in New York earlier this year, a former member of Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network began working with the United States government in 1996. That witness revealed that Bin Laden had a terrorist group, Al-Qaeda, which had privately declared war on America and was operating both on its own and as an umbrella for other terrorist groups. The witness revealed that Al-Qaeda had a close working relationship with the aforementioned Egyptian terrorist group known as Egyptian Islamic Jihad. The witness recounted that Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda were seeking to obtain nuclear and chemical weapons and that the organization engaged in sophisticated training. He also revealed that Al-Qaeda obtained specialized terrorist training from and worked with Iranian government officials and the terrorist group Hezballah. Thereafter, in August 1996, two years prior to the bombings of the embassies in East Africa, Usama Bin Laden issued a public Declaration of Jihad against the United States military. This was followed by a series of other statements including a February 1998 joint declaration, signed by Usama Bin Laden and the leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), among others, which declared war on the American population, military and civilian. The public statements corroborated the witness information that Bin Laden, Al-Qaeda and EIJ were working to kill Americans. In May 1998, Bin Laden gave a press interview in which he threatened American interests and complained that the United States was using its embassies overseas to track down terrorists.

On August 7, 1998, the bombings of the embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, occurred roughly simultaneously. The persons who carried out the attacks in Kenya and Tanzania have since been identified publicly: the principal participants were members of Al-

Qaeda and/or the affiliated terrorist group EIJ. Indeed, Mohamed Rashed Daoud al-Owhali, a Saudi who admitted he was in the bomb truck used in Nairobi, confessed that he had been trained in Al-Qaeda camps, fought with the Taliban in Afghanistan (with the permission of Usama Bin Laden), had asked Bin Laden for a mission and was thereafter dispatched by others to East Africa after undergoing extensive specialized training at camps in Afghanistan. Another defendant, Mohamed Sadeek Odeh, in whose residence was found a sketch of the area where the bomb was to be placed, admitted he was a member of Al-Qaeda and identified the other principal participants in the bombing as Al-Qaeda members. Odeh admitted that he was told the night prior to the bombings that Bin Laden and the others he was working with in Afghanistan had relocated from their camps because they expected the American military to retaliate.

There was independent proof of the involvement of Bin Laden, Al-Qaeda and EIJ in the bombings. First, the would-be suicide bomber, al-Owhali, ran away from the bomb truck at the last minute and survived. However, he had no money or passport or plan by which to escape Kenya. Days later, he called a telephone number in Yemen and thus arranged to have money transferred to him in Kenya. That same telephone number in Yemen was contacted by Usama Bin Laden's satellite phone on the same days that al-Owhali was arranging to get money. Moreover, al-Owhali and Odeh both implicated men named "Harun," "Saleh" and "Abdel Rahman," now all fugitives, as organizing the Nairobi bombing. All three have been conclusively shown to be Al-Qaeda and/or EIJ members. Indeed, documents recovered in a 1997 search of a house in Kenya showed Harun to be an Al-Qaeda member in Kenya. The house where the Nairobi bomb was assembled was located and proved to have been rented by that same Al-Qaeda member Harun. Moreover, the records for the telephone located at the bomb factory showed calls to the same number in Yemen which al-Owhali contacted for money after the bombing and which Usama Bin Laden's satellite telephone also contacted before and after the bombings.

The person arrested for the Tanzania bombing, Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, also implicated "Saleh" and "Abdel Rahman" in the Tanzania bombing as did Odeh. Telephone records confirmed that the Kenya and Tanzania cells were in contact shortly before the bombings.

Additional proof of the involvement of Al-Qaeda and EIJ in the East Africa bombings came from a search conducted in London of several residences and business addresses belonging to Al-Qaeda and EIJ members. In those searches, a number of documents were found, including claims of responsibility in the name of a fictitious group. Al-Owhali, the would-be suicide bomber, admitted that he was told to make a videotape of himself using the name of a fictitious group, the same name found on the claims of responsibility. The claims of responsibility were received in London on the morning the bombings occurred, likely before the bombings even occurred. The claim documents could be traced back to a telephone number that was in contact with Bin Laden's satellite telephone. The claims, which were then disseminated to the press, were clearly authored by someone genuinely familiar with the bombing conspirators as they stated that the bombings were carried out by two Saudis in Kenya and one Egyptian in Tanzania. The nationality of the bombers did not become known to investigators until weeks later. Moreover, the plan had been for two Saudis to be killed in the Nairobi bombing but only one was actually killed as al-Owhali ran away at the last minute. Thus the claims were written by someone who knew what the plan was but before they knew the actual results.

In short, the trial record left little doubt that the East Africa embassy bombings were carried out as a joint operation of Al-Qaeda and EIJ. The testimony in the trial confirmed that:


Al Qaeda: Facts About the Terrorist Network and Its History of Attacks - HISTORY

The true roots of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network stem from the decade-long conflict that plagued Afghanistan from 1979-1989. After Afghanistan was invaded by the Soviet Union, the Afghan Islamist extremists found a rallying call for their cause, as young Muslims from around the world came to Afghanistan to volunteer in what was being called a "holy war," or jihad, against the invading Soviets. One of these young Muslims was a 23 year old from Saudi Arabia named "Usama" bin Ladin.

Son of a wealthy construction magnate, bin Ladin had taken to the religious sermons of Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian and disciple of Sayyid Qutb. While he participated in few actual battles in Afghanistan, bin Laden became known for his generous funding of the jihad against the Soviets.

However, bin Laden's ambitions extended beyond the boarders of Afghanistan, and he began to develop a complex international organization. He set up a financial support network known as the "Golden Chain," comprised mainly of financiers from Saudi Arabia and Persian Gulf states. Using this immense new fund, bin Laden and Azzam created a "Bureau of Services," which helped channel recruits for the jihad into Afghanistan. With Saudi Arabia and the United States pouring in billions of dollars worth of secret assistance to rebels in Afghanistan, the jihad against the Soviets was constantly gaining momentum.

When the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan in early 1989, bin Laden and Azzam decided that their new organization should not dissolve. They established what they called a base (al Qaeda) as a potential general headquarters for future jihad. However, bin Laden, now the clear emir of al Qaeda, and Azzam differed on where the organization's future objectives should lie. Azzam favored continued fighting in Afghanistan until there was a true Islamist government, while bin Laden wanted to prepare al Qaeda to fight anywhere in the world. When Azzam was killed in 1989, bin Laden assumed full charge of al Qaeda.

After leaving Afghanistan and being exiled by Saudi Arabia, bin Laden moved to Sudan, and with him went the base of operations for al Qaeda. From the sanctuary of Sudan, bin Laden began synching up with groups from all over the Middle East and northern Africa, and began laying the groundwork for his jihad against the West.

Beginning with a fatwa called against the United States' deployment to Somalia, bin Laden would continually plan and aid attacks against the United States. Al Qaeda trainers allegedly aided in downing two Black Hawk helicopters in 1993. Bin Laden and al Qaeda also took credit for the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. In 1995, al Qaeda associates were responsible for a car bomb that exploded outside a Saudi-U.S. joint facility in Saudi Arabia that was used to train the Saudi National Guard.

Due to mounting international pressure, Sudan forced bin Laden to return to Afghanistan, where he struggled to rebuild his terrorist network. It was not until the rise of the Taliban that bin Laden had al Qaeda working again, and had enough confidence to issue his 1998 fatwa against the United States and its citizens. By this time, al Qaeda had merged with the Egyptian Islamist Jihad, headed by Ayman al-Zawahri, who would become number two in command to bin Laden. Al Qaeda was now the general headquarters for international terrorism.

While previous acts by al Qaeda had involved training, funding and aiding other groups, the new refuge in Afghanistan allowed for bin Laden to take his organization to the next level. In 1998, the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were attacked by terrorists, yet this time, it was planned, directed and executed solely by al Qaeda and bin Laden. Al Qaeda would also be responsible for the 2000 strike against the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen, which left 17 American sailors dead.

On September 11, 2001 al Qaeda executed its most devastating attack against the United States, killing nearly 3,000 civilians. However, the United States military response in Afghanistan would serve to cripple al Qaeda for a significant amount of time. With the protection of the Taliban gone and bin Laden in hiding, al Qaeda became far more decentralized, with operational commanders and cell leaders making the command decisions previously made by bin Laden. However, as a recent National Intelligence Estimate report showed, al Qaeda is once again gaining strength, and has significantly rebuilt itself despite U.S. efforts.

AL QAEDA AND IRAQ
Who exactly is the enemy in Iraq and how does Al Qaeda fit in? Bill Moyers talks with West Point Instructor, Brian Fishman, and Middle Eastern and International Affairs Professor Fawaz Gerges, discussing the growing power of Al Qaeda and its connections to the war in Iraq.

EARMARK REFORM?
With corruption on the minds of many voters in the 2006 midterm elections, has the new Congress made real strides in curbing the abuse of earmarks?

MOYERS ON SACRIFICE
Bill Moyers reflects upon sacrifice, democracy and war.


Al Qaeda

al Qaeda, Arabic for "the base," is an international terrorist network led by extremist Osama bin Laden. Its main goal is to rid Muslim countries of what it sees as the direct influence of the West, and replace it with fundamentalist Islamic regimes. Attacking outside of Muslim countries in acts of violence is directed by high-ranking members of that extremist group. After al Qaeda’s September 11, 2001, attacks on America, the United States launched a war in Afghanistan to clean out al Qaeda’s bases there, and overthrow the Taliban, the country’s Muslim fundamentalist rulers who harbored bin Laden and his followers. The birth of al Qaeda After fighting Soviet Army occupiers in Afghanistan (with U.S. backing) from 1979 to 1989, Osama bin Laden would take the concept of holy war (jihad) elsewhere in order to liberate other occupied Muslim lands. Throughout the Afghan jihad, bin Laden answered to Sheikh Abdullah Azzam, who ran a paramilitary group of mujahideen (holy warriors) called "The Office of Services." Just prior to the Soviets' ignominious withdrawal, Osama bin Laden quietly separated with Azzam's mujahideen to create al Qaeda in 1988. The CIA soon became aware of Azzam's and bin Laden's separation. Several months later, Azzam was assassinated. Ironically, Osama and many of the mujahideen had been trained, militarily equipped, and funded by the CIA during the decade-long conflict with the Soviets. After the Soviet withdrawal, al Qaeda went underground for a couple of years to build up financial and operational assets. bin Laden returned to Saudi Arabia as a hero, where he easily raised money for his new terrorist program. al Qaeda strikes the U.S. for the first time Osama was outraged by the outbreak of the Gulf War in 1991. He was convinced that the United States' presence in the Persian Gulf was a personal attack on his own Muslim people. In 1992, he declared a jihad and committed al Qaeda to forcing the permanent withdrawal of U.S. forces and business interests from the Gulf. al Qaeda launched a series of terrorist attacks against the United States. The first was a failed attempt in 1992 to take out U.S. troops in Yemen. Other attacks included sporadic embassy bombings, a gunboat attack on the USS Cole, and bombings of airplanes and movie theaters in the Philippines. al Qaeda also has been linked to recent attacks on a nightclub in Bali, and on the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan. Still a threat to humanity In early 2002, U.S. forces attacked many of al Qaeda's terrorist camps throughout Afghanistan. There is still no verifiable intelligence about what sort of headquarters operation might remain, but many of al Qaeda's top leaders were captured in Pakistan during 2002 and 2003, and several more are suspected to be hiding in the region. The whereabouts or even existence of Osama bin Laden are uncertain, but the al Quaeda terrorist cells are confirmed viable in some 100 countries and associated with at least 24 other terrorist groups, including the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Abu Sayyaf, Jemaah Islamiah, Hezbollah, Hamas, Hesb' I Islami, and the Islamic Group. al Qaeda's other top leaders Ayman Al-Zawahiri is al Qaeda's second in command. The highly intelligent Zawahiri is a former surgeon and a lifelong jihadist. At one time, he was a high-ranking official of Islamic Jihad until he joined with bin Laden in the early 1990s. Also during the early ྖs, Zawahiri traveled to the U.S., where he raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for terrorist operations through fraudulent charity organizations. According to the FBI, Ayman Al-Zawahiri is the second most-wanted terrorist in the world, and the agency has posted $25 million reward for his capture.

al Qaeda's third-in-command was Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, until his March 2003 capture in Pakistan. Kahlid was a higher-up terrorist who eventually became linked to nearly every major al Qaeda attack from the early 1990s until his capture. Kahlid masterminded the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the September 11 attack. For security reasons, he is currently being held incommunicado by the United States. A murder manual The following is a small section from an al Qaeda handbook recovered by police from a terrorist's home in Manchester, England.


Al Qaeda Is Ready to Attack You Again

Eighteen years have passed since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and al Qaeda is worse for the wear. The terrorist organization looks remarkably different today than the group that killed thousands of U.S. citizens on American soil. Intensive counterterrorism pressure in Afghanistan and Pakistan has left behind an aging and increasingly disconnected central leadership. The emergence of the Islamic State as a peer competitor, meanwhile, has left al Qaeda with a brand that, at times, has struggled to compete for global jihadist primacy.

With the group’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in bad health and isolated, most likely somewhere in Pakistan, and Hamza bin Laden, who may have been next in line, recently reported killed, al Qaeda’s most dedicated members seem to understand that its best chance to remain relevant is through its ongoing presence in Syria. To capitalize on the opportunities that the Syrian civil war has presented to al Qaeda, the group began moving significant assets from Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Levant in September 2014. This shift in the center of the group’s gravity constitutes a major change and one with implications still not fully understood by counterterrorism officials worldwide. After two turbulent decades following its most spectacular mission, al Qaeda has settled down and is again intensely focused on attacking the West.

Eighteen years have passed since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and al Qaeda is worse for the wear. The terrorist organization looks remarkably different today than the group that killed thousands of U.S. citizens on American soil. Intensive counterterrorism pressure in Afghanistan and Pakistan has left behind an aging and increasingly disconnected central leadership. The emergence of the Islamic State as a peer competitor, meanwhile, has left al Qaeda with a brand that, at times, has struggled to compete for global jihadist primacy.

With the group’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in bad health and isolated, most likely somewhere in Pakistan, and Hamza bin Laden, who may have been next in line, recently reported killed, al Qaeda’s most dedicated members seem to understand that its best chance to remain relevant is through its ongoing presence in Syria. To capitalize on the opportunities that the Syrian civil war has presented to al Qaeda, the group began moving significant assets from Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Levant in September 2014. This shift in the center of the group’s gravity constitutes a major change and one with implications still not fully understood by counterterrorism officials worldwide. After two turbulent decades following its most spectacular mission, al Qaeda has settled down and is again intensely focused on attacking the West.

Following the death of the group’s founder Osama bin Laden in 2011 and the onset of the so-called Arab Spring uprisings, al Qaeda began to embrace a changed strategy. Terrorism scholars widely observed that al Qaeda began pursuing more limited strategic goals with a focus on localism and incrementalism. This strategic shift was widely dubbed “controlled pragmatism” and “strategic patience.” Al Qaeda seemed to be “quietly and patiently rebuilding” itself while deliberately letting the Islamic State bear the brunt of the West’s counterterrorism campaign.

This pragmatic localism strategy had been most evident in how the group operated in Syria. It was there that a group known as the Nusra Front most effectively implemented an approach to jihad that had shown some previous success in Yemen and Mali, but which had still ultimately failed. By channeling its energies locally, forbidding the penal code, building alliances across the Islamist and non-Islamist spectrum, and outcompeting less extreme rivals in providing efficient and noncorrupt governance, the Nusra Front built a level of popular credibility that no other al Qaeda affiliate had come close to. In short, the Nusra Front remained acutely aware of how its brand was perceived by locals and acted accordingly. That it also proved to be the most potent military actor on the battlefield was merely an added bonus.

However, the method behind the Nusra Front’s success had a significant side effect: It distanced its Syrian wing from al Qaeda’s central leadership in South Asia. A localist approach necessitated a level of flexibility and rapid decision-making that proved impossible to coordinate with the likes of Zawahiri, who at worst was entirely incommunicado, or who at best took months to respond to communications. By 2016, it had also become clear that to sustain the Nusra Front’s success and to translate credibility into popularity, popularity into support, and support into loyalty, it needed to deal with its single biggest obstacle to progress: its association with an al Qaeda brand that brought only suspicion, paranoia, and distrust.

Through two successive rebrands in July 2016 and January 2017, the Nusra Front became Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and then Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. The first rebrand was accomplished peacefully and the second through military attacks on Islamist groups deemed to be potential threats. Whether initially intended or not, by the time Hayat Tahrir al-Sham was announced to the world, it was no longer considered a loyal member of the al Qaeda family. Thanks to its sudden attacks on rivals, it was also deeply unpopular—for the first time in its existence.

Infuriated by what they saw as the dilution of the Nusra Front’s identity and the purity of its cause, as well as the illegitimate process that lay behind its evolution, al Qaeda loyalists defected in substantial numbers. Led by veterans with decades of experience at al Qaeda’s highest levels, these al Qaeda loyalists have established new groups, chief among them Tanzim Huras al-Din, whose name means “Guardians of Religion Organization.” Guided by new instructions from Zawahiri and others, they have pivoted back to the elite vanguard model more traditionally espoused in bin Laden’s days, with affiliates discouraged from controlling or governing territory, avoiding linkages with impure groups or foreign governments, and pursuing an explicitly military strategy, with one eye each on the “near” enemies in the region, and also the “far” ones in the West.

Since its formation in late 2017, Tanzim Huras al-Din has been led by Samir Hijazi, also known as Abu Hammam al-Shami, a leading al Qaeda military specialist who spent time in Jordan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Lebanon before his arrival in Syria in 2012. Hijazi remains close to the notorious al Qaeda leader Saif al-Adel and previously worked closely with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, coordinating foreign fighter training in Iraq. However, two sources tell us Hijazi has recently been replaced as Tanzim Huras al-Din leader by another leading al Qaeda figure, Khalid al-Aruri, also known as Abu al-Qassam al-Urduni, who the same sources also say was recently appointed by Zawahiri to be one of al Qaeda’s three global deputies, alongside Adel and Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, also known as Abu Mohammed al-Masri, who are both in Iran. Aruri is one of at least two members of Tanzim Huras al-Din who hold seats in al Qaeda’s approximately 12-strong global shura council, the vast majority of which still remain in South Asia. That underlines how Syria has now become the prime node of al Qaeda investment, replacing the previously favored front in Yemen. There has been no shortage of al Qaeda veterans in Tanzim Huras al-Din—among them Sami al-Oraydi, Bilal Khuraisat, Faraj Ahmad Nanaa, and, until his reported death on Aug. 22, Abu Khallad al-Muhandis, Sayf al-Adel’s father-in-law.

As al Qaeda continues to undergo change as a global organization, one of the most pressing questions for policymakers and government officials is to what extent the group is still focused on attacking the West. Does the absence of spectacular attacks attributed to al Qaeda during this phase represent a lack of capability or merely a shift in priorities?

In an Al Jazeera interview from May 2015, then-Nusra Front leader Abu Mohammed al-Jolani explained that Zawahiri had instructed him not to use Syria as a sanctuary from which to attack the West. That instruction, which had arrived in a secret letter earlier that year, came in response to the U.S. government’s campaign of strikes against the so-called Khorasan Group—a small cadre of al Qaeda operatives operating in northern Syria with the explicit intention to attack the West—that had begun in September 2014. In simple terms, this was a logical pivot back to the Nusra Front’s strategy of locally focused incrementalism and a decision to avoid Western scrutiny amid an escalating international campaign against al Qaeda’s rival, the Islamic State.

Perhaps to avoid any confusion over whether the United States and the West remained in the crosshairs of al Qaeda’s international efforts, the group released a series of messages over the next several years. In a message from April 2017, Zawahiri reiterated the importance of al Qaeda’s global struggle. The next month, messages from both Hamza bin Laden and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula emir Qasim al-Raymi urged al Qaeda’s followers to launch attacks in the West. Unsurprisingly, in May 2017, then-U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats concluded in congressional testimony that “Europe will remain vulnerable to terrorist attacks, and elements of both ISIS and al Qaeda are likely to continue to direct and enable plots against targets in Europe.” Ansar al-Furqan, a group of al Qaeda veterans and loyalists briefly formed in Syria in October 2017, allegedly adhered to “newly stated objectives in Syria: guerilla warfare with an eye on targeting the West.” Yet another speech from Zawahiri, this one titled “America Is the First Enemy of Muslims” and released in March 2018, incited al Qaeda’s followers to strike the United States. None of this should be surprising, as al Qaeda’s overarching narrative has always been that the West is at war with Islam.

A recent United Nations assessment of al Qaeda’s links to groups in Syria observed the following:

“HTS [Hayat Tahrir al-Sham] and HAD [Tanzim Huras al-Din] are assessed to share a history and an ideology but to differ on policy. HTS centred its agenda on [Syria], with no interest in conducting attacks abroad. HAD, by contrast, was said to have a more international outlook. The leader of Al-Qaida, Aiman al-Zawahiri, was the defining authority for HAD, but not for HTS.”

That latter distinction aligns with Zawahiri’s own descriptions of Syria, dating back to January 2018, when for the first time he acknowledged that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham was distinct from “al Qaeda in the Levant.” With Hayat Tahrir al-Sham attracting the bulk of Russian and Syrian military attention today, the likes of Tanzim Huras al-Din are free to pursue their own al Qaeda agenda—contributing to some front lines shared with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, but mostly committing to independent action further north, in Latakia, Syria.

According to four separate sources, Tanzim Huras al-Din figures have repeatedly discussed the value of striking the West from Syria during broader Islamist gatherings in recent months. Though that doesn’t amount to evidence of plotting, the fact that the issue is being raised in public settings attended by many who oppose such actions is a stark warning of what may well be taking place behind closed doors. With the Islamic State weak and Russia effectively locking the United States out of northwest Syria’s airspace, this could be the moment for al Qaeda—with its new corps of local loyalists and leadership—to reassert itself on the global stage.

Intriguingly, after a two year lull, the United States has conducted two targeted strikes against al-Qaeda-linked targets in northwestern Syria in recent months – on June 30 and August 31 – despite being prohibited from accessing its airspace by Russia. In acknowledging both strikes, U.S. Central Command described the targets as “al-Qaida in Syria leadership” and specifically, “operatives responsible for plotting external attacks threatening U.S. citizens, our partners, and innocent civilians.” After years of ISIS fixation, this is an encouraging sign, but the U.S. remains constrained by limited intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets in theatre.

Since severing all support to vetted opposition groups (whose tens of thousands of members represented a colossal source of constant human intelligence) in late-2017 and losing free access to northwestern airspace, the U.S. intelligence and military apparatus are now monitoring al-Qaeda with both hands tied behind their backs. Meanwhile, Russia is coordinating a scorched earth campaign in the same region, whose target is not al-Qaeda, but al-Qaeda’s civilian opponents and its less extreme political Islamist rivals. That is a recipe for a counter-terrorism disaster, over which the United States maintains minimal sight, let alone control. Though extraordinarily complex, this chaotic operating environment presents innumerable opportunities to a small, tight-knit, experienced and dedicated core of al-Qaeda loyalists hell bent on renewing their fight against us.

Charles Lister is a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute and a senior consultant to The Shaikh Group’s Track II Syria Dialogue Initiative. Follow him on Twitter at: @Charles_Lister.


5 They Love Casio Watches


The Casio F-91W is cheap, simple, and smacks of the &lsquo90s. It&rsquos also extremely popular. Nearly 25 years after the first batch hit stores, this Japanese wristwatch is still a best seller across the globe. Renowned for its dependability, the F-91W is accurate to within 30 seconds per month, and that&rsquos pretty darn impressive. It&rsquos also probably why they&rsquore all the rage with fashionable Al-Qaeda agents.

In 2011, Wikileaks released a document called &ldquoMatrix of Threat Indicators for Enemy Combatants.&rdquo Basically, this pamphlet helps Guantanamo officials determine which suspects are more likely to blow themselves up. According to the guide, if you carry a satellite phone, a radio transceiver, and a wad of Benjamins, you just might be a terrorist. However, the biggest giveaway is that digital watch around your wrist, a gadget the US government has labeled &ldquothe sign of Al-Qaeda.&rdquo

Evidently, Casios make excellent detonators. When a young jihadist enrolls in terrorist training school, he&rsquos given an F-91W and plenty of hands-on training. With just a few additional supplies, like batteries and a circuit board, the would-be bomber can build a deadly weapon in a matter of minutes. Thanks to the watch, he even has 23 hours, 59 minutes, and 59 seconds to make his getaway.

According to The Guardian, over 30 Gitmo prisoners were captured wearing the F-91W, while 20 wore its silvery cousin, the A-159W. But is it just a coincidence? Millions of people wear Casio watches, and most of them aren&rsquot considering hijacking planes anytime soon. Perhaps the US military is blowing the Casio connection out of proportion. Or maybe not. Check out a photo of bin Laden himself and see what he&rsquos sporting on his wrist . . . an F-91W.


Timeline: Al-Qaeda and ISIS attacks in Saudi Arabia

Between 2003 and 2006, Saudi Arabia was hit by a wave of al-Qaeda bloody attacks targeting security headquarters and governmental facilities as well as foreign residential complexes and causing numerous deaths. Despite all of these events terrorism in Saudi Arabia didn’t come as a result to the events of May 12, 2003, considering that other acts dated back to 1979.

It is estimated that the number of terrorist acts perpetrated on Saudi grounds reached 59 during 37 years along with 1028 injured and 220 deaths

Differences in statistics were spotted in other reports but the income remains the same: the number of civilian victims is greater than that of the military.

In the wake of the Thursday’s attack which targeted a mosque in Abha, here is a timeline of the terrorist attacks occurred in Saudi Arabia.

March 18, 2003

Terrorist acts began in Saudi Arabia when an improvised explosive device made by Fahd al-Saidi exploded in a house located in al-Jazeera Street in the eastern part of Riyadh. This paved the way for a series of other terrorist acts in different parts of the kingdom.

May 12, 2003

Three trapped cars exploded in Riyadh in three compounds housing Westerners and Arabs killing 20 persons and injuring 194.

June 3, 2003

An American citizen died after being shot and seriously wounded in a naval base. He was working at King Abdul Aziz base (KANB) in the coastal industrial city Jubail.

In Ramadan, al-Mahya residential complex, mainly home to Arab and Muslim citizens, was targeted. According to Islamic teachings, it is forbidden to shed blood during this period. This attack killed 12 and wounded 122 people.

April 21, 2004

Suicide bombers targeted the General Directorate of Traffic in Riyadh with a trapped car claiming the lives of 4 security guards and a civilian and wounding 148.

Gunmen burst into industrial sites in the city of Yanbu, killed five people (an Australian, two Americans and two Britons), a Saudi security guard and injured 14 of his colleagues.

May 29, 2004

Armed group stormed the Oasis residential complex in al-Khobar city, took 45 hostages and killed dozens of its occupants before the Saudi Forces broke into the building after 48 hours and freed the hostages.

June 6, 2004

The Irish cameraman Simon Cumbers was killed and his British colleague Frank Gardner, BBC’s security correspondent was attacked in as-Suwaidi in Riyadh.

December 6, 2004

An armed group failed to break into the U.S. consulate in Jeddah. Three armed persons were killed, another 2 were arrested and many non-Americans were killed.

December 29, 2004

Two synchronous operations took place. The first one targeted the headquarters of the Ministry of Interior located in Riyadh when a suicide bomber detonated a car injuring a security guard at the eastern gate. The second one took place in the headquarters of the special Emergency Force in Riyadh as two suicide bombers tried to set off a car near the center. They were killed by security forces before they managed to drive the car into the center.

June 18, 2005

Colonel Mubarak al-Awat from the General Intelligence was assassinated of in the suburbs of al-Sharayih in Mecca by two terrorists who shot around 20 bullets from a firearm.

February 24, 2006

Security authorities thwarted an attempt targeting the oil refineries in Abqaiq in the eastern part of Saudi Arabia where suicide bombers tried to detonate two cars they were driving before the security guards of the plants kill them. This led to the death of one security guard.

May 12, 2006

U.S. consulate in Jeddah came under fire. The security forces succeeded in arresting the perpetrator after they shot him.
2006-2009, Saudi cities saw dozens of security raids and confrontations with terrorists that generated the death of many security guards and numbers of those registered on terrorism lists.

Year 2009 witnessed a failed attempt to kill the then Assistant Interior Minister Prince Mohamed Bin Nayef executed by Abdallah Taleh al-Ussayri . Also in 2009, a confrontation took place with Al Qaeda on border crossing points in the region of Jizan. Two terrorists from the wanted list tried to sneak into Saudi territory disguised in women clothes before the security authorities shot them down.

November 5, 2012

Two border security officers were killed in an ambush targeting one of the security patrols in the province of Sharurah in the southern part of the country along the border to Yemen.

July 4 and 5, 2014

Six persons tried to infiltrate into Saudi territory through al-Wadiha crossing on the border with Yemen after a security patrol came under fire in the Saudi part resulting in the death of the commander of the patrol. Two terrorists barricaded themselves inside the General Intelligence headquarters in Sharurah in the southern part of the country then committed suicide which led to the death of three other security guards.

ISIS terror in Saudi Arabia

April 30, 2015

Al-Baghdadi in a speech urged its followers to launch attacks in Saudi Arabia.

November 2014, Al-Dalwa incident

The terrorist cell that targeted a Shiite shrine in early November 2014 in al-Dalwa village in al-Ahsa governoratewas headed by Marwan al-Zafer who was directly involved with ISIS.

January 5, 2015, Border Suwayf center incident

A terrorist attack was perpetrated on, near al-Suweyf center affiliated to Jadidat Arar. The security guards tackled the terrorists while the latter were trying to infiltrate into Saudi territory coming from Iraq.

November 22, 2015, Danish resident

ISIS was behind the shooting incident of a Danish resident in Riyadh on .

March 2015, west of Riyadh

One of the security patrols came under the fire of an anonymous car in the suburbs of Laban west of Riyadh. Two security officers were slightly injured and specialized security bodies investigated this crime leading to the identification of the perpetrator.

April 25, 2015, east of Riyadh

Saudi security authorities announced to have thwarted an ISIS plan to detonate 7 trapped cars. A citizen had in fact contributed to the arrest of Saudi Yazid Abu Niyan

While conducting their duties, a security patrol came under fire in the surroundings of al-Khazn south of Riyadh. Commander Majed Aid al-Ghamedi was killed and five terrorists confessed by acting the crime during which they set the soldier on fire.

May 22, 2015

Someone detonated himself with an explosive belt among worshippers in the Mosque of Imam Ali Bin Abi Taleb in Qudayh town in al-Qatif district. This lead to 21 deaths and dozens injured.

May 29, 2015

A terrorist attempt to bomb al-Anud Mosque in the Saudi city of al-Damam claimed the lives of four and injured others.


Al Qaeda Core: A Short History

Ever since launching the war on terror in 2001, the United States has struggled to define — let alone defeat — what has proved to be a maddeningly amorphous enemy. Al Qaeda, once a relatively defined and hierarchical group, has metastasized into a multinational movement with franchise operations in at least 16 countries, from Mali to Syria, Yemen to Nigeria. These so-called affiliates have largely replaced the Pakistan-based mothership — now known as "al Qaeda core" or "al Qaeda central" — as the driving force of global jihad. That distinction, between the original terrorist group and its offshoots, has recently grown in political significance as U.S. President Barack Obama touts his decimation of al Qaeda’s "core leadership" — even if each new start-up renders that victory less and less reassuring.

After years of supporting the Afghan mujahideen, Osama bin Laden and some of his top associates meet in a suburb of Peshawar, Pakistan. With Soviet forces withdrawing from Afghanistan, the idea of a global jihad suddenly seems possible, and al Qaeda, literally "the Base," is born. "We used to call the training camp al Qaeda," bin Laden would later recall. "And the name stayed."

Bin Laden asks a senior al Qaeda associate in Pakistan to draft a memorandum requiring regional al Qaeda affiliates ("brothers") to consult with "al Qaeda central" before carrying out operations — another apparent sign that the core is losing control of the periphery.

"As long as we sustain the pressure on it, we judge that core al Qaeda will be of largely symbolic importance to the global jihadist movement," National Director of Intelligence James Clapper tells the U.S. Senate. "But regional affiliates … and, to a lesser extent, small cells and individuals will drive the global jihad agenda."

*Correction, March 17, 2014: This article originally misstated that Ayman al-Zawahiri announced the union of al Qaeda and the Armed Islamic Group (GIA). The union was between al Qaeda and the Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), which had previously broken away from GIA.

Special thanks to Peter Bergen, Thomas Hegghammer, and Bruce Riedel.

Illustration by Sarah King

Ever since launching the war on terror in 2001, the United States has struggled to define — let alone defeat — what has proved to be a maddeningly amorphous enemy. Al Qaeda, once a relatively defined and hierarchical group, has metastasized into a multinational movement with franchise operations in at least 16 countries, from Mali to Syria, Yemen to Nigeria. These so-called affiliates have largely replaced the Pakistan-based mothership — now known as "al Qaeda core" or "al Qaeda central" — as the driving force of global jihad. That distinction, between the original terrorist group and its offshoots, has recently grown in political significance as U.S. President Barack Obama touts his decimation of al Qaeda’s "core leadership" — even if each new start-up renders that victory less and less reassuring.

After years of supporting the Afghan mujahideen, Osama bin Laden and some of his top associates meet in a suburb of Peshawar, Pakistan. With Soviet forces withdrawing from Afghanistan, the idea of a global jihad suddenly seems possible, and al Qaeda, literally "the Base," is born. "We used to call the training camp al Qaeda," bin Laden would later recall. "And the name stayed."

Bin Laden asks a senior al Qaeda associate in Pakistan to draft a memorandum requiring regional al Qaeda affiliates ("brothers") to consult with "al Qaeda central" before carrying out operations — another apparent sign that the core is losing control of the periphery.

"As long as we sustain the pressure on it, we judge that core al Qaeda will be of largely symbolic importance to the global jihadist movement," National Director of Intelligence James Clapper tells the U.S. Senate. "But regional affiliates … and, to a lesser extent, small cells and individuals will drive the global jihad agenda."

*Correction, March 17, 2014: This article originally misstated that Ayman al-Zawahiri announced the union of al Qaeda and the Armed Islamic Group (GIA). The union was between al Qaeda and the Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), which had previously broken away from GIA.

Special thanks to Peter Bergen, Thomas Hegghammer, and Bruce Riedel.

Illustration by Sarah King

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