|This article may be too long to read and navigate comfortably. Please consider splitting content into sub-articles and using this article for a summary of the key points of the subject. (August 2010)|
|Dates of operation||1988–present|
Designated as Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. State Department|
Designated as Proscribed Group by the UK Home Office
Designated as terrorist group by EU Common Foreign and Security Policy
|Size||500 – 1,000 operatives (2001)|
Al-Qaeda (pronounced /ælˈkaɪdə/ ; al-qāʿidah, "the base"), alternatively spelled al-Qaida and sometimes al-Qa'ida, is a militant Islamist group founded sometime between August 1988 and late 1989. It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless army and a fundamentalist Sunni movement calling for global Jihad. It is considered a terrorist organization.[clarification needed]
Al-Qaeda has attacked civilian and military targets in various countries, most notably the September 11 attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. in 2001. The U.S. government responded by launching the War on Terror.
Characteristic techniques include suicide attacks and simultaneous bombings of different targets. Activities ascribed to it may involve members of the movement, who have taken a pledge of loyalty to Osama bin Laden, or the much more numerous "al-Qaeda-linked" individuals who have undergone training in one of its camps in Afghanistan, Iraq or Sudan, but not taken any pledge.
Al-Qaeda ideologues envision a complete break from the foreign influences in Muslim countries, and the creation of a new Islamic caliphate . Reported beliefs include that a Christian-Jewish alliance is conspiring to destroy Islam, which is largely embodied in the U.S.-Israel alliance, and that the killing of bystanders and civilians is religiously justified in jihad.
Al-Qaeda's management philosophy has been described as "centralization of decision and decentralization of execution." Following the War on Terrorism, it is thought that al-Qaeda's leadership has "become geographically isolated", leading to the "emergence of decentralized leadership" of regional groups using the al-Qaeda "brand name".
Many terrorism experts do not believe that the global jihadist movement is driven at every level by Osama bin Laden and his followers. Although Osama bin Laden still has huge ideological sway over some Muslim extremists, experts argue that al-Qaeda has fragmented over the years into a variety of disconnected regional movements that have little connection with each other. Marc Sageman, a psychiatrist and former CIA officer, said that Al-Qaeda would now just be a "loose label for a movement that seems to target the west". "There is no umbrella organisation. We like to create a mythical entity called [al-Qaeda] in our minds but that is not the reality we are dealing with."
Others, however, see Al-Qaeda as an integrated network that is strongly led from the Pakistani tribal areas and has a powerful strategic purpose. Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University, said "It amazes me that people don't think there is a clear adversary out there, and that our adversary does not have a strategic approach."
Al Qaeda has the following direct franchises:
- Al-Qaeda in Iraq
- Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb
- Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula comprised of
- Harakat al-Shabaab Mujahideen in Somalia
- Egyptian Islamic Jihad
- Libyan Islamic Fighting Group
- East Turkestan Islamic Movement in Xinjiang
Information mostly acquired from Jamal al-Fadl provided American authorities with a rough picture of how the group was organized. While the veracity of the information provided by al-Fadl and the motivation for his cooperation are both disputed, American authorities base much of their current knowledge of al-Qaeda on his testimony.
Bin Laden is advised by a Shura Council, which consists of senior al-Qaeda members, estimated by Western officials at about twenty to thirty people. Ayman al-Zawahiri is al-Qaeda's Deputy Operations Chief, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was the senior leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, but his safehouse was hit with missiles and Abu Ayyub al-Masri has possibly succeeded him.
Al-Qaeda's network was built from scratch as a conspiratorial network that draws on leaders of all its regional nodes "as and when necessary to serve as an integral part of its high command."
- The Military Committee is responsible for training operatives, acquiring weapons, and planning attacks.
- The Money/Business Committee funds the recruitment and training of operatives through the hawala banking system. U.S-led efforts to eradicate the sources of terrorist financing were most successful in the year immediately following September 11; al-Qaeda continues to operate through unregulated banks, such as the one thousand or so hawaladars in Pakistan, some of which can handle deals of up to $10 million. It also provides air tickets and false passports, pays al-Qaeda members, and oversees profit-driven businesses. In the 9/11 Commission Report, it is estimated that al-Qaeda requires $30 million per year to conduct its operations.
- The Law Committee reviews Islamic law and decides if particular courses of action conform to the law.
- The Islamic Study/Fatwah Committee issues religious edicts, such as an edict in 1998 telling Muslims to kill Americans.
- In the late 1990s there was a publicly known Media Committee, which ran the now-defunct newspaper Nashrat al Akhbar (Newscast) and handled public relations.
- In 2005, al Qaeda formed As-Sahab, a media production house, to supply its video and audio materials.
When asked about the possibility of Al Qaeda's connection to the 7 July 2005 London bombings in 2005, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair said: "Al Qaeda is not an organization. Al Qaeda is a way of working ... but this has the hallmark of that approach ... Al Qaeda clearly has the ability to provide training ... to provide expertise ... and I think that is what has occurred here."
However, on August 13, 2005 The Independent newspaper reported, quoting police and MI5 investigations, that the 7 July bombers acted independently of an al-Qaeda terror mastermind some place abroad.
What exactly al-Qaeda is, or was, remains in dispute. Author and journalist Adam Curtis contends that the idea of al-Qaeda as a formal organization is primarily an American invention. Curtis contends the name "al-Qaeda" was first brought to the attention of the public in the 2001 trial of Osama bin Laden and the four men accused of the 1998 United States embassy bombings in East Africa:
The reality was that bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri had become the focus of a loose association of disillusioned Islamist militants who were attracted by the new strategy. But there was no organization. These were militants who mostly planned their own operations and looked to bin Laden for funding and assistance. He was not their commander. There is also no evidence that bin Laden used the term "al-Qaeda" to refer to the name of a group until after September the 11th, when he realized that this was the term the Americans had given it.
As a matter of law, the U.S. Department of Justice needed to show that Osama bin Laden was the leader of a criminal organization in order to charge him in absentia under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, also known as the RICO statutes. The name of the organization and details of its structure were provided in the testimony of Jamal al-Fadl, who claimed to be a founding member of the organization and a former employee of Osama bin Laden.
Questions about the reliability of al-Fadl's testimony have been raised by a number of sources because of his history of dishonesty and because he was delivering it as part of a plea bargain agreement after being convicted of conspiring to attack U.S. military establishments. Sam Schmidt, a defense lawyer from the trial, had the following to say about al-Fadl's testimony:
There were selective portions of al-Fadl's testimony that I believe was false, to help support the picture that he helped the Americans join together. I think he lied in a number of specific testimony about a unified image of what this organization was. It made al-Qaeda the new Mafia or the new Communists. It made them identifiable as a group and therefore made it easier to prosecute any person associated with al-Qaeda for any acts or statements made by bin Laden.
The number of individuals in the organization who have undergone proper military training, and are capable of commanding insurgent forces, is largely unknown. In 2006, it was estimated that al-Qaeda had several thousand commanders embedded in forty different countries. As of 2009, it is believed no more than two hundred to three hundred members are still active commanders.
According to the documentary The Power of Nightmares, al-Qaeda is so weakly linked together that it is hard to say it exists apart from Osama bin Laden and a small clique of close associates.
The lack of any significant numbers of convicted al-Qaeda members despite a large number of arrests on terrorism charges is cited by the documentary as a reason to doubt whether a widespread entity that meets the description of al-Qaeda exists at all. Therefore the extent and nature of al-Qaeda remains a topic of dispute.
According to Robert Cassidy, al-Qaeda controls two separate forces deployed alongside insurgents in Iraq and Pakistan.
The first, numbering in the tens of thousands, was "organized, trained, and equipped as insurgent combat forces" in the Soviet-Afghan war. It was made up primarily of foreign mujahideen from Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Many went on to fight in Bosnia and Somalia, where their deeds helped raise the banner of global jihad.
Another group, approximately ten thousand strong, live in Western states and have received rudimentary combat training.
Other analysts have described al-Qaeda's rank and file as changing from being "predominantly Arab," in its first years of operation, to "largely Pakistani," as of 2007. It has been estimated that 62% of al-Qaeda members have university education.
On March 11, 2005, Al-Quds Al-Arabi published extracts from Saif al-Adel's document "Al Quaeda's Strategy to the Year 2020". Abdel Bari Atwan summarizes this strategy as comprising five stages:
- Provoke the United States into invading a Muslim country.
- Incite local resistance to occupying forces.
- Expand the conflict to neighboring countries and engage the US in a long war of attrition.
- Convert Al Qaeda into an ideology and set of operating principles that can be loosely franchised in other countries without requiring direct command and control, and via these franchises incite attacks against countries allied with the US until they withdraw from the conflict, as happened with the 2004 Madrid train bombings, but which did not have the same effect with the 7 July 2005 London bombings.
- The U.S. economy will finally collapse under the strain of too many engagements in too many places, similarly to the Soviet war in Afghanistan, Arab regimes supported by the US will collapse, and a Wahhabi Caliphate will be installed across the region.
The name 'al-Qaeda' was established a long time ago by mere chance. The late Abu Ebeida El-Banashiri established the training camps for our mujahedeen against Russia's terrorism. We used to call the training camp al-Qaeda. The name stayed.
It has been argued that two documents seized from the Sarajevo office of the Benevolence International Foundation prove that the name was not simply adopted by the mujahid movement and that a group called al-Qaeda was established in August 1988. Both of these documents contain minutes of meetings held to establish a new military group and contain the term "al-qaeda".
Former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook wrote that the word Al Qaeda should be translated as "the database", and originally referred to the computer file of the thousands of mujahideen militants who were recruited and trained with CIA help to defeat the Russians. In April 2002, the group assumed the name Qa'idat al-Jihad, which means "the base of Jihad". According to Diaa Rashwan, this was "apparently as a result of the merger of the overseas branch of Egypt's al-Jihad (Egyptian Islamist Jihad, or EIJ) group, led by Ayman El-Zawahiri, with the groups Bin Laden brought under his control after his return to Afghanistan in the mid-1990s."
Template:Islamism sidebar The radical Islamist movement in general and al-Qaeda in particular developed during the Islamic revival and Islamist movement of the last three decades of the 20th century along with less extreme movements.
Some have argued that "without the writings" of Islamic author and thinker Sayyid Qutb "al-Qaeda would not have existed." Qutb preached that because of the lack of sharia law the Muslim world was no longer Muslim, having reverted to pre-Islamic ignorance known as jahiliyyah.
To restore Islam, a vanguard movement of righteous Muslims was needed to establish "true Islamic states", implement Sharia, and rid the Muslim world of any non-Muslim influences, such as concepts like socialism or nationalism. Enemies of Islam included "treacherous Orientalists" and "world Jewry", who plotted "conspiracies" and "wicked[ly]" opposed Islam.
In the words of Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, a close college friend of Osama bin Laden: Islam is different from any other religion; it's a way of life. We [Khalifa and bin Laden] were trying to understand what Islam has to say about how we eat, who we marry, how we talk. We read Sayyid Qutb. He was the one who most affected our generation.
Qutb had an even greater influence on Osama bin Laden's mentor and another leading member of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Zawahiri's uncle and maternal family patriarch, Mafouz Azzam, was Qutb's student, then protégé, then personal lawyer and finally executor of his estate—one of the last people to see Qutb before his execution. "Young Ayman al-Zawahiri heard again and again from his beloved uncle Mahfouz about the purity of Qutb's character and the torment he had endured in prison." Zawahiri paid homage to Qutb in his work Knights under the Prophet's Banner.
One of the most powerful effects of Qutb's ideas was the idea that many who said they were Muslims were not, i.e., they were apostates, which not only gave jihadists "a legal loophole around the prohibition of killing another Muslim," but made "it a religious obligation to execute" the self-professed Muslim. These alleged apostates included leaders of Muslim countries, since they failed to enforce sharia law.
While the leadership's own theological platform is essentially Salafi, the organization's umbrella is sufficiently wide to encompass various schools of thought and political leanings. Al Qaeda counts among its members and supporters people associated with Wahhabism, Shafi'ism, Malikism and Hanafism. There are even some whose beliefs and practices are directly at odds with Salafism, such as Yunis Khalis, one of the leaders of the Afghan mujahedin. He is a mystic who visits tombs of saints and seeks their blessings — practices inimical to bin Laden's Wahhabi-Salafi school of thought. The only exception to this pan-Islamic policy is Shi'ism. Al Qaeda seems implicably opposed to it, as it holds Shi'ism to be heresy. In Iraq it has openly declared war on the Badr Brigades, who have fully cooperated with the US, and now considers even Shi'i civilians to be legitimate targets for acts of violence.
- Main article: Al-Qaeda:History
- Main article: Timeline of al-Qaeda attacks
Al-Qaeda has carried out a total of six major terrorist attacks, four of them in its jihad against America. In each case the leadership planned the attack years in advance, arranging for the shipment of weapons and explosives and using its privatized businesses to provide operatives with safehouses and false identities.
Al-Qaeda usually does not disburse funds for attacks, and very rarely makes wire transfers.
On December 29, 1992, al-Qaeda's first terrorist attack took place as two bombs were detonated in Aden, Yemen. The first target was the Movenpick Hotel and the second was the parking lot of the Goldmohur Hotel.
The bombings were an attempt to eliminate American soldiers on their way to Somalia to take part in the international famine relief effort, Operation Restore Hope . Internally, al-Qaeda considered the bombing a victory that frightened the Americans away, but in the United States the attack was barely noticed.
No Americans were killed because the soldiers were staying in a different hotel altogether, and they went on to Somalia as scheduled. However little noticed, the attack was pivotal as it was the beginning of al-Qaeda's change in direction, from fighting armies to killing civilians. Two people were killed in the bombing, an Australian tourist[who?] and a Yemeni hotel worker[who?]. Seven others, mostly Yemenis, were severely injured.
Two fatwas are said to have been appointed by the most theologically knowledgeable of al-Qaeda's members, Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, to justify the killings according to Islamic law. Salim referred to a famous fatwa appointed by Ibn Taymiyyah , a thirteenth-century scholar much admired by Wahhabis, which sanctioned resistance by any means during the Mongol invasions .[unreliable source?]
1993 World Trade Center bombingEdit
Yousef hoped this would kill 250,000 people. The towers shook and swayed but the foundation held and he succeeded in killing only six people (although he injured 1,042 others and caused nearly $300 million in property damage).Template:Page needed
After the attack, Yousef fled to Pakistan and later moved to Manila. There he began developing the Bojinka Plot plans to blow up a dozen American airliners simultaneously, to assassinate Pope John Paul II and President Bill Clinton, and to crash a private plane into CIA headquarters. He was later captured in Pakistan.
None of the U.S. government's indictments against Osama bin Laden have suggested that he had any connection with this bombing, but Ramzi Yousef is known to have attended a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan. After his capture, Yousef declared that his primary justification for the attack was to punish the United States for its support for the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and made no mention of any religious motivations.
- Main article: 1998 United States embassy bombings
In 1996, bin Laden personally engineered a plot to assassinate Clinton while the president was in Manila for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation. However, intelligence agents intercepted a message just minutes before the motorcade was to leave, and alerted the United States Secret Service. Agents later discovered a bomb planted under a bridge.
The 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa, resulting in upward of 300 deaths, mostly locals. A barrage of cruise missiles launched by the U.S. military in response devastated an al-Qaeda base in Khost, Afghanistan, but the network's capacity was unharmed.
In October 2000, al-Qaeda militants in Yemen bombed the missile destroyer U.S.S. Cole in a suicide attack, killing 17 U.S. servicemen and damaging the vessel while it lay offshore. Inspired by the success of such a brazen attack, al-Qaeda's command core began to prepare for an attack on the United States itself.
September 11th attacksEdit
- Main article: September 11 attacks
The September 11, 2001, attacks were the most devastating terrorist acts in American history, killing approximately 3,000 people. Two commercial airliners were deliberately flown into the World Trade Center towers, a third into The Pentagon, and a fourth, originally intended to target the United States Capitol, crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
The attacks were conducted by al-Qaeda, acting in accord with the 1998 fatwa issued against the United States and its allies by military forces under the command of bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, and others. Evidence points to suicide squads led by al-Qaeda military commander Mohamed Atta as the culprits of the attacks, with bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri , Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and Hambali as the key planners and part of the political and military command.
Messages issued by bin Laden after September 11, 2001, praised the attacks, and explained their motivation while denying any involvement. Bin Laden legitimized the attacks by identifying grievances felt by both mainstream and Islamist Muslims, such as the general perception that the United States was actively oppressing Muslims.
Bin Laden asserted that America was massacring Muslims in 'Palestine, Chechnya, Kashmir and Iraq' and that Muslims should retain the 'right to attack in reprisal'. He also claimed the 9/11 attacks were not targeted at women and children, but 'America's icons of military and economic power'.
Evidence has since come to light that the original targets for the attack may have been nuclear power stations on the east coast of the U.S. The targets were later altered by al-Qaeda, as it was feared that such an attack "might get out of hand".
Designation as terrorist organizationEdit
Al-Qaeda has been designated a terrorist organization by a number of organizations, including:
- United Nations Security Council
- North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary General
- Commission of the European Communities of the European Union
- United States Department of State
- Australian Government
- Government of India
- Republic of the Philippines
- Public Safety Canada
- Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Japan's Diplomatic Bluebook
- South Korean Foreign Ministry
- French General Secretary for National Defence
- Dutch Military Intelligence and Security Service
- United Kingdom Home Office
- National Anti-Terrorism Committee of the Federal Security Service of Russia
- Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs
- Turkish Police Forces
- Swiss Government
- Government of Ireland
War on TerrorismEdit
- Main article: War on Terrorism
In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, the United States government decided to respond militarily, and began to prepare its armed forces to overthrow the Taliban regime it believed was harboring al-Qaeda. Before the United States attacked, it offered Taliban leader Mullah Omar a chance to surrender bin Laden and his top associates. The first forces to be inserted into Afghanistan were Paramilitary Officers from the CIA's elite Special Activities Division (SAD).
The Taliban offered to turn over bin Laden to a neutral country for trial if the United States would provide evidence of bin Laden's complicity in the attacks. U.S. President George W. Bush responded by saying: "We know he's guilty. Turn him over", and British Prime Minister Tony Blair warned the Taliban regime: "Surrender bin Laden, or surrender power".
As a result of the United States using its special forces and providing air support for the Northern Alliance ground forces, both Taliban and al-Qaeda training camps were destroyed, and much of the operating structure of al-Qaeda is believed to have been disrupted. After being driven from their key positions in the Tora Bora area of Afghanistan, many al-Qaeda fighters tried to regroup in the rugged Gardez region of the nation.
Again, under the cover of intense aerial bombardment, U.S. infantry and local Afghan forces attacked, shattering the al-Qaeda position and killing or capturing many of the militants. By early 2002, al-Qaeda had been dealt a serious blow to its operational capacity, and the Afghan invasion appeared an initial success. Nevertheless, a significant Taliban insurgency remains in Afghanistan, and al-Qaeda's top two leaders, bin Laden and al-Zawahiri, evaded capture.
Debate raged about the exact nature of al-Qaeda's role in the 9/11 attacks, and after the U.S. invasion began, the U.S. State Department also released a videotape showing bin Laden speaking with a small group of associates somewhere in Afghanistan shortly before the Taliban was removed from power. Although its authenticity has been questioned by some, the tape appears to implicate bin Laden and al-Qaeda in the September 11 attacks and was aired on many television channels all over the world, with an accompanying English translation provided by the United States Defense Department.
In September 2004, the U.S. government commission investigating the September 11 attacks officially concluded that the attacks were conceived and implemented by al-Qaeda operatives. In October 2004, bin Laden appeared to claim responsibility for the attacks in a videotape released through Al Jazeera, saying he was inspired by Israeli attacks on high-rises in the 1982 Lebanon War: "As I looked at those demolished towers in Lebanon, it entered my mind that we should punish the oppressor in kind and that we should destroy towers in America in order that they taste some of what we tasted and so that they be deterred from killing our women and children."
By the end of 2004, the U.S. government proclaimed that two-thirds of the most senior al-Qaeda figures from 2001 had been captured and interrogated by the CIA: Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri in 2002; Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in 2003; and Saif al Islam el Masry in 2004. Mohammed Atef and several others were killed. Despite this, the U.S. government continues to warn that the organization is not yet defeated and battles between U.S. forces and al-Qaeda-related groups continue.
By the end of 2008, the Taliban had severed any remaining ties with al-Qaeda. According to senior U.S. military intelligence officials, there are fewer than 100 members of Al-Qaeda remaining in Afghanistan.
- Main article: Al-Qaeda involvement in Africa
Al-Qaeda involvement in Africa has included a number of bombing attacks in North Africa, as well as supporting parties in civil wars in Eritrea and Somalia. From 1991 to 1996, Osama bin Laden and other Al-Qaeda leaders were based in Sudan.
Islamist rebels in the Sahara calling themselves Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb have stepped up their violence in recent years. French officials say the rebels have no real links to the al-Qaeda leadership, but this is a matter of some dispute in the international press and amongst security analysts. It seems likely that bin Laden approved the group's name in late 2006, and the rebels "took on the al Qaeda franchise label", almost a year before the violence began to escalate.
- Main article: Al-Qaeda involvement in Europe
In 2003, Islamists carried out a series of bombings in Istanbul killing fifty-seven people and injuring seven hundred. Seventy-four people were charged by the Turkish authorities. Some had previously met Osama Bin Laden, and although they specifically declined to pledge allegiance to Al-Qaeda they asked for its blessing and help.
In 2009, three Londoners, Tanvir Hussain, Assad Sarwar and Ahmed Abdullah Ali, were convicted of conspiring to detonate bombs disguised as soft drinks on seven airplanes bound for Canada and the United States. The massively complex police and MI5 investigation of the plot involved more than a year of surveillance work conducted by over two hundred officers. British and U.S. officials said the plan—unlike many recent homegrown European terrorist plots—was directly linked to al-Qaeda and guided by senior Islamic militants in Pakistan.
- Main article: Al-Qaeda involvement in the Middle East
Following Yemeni unification in 1990, Wahhabi networks began moving missionaries into the country in an effort to subvert the capitalist north. Although it is unlikely bin Laden or Saudi al-Qaeda were directly involved, the personal connections they made would be established over the next decade and used in the USS Cole bombing.
In Iraq , al-Qaeda forces loosely associated with the leadership were embedded in the Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad organization commanded by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Specializing in suicide operations, they have been a "key driver" of the Sunni insurgency. Although they played a small part in the overall insurgency, between 30% and 42% of all suicide bombings which took place in the early years were claimed by Zarqawi's organization.
Significantly, it was not until the late 1990s that al-Qaeda began training Palestinians. This is not to suggest that resistance fighters are underrepresented in the network as a number of Palestinians, mostly coming from Jordan, wanted to join and have risen to serve high-profile roles in Afghanistan. Rather, large groups such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad—which cooperate with al-Qaeda in many respects—have had difficulties accepting a strategic alliance, fearing that Al-Qaeda will co-opt their smaller cells. This may have changed recently, as Israeli security and intelligence services believe al-Qaeda has managed to infiltrate operatives from the Occupied Territories into Israel, and is waiting for the right time to mount an attack.
- Main article: Kashmir Conflict
Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri consider India to be a part of the ‘Crusader-Zionist-Hindu’ conspiracy against the Islamic world. According to the 2005 report 'Al Qaeda: Profile and Threat Assessment' by Congressional Research Service, Osama bin Laden was involved in training militants for Jihad in Kashmir while living in Sudan in the early nineties. By 2001 Kashmiri militant group Harkat-ul-Mujahideen had become a part of the Al-Qaeda coalition. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Al-Qaeda is thought to have established bases in Pakistan-administered Kashmir during the 1999 Kargil War and continues to operate there with tacit approval of Pakistan's Intelligence services.
Many of the militants active in Kashmir were trained in the same Madrasah s as Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Fazlur Rehman Khalil of Kashmiri militant group Harkat-ul-Mujahideen was a signatory of Al-Qaeda's 1998 declaration of Jihad against America and its allies. In a 'Letter to American People' written by Osama bin Laden in 2002 he stated that one of the reasons he was fighting America is because of her support to India on the Kashmir issue. In November 2001 Kathmandu airport went on high alert after threats that Osama Bin Laden planned to hijack a plane from there and crash it into a target in New Delhi. In 2002 U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on a trip to Delhi suggested that Al-Qaeda was active in Kashmir though he did not have any hard evidence. He proposed hi tech ground sensors along the line of control to prevent militants from infiltrating into Indian administered Kashmir. An investigation in 2002 unearthed evidence that Al-Qaeda and its affiliates were prospering in Pakistan-administered Kashmir with tacit approval of Pakistan's National Intelligence agency Inter-Services Intelligence In 2002 a special team of Special Air Service and Delta Force was sent into Indian Administered Kashmir to hunt for Osama Bin Laden after reports that he was being sheltered by Kashmiri militant group Harkat-ul-Mujahideen which had previously been responsible for 1995 Kidnapping of western tourists in Kashmir. Britain's highest ranking Al-qaeda operative Rangzieb Ahmed had previously fought in Kashmir with the group Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and spent time in Indian prison after being captured in Kashmir.
U.S. officials believe that Al-Qaeda was helping organize a campaign of terror in Kashmir in order to provoke conflict between India and Pakistan. Their strategy was to force Pakistan to move its troops to the border with India thereby relieving pressure on Al-Qaeda elements hiding in northwestern Pakistan. In 2006 Al-Qaeda claim they have established wing in Kashmir this has worried the Indian government. However the Indian Army Lt. Gen. H.S. Panag, GOC-in-C Northern Command said to reporters that the army has ruled out the presence of Al Qaeda in Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir furthermore he said that there is nothing that can verify reports from the media of Al Qaeda presence in the state. He however stated that Alqaeda had strong ties with Kashmir militant groups Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed based in Pakistan. It has been noted that Waziristan has now become the new battlefield for Kashmiri militants who were now fighting NATO in support of Al-Qaeda and Taliban. Dhiren Barot who wrote he Army of Madinah In Kashmir was an Al-Qaeda operative convicted for involvement in 2004 financial buildings plot had received training in weapons and explosives at a militant training camp in Kashmir.
Maulana Masood Azhar the founder of another Kashmiri group Jaish-e-Mohammed is believed to have met Osama bin laden several times and received funding from him. In 2002 Jaish-e-Mohammed organized the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl in an operation run in conjunction with Al-qaeda and funded by Bin Laden. According to American counter terrorism expert Bruce Riedel Al-Qaeda and Taliban were closely involved in the 1999 hijacking of Indian Airlines Flight 814 to Kandahar which led to release of Maulana Masood Azhar & Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh from an Indian prison in exchange for the passengers. This hijacking Riedel stated was rightly described by then Indian Foreign minister Jaswant Singh as a 'dress rehearsal' for September 11 attacks  Osama Bin laden personally welcomed Azhar and threw a lavish party in his honor after his release, according to Abu Jandal bodyguard of Bin Laden. Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh who had been in Indian prison for his role in 1994 kidnappings of Western tourists in India went on to murder of Daniel Pearl and was sentenced to death by Pakistan. Al-Qaeda operative Rashid Rauf who was one of the accused in 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot was related to Maulana Masood Azhar by marriage.
Lashkar-e-Taiba a Kashmiri militant group which is thought to be behind 2008 Mumbai attacks is also known to have strong ties to senior Al-qaeda leaders living in Pakistan. In Late 2002 top Al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah was arrested while being sheltered by Lashkar-e-Taiba in a safe house in Faisalabad. FBI believes that Al-Qaeda and Lashkar have been 'intertwined' for a long time while CIA has said that Al-Qaeda funds Lashkar-e-Taiba. French investigating magistrate Jean-Louis Bruguière who was the top French counter terrorism official told Reuters in 2009 that 'Lashkar-e-Taiba is no longer a Pakistani movement with only a Kashmir political or military agenda. Lashkar-e-Taiba is a member of al Qaeda.'
In a video releases in 2008 senior Al-Qaeda operative Adam Yahiye Gadahn stated that "victory in Kashmir has been delayed for years, it is the liberation of the jihad there from this interference which, Allah willing, will be the first step towards victory over the Hindu occupiers of that Islam land."
On September 2009 U.S. Drone strike reportedly killed Ilyas Kashmiri who was the chief of Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami a Kashmiri militant group associated with Al Qaeda. Kashmiri was described by Bruce Riedel as a 'prominent' Al-qaeda member. while others have described him as head of military operations for Al-Qaeda. Kashmiri was also charged by U.S. in a plot against Jyllands-Posten the Danish newspaper which was at the center of Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy. U.S. officials also believe that Kashmiri was involved in the Camp Chapman attack against CIA. In January 2010 Indian authorities notified Britain of an Al-qaeda plot to hijack and Indian airlines or Air India plane and crash it into a British city. This information was uncovered from interrogation of Amjad Khwaja on operative of Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami who had been arrested in India.
In January 2010 U.S. Defense secretary Robert Gates while on a visit to Pakistan stated that Al-qaeda was seeking to destabilize the region and planning to provoke a nuclear war between India and Pakistan.
Timothy L. Thomas claims that in the wake of its evacuation from Afghanistan, al-Qaeda and its successors have migrated online to escape detection in an atmosphere of increased international vigilance. As a result, the organization's use of the Internet has grown more sophisticated, encompassing financing, recruitment, networking, mobilization, publicity, as well as information dissemination, gathering and sharing.
Abu Ayyub al-Masri’s al-Qaeda movement in Iraq regularly releases short videos glorifying the activity of jihadist suicide bombers. In addition, both before and after the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (the former leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq), the umbrella organization to which al-Qaeda in Iraq belongs, the Mujahideen Shura Council, has a regular presence on the Web. The range of multimedia content includes guerrilla training clips, stills of victims about to be murdered, testimonials of suicide bombers, and videos that show participation in jihad through stylized portraits of mosques and musical scores. A website associated with al-Qaeda posted a video of captured American entrepreneur Nick Berg being decapitated in Iraq. Other decapitation videos and pictures, including those of Paul Johnson, Kim Sun-il, and Daniel Pearl, were first posted on jihadist websites.
In December 2004 an audio message claiming to be from Bin Laden was posted directly to a website, rather than sending a copy to al Jazeera as he had done in the past.
Al Qaeda turned to the Internet for release of its videos in order to be certain it would be available unedited, rather than risk the possibility of al Jazeera editors editing the videos and cutting out anything critical of the Saudi royal family. Bin Laden's December 2004 message was much more vehement than usual in this speech, lasting over an hour.
In the past, Alneda.com and Jehad.net were perhaps the most significant al-Qaeda websites. Alneda was initially taken down by American Jon Messner, but the operators resisted by shifting the site to various servers and strategically shifting content.
The U.S. is currently attempting to extradite a British information technology specialist, Babar Ahmad, on charges of operating a network of English-language al-Qaeda websites, such as Azzam.com. Ahmad's extradition is opposed by various British Muslim organizations, such as the Muslim Association of Britain.
Al-Qaeda is believed to be operating a clandestine aviation network including “several Boeing 727 aircraft”, turboprops and executive jets, according to a Reuters story. Based on a US Department of Homeland Security report, the story said that Al-Qaeda is possibly using aircraft to transport drugs and weapons from South America to various unstable countries in West Africa. A Boeing 727 can carry up to 10 tons of cargo. The drugs eventually are smuggled to Europe for distribution and sale, and the weapons are used in conflicts in Africa and possibly elsewhere. Gunmen with links to Al-Qaeda have been increasingly kidnapping some Europeans for ransom. The profits from the drug and weapon sales, and kidnappings can, in turn, fund more terrorism activities.
Alleged CIA involvementEdit
- Main article: Allegations of CIA assistance to Osama bin Laden Experts debate whether or not the al-Qaeda attacks were blowback from the American CIA's "Operation Cyclone" program to help the Afghan mujahideen. Robin Cook, British Foreign Secretary from 1997 to 2001, has written that al-Qaeda and Bin Laden were "a product of a monumental miscalculation by western security agencies", and that "Al-Qaida, literally "the database", was originally the computer file of the thousands of mujahideen who were recruited and trained with help from the CIA to defeat the Russians."</blockquote>
Munir Akram, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations from 2002 to 2008, wrote in a letter published in the New York Times on January 19, 2008:
The strategy to support the Afghans against Soviet military intervention was evolved by several intelligence agencies, including the C.I.A. and Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI. After the Soviet withdrawal, the Western powers walked away from the region, leaving behind 40,000 militants imported from several countries to wage the anti-Soviet jihad. Pakistan was left to face the blowback of extremism, drugs and guns.
A variety of sources—CNN journalist Peter Bergen, Pakistani ISI Brigadier Mohammad Yousaf, and CIA operatives involved in the Afghan program, such as Vincent Cannistraro—deny that the CIA or other American officials had contact with the foreign mujahideen or Bin Laden, let alone armed, trained, coached or indoctrinated them.
This runs counter to the account of Milton Bearden, the CIA Field Officer for Afghanistan from 1985 to 1989, who distinctly recalls the unease he used to feel when meeting the Jihadi fighters: "The only times that I ran into any real trouble in Afghanistan was when I ran into 'these guys' – You know there'd be kind of a 'moment' or two that would look a little bit like the bar scene in Star Wars, ya know. Each group kinda jockeying around and finally somebody has to diffuse [sic ] the situation."
But Bergen and others argue that there was no need to recruit foreigners unfamiliar with the local language, customs or lay of the land since there were a quarter of a million local Afghans willing to fight; that foreign mujahideen themselves had no need for American funds since they received several hundred million dollars a year from non-American, Muslim sources; that Americans could not have trained mujahideen because Pakistani officials would not allow more than a handful of them to operate in Pakistan and none in Afghanistan; and that the Afghan Arabs were almost invariably militant Islamists reflexively hostile to Westerners whether or not the Westerners were helping the Muslim Afghans.
According to Peter Bergen, known for conducting the first television interview with Osama bin Laden in 1997, the idea that "the CIA funded bin Laden or trained bin Laden ...[is] a folk myth. There's no evidence of this. ... Bin Laden had his own money, he was anti-American and he was operating secretly and independently. ... The real story here is the CIA didn't really have a clue about who this guy was until 1996 when they set up a unit to really start tracking him." But as Bergen himself admitted, in one "strange incident" the CIA did appear to give visa help to mujahideen-recruiter Omar Abdel-Rahman.
According to a number of sources there has been a "wave of revulsion" against Al Qaeda and its affiliates by "religious scholars, former fighters and militants" alarmed by Al Qaeda's takfir and killing of Muslims in Muslim countries, especially Iraq.
Noman Benotman, a former Afghan Arab and militant of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, went public with an open letter of criticism to Ayman al-Zawahiri in November 2007 after persuading imprisoned senior leadership of his former group to enter into peace negotiations with the Libyan regime. While Ayman al-Zawahiri announced the affiliation of the group with Al Qaeda in November 2007, the Libyan government released 90 members of the group from prison several months later after "they were said to have renounced violence."
In 2007, around the sixth anniversary of September 11 and a couple of months before Rationalizing Jihad first appeared in the newspapers, the Saudi sheikh Salman al-Ouda delivered a personal rebuke to bin Laden. Al-Ouda, a religious scholar and one of the fathers of the Sahwa, the fundamentalist awakening movement that swept through Saudi Arabia in the 1980s, is a widely respected critic of jihadism. Al-Ouda addressed Al Qaeda's leader on television asking him
My brother Osama, how much blood has been spilt? How many innocent people, children, elderly, and women have been killed ... in the name of Al Qaeda? Will you be happy to meet God Almighty carrying the burden of these hundreds of thousands or millions [of victims] on your back?
According to Pew polls, support for Al Qaeda has been dropping around the Muslim world in the years leading to 2008. The numbers supporting suicide bombings in Indonesia, Lebanon, and Bangladesh, for instance, have dropped by half or more in the last five years. In Saudi Arabia, only 10 percent now have a favorable view of Al Qaeda, according to a December poll by Terror Free Tomorrow, a Washington-based think tank.
In 2007, the imprisoned Sayyed Imam Al-Sharif, an influential Afghan Arab, "ideological godfather of Al Qaeda", and former supporter of takfir, sensationally withdrew his support from al Qaeda with a book Wathiqat Tarshid Al-'Aml Al-Jihadi fi Misr w'Al-'Alam (Rationalizing Jihad in Egypt and the World).
Although once associated with al-Qaeda, in September 2009 LIFG completed a new "code" for jihad, a 417-page religious document entitled "Corrective Studies". Given its credibility and the fact that several other prominent Jihadists in the Middle East have turned against al Qaeda, the LIFG's about face may be an important step toward staunching al Qaeda's recruitment.
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- Wright, Lawrence (2006). The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. New York: Knopf. ISBN 037541486X.
- Wright, Lawrence (2008-06-02). "The Rebellion Within". The New Yorker 84 (16): pp. 36–53. Retrieved 2009-09-15.
- Akacem, Mohammed (August 2005). "Review: Modern Jihad: Tracing the Dollars behind the Terror Networks". International Journal of Middle East Studies 37 (3): 444–445. doi :10.1017/S0020743805362143.
- Bale, Jeffrey M. (October 2006). "Deciphering Islamism and Terrorism". Middle East Journal 60 (4): 777–788.
- Government reports
- White House (September 2003). "Progress Report on the Global War on Terrorism". United States Department of State . Archived from the original on 2003-09-22.
- Kronstadt, K. Allen; Katzman, Kenneth (November 2008). "Islamist Militancy in the Pakistan-Afghanistan Border Region and U.S. Policy" (PDF). United States Congressional Research Service .
- Adam Curtis. (2004). The Power of Nightmares. BBC.
- Peter Taylor. (2007). "War on the West". Age of Terror, No. 4, series 1. BBC.
- Various commentators. (2007). Islam: What the West Needs to Know. Quixotic Media.
- Al Qaeda's New Front from PBS Frontline, January 2005
- The Power of Nightmares a BBC documentary that describe the origins of Al Qaeda in Qutbism
- U.S. Dept. of Justice, Al Qaeda Training Manual
- Al-Qaeda in Oxford Islamic Studies Online
- The Pakistan Security Research Unit (PSRU)