Al-Qaeda

By: Schuyler and Nic

The Rise of the Al-Qaeda

After his expulsion from Saudi Arabia, bin Laden established headquarters for al-Qaeda in Khartoum, Sudan. The first actions of al-Qaeda against American interests were attacks on U.S. servicemen in Somalia. A string of terrorist actions suspected to have been orchestrated by al-Qaeda, and in August 1996 bin Laden issued a "Declaration of War" against the U.S.

Al-Qaeda also worked to forge alliances with other radical groups. In February 1998, bin Laden announced an alliance of terrorist organizations—the "International Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Jews and Crusaders"—that included the Egyptian al-Gama'at al-Islamiyya, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the Harakat ul-Ansar, and other groups.

In 1994 Sudan—under pressure from Saudi Arabia and the U.S.—expelled bin Laden, who moved his base of operations to Afghanistan. Bin Laden was the "guest" of the Tailban until the U.S. drove them from power in Nov. 2001. Al-Qaeda set up terrorist training camps in the war-torn nation, as it had in Sudan.

The Leadership and structure

Although al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden have become virtually synonymous, bin Laden did not run the organization single-handedly. His top advisor was Al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's successor. Al-Zawahiri is an Egyptian surgeon from an upper-class family. He joined the country's Islamist movement in the late 1970s. He served three years in prison on charges connected to the assassination of Anwar Sadat, during which time he was tortured. After his release he went to Afghanistan, where he met bin Laden and became his personal physician and advisor. He was likely instrumental in bin Laden's political evolution.

Al-Zawahiri is suspected of helping organize the 1997 massacre of 67 foreign tourists in the Egyptian town of Luxor and was indicted in connection with the bombing of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. In 1998, he was one of five Islamic leaders to sign on to bin Laden's declaration calling for attacks against U.S. citizens. He is wanted by the FBI and has been sentenced to death by Egypt in absentia. In March 2004 the Pakistani military began an assault on al-Qaeda troops along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. These troops were believed to be defending al-Zawahiri, who managed to escape.

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Al-qaeda goals

The principal stated aims of al-Qaeda are to drive Americans and American influence out of all Muslim nations, especially Saudi Arabia; destroy Israel; and topple pro-Western dictatorships around the Middle East. Bin Laden also said that he wishes to unite all Muslims and establish, by force if necessary, an Islamic nation adhering to the rule of the first Caliphs.

According to bin Laden's 1998 fatwa (religious decree), it is the duty of Muslims around the world to wage holy war on the U.S., American citizens, and Jews. Muslims who do not heed this call are declared apostates (people who have forsaken their faith).

Al-Qaeda's ideology, often referred to as "jihadism," is marked by a willingness to kill "apostate" —and Shiite—Muslims and an emphasis on jihad. Although "jihadism" is at odds with nearly all Islamic religious thought, it has its roots in the work of two modern Sunni Islamic thinkers: Mohammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab and Sayyid Qutb.

Al-Wahhab was an 18th-century reformer who claimed that Islam had been corrupted a generation or so after the death of Mohammed. He denounced any theology or customs developed after that as non-Islamic, including more than 1,000 years of religious scholarship.

The War on terrorism

In response to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 to dismantle al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Al-Qaeda's infrastructure in the country was destroyed and their military commander, Muhammed Atef, was killed. Abu Zubaydah, another top operative, was captured in Pakistan. Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri, however, escaped. They have released audio and video messages to the Arab media from time to time.

In March 2003 the U.S. widened the war on terrorism by invading Iraq and deposing Saddam Hussein and his Baath party. The decision to encompass Iraq in "the war on terror" was highly controversial. Although President Bush asserted that there was a working relationship between Hussein and al-Qaeda, no solid proof of collaboration between them—specifically on the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, or on any other terrorist activities—emerged.

Some of Al-Qaeda Attacks

2004—The Madrid Bombing

On March 11, 2004, Spain's most horrific terrorist attack occurred: 202 people were killed and 1,400 were injured in bombings at Madrid's railway station. Evidence soon emerged that al-Qaeda was responsible. By April, a dozen suspects, most of them Moroccan, were arrested for the bombings. On April 4, several suspects blew themselves up during a police raid to avoid capture. Many Spaniards blamed their prime minister's staunch support of the U.S. and the war in Iraq for making Spain an al-Qaeda target.

2005—The London Bombing

On July 7, 2005, London suffered a terrorist bombing, its worst attack since World War II. Four bombs exploded in three subway stations and on one double-decker bus during the morning rush hour, killing at least 52 and wounding more than 700. A group calling itself the Secret Organization of al-Qaeda in Europe claimed responsibility on a Web site, asserting that the attacks were a retaliation for Britain's involvement in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. A year after the bombing, British investigators concluded that the links between the bombers and al-Qaeda were marginal. The four bombers, all born in Britain, had all visited Pakistan, but there was no evidence of any direct support from al-Qaeda.

Embedded with Al-Qaeda in Syria: ISIS and al-Nusra

Attacks By the ISIS and Al-Qaeda

On January 7, 2015, two masked gunmen stormed the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical weekly magazine, and killed 12 people, including the paper's top editor, Stéphane Charbonnier, several cartoonists, and two police officers. A third suspect, Hamyd Mourad, who was driving the getaway car, turned himself in to authorities. The two gunmen were believed to be brothers Said Kouachi and Chérif Kouachi, who are of Algerian descent. News reports said the brothers have connections to Al Qaeda in Yemen and that Said trained with militants there. Reports also said the two had been monitored by police and intelligence officials.

Two days after the massacre, the Kouachi brothers took a hostage at a printing facility about 30 miles northeast of Paris. French police launched an assault on the building, freeing the hostage and killing the suspects. In another incident in Paris on Jan. 9, Amedy Coulibaly allegedly took several hostages at a kosher supermarket, which was rigged with explosives. Police killed Coulibaly, but four hostages also died. Coulibaly is blamed for the shooting death of a female police officer on Jan. 8. Coulibaly reportedly has ties to the Kouachi brothers. In a video released after his death, Coulibaly said he had pledged allegiance to ISIS. French officials said they believe the three men were part of a larger militant cell. In all, 17 people died in the spate of attacks.

Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement and a video released on Jan. 14. It said that the leader of Al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahri, ordered the attack in retaliation for the magazine's caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.