Al-Qaeda (also known as Al-Qaida)
Responsible for the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks upon the United States, Al-Qaeda (also known as Al-Qaida) was established by Osama bin Ladin (also spelled Usama Bin Ladin or Osama bin Laden) in the late 1980s to bring together Arabs who fought in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. Al-Qaeda helped finance, recruit, transport, and train Sunni Islamic extremists for the Afghan resistance. Al-Qaeda's current goal is to establish a pan-Islamic Caliphate by working with allied Islamic extremist groups to overthrow regimes it deems "non-Islamic" and expelling Westerners and non-Muslims from Muslim countries. Al-Qaeda has issued statement under banner of "The World Islamic Front for Jihad against the Jews and Crusaders" in February 1998, saying it was the duty of all Muslims to kill U.S. citizens—civilian or military—and their allies anywhere in the world. The World Islamic Front for Jihad merged with Egyptian Islamic Jihad (Al-Jihad) in June 2001.
Organization activities. On September 11, 2001, 19 al-Qaeda suicide attackers hijacked and crashed four U.S. commercial jets, two into the World Trade Center in New York City, one into the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., and a fourth into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, leaving about 3,000 individuals dead or missing. Al-Qaeda also directed the October, 12, 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole in the port of Aden, Yemen, killing 17 U.S. Navy crewmembers, and injuring another 39. Al-Qaeda also admitted responsibility for the bombings in August 1998 of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, that killed at least 301 individuals and injured more than 5,000 others. Al-Qaeda claims to have shot down U.S. helicopters and killed U.S. servicemen in Somalia in 1993 and to have conducted three bombings that targeted U.S. troops in Aden, Yemen, in December 1992.
Al-Qaeda is linked to unrealized plans to assassinate Pope John Paul II during his visit to Manila in late 1994; a plan to kill President Clinton during a visit to the Philippines in early 1995; the planned midair bombing of a dozen U.S. trans-Pacific flights in 1995; and plans to set off a bomb at Los Angeles International Airport in 1999. They
also plotted to carry out terrorist operations against U.S. and Israeli tourists visiting Jordan for millennial celebrations in late 1999. (Jordanian authorities thwarted the planned attacks and put 28 suspects on trial.) In December, 2001, suspected al-Qaeda associate Richard Colvin Reid attempted to ignite a shoe bomb on a transatlantic flight from Paris to Miami.
Al-Qaeda may have several thousand members and associates in cells located around the world, and also serves as a focal point or umbrella organization for a worldwide network that includes many Sunni Islamic extremist groups, some members of al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and the Harakat ul-Mujahidin.
Al-Qaeda has cells worldwide and is reinforced by its ties to Sunni extremist networks. Coalition attacks on Afghanistan since October 2001 have dismantled the Taliban—once al-Qaeda's protectors—and led to the capture, death, or dispersal of al-Qaeda operatives. Al-Qaeda members at large, including as of April 2003, Osama bin Ladin, have vowed to attempt to carry out future attacks against U.S. interests.
Bin Ladin, member of a billionaire family that owns the Bin Ladin Group construction empire, is said to have inherited tens of millions of dollars that he uses to help finance the group. Al-Qaeda also maintains moneymaking front businesses, solicits donations from like-minded supporters, and illicitly siphons funds from donations to Muslim charitable organizations. U.S. efforts to block al-Qaeda funding has hampered their ability to obtain money.
█ FURTHER READING:
Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook, 2002. < http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/ > (April 16, 2003).
Taylor, Francis X. U.S. Department of State. Patterns of Global Terrorism 2001, Annual Report: On the record briefing. May 21, 2002 < http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/rm/10367.htm > (April 17,2003).
U.S. Department of State. Annual reports. < http://www.state.gov/www/global/terrorism/annual_reports.html > (April 16, 2003).