This piece seeks to explain Al Qaeda by looking at it's origins,and history.
Osama bin Laden:
Osama bin Laden (aka Osama Mohammad al Wahad, aka Abu Abdallah, aka Al Qaqa) was born in 1957 in Riyadh,Saudi Arabia to Mohammad bin Awdah bin Laden
of Southern Yemen,a former bricklayer turned construction magnate.
Bin Laden grew up a rich man in an increasingly wealthy Saudi Arabia. He studied engineering in college, an indication that he intended to take over
the family company, which by 1966 had become the largest private construction firm in the world.
His life style and ambition changed after December 1979, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and propped up a communist government in Kabul..
At Jeddah University, Osama bin Laden's came under the influence of Dr Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian of Jordanian origin. An influential figure in
the Muslim Brotherhood. After his graduation with a degree in public administration in 1981, Bin Laden became deeply religious.
In 1982-1984 bin Laden's mentor Azzam founded Maktab al Khidmat lil-mujahideen al-Arab (MaK), known commonly as the Afghan bureau. As MaK's
principal financier, bin Laden was considered the deputy to Azzam.The Mujahideen (Holy Warriors) are often thought to be a united
organisation,infact,there are many factions.Mujahideen is a generic term.MaK was only one faction of the Mujahideen involved in Afghanistan but an
At the height of the foreign Arab and Muslim influx into Pakistan-Afghanistan from 1984- 1986, Bin Laden spent time traveling widely and raising funds
in the Arab world. He recruited several thousand Arab and Muslim youths to fight the Soviet Union and MaK channeled several billion dollars' worth of
Western governmental, financial and material resources for the Afghan jihad. MaK worked closely with Pakistan, especially the Inter Services
Intelligence (ISI), the Saudi government and Egyptian governments, and the vast Muslim Brotherhood network.With the backdrop of the Cold War the CIA
and MI6 channeled resources through the ISI and US and British special forces gave training and technical advice.Afterall these "Holy Warriors" were
fighting the real perceived enemy of the time,communism.
Around 35,000 Muslim radicals from 40 Islamic countries joined Afghanistan's fight between 1982 and 1992. Tens of thousands more came to study in
Pakistan. Eventually more than 100,000 foreign Arab and Muslim radicals were directly influenced by the Afghan jihad.
Bin Laden's relationship with Azzam suffered towards the end of the anti-Soviet Afghan campaign. The dispute was over Azzam's support for Ahmadshah
Massoud, the current leader of the Northern Alliance fighting the Taliban. Bin Laden preferred Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, former prime minister and leader
of the Hizb-i-Islami (Islamic Party), who was both anti-Communist and anti-Western.
When the Soviets withdrew, Bin Laden decided to form a group that could unite the whole Muslim world into a single entity. Despite their differences,
Azzam and Bin Laden worked together until Azzam was assassinated in September 1989. Although Soviet troops withdrew that year, they installed the
pro-Communist leader Najibullah in Kabul. MaK strengthened the organization in order to fight the Najibullah regime and to channel resources to other
international campaigns where Muslims were perceived as victims. In addition to benefiting from MaK's pan-Islamic, as opposed to pan-Arab, ideology,
Al Qaeda drew from the vast financial resources and technical expertise mobilized during the decade-long anti-Soviet campaign.
The group that bin Laden would form would later come to be known around the world as Al Qaeda.
Al Qaeda,translated means "The Base"."The Base" can mean more than one thing."The Base" could be geographical.That Afghanistan was the base.It
could mean the extensive data base of willing holy warriors that Osama bin Laden had drawn up.It could also mean,as I believe looking at bin Ladens
next actions,a militant base for the Islamic religion.
For bin Laden, the war in Afghanistan and the triumph over a superpower there was a watershed moment in Islamic solidarity and a personal turning
point. He once said, "One day in Afghanistan was like 1000 days of praying in an ordinary mosque." In Afghanistan, "The myth of the superpower was
withered in front of the mujahideen cries of Allahu Akbar!". Bin Ladin has since said that the Afghanistan experience was so important that "it
would have been impossible for me to gain such a benefit from any other chance.…This jihad was great."
Bin Laden returned from Afghanistan to Saudi Arabia as a hero. However, this status was short-lived as he vocally criticized the regime’s corruption
and policies. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, though, bin Laden immediately offered to protect Saudi Arabia from the Iraqi forces with his
mujahidin. Bin Laden saw the opportunity for a cause that could recapture the glory achieved in Afghanistan--defending the holy mosques from invasion.
The royal rejection of his offer coupled with the royal request for U.S. protection must have been a stunning and embarrassing blow to his personal
pride and vision of the world. After all, it was bin Laden’s view that the mujahidin could defeat a great power and Muslims did not need a
At this point Al Qaeda ceases to be a tool of the west in the Cold War and starts to emerge as a terrorist threat against the west and it's
interests.Before this point the US Administration would of described bin Laden as a freedom fighter struggling against Soviet oppression afterwards he
would be considered a terrorist.
Bin Ladin’s criticism of the regime led to his expulsion from Saudi Arabia and he fled to Sudan. His ties with his old life were further weakened when
bin Ladin’s family disavowed him. With the build-up of U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia, bin Ladin applied to the United States the Soviet-Afghan analogy
of an invading infidel to the Muslim heartland. A new conflict--this one even more inflammatory due to a perceived threat to the Islamic holy
places--presented bin Ladin and others with the opportunity to reenact the exact situation in which they felt their jihad had succeeded in
The National Islamic Front, led by Hasan al Turabi, came to power in Sudan and sent a delegation to Pakistan. Bin Laden had moved his infrastructure
of well-trained and experienced fighters from Pakistan to Sudan beginning in 1989 and remained there until international pressure forced him to return
to Afghanistan in 1996.
Below is a list of terrorist attacks known to have been carried out by Al Qaeda or that have been credibly linked to Al Qaeda.
• The attempt to kill U.S. soldiers en route to Somalia in December 1992
• The 1993 World Trade Center bombing that killed six people;
• Al Qaeda took credit for providing training and help to Somalis that attacked U.S. soldiers and killed eighteen in Mogadishu at the beginning of
• Al Qaeda is also linked to the 1995 assassination attempt of Egyptian president Mubarak
• The 1995 bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Pakistan that was conducted by Egyptian Islamic Jihad.
• The 1995 and 1996 bombings in Saudi Arabia in which 22 American soldiers were killed;
• The 1998 US Embassy bombings in East Africa, in which 224 people were killed, including 12 Americans;
• The 2000 attack on the USS Cole at a port in Yemen, in which 17 US sailors were killed.
• The September 11, 2001, hijacking attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
• The April 2002 explosion of a fuel tanker outside a synagogue in Tunisia.
• Several spring 2002 bombings in Pakistan
• The October 2002 attack on a French tanker off the coast of Yemen
• The October 2002 nightclub bombing in Bali, Indonesia.
• The November 2002 car bomb attack and a failed attempt to shoot down an Israeli jetliner with shoulder-fired missiles, both in Mombasa, Kenya.
• The May 2003 car bomb attacks on three residential compounds in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
• The May 2003 suicide attacks on Western interests in Casablanca, Morocco.
• The Nov 2003 bombings of the British consulate and a UK bank in Istanbul that killed at least 27
• The March 11th 2004 train bombings in Madrid that killed over 200.
[Edited on 25-3-2004 by John bull 1]
[Edited on 25-3-2004 by John bull 1]