Islamist network of organizations spread around all of the Muslim world, and also with groups in Europe, Asia, USA and Canada. Al-Qa'ida is involved in many fields, from humanitarian work to international terrorism. It is believed that there is no single headquarter of Al-Qa'ida, even if the most profiled leader, Osama bin Laden, has his base in the southern Afghani mountains.
The senior leaders of Al-Qa'ida around the world, are also senior leaders of other organizations, many involved in terrorist actions.
The name "qā¢ida" can be translated from Arabic into "foundation" or "military base", or even anything that holds anything else up. As an example, the chassis of a car is can be called "qā¢ida".
The ideology of Al-Qa'ida is rather simple and straightforward: Cleansing of the Muslim countries from corrupt and secular leadership, and fight against the powers that threaten Muslim states and the holy places of Islam. The foreign and dangerous powers are principally USA and Israel, USA for interfering in numerous fields in the Muslim world politically and military; Israel for occupying Palestine. The main opponents among the leaderships of the Muslim countries are Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Algeria.
The ideology has been defined in 3 goals:
- Radicalize existing Islamic groups and create Islamic groups where none exist.
- Advocate destruction of the United States, which is seen as the chief obstacle to reform in Muslim societies.
- Support Muslim fighters in Afghanistan, Algeria, Bosnia, Chechnya, Eritera, Kosova, Pakistan, Somalia, Tajikistan, Philippines and Yemen.
The structure of Al-Qa'ida is loose, making it both hard to attack, as well as hard to find crucial evidence that it is actually bin Laden's men that are behind it all. However, Osama has several times congratulated on terrorist actions, and when we know that he has built a powerful network around the world, there is little reason to doubt his involvement in many of the actions.
One should however, be careful not to pinpoint every terrorist act performed by Muslims on Osama: there were such actions long before bin Laden started his involvement, and there is no reason to believe that all the groups behind such acts have disappeared or joined forces with bin Laden.
The core of Al-Qa'ida is made up of Osama on top, working close with a Shura Majlis consisting of about 10 members. Below this are the administrative parts of the organization, made up of 4 executive committees covering these 4 fields: military activity and training; religious education; commercial activity; media relations and publishing.
Below this, there is a wide network of organizations of all kinds, some involved in economy, some in humanitarian work, some in media relations and many in recruiting, training and acting according to the common goals. The network is built so that none members know more than they need to know. Many groups are unaware of other groups in the same country, and very few (if any, including Osama) have total knowledge of what all parts of Al-Qa'ida are involved in at any time.
The headquarters around Osama bin Laden are run by a few hundred Arab volunteers from the time of MAK (see article on Osama bin Laden for treatment). These are often men who have lost contact with their home country, who would be imprisoned if they returned: the result is great loyalty to Osama and Al-Qa'ida.
Al-Qa'ida's main strength lies in its ability to support other organizations with first and foremost money, but also with an ideological framework. The economic activities of Al-Qa'ida are diverse and unclear. Osama bin Laden owns many companies in many countries, but mainly in Sudan. Through the network money are channeled to hundreds of organizations, many humanitarian. Money can be channeled again from these organizations to other organizations, which perform the actions that are part of Osama's jihad. Central countries for these activities are Sudan, Somalia, Luxembourg and Switzerland.
According to the "Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places"
"the latest and the greatest of [the] aggressions, incurred by the Muslims since the death of the Prophet . . .is the occupation of the land of the two Holy Places - the foundation of the house of Islam, the place of the revelation, the source of the message and the place of the noble Ka'ba, the Qiblah of all Muslims by the armies of the American Crusaders and their allies."
The declaration is presented as the first step in
"correcting what had happened to the Islamic world in general, and the Land of the two Holy Places in particular. . . Today . . . the sons of the two Holy Places, have begun their Jihad in the cause of Allah, to expel the occupying enemy out of the country of the two Holy places."
Bin Ladin sees the new Islamic Front as the vehicle that will eventually vanquish the American enemy:
"The movement is driving fast and light forward. And I am sure of our victory with Allah’s help against America and the Jews. . . After the Americans entered the Holy Land, many emotions were roused in the Muslim world, more than we have seen before. . .The cooperation is expanding between general supporters of this religion. From this effort, the International Islamic Front for the Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders was formed, which we are a member of with other groups."
History and Alleged actions
1988: Al-Qa'ida is formed by Osama bin Laden.
1992: Al-Qa'ida signs agreements with many organizations, many involved in terrorist acts. Their common aim is to defeat US troops on Muslim soil.
December: A bomb explodes in Aden in Yemen, and kills 2 Australian tourists, but misses a group of American soldiers who had left for Somalia. This is generally considered as the first terrorist attack initiated by Al-Qa'ida, even if the link has never been proved.
1993 February: World Trade Centre in New York is bombed, killing 6 people, and injuring more than 1000.
According to US intelligence, Al-Qa'ida tries to buy components for production of nuclear weaponry. They also put up factories in Sudan for chemical weapons.
October: 18 American soldiers are killed in Somalia. Al-Qa'ida is suspected of backing the group behind the action.
1995: Ramzi Yousef, central in the bombing of 1993 is arrested in Pakistan and extradited to the USA.
June: Assassination attempt on Egypt's president Hosni Mubarak, where Al-Qa'ida is believed to have been behind.
November: A car bomb kills 5 Indian and 4 US soldiers in a military camp in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. Once again, Al-Qa'ida is once again accused for the act.
1996 May: 4 men are executed in Riyadh for the attacks in November the preceding year. They say they were inspired by Osama, but no connection is proven.
June: Another car bomb kills 19 US soldiers in Khobar in Saudi Arabia. This is first pinpointed to Al-Qa'ida, but later a better lead points at Saudi Arabian militant Islamists.
August: Holy war, jihad, is declared against USA, and an aim to drive US troops out of the Arabian peninsula is defined as the principal goal.
The Sudanese Ahamd al-Fadl defects from the Osama owned company Wadi l-Aqiq, and starts informing US authorities about how Al-Qa'ida trains soldiers and how they smuggle weapons and explosives into countries in the Middle East.
1998 February: Al-Qaïda effectively merges with the Egyptian Islamic Jihad.
August: US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania are bombed. In Kenya 213 people are killed, and more than 4,300 are injured. In Tanzania 11 are killed and 85 injured. A group called Islamic Army for the Liberation of the Holy Places claims responsibility and all evidence indicate that this group is part of the Al-Qa'ida network.
USA retaliates by bombing military camps in Afghanistan and a chemical factory in Sudan. The latter has at no point been proven to be linked to Al-Qa'ida, and was according to Sudan government a medicine plant.
1999 December: Members of a Jordanian organization are arrested, accused of planning attacks on Western tourists.
December 14: An Algerian national is arrested by US Customs for trying to smuggle 25 kg of explosive materials into USA.
2001 September 11: World Trade Centre in New York and Pentagon in Washington, DC are attacked by hijacked airplanes. More than 5,000 are killed, and Al-Qa'ida is accused of being responsible.