Al Qaeda

Al Qaeda's Flag


Al Qaeda is a terrorist organization and one of the greatest foreign threats to the United States of America. It is best known for its infamous attack on the World Trade Center on September eleventh, 2001. Its numbers are unknown; its decisions are made by tightly knit groups and departments, and executed by almost random groups who are very loosely affiliated with those departments. A good deal of the population knows very little information about Al Qaeda, usually limited to “They’re the organization responsible for 9/11”. The purpose of this article is to raise awareness about Al Qaeda and give a simple overview on what it is and how it works.

Al Qaeda is officially considered to be a terrorist group by: the UN, NATO, EU, USA, India, Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Switzerland, Sweden, Turkey, UK, and the Netherlands.


Al Qaeda was originally part of the organization known as the Services Office, which opposed the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. The Services Office financed, recruited, and trained thousands of foreign ‘holy warriors’. Bin Laden created Al Qaeda in 1988 when he wished to spread the ‘holy war’ past Afghanistan.
Al Qaeda is an international terrorist network which seeks to rid the Muslim world of ‘profane’ western influence. It is led by Osama bin Laden. The July 2007 National Intelligence estimate has named it the “Most serious terrorist threat” to the USA. It is wanted for carrying out the September Eleventh attacks, as well as various smaller scale attacks. When the US launched a war in Afghanistan to root out Al Qaeda as well as defeat the Taliban, its core leadership fled to the barely governed areas of Pakistan. This component of Al Qaeda is considered to be the most threatening. Its leaders have issued a fatwa (a binding religious command) that declared war on the United States of America and its allies, even though its leaders didn’t possess the qualifications. They target western/American governments, Jewish targets, and ‘impious’ Muslims. It is connected to many other terrorist networks, including (but not limited to):

· Egypt: Egyptian Islamic Jihad
· Yemen: Islamic Army of Aden
· Algeria: Armed Islamic Group
· Iraq: Jama-at al-Tawhid wal Jihad

This global poll shows that less than 1/4 of people believe that the war on terror had an impact on Al Qaeda.


Less than half of the people who participated in this global poll (16063 people total in 17 countries) knew that Al Qaeda was reponsible for 9/11.

  • 1992: two bombs in Yemen mark Al-Qaeda’s first terrorist attack, and the first attack to affect civilians. This was originally an attempt to kill American soldiers who were traveling to Somalia.
  • 1998: over 300 people, mostly locals, were killed in US embassy bombings in East Africa. The US responded by destroying a base in Afghanistan with cruise missiles.
  • 2000: 17 people are killed in a suicide bombing of the USS Cole. Its success led to plans to attack the USA itself.
  • 2001: the most devastating terrorist attack in United States history. Two airplanes were flown into the World Trade Center, another hit the Pentagon. A fourth was intended to hit the capitol, but it crashed in Pennsylvania. Bin Laden said that the west was massacring Muslims and they had a right to fight back. Roughly three thousand were reported to be dead.
  • 2002: caused a fuel tanker to explode in May, had several bombings in Pakistan, and attacked a tanker in Yemen. They failed to bring down an Israeli airplane with shoulder mounted rockets in Kenya.
  • 2003: car bombs attack residential areas in Saudi Arabia.
  • 2004: 200 are killed and 1,800 are wounded during bombings on trains in Madrid.
  • 2005: London transportation system is bombed.
  • 2006: the Abqaiq petroleum processing facility, the largest one in the world, is attacked in Saudi Arabia.


Bin Laden and al-Zahawiri

Remember- this information is disputed. It may or may not be accurate.

Osama Bin Laden is the chief of operations, and Ayman al-Zahawiri is the Deputy Operations Chief. Bin Laden is advised by a Shura Council of around twenty to thirty men. Abu Ayyub al-Masri is the possible leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq. It is estimated that Al-Qaeda needs over thirty-million dollars a year to operate.

  • Military Committee: gathers weapons, trains followers, etc.
  • Money/Business Committee: runs business operations, provides plane tickets and false passports, and is responsible for paying followers and running businesses.
  • Law Committee: makes sure that acts conform to Islamic Law.
  • Fatwah Committee: issues religious edicts.
  • Media Committee: handled public relations and ran a newspaper in the late 1990’s. It does not exist anymore.


"Al Qaeda." Global 23 Jan. 2009 <
Wikipedia. "Al Qaeda." Wikipedia. 23 Jan. 2009
"Al Qaeda." Council on Foreign Relations. Jan. 2009. Council on Foreign
Relations. 22 Jan. 2009 <>.

"Al Qa'ida (Al Qaeda)." 12 Apr. 2009