By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on
al-Qaeda was founded in 1988 in Peshawar by Osama bin Laden and with assistance from Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, who founded Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Attacks were carried out by fighters from Egypt, Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Comoros and Saudi Arabia. Some of these underwent training in Somalia, where they fled afterwards.
USS Cole Attacks
It was an attack staged off the coast of Aden, Yemen’s southern port city, that first drew significant international attention to Bin Laden’s organization. Nearly a year before the 9/11 attacks, Al Qaeda militants carried out a suicide operation against the American naval destroyer USS Cole, killing 17 American officers.
Ayman al-Zawahiri, one of the most senior al-Qaeda leaders, was last seen in Afghanistan in October 2001, and before Bin Laden's death was thought to be hiding in the Afghan-Pakistan border region.
القاعدة al-Qaeda in Central Asia
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The tribal areas of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border remain its stronghold. This area is also thought to contain training areas, though the CIA states that US drone attacks have greatly diminished al-Qaeda and the Taliban there. al-Qaeda cooperated with the Taliban, and bin Laden was given sanctuary in Afghanistan prior to the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington; he left Afghanistan in 2001 as a result of the US invasion.
Allies of al-Qaeda in Pakistan include Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Lashkar-e-Taiba, who may have helped hide senior al-Qaeda figures. Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Mohammad Saeed helped Bin Laden set up al-Qaeda in 1988. The Haqqani network and other Pakistani Taliban groups are also allies of al-Qaeda.
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, like al-Qaeda, found sanctuary in Pakistan's border areas after the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
القاعدة al-Qaeda in the Near East
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ئهنسهر ئهل إسلام
Ansar al-Islam has largely remained practically defunct in Kurdistan since the outbreak of the 2003 Iraq war when the US bombed its bases in the Hawraman region of Sulaimani. Ansar al-Islam’s leader, Mullah Krekar, is now based in Norway.
al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is distinct from al Qaeda and has become its own separate organization. AQAP covers Saudia Arabia and Yemen, and came about in 2009 when militant groups from the two countries joined forces. AQAP aims to overthrow the Saudi and Yemeni governments, and also eject Western influence in the area. AQAP and its once independent militias have been linked to the so-called Christmas Bombing and also a 2003 bombing of a Riyadh residential compound (34 killed) and the attack against the destroyer USS Cole in Aden harbour in 2000 (17 US service personnel killed). (link).
al-Qaeda in Iraq
Also known as al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, this branch formed in 2004 when Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi pledged allegiance to Osama Bin Laden. It executed any attacks, but was diminished in 2006-7 when the US launched its troop surge, Sunni Arab leaders turn on al-Qaeda and Al-Zarqawi himself was killed in June 2006. He was succeeded by Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, whose death was reported in 2010. However, al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia remains operationally active.
القاعدة al-Qaeda in North Africa
In this region al-Qaeda has perhaps been most active in Algeria, but it has spread right across the Sahara Desert to Mali and Niger, where it has taken hostage several Europeans, some of whom have been killed. Tunisia, Morocco and Mauritania have all battled Islamists or al-Qaeda inspired groups. A Moroccan group was responsible for the 2004 train bombings in Madrid, which killed 191 people.
al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb
In 2006 an Algerian group called the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (Groupe Salafiste pour la Predication et le Combat, or GSPC), aligned itself with Osama Bin Laden. The following year it changed its name to the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. The leader of the group is Abou Mossab Abdelwadoud. The group's target list includes Western interests, soldiers, foreign oil workers, UN staff and US diplomats.
القاعدة al-Qaeda in East Africa
al-Qaeda entrenched itself into East Africa, the scene of the attacks on the US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. In Somalia, al-Shabab has close ties to al-Qaeda; among its rank are former al-Qaeda officials and it is aligned with al-Qaeda's ideology.
القاعدة al-Qaeda in Asia Pacific
Two groups with ties to al-Qaeda are thought to exist in Asia Pacific.
Based in Indonesia since the 1980s, Jemaah Islamiah has targeted tourism and Christians. It is believed to have been responsible for the attacks on nightclubs in Bali in 2002 (200 killed). Based in the southern Philippines, the US alleges that Abu Sayyaf has links to the al-Qaeda network. Its stated aim is to establish an independent Islamic state in Mindanao and the Sulu islands. It has been involved in ransom kidnappings.
القاعدة al-Qaeda in Europe
Al Qaeda has inspired militants in Europe, particularly those planning bombings, though it does not have an organized structure in Europe as much as elsewhere. Officials have foiled plots by Europeans said to be connected to al-Qaeda, and the 2004 Madrid and 2005 London bombings were committed by Islamists linked to al-Qaeda.