The Al-Qaeda group was established in 1988 as a militant organization pushing their radical interpretations of the Sunni Islamist denomination of Islam. Since then, it has carried out small-scale and large-scale bombings of its targets mainly Jewish and Christian infrastructures in the region and the United States. It also has carried out attacks on military and civilian targets globally. Al-Qaeda is one of the most influential terrorist organizations in the post-Soviet era. The classic suicide bombers and simultaneous attacks in different places have become its trademark. Its ideologues include the complete break of Islamic countries from foreign influences and the establishment of a new caliphate ruler.
4. Organizational History and Notable Members
The Al-Qaeda terrorist organization was founded by Osama Bin Laden and Abdullah Azzam. Its top leadership was headed by Bin Laden and Azzam. Its organizational structure rank and file included Arab veteran fighters from Afghanistan in the early 1980s. Its wide network membership includes Salafist Jihadists and Islamic extremists. It maintains many Islamic terror organization allies in the surrounding regions. Among these top terrorist groups are the Taliban, Jemaah Islamiyah, Abu Sayyaf, Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. The main aim of these organizations is to fight back from the belief that Christians and Jews are in collusion to destroy Islam as a religion and its religious adherents.
3. Campaigns and Victories
The main objective of the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization leadership is to eliminate unbelievers especially Christians and Jews. Other objectives include fomenting sectarian violence among Muslim countries. Along this lines are continuing attacks made on mosques and Muslim gatherings of Sufis, Shias, and liberal Muslims. The most notorious attack on foreign soil was on September 11, 2001 that devastated American moral and caused the most deaths from a terrorist attack in US history. Other major attacks have included those on the Pentagon in the United States, Istanbul in Turkey, Aden in Yemen, Nairobi in Kenya, and Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania. In 1996, the Al-Qaeda group led by Bin Laden issued a fatwa after a jihad declaration against the US calling on all Muslims to fight and kill Americans and their allies.
2. Challenges and Controversies
Among the many targets of the Al-Qaeda and its allies were the Iraqi Shia sect that they consider heretics. Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad organization was quoted as saying that they have declared war on the Iraqi Shiites. However, he recanted later by defending the Islamic state in Iraq. He blamed the bombings and violence in Iraq on traitors and hypocrites in the Al-Qaeda rank and file. After many controversies regarding allies and disputes with other terrorist groups in the region, the Al-Qaeda announced its separation from the Islamic State (ISIS) group in Iraq.
1. Cultural Depictions and Legacy
Osama Bin Laden was killed in his own residential compound in Pakistan in 2011 by US special forces. Although Bin Laden was the known leader and founder of Al-Qaeda and as financier of its activities, Al-Qaeda’s origin could be considered as ironic. According to Former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, the name Al-Qaeda meant, “the database” which was a computer file containing a list of Mujaheddin combatant trainees trained by the CIA to fight the Russians in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion of that country. These Islamic militants were later recruited by Bin Laden in the 1990s as members of the Al-Qaeda.
After the death of Bin Laden, the Al-Qaeda leadership transferred to Ayman al-Zawahiri who was one of Bin Laden’s chief aides. Although Bin Laden’s dream of a unified Muslim world under a new caliphate has turned into a nightmare among the Islamic communities around the world, the Al-Qaeda continues to foment its ideologues in many Islamic countries today, albeit in a weaker stance, yet surviving and setting up offshoots worldwide.