Al-Qa?ida was established by Usama Bin Ladin in 1988 with Arabs who fought in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. Helped finance, recruit, transport, and train Sunni Islamic extremists for the Afghan resistance. Goal is to unite Muslims to fight the United States as a means of defeating Israel, overthrowing regimes it deems "non-Is-lamic," and expelling Westerners and non-Muslims from Muslim countries. Eventual goal would be establishment of a pan-Islamic caliphate throughout the world. Issued statement in February 1998 under the banner of "The World Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Jews and Crusaders" saying it was the duty of all Muslims to kill US citizens, civilian and military, and their allies everywhere. Merged with al-Jihad (Egyptian Islamic Jihad) in June 2001, renaming itself "Qa?idat al-Jihad." Merged with Abu Mus?ab al-Zarqawi?s organization in Iraq in late 2004, with al-Zarqawi?s group changing its name to "Qa?idat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn" (al-Qa?ida in the Land of the Two Rivers).
In 2004, the Saudi-based al-Qa?ida network and associated extremists launched at least 11 attacks, killing over 60 people, including six Americans, and wounding more than 225 in Saudi Arabia. Focused on targets associated with US and Western presence and Saudi security forces in Riyadh, Yanbu, Jeddah, and Dhahran. Attacks consisted of vehicle bombs, infantry assaults, kidnappings, targeted shootings, bombings, and beheadings. Other al-Qa?ida networks have been involved in attacks in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In 2003, carried out the assault and bombing on May 12 of three expatriate housing complexes in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, that killed 30 and injured 216. Backed attacks on May 16 in Casablanca, Morocco, of a Jewish center, restaurant, nightclub, and hotel that killed 33 and injured 101. Probably supported the bombing of the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia, on August 5, that killed 12 and injured 149. Responsible for the assault and bombing on November 9 of a housing complex in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, that killed 17 and injured 122. The suicide bombers and others associated with the bombings of two synagogues in Istanbul, Turkey, on November 15 that killed 20 and injured 300 and the bombings in Istanbul of the British Consulate and HSBC Bank on November 20 that resulted in 41 dead and 555 injured had strong links to al-Qa?ida. Conducted two assassination attempts against Pakistani President Musharraf in December 2003. Was involved in some attacks in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In 2002, carried out bombing on November 28 of a hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, killing 15 and injuring 40. Probably supported a nightclub bombing in Bali, Indonesia, on October 12 by Jemaah Islamiya that killed more than 200. Responsible for an attack on US military personnel in Kuwait on October 8 that killed one US soldier and injured another. Directed a suicide attack on the tanker M/V Limburg off the coast of Yemen on October 6 that killed one and injured four. Carried out a firebombing of a synagogue in Tunisia on April 11 that killed 19 and injured 22. On September 11, 2001, 19 al-Qa?ida suicide attackers hijacked and crashed four US commercial jets -- two into the World Trade Center in New York City, one into the Pentagon near Washington, DC, and a fourth into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania -- leaving nearly 3,000 individuals dead or missing. Directed the attack on the USS Cole in the port of Aden, Yemen, on October 12, 2000, killing 17 US Navy sailors and injuring another 39.
Conducted the bombings in August 1998 of the US Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, that killed at least 301 individuals and injured more than 5,000 others. Claims to have shot down US helicopters and killed US servicemen in Somalia in 1993 and to have conducted three bombings that targeted US troops in Aden, Yemen, in December 1992.
Al-Qa?ida is linked to the following plans that were disrupted or not carried out: to bomb in mid-air a dozen US trans-Pacific flights in 1995, and to set off a bomb at Los Angeles International Airport in 1999. Also plotted to carry out terrorist operations against US and Israeli tourists visiting Jordan for millennial celebrations in late 1999 (Jordanian authorities thwarted the planned attacks and put 28 suspects on trial). In December 2001, suspected al-Qa?ida associate Richard Colvin Reid attempted to ignite a shoe bomb on a trans-Atlantic flight from Paris to Miami. Attempted to shoot down an Israeli chartered plane with a surface-to-air missile as it departed the Mombasa, Kenya, airport in November 2002.
Al-Qa?ida?s organizational strength is difficult to determine in the aftermath of extensive counterterrorist efforts since 9/11. However, the group probably has several thousand extremists and associates worldwide inspired by the group?s ideology. The arrest and deaths of mid-level and senior al-Qa?ida operatives have disrupted some communication, financial, and facilitation nodes and interrupted some terrorist plots. Al-Qa?ida also serves as a focal point or umbrella organization for a worldwide network that includes many Sunni Islamic extremist groups, including some members of Gama?a al-Islamiyya, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and the Harakat ul-Mujahidin.
Location/Area of Operation
Al-Qa?ida has cells worldwide and is reinforced by its ties to Sunni extremist networks. It was based in Afghanistan until Coalition forces removed the Taliban from power in late 2001. Al-Qa?ida has dispersed in small groups across South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa, and probably will attempt to carry out future attacks against US interests.
Al-Qa?ida maintains moneymaking front businesses, solicits donations from like-minded supporters, and illicitly siphons funds from donations to Muslim charitable organizations. US and international efforts to block al-Qa?ida funding have hampered the group?s ability to obtain money.