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Al-Qaida / Al-Qaeda Background

During the 1980s a large number of Muslims moved from Middle Eastern countries to Afghanistan to unite with the Afghan people in an ongoing war which began in 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. It was at this time that Usama Bin Ladin emerged as an important player in the group "Afghan Arabs." Coming from a multimillion dollar family, Usama was able to use his assets along with his connections to other wealthy contributors to help maintain the flow of fighters into Afghanistan.

Usama provided a substantial amount of money for the financing of an entity called the "Bureau of Services" or Maktab al Khidmat, which was a network for recruiting individuals for the Afghan cause from Muslim communities in the United States, Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Western Europe. He also created a network of training camps and supplied weapons to Arab fighters. What is known today as al Qaeda or "The Foundation" was formed by Bin Ladin after the Soviet defeat in the late 1980s.

In 1989, Bin Landin was invited to move to Sudan by the regime in power which consisted of a military faction and the National Islamic Front. In 1990, he sent an advanced team to Sudan which he followed in mid-1991. Usama built roads and gave money to the government's war against Southern separatists in return for permission to establish businesses and create an infrastructure to support terrorist activities.

As early as 1992, Bin Ladin's attention turned to attacking the united States, "the head of the snake." He stated that the United States not only backed Israel but also kept Arab regimes in power that did not follow Islamic beliefs.

Now in Sudan, Bin Ladin started expanding the orginal al Qaeda organization that he founded in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda had a membership roster and a structure of committees, legitimized by Islamic law, to justify its actions. The hierarchial nature of the group was used for coordinating and supporting operations. However, this structure was not used in specific terrorist operations. These tasks were designated to a hand-picked clandestine cell, commanded by a senior al Qaeda operative who reported directly to Bin Ladin.

Bin Ladin aspired to build a multinational organization with terrorist groups from Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Morocco, Somalia and Eritrea with al Queda as the original foundation. It is documented that at least one group from the countries listed above joined al Queda. With this new coalition of terrorist groups spanning the globe, Bin Ladin brought a new level of Islamic force capable of accomplishing larger and more complex operations.

In Sudan, Bin Ladin set up weapons and supply depots and training camps to support al Queda. Bin Ladin's followers used employment positions in his businesses as a front to acquire the materials necessary to carry out terrorist attacks such as weapons, explosives, and technical equipment. Sudanese intelligence officers also aided al Queda operatives by providing false passports and shipping documents. At this time, the operational role of al Queda was principally to provide support through funds, training and weapons for terrorist attacks by allied groups.

Bin Ladin, however, did not fund al Queda by his own personal wealth or businesses. Al Qaeda's income was acquired through a fundraising network. Contrary to popular belief, Bin Ladin never received an inheritace totaling $300 million. Instead, from 1970 to 1994, he received approximately $1 million per year.

In May 1996, Bin Ladin moved back to Afghanistan from Sudan. Sudan was under a lot of pressure in April 1996 due to a UN sanction for harboring terrorists that attempted to assassinate Egyptian President Mubarak in June 1995. This move marked an initial setback for Bin Ladin and al Qaeda because of finanical difficulties. The government in Saudi Arabia had frozen his assets in 1993 and the Sudanese government took control of his assets when he left the country. On the other hand, in Afghanistan, Bin Ladin was able to thwart his agenda more openly due to the lack of a centralized government.

In August of 1996, Bin Ladin announced publicly his war against the U.S. He tried to persuade Muslims worldwide to unite against their common intruder on the Arabian Peninsula, the United States. One month later in September of 1996, the Taliban, a faction in Afghanistan backed by Pakistan, took control of Kabul. At this time, Bin Ladin began to lay the groundwork for a close alliance. Due to their relationship, the Taliban experienced great outside pressure, UN sanctions, and isolation prior to the September 11th attacks. They did have many gains too including hundreds of fighters, suppplies and financial support from al Qaeda.

Not only were there physical gains for the battlefield but there was also a number of ideological ties between the two groups that created a close alliance. Both al Qaeda, under Bin Ladin, and the Taliban wanted a pure Islamic state. It is reported that Bin Ladin even swore his allegiance to Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader.

In 1998, Bin Ladin started to create the foundation for a merger between al Qaeda and another terrorist organization, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. On February 23, 1998 the leaders of the two groups, Bin Ladin and Ayman Zawahiri, published a fatwa that made public a "ruling to kill the Americans and their allies." The fatwa not only instructed individuals to kill innocent civilians and members of the military but also stated that it was their duty to do it whenever and wherever possible.



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