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Homeland Security


Center of GravityPakistan
Area of OperationAfghanistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, United States, United Kingdom, Indonesia, Philippines, Jordan, Kuwait, Iran, Chechnya
State SponsorFormerly Sudan, Formerly Afghanistan
GoalTo spread militant Sunni Islam worldwide
LeaderOsama bin Laden
StatusDesignated Terrorist Organization
Core membership1,000s3
Alias(es)Islamic Army1, Al-Qaida, Al-Qa'ida, Al-Qaeda al-Sulbah, The Base2, International Front for Fighting Jews and Crusaders, Islamic Army for the Liberation of Holy Sites, The Islamic Army for the Liberation of the Holy Places, The World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders, Osama bin Ladin Network
Former leaderAbdullah Azzam
Key membersAyman al-Zawahiri, Mohammed Atef, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Saif al-Adel, Shaikh Saiid al-Masri, Saad bin Laden
FormedAugust 1988
Narrative and Notes
ReliableAl-Qaeda was formed in 1988 by veterans of the anti-Soviet civil war in Afghanistan, with the purpose of exporting the victory worldwide.

At its core was Azzam and his deputy, bin Laden, who may have differed how best to proceed. When Azzam was killed in 1989, bin Laden assumed full control of the organization.

Though he was a Saudi, most of his senior leadership was Egyptian.

Between 1991 and 1996, al-Qaeda was headquarted in Sudan, where it enjoyed friendly relations with the governing National Islamic Front. International pressure forced bin Laden to relocate back to Afghanistan in 1996, where it allied with the then-nascent Taliban.

In late 2001, most of its training camps were destroyed, and the group became somewhat diffuse, with much of its leadership relocating either to Iran, the mountainous region along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, or to Pakistan's cities.

Many of those work in Pakistan's cities were caught. The status of the leadership in Iran remains unclear.

Al-Qaeda's purpose is to spread jihad worldwide through a number of means, including funding and training Islamic and ethnic guerilla movements, issuing propaganda aimed at inspiring freelance jihadists to commit acts of terrorism, and organizating and conducting complex attacks on countries it sees opposing it.

The organization is funded largely by charitable donations, some intended, and some diverted by symathizers from poorly managed Gulf charities. Before 9-11, the organization had an estimated annual budget of about $30 million.

The U.S. State Department declared al-Qaeda a "foreign terrorist organization" in October 1999.1,5
QuestionableJamal Ahmed al-Fadl, the al-Qaeda defector, estimated between 1,000 and 2,000 had joined the organization by 1990.3
1Jamal al-Fadl testimony, United States vs. Osama bin Laden et al, trial transcript, Day 2, Feb. 6, 2001.
3Jamal Ahmed al-Fadl testimony, United States vs. Osama bin Laden et al, trial transcript, Day 4, Feb. 13, 2001.
4The 9-11 Commission Final Report, July 22, 2004, Chapter 5.4.
5The 9-11 Commission Final Report. July 22, 2004. Chapter 6.2.
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Page last modified: 12-12-2006 19:58:29 ZULU