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Usama bin Laden's al-Qaida: Profile of a Terrorist Network

NCJ Number
Yonah Alexander; Michael S. Swetnam
Date Published
120 pages
This book provides a profile of the terrorist network al-Qaida headed by Usama bin Laden.
Al-Qaida emerged from the mekhtab al khidemat (MAK), the Afghan mujahadeen “services office,” around 1989. It is heavily funded by Usama bin Laden. This loosely knit network is comprised of various terrorist organizations, such as the Egyptian al-Jihad and dozens of others. It serves as an informal organizational structure for extremist Arab-Afghans, along with thousands of new recruits and supporters in some 55 countries. The al-Qaida network has been linked to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in New York, the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, the 1998 United States embassy bombings in East Africa, the attack of the destroyer USS Cole in Aden, Yemen, and, most recently, the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Al Qaida opposes all nations and institutions that are not governed in a manner consistent with the group’s particular extremist interpretation of Islam. They oppose the continued presence of the American military in the Middle East and have endorsed a fatwah (religious ruling) stating that Muslims should kill Americans. Al-Qaida has a command and control structure, which includes a majlis al shura (or consultation council). The council considers, discusses, and approves major policies and actions, including terrorist operations and the issuing of fatwahs. The group has a “military committee” that considers and approves military matters. It also has a business committee, which oversees the front businesses and financial matters, a fatwah or religious committee that deliberates religious rulings, a media committee that works on printing information, and a travel office. Al-Qaida’s headquarters has moved with Usama bin Laden throughout a number of camps in eastern Afghanistan. Their tactics include bombing, hijacking, kidnapping, assassination, and suicide attacks. Reportedly, the group is actively seeking weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. Al-Qaida has been linked to the production of the chemical VX in Sudan and the production of the biological agent ricin. On several occasions the group has tried to obtain enriched uranium. Bibliography, 6 appendices