Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda
Shortly after the attacks of September 11, the terrorist group Al-Qaeda, under the leadership of Osama bin Laden, was suspected of being responsible. Al-Qaeda had its origins in the uprising against the 1979 Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Bin Laden explained the origin of the term, in a videotaped interview with an Al Jazeera (Arabic television channel) journalist in October 2001: “The name ‘al-Qaeda' was established a long time ago by mere chance. The late Abu Ebeida El-Banashiri established the training camps for our mujahedeed against Russia's terrorism. We used to call the training camp al-Qaeda [meaning “the base” in English]. And the name stayed.”
After the Soviets left Afghanistan, bin Laden returned to his native Saudi Arabia and then later set up bases in Sudan in northeast Africa. In 1994, Sudan expelled bin Laden, who moved his base of operations to Afghanistan. Bin Laden was welcomed by the Taliban (“Students of Islamic Knowledge Movement”) who came to power during Afghanistan's long civil war and ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001. The United States drove them from power in November of 2001.
Among the claims of Al-Qaeda, which resulted in bin Laden's declaration of war against the United States, were America's participation in the first Gulf War, United States military involvements in Somalia and Yemen and the United States military presence in Saudi Arabia. The attacks against the United States and its allies that have been credited to Al-Qaeda include the following.
Bombing of the World Trade Center, New York City. The 1,500-pound nitrate-fuel oil device killed six and injured 1,042 people. It was intended to devastate the foundation of the north tower, causing it to collapse onto the south tower. Those involved in the bombing received financing from Al-Qaeda member Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. Investigation of the WTC bombing reveals that it was only a small part of a massive attack plan that included hijacking a plane and crashing it into CIA headquarters.
Killing of U.S. soldiers in Somalia. Bin Laden confirmed that “Arabs affiliated with his group were involved in killing American troops in Somalia in 1993,” a claim he had earlier made to an Arabic newspaper. The Battle of Mogadishu was the basis of the film
Bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa. On August 7, 1998, terrorists bombed the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, leaving 258 people dead and more than 5,000 injured. President Clinton demonstrated an aggressive response as the United States launched cruise missiles on August 20, 1998, striking a terrorism training complex in Afghanistan and destroying a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in Khartoum, Sudan, that reportedly produced poison gases for military use, both believed to be financed by Osama bin Laden. Officials later said that there was no proof that the plant had been manufacturing or storing nerve gas, as initially suspected by the Americans, or had been linked to Osama bin Laden, who was a resident of Khartoum in the 1980s.
On October 12, 2000, seventeen Americans died and thirty-seven were wounded when suicide bombers attacked the U.S. Navy destroyer
September 11, 2001
Attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Four planes were hijacked and used as weapons resulting in the deaths of 19 hijackers, 246 passengers and crew, and 2,727 people who died at World Trade Center and Pentagon. After the bombings, bin Laden issued a videotaped message praising the hijackers and announcing that “America will not live in peace before peace reigns in Palestine, and before all the army of infidels depart the land of Muhammad.”
There has been much speculation as to who authorized the flight of Saudi nationals, including members of the bin Laden family, out of the United States within days following the September 11, 2001 attacks. The independent, bipartisan 9/11 Commission found that there was little, if any, political intervention, and the FBI did screen those who were flown out of the country.
On the morning of June 14, 2002, a truck with a fertilizer bomb driven by a suicide bomber was detonated outside the U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan. Twelve people were killed and fifty-one injured, all Pakistanis.
Terrorists kidnap and execute (by beheading) Paul Johnson Jr., an American helicopter engineer, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Militants, believed to be linked to Al-Qaeda, drive up to the U.S. consulate in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, storm the gates, and kill five consulate employees, none of whom were American. Saudi security forces subdue the attackers, killing four.
Four young suicide bombers with possible ties to Al-Qaeda struck in central London on July 7, 2005, killing 52 people and injuring more than 700.