Arabic for "The Base", the group established to support mujaheddin fighting in Afghanistan and now controlled by Osama bin Laden.

There are cells of al-Qaeda all over the world, all of which report (through intermediaries, no doubt) to bin Laden.

Ironically, al-Qaeda was set up with the help of the US government. It seemed like a good idea at the time, since they were fighting the Evil Empire. Now they have become the new evil empire, an underground group that has challenged NATO and the Warsaw Pact.

Qaeda means base. I suppose it's an appropriate name, since one of the meanings of base is "crude, vulgar or fundamental"(ist)...

(I've also seen the name spelled "Al Qaeda", "al Qaeda", "al-Qa'eda", etc., so if anyone can provide the most appropriate transliteration, I'll have the title changed...)

A summary from the US State Department, culled from their most recent "Patterns of Global Terrorism" report (available online at Pardon the cut and paste writeup, but I found this to be of value. NB: State uses the less popular transliteration of the group name.
Established by Usama Bin Ladin in the late 1980s to bring together Arabs who fought in Afghanistan against the Soviet invasion. Helped finance, recruit, transport, and train Sunni Islamic extremists for the Afghan resistance. Current goal is to establish a pan-Islamic Caliphate throughout the world by working with allied Islamic extremist groups to overthrow regimes it deems "non-Islamic" and expelling Westerners and non-Muslims from Muslim countries. Issued statement under banner of "the World Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Jews and Crusaders" in February 1998, saying it was the duty of all Muslims to kill US citizens--civilian or military--and their allies everywhere.

Plotted to carry out terrorist operations against US and Israeli tourists visiting Jordan for millennial celebrations. (Jordanian authorities thwarted the planned attacks and put 28 suspects on trial.) Conducted the bombings in August 1998 of the US Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, that killed at least 301 persons 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. Linked to the following plans that were not carried out: to assassinate Pope John Paul II during his visit to Manila in late 1994, simultaneous bombings of the US and Israeli Embassies in Manila and other Asian capitals in late 1994, the midair bombing of a dozen US trans-Pacific flights in 1995, and to kill President Clinton during a visit to the Philippines in early 1995. Continues to train, finance, and provide logistic support to terrorist groups in support of these goals.

May have several hundred to several thousand members. Also serves as a focal point or umbrella organization for a worldwide network that includes many Sunni Islamic extremist groups such as Egyptian Islamic Jihad, some members of al-Gama'at al-Islamiyya, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and the Harakat ul-Mujahidin.

Location/Area of Operation Al-Qaida has a worldwide reach, has cells in a number of countries, and is reinforced by its ties to Sunni extremist networks. Bin Ladin and his key lieutenants reside in Afghanistan, and the group maintains terrorist training camps there.

External Aid
Bin Ladin, son of a billionaire Saudi family, is said to have inherited approximately $300 million that he uses to finance the group. Al-Qaida also maintains moneymaking front organizations, solicits donations from like-minded supporters, and illicitly siphons funds from donations to Muslim charitable organizations.

Al-Qaeda meaning the "base" is used to denote stability and steadfastness of purpose. In the afghanistan war against Russia, it and other groups like it were responsible for pushing the red army back over the border and freeing the populaton from the threat Soviet rule. The Soviets for their part threw everything they had into the war for over a decade and were still unable to destroy them or break their spirit.

It is worth noting that they were one of only two superpowers in the world at the time, and had far more manpower, and armed forces than the poor untrained Afghans at the time, and they still failed. Almost all of the military equipment in Afghanistan today is there because it was captured from the Soviets during the war of liberation. In this respect the name is quite apt. The other meanings of the word "base" don't really apply to this group, as the word only has those negative connotations in English, and in Arabic, the sense of the word is clear and unambigous.

The current leader of Al-Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden was a fighter in the war that kicked the Russians out of the country, and his leadership and intelligence naturally brought him to the head of the force he was fighting in. This may have been helped by the fact that his was Saudi, and his family rich and well connected, giving him an excellent formal education accompanied by religious tuition from a young age.

His comittment to the liberation of Afghanistan turned into the wider goal of liberation of Muslims from the influence of the West, and he saw the Gulf War as an excuse for installing and manning military bases throughout the Middle East, and especially the Holy Land of the Muslims, Osama's native Saudi Arabia. Since that time Al-Qaeda moved from being an almost conventional fighting force of mujahideen to the roles of freedom fighters on an internation stage.

The "quiet war", as it has been called by many analysts has in the main involved financial assistance and tactical training of Muslims in those countries where the regime is harsh and oppressive of those following Islam, this includes of course Israel, and many north african states, not excluding Sudan.

The move from a united if flexible fighting force to that of freedom fighting changed the structure of the organisation dramatically. As the West's influence was manifold, and spread over the globe, the organisation had to follow suit, sending people to the appropriate locations, and as most of the acts of repression occurred through the routes of policy and through covert assassinations and torture, the units sent had to be trained to conceal themselves, and intervene whenever possible to save lives, and bring those under attack to safety.

Note: These sorts of operations are rarely reported in the media as it is against the interests of the governments in control, even though they are common in Islamic circles. An example is Hamas, which while widely reported as a terrorist organisation in the West is actually responsible (in addition to it's freedom fighting activities) for building hospitals (in the form of closely knit groups of clinics), schools, giving out blankets for the homeless and setting up soup kitchens for those people who have been badly treated by the occupying regime in Palestine.

The Al-Qaeda organisation, thus changed into the Al-Qaeda group, or as the west calls it "network". Although this isn't strictly correct, a network implies regular communications between disparate units, and the organisation is structured much more loosely and fluidly than that, with each unit being independent of one another, and knowing very little if anything about members outside the unit.

Most of Al-Qaeda's operations are intelligence gathering, training, relief supplies, and responses to those brutal violations of human rights that America and the UK sanction for the the rest of the world, but not their own people. Al-Qaeda has been responsible for actions against repressive regimes throughout the last two decades, mostly peaceful propaganda, except in rare cases of extreme provocation such as Bosnia, Somalia and Chechnya.

Who's Who in al-Qaeda

Abd al-Aziz al-Jamal : aide to al-Zawahri ( at large ).
Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi : training camp commander ( captured ).
Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri : Persian Gulf operations chief , Saudi ( captured ).
Abdul Rahim Riyadh : financial officer , Yemeni ( captured ).
Abdulaziz Alomari : terrorist hijacker (AA11) ( dead ).
Abu Basir Al-Yemeni : aide to OBL , Yemeni ( at large ).
Abu Hafs : religious scholarship officer , Mauritanian ( dead ).
Abu Jafar al-Jaziri : aide to Abu Zubyadah ( dead ).
Abu Mohammad al-Masri : training camp commander , Egyptian ( at large ).
Abu Musab Zarqawi : operational planner , Jordanian ( at large ).
Abu Salah al-Yemeni : logistics officer ( dead ).
Abu Zubair al-Haili : operational planner , Saudi ( at large ).
Abu Zubaydah : terrorist coordinator , Palestinian ( captured ).
Ahmad Omar abdel-Rahman : aide , Egyptian ( captured ).
Ahmad Said al-Kadr : financial officer , Egyptian-Canadian ( at large ).
Ahmed Alghamdi : terrorist hijacker (UA175) ( dead ).
Ahmed Alnami : terrorist hijacker (UA93) ( dead ).
Amin al-Haq : security chief , Afghan ( at large ).
Ayman al-Zawahri : doctor and spiritual advisor , Egyptian ( at large ).
Bilal bin Marwan : aide , Saudi ( at large ).
Fayez Ahmed : terrorist hijacker (UA175) ( dead ).
Hamza Alghamdi : terrorist hijacker (UA175) ( dead ).
Hamza al-Qatari : financial officer ( dead ).
Hani Hanjour : terrorist hijacker (AA77) ( dead ).
Ibn Al-Shaykh al-Libi : training camp commander , Libyan ( captured ).
Khalid Al-Midhar : terrorist hijacker (AA77) ( dead ).
Khalid Sheik Mohammad : planner of 9/11 attacks and owner of hairy back , Kuwaiti ( captured ).
Majed Moqed : terrorist hijacker (AA77) ( dead ).
Marwan Al-Shehhi : terrorist hijacker (UA175) ( dead ).
Midhat Mursi : weapons researcher , Egyptian ( at large ).
Mohald Alshehri : terrorist hijacker (UA175) ( dead ).
Mohammad Atef : senior member of al-Qaeda , Egyptian ( dead ).
Mohammad Atta : head of 9/11 cell and terrorist hijacker (AA11) ( dead ).
Mohammad Omar Abdel-Raham : aide , Egyptian ( at large ).
Mohammad Salah : operational planner , Egyptian ( dead ).
Mohammed Jamal Khalifa : financial officer , Saudi ( at large ).
Mustafa Ahmed Al-Hisawi : financial officer , Saudi ( at large ).
Nawaq Alhamzi : terrorist hijacker (AA77) ( dead ).
Omar al-Farouq : South-east Asia operations chief , Kuwaiti ( captured ).
Osama Bin Laden : head of al-Qaeda , Saudi ( at large ).
Qaed Salim Sinan Al-Herethi : Yemen operations chief , Yemeni ( dead ).
Ramzi Binalshibh : operational planner (planned 9/11) , Yemeni ( captured ).
Saad al-Sharif : financial officer , Saudi ( at large ).
Saad bin Laden : OBL's son , Saudi ( at large ).
Saeed Alghamdi : terrorist hijacker (UA93) ( dead ).
Said Bahaji : terrorist ( at large ).
Saif al-Adill : security chief , Egyptian ( at large ).
Salem Alhamzi : terrorist hijacker (AA77) ( dead ).
Saqar al-Jadawi : aide , Saudi ( at large ).
Satam al-Suqami : terrorist hijacker (AA11) ( dead ).
Shaikh Saiid Al-Masri : chief financial controller , Egyptian ( at large ).
Shaikh Salid : financial officer , Saudi ( at large ).
Sulaiman Abu Ghaith : public relations officer (!) , Kuwaiti (stripped) ( at large ).
Tariq Anwar al-Sayyid Ahmad : operational planner , Egyptian ( dead ).
Tawfiq Attash Khallad : operational planner (planned of attack on USS Cole) , Yemeni ( at large ).
Wail Alshehri : terrorist hijacker (AA11) ( dead ).
Waleed M Alshehri : terrorist hijacker (AA11) ( dead ).
Zacarias Moussaoui : terrorist hijacker (captured prior to 9/11) , French ( captured ).
Zaid Khayr : operational leader , Saudi ( at large ).
Zakariya Essabar : terrorist ( at large ).
Ziad Jarrahi : terrorist hijacker (UA93) ( dead ).

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