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Al Qaida(äl kī`ĕdə, kä`ĭdä) [Arab.,=the base], Sunni Islamic terrorist organization with the stated goals of uniting all Muslims and establishing a transnational, strict-fundamentalist Islamic state. Founded by Osama bin Ladenbin Laden, Osama or Usama
, 1957?–2011, Saudi-born leader of Al Qaeda, a terrorist organization devoted to uniting all Muslims and establishing a transnational, strict-fundamentalist Islamic state.
..... Click the link for more information. in Pakistan in the late 1980s, its membership originally consisted of Sunni Muslim Arabs who had come to Afghanistan to fight a holy war against occupying Soviet forces. Much of Al Qaeda's ideology was influenced by militant Egyptian Islamist Sayyd QutbQutb, Sayyid
, 1906–66, Egyptian Islamist whose critique of modern civilization and Islam provides the theoretical underpinnings for many contemporary Islamic militants.
..... Click the link for more information. .
After Soviet troops withdrew (1989) from Afghanistan, bin Laden returned to Saudi Arabia. He opposed the presence of U.S. forces there during the First Persian Gulf WarPersian Gulf Wars,
two conflicts involving Iraq and U.S.-led coalitions in the late 20th and early 21st cent.
The First Persian Gulf War, also known as the Gulf War, Jan.–Feb.
..... Click the link for more information. , and after he was caught smuggling arms (1991) he was expelled and went to Sudan. Al Qaeda subsequently began supporting attacks on U.S.-related targets, including two attacks (1995, 1996) in Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden was forced to leave Sudan in 1996. He relocated to Afghanistan, where much of the country was controlled by the TalibanTaliban
, Islamic fundamentalist militia of Afghanistan and later Pakistan, originally consisting mainly of Sunni Pashtun religious students from Afghanistan who were educated and trained in Pakistan.
..... Click the link for more information. , who allowed him to establish a headquarters and training camps. Al Qaeda had by then been enlarged by the influx of members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad; other militants came to the camps to be trained in terrorist warfare and fundamentalist Muslim ideology.
In 1998 terrorists trained by Al Qaeda were linked to the bombings of the U.S.'s Kenyan and Tanzanian embassies; subsequent significant attacks directed by Al Qaeda included that on the U.S. Navy destroyer Cole in Aden, Yemen (2000), and those on New York City's World Trade CenterWorld Trade Center,
former building complex in lower Manhattan, New York City, consisting of seven buildings and a shopping concourse on a 16-acre (6.5-hectare) site; it was destroyed by a terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001.
..... Click the link for more information. , in which some 3,000 died, and the PentagonPentagon, the,
building accommodating the U.S. Dept. of Defense. Located in Arlington, Va., across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., the Pentagon is a vast five-sided building designed by Los Angeles architect G. Edwin Bergstrom.
..... Click the link for more information. (2001; see also 9/119/11,
the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, in the United States, and the associated events and impact of those attacks.
The attacks, which were carried out by agents of Al Qaeda (a militant Islamic terrorist group led by Osama bin Laden) used three hijacked commercial
..... Click the link for more information. ). The events of 9/11 led to U.S. intervention in the Afghan civil war, and attacks against the Taliban and Al Qaeda installations in Afghanistan.
Although Al Qaeda's camps were destroyed, bin Laden and many fighters escaped; bin Laden established a new base in the mountains bordering Pakistan for a time as the U.S. conducted missions against Al Qaeda. Eventually based in parts of W Pakistan, Al Qaeda continued to function and launch terror attacks on a more limited scale; it also provided support to and inspiration for other groups committed to a fundamentalist Islamic insurgency, becoming identified with a decentralized international network of terrorists. Many Al Qaeda recruits returned to their homelands, and they and others formed similar, more or less autonomous groups, mainly in the Middle East and Africa, and aligned themselves with Al Qaeda and sometimes adopted its name. In most cases, however, these groups were focused on local issues and battles, and often fighting against other Muslims, especially Shiites, rather than attacking Western nations.
Deadly terrorist attacks supported or inspired by Al Qaeda continued, the most serious of which were the anti-Western bombings on Bali in 2002, the commuter rail bombings in Madrid, Spain, in 2004, and the public transit bombings in London, England, in 2005. Al Qaeda–associated fighters also have been involved in attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, and against Muslims they regard as apostate, such as Shiites in Iraq. In 2011 U.S. special forces killed bin Laden in a helicopter raid on his secret compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Ayman al-ZawahiriZawahiri or Zawahri, Ayman al-
, 1951–, militant Egyptian Islamist. A surgeon by education and training, he became involved with the Muslim Brotherhood and joined the Egyptian Islamic Jihad after it was founded in
..... Click the link for more information. succeeded him as the group's leader.