Al-Qaeda is an international terrorist organization of Islamic fundamentalists, which carries out fighting operations worldwide. The striking power of "Al-Qaeda" is presented by veterans of the war in Afghanistan. The main purpose set for the organization is the overthrow of secular modes in the Islamic states and the establishment of an Islamic order based on Shariah. "Al-Qaeda" considers the USA to be the main enemy of Islam and seeks to carry out terrorist operations against the American citizens. "Al-Qaeda" showed that one organization was able to resist to the cumulative military, political, financial and ideological power of the leading states of the world as equal or nearly as equal force. The vast majority of terrorists of "Al-Qaeda" come from the families adhering to very moderate religious views or supporting absolutely secularized outlook. Bin Laden's murder was declared by the U.S. President Barack Obama in the morning on May 2nd in a televised address to the nation. After the statement of the U.S. President for Osama bin Laden's death, exulting crowds of people did not leave the streets of Washington and New York all night. It was a historical victory for the American people.
Al-Qaeda is an international terrorist organization supported by Islamic fundamentalists. It conducts fighting operations worldwide. The ideology and the concept of Al-Qaeda were created not by Osama bin Laden but his teacher and spiritual instructor Abdullah Azzam in 1987 (Bergen, 2002). In February, 1998, bin Laden declared that the International Islamic Front of Jihad against Jews and Crusaders was created on the basis of Al-Qaeda, preaching the ideas of the Global Jihad Salafi. During this period Al-Qaeda worked in close cooperation with the Egyptian terrorist group called Egyptian Islamic Jihad. In June, 2001, this partnership was finally revealed when the new group called Qaedat al-Jihad was created on the basis of two organizations. It seeks to counteract the distribution, existence and influence of the western countries, especially the USA, on the regional level as well as worldwide, considering the western civilization corrupted and defective. Al-Qaeda seeks to expel armed forces of the USA from the territory of the Gulf States, in particular, Saudi Arabia. Moreover, they have a special aspiration to destroy Israel.
The headquarters of the terrorist organization was at first in Sudan, then in Saudi Arabia, and finally in Afghanistan. The exact number of members is unknown.
The striking power of Al-Qaeda is Afghanistan veterans. The main aim of the organization is the overthrow of secular regimes in the Islamic countries and the establishment of religious-based Islamic order on the grounds of Shariah. Al-Qaeda considers the USA to be the main enemy of Islam and conducts a lot of terrorist acts against the citizens of this country.
At the head of Al-Qaeda there is the council called shurah. Lower ranges in the structure of the organization are occupied by eight committees, the main of which is the committee on religion affairs. It is headed by Abu Hafs al-Muritani.
The second most important committee is the military one, which is divided into five subcommittees responsible, in particular, for safety issues, carrying out operations, for the Afghan front, combat training and location of the "guests" in different countries. Until 2002, the committee was headed by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is now the prisoner of Guantanamo (he planned the acts of terrorism on September 11th). The present head of the committee is Saif al Adele.
The financial committee consists of two structures that, according to the experts of the French counterintelligence DST, "point to the large sizes of financial streams of this organization" (Bell, 2002). The structure of the organization is elaborated considering the questions of external support, relations with mass media, issues of communication, document circulation and help to the families (Bell, 2002).
The main goal of "Al-Qaeda" is an overthrow of the "rotted" and "heretical" ruling modes in the Muslim countries with the establishment of the shariah government in these countries. "Al-Qaeda" stands on considerably anti-western positions and calls America the main enemy of Islam, encouraging Muslims for the armed fight against the USA.
Bin Laden managed turn terrorism from the means of protest and resistance into the universal instrument of fighting against the influence of the West on the Islamic world. It is under his rule that Al-Qaeda proved that one organization was able to act as effectively or nearly as effectively as the cumulative military, political, financial and ideological power of the leading countries. Moreover, "Al-Qaeda" appeared to be the first terrorist organization which has never assumed responsibility for acts of terrorism and preferred to keep a low profile. Its uniqueness is proved by the fact that Al-Qaeda could establish control or completely subordinate a set of independent terrorist groups having operated independently from each other earlier.
Besides, for the first time Al-Qaeda paid a special attention to ideological and psychological preparation of the fighters. Their death, when performing fighting tasks, ceased to be perceived as a loss, and was considered to be a privilege instead. Al-Qaeda introduced the practice of regular mass suicides in terrorism. All the operations of "Al-Qaeda" were performed after a careful investigation and preparation which could last from half a year till one and a half. Al-Qaeda was also the first organization which created the adjusted system of recruitment and preparation of the members. According to the CIA, 25 to 100 thousand recruits passed the training in Al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan in 1989-2001 (Phillips, 2006). The similar camps were created in Sudan, in the Caucasus, on the Balkans, and in many states of the Middle and Far East. As a result, the members of Al-Qaeda are natives practically from all Muslim states and world regions, including Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Kirghizs, Turkmens, Tajiks, Azerbaijanis, Dagestanians, Chechens, etc. The departments of Al-Qaeda have already been found in 34 countries of the world (Sageman, 2004).
Relying on an extensive network of supporters in the USA, Europe and Asia, Laden ran the organization via the most modern means of communication: the Internet, fax, and satellite phones. Laden's organization sought to carry out terrorist operations against the American citizens in any country of the world. Thus, they pursued the double aim. Fist of them was to force Americans to stop the intervention in affairs of the Muslim countries by demoralized them. The second aim implied influencing the governments of the Gulf States with the purpose to force Arabs to refuse from the support of the USA.
The other direction of terrorist activity of the organization is the help to Muslim insurgents and terrorists conducting armed fight in a range of the countries of the world. Laden's Afghan fighters took part in the conflicts on the territory of India, the countries of ATR, the CIS, and the former Yugoslavia. Laden supported fighters in Afghanistan, Algeria, Bosnia, Chechnya, Eritrea, Kosovo, Pakistan, Somalia, Tajikistan and Yemen. The so-called Islamic Front sought to radicalize existing groups of Islamists and to spread it to those countries where they were absent at that time.
1992, Yemen. Laden's fighters made an attack on the American tourists.
1992, Somalia. Attack on the American military personnel in Somalia within the Operation Restore Hope.
1995, Ethiopia. Laden's agents helped the Egyptian terrorists with an attempt to kill Hosni Mubarak.
1995, Pakistan. Egyptian Al Jihad carried out an explosion near the embassy of Egypt in Pakistan leading to deaths of 20 people.
1995, Saudi Arabia. Laden's terrorists carried out the diversion against the military center of the USA in Riyadh.
1996, Dakhran. The explosion near the military object in the USA. These two acts of terrorism led to death of 30 people.
1998, February. Laden declared the plan to attack military and civilians of the American nationality in any country of the world.
1998, August 7th, Kenya - Tanzania. The diversions against embassies of the USA in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam. Dozens of people were killed.
2001, September 11th, USA. The act of terrorism shocked the whole world, several thousand people were killed; the act was considered the work of this organization.
2005, A series of explosions in London.
The principle of the acts of terrorism on September 11th was completely compatible to the previous attacks. It could be characterized by meticulous detailed planning, aspiration to reach the maximum number of victims, involvement of terrorists-kamikazes and multiple simultaneous attacks. The attacks on September 11th, 2001, were completely similar in terms of scale and complexity of operation elaboration to acts of terrorism in Kenya and Tanzania.
The members of Al-Qaeda in their court testimony on the acts of terrorism in Kenya and Tanzania described the way the preparation of such actions took place. It was emphasized that it took years. Terrorists patiently watched the objects and collected materials; new and new members who were ready to sacrifice their lives in terrorist operations were involved (Bergen, 2011). The terrorists who were preparing for the acts of terrorism on September 11th went to flight schools, used exercise machines, received instructions from coaches on running large planes and supervised the potential airports from where they could skyjack planes.
The attacks of "Al-Qaeda" were characterized by full ignoring of the fact that innocent people died, including Muslims. In the interview after the acts of terrorism in Kenya and Tanzania Osama bin Laden persistently claimed that the requirement to attack the United States justified murder of innocent citizens, both Muslims and non-Muslims (Bergen, 2011).
The present wave of the acts of terrorism conducted by suicide-bombers from Al-Qaeda, does not offer an easy explanation. The vast majority of terrorists are representatives of the middle class, and all their leaders come from the well-to-do part of the population holding a high social position. It is fair for the majority of political movements, including terrorist ones, and Al-Qaeda is not an exception. Though it justifies its activity stating that it protects the interests of the needy brothers, its connection with poor people sounds at least unconvincing.
Terrorists are not naive young people. The average age of those who enter the terrorist organizations is about 26 years (Bergen, 2011). These are the young adult men who are completely responsible for their actions. However, probably, owing to the growing importance of the Internet, which appeals to younger people, the average age of terrorists reduces (Phillips, 2006). In the Internet they get acquainted with myths about Al-Qaeda, which inspire some of them to acts of terrorism in its name, though they could have never met the real members of Al-Qaeda earlier and did not receive instructions from them.
The vast majority of terrorists of Al-Qaeda come from the families adhering to very moderate religious views or those of supporters of absolutely secularized outlook. Actually, 84% of the terrorists turned into radical Islamists in the West and not in the countries of their origin (Bergen, 2011). The majority arrived to the West to study and at that moment they did not consider becoming terrorists. Another 8% go for Christians who accepted Islam and underwent brainwash in the cultural environment they belonged to (Bergen, 2011).
About two thirds of the terrorists visited college, which is in absolute contrast with the situation in communities of their origin where the similar indicator made less than 10% (Bergen, 2011). Despite the education, these people knew little about religion. However, many studied engineering, which made them twice as dangerous. In other words, due to the relative ignorance in religion, they became especially vulnerable to the promotion of radical Islam, at the same time possessing skills of bomb production.
The recruitment in Al-Qaeda was conducted among friends and relatives of terrorists, instead of special recruiters. About two thirds of selection was conducted on friendly terms before interested people made up their minds to join a particular terrorist organization. Their mood became more radical, and they collectively decided to enter Al-Qaeda. The best example of this was the Hamburg group which headed the operation on September 11th, 2001. Eight friends decided to unite and they went to Afghanistan together in two parties. Those who were included into the first party later became pilots of the captured planes, and the second one consisted of the members of the support group. The ninth member of the group entered it by an acquaintance. Close relatives - fathers, brothers or cousins - were already members of Al-Qaeda. They groups simply reunited with their families.
Some claim that the absence of opportunities for satisfaction of the sexual needs of the young male Muslims transforms their sexual frustration to self-destructive terrorism as they hope that in heavens they will be rendered and, in particular, they will get access to notorious 72 virgins. However, three quarters of terrorists from Al-Qaeda are married, and two thirds of them have children (some even have large families). This obvious paradox is explained by the fact that they want to have many children in order to conduct jihad, they endow themselves for the sake of their business and their companions.
Terrorists from Al-Qaeda, especially suicide bombers, are not madmen and have no mental disorders. It is a basic matter, as people with mental disorders are "usually quickly eliminated" from any secret organization for safety reasons (Phillips, 2006). Very few terrorists from "Al-Qaeda" have the criminal past. None of 19 terrorists who conducted the acts of terrorism on September 11th, 2001, on the territory of the USA was convicted of commission of any crimes in any country. However, the situation changes, especially in Western Europe Al-Qaeda starts to recruit from the "outcast generation" compelled to commit small crimes or trade in drugs to earn for a living (Phillips, 2006).
By estimates of analysts of the International Institute of Strategic Researches, the emergence of "Al-Qaeda" could be estimated as "a globalization funeral" (Bergen, 2002). Earlier it had been considered that the distribution of information technologies and free exchange of information worldwide would allow raising the level of education and tolerance of people. In its turn, it would lead to reduction of number of local and international religion-based conflicts. However, it did not happen as it was planned. In spite of the fact that Al-Qaeda opposed globalization, like any other organization it actively used the last achievements of civilization - satellite phones, laptops, and difficult schemes of information exchange on the Internet. In 1998, Bin Laden was known to use a satellite phone which was a rarity even for the richest intelligence services of the world. This organization actively tried to get control over weapons of mass destruction and even engaged nuclear physicists from Egypt and Pakistan to the development of the nuclear weapon on the basis of radioactive materials which it tried to steal in Russia or Central Asia (Bergen, 2011).
The statistics of the European intelligence services shows that the period of activity of a usual terrorist organization makes 13-14 years. After this term it either ceases to exist for various reasons or turns to political methods of fight (Bergen, 2011). Roan Gunaratna, a well-known international expert in the field of terrorism, the former chief analyst of the UN Terrorism Prevention Branch, claims that all the known terrorist groups worked against one country or a small group of countries. Al-Qaeda became an exception from this hypothesis as it threatened the whole world.
Fortunately, Osama bin Laden who headed the list of the most searched criminals for 10 years was killed on May 2nd, 2011, by the soldiers of the American special troops in northern Pakistan. His body was dumped in the sea from the board of the American aircraft carrier. Bin Laden's murder was declared in the morning of May 2nd in a televised address to the nation by the U.S. President Barack Obama. It was a holiday for the whole nation: crowds of elated people stayed at the streets of Washington and New York all night long (Bergen, 2011). The very first responses to news about the murder of "the most searched person in the world" came from the leaders of Britain, Israel and from two former American presidents who did not manage to neutralize the leader of Al-Qaeda in due time (Bergen, 2011).
Osama bin Laden's murder will not reduce sufferings which he brought to the inhabitants of New York and all Americans. Nevertheless, it is truly a historical victory for the American nation. This fact is likely to give some consolation to those whose relatives were killed as a result of numerous acts of terrorism planned and carried out by Al-Qaeda.