See also: Al Qaeda; Osama Bin Laden.
In 1989 Osama Bin Laden set up Al Qaeda (the Base) in Peshawar in Pakistan as a service centre for Arab Afghans and their families and to promote Wahabbism - a strict form of the Muslim faith practised in Saudi Arabia - among the Afghans.
In 1985 Bin Laden had amassed millions of pounds from his family and company wealth and from donations from wealthy Arab Gulf merchant families, to organise Al Qaeda recruitment centres in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan, through which he recruited, enlisted and sheltered Arab volunteers. They have been internationally active since that date.
One of the founding members of Al Qaeda was Mahmoud Salim, who after his arrest in Germany in 2000 was identified as a financial adviser and weapons procurer for Bin Laden.
After the Soviets left Afghanistan Bin Laden began to retrain his troops in the Al Qaeda organisation and moved away from anti-aircraft and anti-tank tactics used against the Soviets to urban guerrilla warfare, sabotage and terrorism aimed at destabilising the societies and governments that were to become his targets. For many years Bin Laden had been generous with financing for weapons, transport and incomes for families of the fighters against the Soviets. Bin Laden established a good relationship with a charismatic Palestinian Abdullah Azzam who became one of the inspirers of the Hamas Movement, rejecting Arafat's mainstream Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and the smaller Palestinian groups as too Marxist and not sufficiently Islamic.
The workforce of companies owned by Bin Laden included thousands of militant Arabs and other veterans of the Afghan jihad. He paid for many to go to the Sudan in 1993-94 who were now under threat from crack-downs on them in Pakistan, Egypt and Algeria. A branch of the Al Qaeda network was created in the Sudan. Later, this information was to influence President Clinton's decision to launch US cruise missile attacks on Sudan and Afghanistan, but to little effect as some missiles went astray and others hit the wrong targets.
In 1993 Bin Laden allegedly agreed to an Al Qaeda plan to consider buying a complete nuclear missile or highly enriched uranium from the former Soviet Union in the glorified pursuit of an Islamic bomb. This plan, however, came to nothing, as there were no missiles for sale. Consideration was then given by Al Qaeda to develop a nuclear suitcase bomb, which would be developed by the Chechen Mafia with cash given by the Al Qaeda group. We now know that Al Qaeda was developing links with Saddam Hussein in Iraq to construct weapons of mass destruction, especially of a biological content.
The Afghan Arab organisation was directed from its camps in Afghanistan after Bin Laden's forced departure from the Sudan in 1996. It next turned its attention to massive assaults on US personnel and property abroad. Two American embassies were destroyed in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998 and two years later a suicide bomber in Aden harbour in Yemen attacked the USS Cole. Twenty Americans and 300 Africans were killed in total.
In 1996 the organisation was behind the bombing of a US military housing complex in Dharan in Saudi Arabia when nineteen American servicemen were killed.
A close ally of Bin Laden, Khalid Al-Fauwaz, working in London, was given some command of Al Qaeda.
The moulding together of the Al Qaeda organisation helped to secure Bin Laden a large personal following throughout the Muslim world, as it proved that he could unify disparate groups of Islamic Militants.
In Afghanistan, from 1996 Bin Laden also gained increasing status, and was sheltered by the Taliban government in that country. The Taliban were professional in managing the Afghan drugs trade and Bin Laden and Al Qaeda benefited.
By the end of the 1990s the FBI and CIA had publicly identified it as Bin Laden's main vehicle for international terrorist operations during that
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Publication information: Book title: Dictionary of Terrorism. Edition: 2nd. Contributors: John Richard Thackrah - Author. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 2004. Page number: 9.
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