The Faces of Al Qaeda

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Al Qaeda Today: Who’s Who and Trends

Changing Faces:

Bin Laden, a household name since 2001, was killed on May 2, 2011.
In 2012:

  • %16 drop in successful attacks
  • %65 drop in successful attacks outside of Africa
  • %35 less casualties caused by the Al Qaeda network
  • 0 successful attacks on U.S. soil
  • 22 high ranking Al Qaeda leaders captured or killed

Coupled with the U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan
Al Qaeda has had to change its tactics.

Featured Schools

  • Self-radicalization
  • Under Bin Laden = a centralized hierarchy to fight non-believers and the west.
  • Now, Social media and publications (like the English magazine Inspire )
  • teach readers how to make bombs in their kitchen
  • and inculcate hate
  • which leads to decentralized, but informed small cells.

The U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan has given rise to the myth that the US wants to conquer the Arab world.

Loosely connected affiliate groups acting on behalf of al Qaeda

And their locale

  • Training bases
  • Afghanistan
  • Algeria
  • Bosnia
  • Chechnya
  • Eritrea
  • Kosovo
  • the Phillipines
  • Somalia
  • Tajikistan
  • Yemen
  • Kosovo

New branches

  • Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula
  • Saudi Arabia
  • and Yemen
  • and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb
  • Northern Africa

And Cells have been broken up in

  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Italy
  • France
  • Spain
  • Germany
  • Albania
  • Uganda
  • and elsewhere

But even on the run, Al Qaeda has an estimated operating budget of $30 million a year.
Used for recruiting, training, and executing attacks.

Just last year:

[country, number of attacks, number of killed]

  • Philippines—22—15
  • India—1—15
  • Pakistan—81—470
  • Afghanistan—2—61
  • Iraq—66—463
  • Syria—1—54
  • Yemen—27—50
  • Somalia—341—600
  • Kenya—28—28
  • Nigeria—1—0
  • Algeria—1—2
  • Mali—3—4
  • Mauritania—1—0

The Faces of Leadership

Osama bin Laden

  • Inherited $10’s millions of dollars from the Bin Laden Construction empire
  • Joined the mujahideen fighters against the Soviets in Pakistan and Afghanistan after college
  • Formed Al Qaeda in 1968, was forced from Egypt, then Sudan where he held bases.
  • Established base of operations in Afghanistan in 1996, declared war on the U.S.
  • Gained popularity with Arabs by funneling money into Arab causes
  • Barely survived a US attack in 1998 in which 66 cruise missiles were launched at his training camp from US ships in the Arabian Sea.
  • Coordinated many attacks
  • Killed in a private residential compound in Northern Pakistan in May, 2011

Ayman Al-Zawahiri

  • New leader of Al Qaeda after Bin Laden’s death
  • A former eye surgeon
  • Second most wanted terrorist in the world in 2001 with a $25 million bounty on his head
  • Wife and children killed in US airstrike
  • Fights against the “crusader America and its servant Israel, and whoever supports them.”

Abu Yahya al-Libi

  • Al Qaeda’s leading theologian
  • Field Commander of Afghanistan
  • Speaks on a variety of topics of global importance, perhaps the most visible face of Al Qaeda
  • Captured by Pakistani forces in 2002, shipped to a US Airbase from which he escaped 3 years later.

Khalid al-Habib

  • Chief Military Commander according to a 2008 interview
  • Only identified once back in 2005
  • Operates under many false identities
  • said by US intelligence to handle “internal” operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Adnan el Shukrijumah

  • Chief of the “external operations council.”
  • Lived in Florida and Brooklyn
  • One of the first Al Qaeda leaders to have an intimate knowledge of American culture
  • Indicted in the U.S. for the planned subway bombing of 2009
  • Also suspected of playing roles in attacks in Panama, Norway, and the UK
  • Regular contact with Al Qaeda leadership and field commanders makes him likelier to get captured.

Saif al-Adel

  • Once an Egyptian Military Colonel known as Muhamad Ibrahim Makkawi
  • Suspected involvement in the 1998 US Embassy Bombings in East Africa
  • Training Somali fighters that killed 18 US Servicemen in Somalia in 1993
  • And instructing 9/11 bombers
  • Arrested in March 2013 and extradited to the US
  • Some reports believe he was released and has made his way back to Northern Pakistan

Adam Gadanh, or “Azzam the American”

  • High profile propagandist appearing in many videos
  • Born in California, converted to Islam as a teenager
  • Moved to Pakistan in 1998 to join the cause
  • First American to be charged with Treason since WWII
  • Translates for Al Qaeda, operates propaganda
  • $1 million bounty on his head
  • Not a senior leader

Midhat Mursi

  • An Egyptian Chemist
  • Part of Al Qaeda’s initiative to develop chemical and biological weapons
  • Trains recruits in bomb making techniques.
  • Last believed to be in Pakistan or escaped to the Caucasus region

Nasser Abdul Karim al-Wuhayshi

  • Leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a merger between the Saudi Arabian and Yemeni branches of Al Qaeda.
  • Worked in religious institutions before joining the cause in the late 90’s
  • Arrested in 2001 in Iran, extradited to Yemen
  • Escaped from Yemani prison with 22 other Al Qaeda members in 2006
  • Responsible for:
  • USS Cole bombing
  • Bombing that killed 10 Yemeni guards and 6 western tourists in 2008
  • Attempted bombing of US passenger jet entering Detroit in 2009
  • Failed attack of Saudi Arabian security chief in 2009

Abou Mossab Abdelwadoud

  • Leader of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb
  • Leader of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat
  • Aiming to turn Algeria into an Islamic state.
  • Killed 33 and 37 in Algiers with car bombs in 2007
  • Newly broadened activity throughout North Africa
  • Aims to:
  • Attack western targets
  • Send Jihadis to Iraq
  • Kidnap, ransom, and kill westerners in North Africa

After the death of bin Laden, and the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, Al Qaeda entered a transitional phase in which new leaders emerged, presence in new locales was established, and decentralized, but well informed fighters continue their war against the west.