Al-Qaeda is now in Southern Mexico and Latin America
Al-Qaeda (/ælˈkaɪdə/ or /ˌælkɑːˈiːdə/; Arabic: القاعدة al-qāʿidah, Arabic: [ælqɑːʕɪdɐ], translation: “The Base”, “The Foundation” or “The Fundament” and alternatively spelled al-Qaida, al-Qæda and sometimes al-Qa’ida) is a militant Sunni Islamist multi-national organization founded in 1988 by Osama bin Laden, Abdullah Azzam, and several other Arab volunteers who fought against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s.
It operates as a network made up of Islamic extremist, Salafist jihadists. It has been designated as a terrorist group by the United Nations Security Council, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Union, the United States, Russia, India, and various other countries (see below). Al-Qaeda has mounted attacks on civilian and military targets in various countries, including the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings, the September 11 attacks, and the 2002 Bali bombings.
The U.S. government responded to the September 11 attacks by launching the “War on Terror“. With the loss of key leaders, culminating in the death of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda’s operations have devolved from actions that were controlled from the top down, to actions by franchise associated groups and lone-wolf operators. Characteristic techniques employed by al-Qaeda include suicide attacks and the simultaneous bombing of different targets. Activities ascribed to it may involve members of the movement who have made a pledge of loyalty to bin Laden, or the much more numerous “al-Qaeda-linked” individuals who have undergone training in one of its camps in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq or Sudan. Al-Qaeda ideologues envision a complete break from all foreign influences in Muslim countries, and the creation of a new caliphate ruling over the entire Muslim world.
Among the beliefs ascribed to al-Qaeda members is the conviction that a Christian–Jewish alliance is conspiring to destroy Islam. As Salafist jihadists, they believe that the killing of non-combatants is religiously sanctioned, but they ignore any aspect of religious scripture which might be interpreted as forbidding the murder of non-combatants and internecine fighting. Al-Qaeda also opposes what it regards as man-made laws, and wants to replace them with a strict form of sharia law.
Al-Qaeda has carried out many attacks on targets it considers kafir. Al-Qaeda is also responsible for instigating sectarian violence among Muslims. Al-Qaeda leaders regard liberal Muslims, Shias, Sufis and other sects as heretics and have attacked their mosques and gatherings. Examples of sectarian attacks include the Yazidi community bombings, the Sadr City bombings, the Ashoura massacre and the April 2007 Baghdad bombings.
Since the death of bin Laden in 2011, the group has been led by the Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (Arabic: جماعة قاعدة الجهاد في شبه القارة الهندية, translit. Jamā‘at Qā‘idat al-Jihād fī Shibh al-Qārrah al-Hindīyah, lit. ‘Organisation of the Base of Jihad in the Indian Subcontinent’) usually abbreviated as AQIS, is an Islamist militant organization which aims to fight the governments of Pakistan, India, Myanmar and Bangladesh in order to establish an Islamic state. The militant group has also stated its intentions to attack American targets in the Indian Subcontinent.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (Arabic: تنظيم القاعدة في جزيرة العرب, translit. Tanẓīm al-Qā‘idah fī Jazīrat al-‘Arab, lit. ‘al-Qaeda Organization in the Arabian Peninsula’ or تنظيم قاعدة الجهاد في جزيرة العرب, Tanẓīm Qā‘idat al-Jihād fī Jazīrat al-‘Arab, “Organization of Jihad’s Base in the Arabian Peninsula”), or AQAP, also known as Ansar al-Sharia in Yemen (Arabic: جماعة أنصار الشريعة, Jamā‘at Anṣār ash-Sharī‘ah, “Group of the Helpers of the Sharia”), is a militant Islamist organization, primarily active in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. It was named for al-Qaeda, and says it is subordinate to that group and its now-deceased leader Osama bin Laden, a Saudi citizen of Yemeni heritage. It is considered the most active of al-Qaeda’s branches, or “franchises,” that emerged due to weakening central leadership. The U.S government believes AQAP to be the most dangerous al-Qaeda branch due to its emphasis on attacking the far enemy and its reputation for plotting attacks on overseas targets. The group established an Emirate during the 2011 Yemeni Revolution.
The group has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United Nations, Australia, Canada, Russia, Syria, Iran, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the European Union and the United States.