Al Qaeda, or Al-Qaida, an international terrorist organization of Islamic extremists. Al Qaeda was formed around 1988 by Muslim fighters who had taken up the cause of expelling Soviet troops from Afghanistan after the Soviet Union had invaded the country in 1979. The name is Arabic, meaning “the base.” Osama bin Laden, a wealthy Saudi Arabian, is attributed with founding the organization and providing it with major financial support. Prior to founding the al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden had allegedly joined the mujahideen, which was the Muslim resistance movement fighting against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, in 1979. He spent most of the following years raising funds to help the mujahideen. In the late 20th century, bin Laden founded the al-Qaida in order to resist the Soviets. During the late 20th century, the al-Qaeda became more ambitious, opposing foreign influence in Muslim countries and demanding the overthrow of Muslim governments allied to the United States. It is a general notion that the Al-Qaeda supports other Islamic extremist groups all around the world.

It is Al-Qaeda’s belief that governments of Islamic nations, which do not adhere to the law of Islam, should be overthrown. Moreover, according to the terrorist group, the United States is a chief enemy of Islam. The Al-Qaeda was opposed to the presence of thousands of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia from 1991 to 2003, a sanctuary of the holiest Muslim sites. In 1996, Osama bin Laden issued a call to Muslims to destroy the Saudi government and redeem Islamic holy sites from foreign influence. Two years later, he stated that Muslims should consider it their duty to kill both civilian and military U.S. citizens, and their allies. Osama bin Laden moved to Afghanistan along with other Qaeda leaders in 1996; in this place, they were protected by the Taliban. The Taliban was a conservative Islamic group that had an influence over most of the country.

By 2001, the United States government believed that more than 5,000 men had been instructed in military and terrorist techniques at training sites operated by Al Qaeda (primarily in Afghanistan) and then sent to various countries to achieve the goals of certain Muslim extremists through terrorist acts. Among these goals were the expulsion of United States armed forces from Saudi Arabia and the establishment of Islamic governments in countries with large Muslim populations.

Members of Al Qaeda were implicated in a number of deadly terrorist attacks, including the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City and the bombing of two American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in Africa in 1998. Al Qaeda was also implicated in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, in which hijacked commercial airliners were used to destroy the World Trade Center in New York City and damage the Pentagon in Washington D.C, killing approximately 3,000 persons. In response, the United States and some of its allies initiated a military campaign in Afghanistan against Al Qaeda and its leaders—including Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. The Taliban was removed from power later in 2001 as a result of this campaign. They also began an intensive effort to apprehend Al Qaeda members in countries worldwide.