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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 June, 2004, 18:15 GMT 19:15 UK
Key findings on al-Qaeda
US President George W Bush (right) and Vice-President Dick Cheney
Some of the findings may make uncomfortable reading for the Bush administration
The congressional commission investigating the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US has found no "credible evidence" that Iraq helped al-Qaeda carry them out.

The following are key points from the preliminary report - Staff Statement 15, Overview of the Enemy - published on 16 June 2004.

The commission's final report is expected on 28 July.


Roots of al-Qaeda

In the 1980s a large number of Muslims from the Middle East travelled to Afghanistan to join the Afghan people's war against the Soviet Union, which had invaded in 1979. Osama Bin Laden was a significant player in this group, then known as the "Afghan Arabs".

Following the defeat of the Soviets in the late 1980s, Bin Laden formed an organisation called "The Foundation" or al-Qaeda.

In 1989, the regime in Sudan invited Bin Laden to move there. He sent an advance team to Sudan in 1990 and moved there in mid-1991.

Regardless of the tactic, al-Qaeda is actively striving to attack the United States and inflict mass casualties
By 1992, Bin Laden was focused on attacking the United States.

With al-Qaeda as its foundation, Bin Laden sought to build a broader Islamic army that also included terrorist groups from Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Oman, Tunisia, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Somalia, and Eritrea.

Contrary to popular understanding, Bin Laden did not fund al-Qaeda through a personal fortune and a network of businesses. Instead, al-Qaeda relied primarily on a fundraising network developed over time.


Launching attacks on the US

December 2002: explosion outside two hotels in Aden, Yemen - a stopover for US troops en route to Somalia - killed one Australian tourist. Carried out by a Yemeni group close to Bin Laden.

October 1993: two Black Hawk helicopters were shot down and 18 US soldiers were killed in Mogadishu, Somalia. US subsequently learns that Bin Laden's organisation had been heavily engaged in assisting warlords who attacked US forces in Somalia.

We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al-Qaeda co-operated on attacks against the United States
June 26, 1996: explosion ripped through a building in the Khobar Towers apartment complex housing US Air Force personnel in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Attack had been carried out by a Saudi Shia Hezbollah group with assistance from Iran.

We have seen strong but indirect evidence that his organisation did in fact play some as yet unknown role in the Khobar attack.

Bin Laden also explored possible co-operation with Iraq.

Bin Laden is said to have requested space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but Iraq apparently never responded.

We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al-Qaeda co-operated on attacks against the United States.

Whether Bin Laden and his organisation had roles in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center and the thwarted Manila plot to blow up a dozen US commercial aircraft in 1995 remains a matter of substantial uncertainty.

May 1996: Bin Laden left Sudan and moved back to Afghanistan.

August 1996: Bin Laden made public his war against the United States.

There is no convincing evidence that any government financially supported al-Qaeda before 11 September.

After al-Qaeda lost Afghanistan after 11 September... the organisation is far more decentralised
On February 23, 1998, Bin Laden and the leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Ayman Zawahiri, published a fatwa that announced a "ruling to kill the Americans and their allies".

The attacks on the US embassies in East Africa in the summer of 1998 demonstrated a new operational form-they were planned, directed, and executed by al-Qaeda, under the direct supervision of Bin Laden and his chief aides.

On October 12, 2000, an explosives-laden boat tore through the side of the USS Cole anchored in Aden, Yemen. This attack followed the operational pattern demonstrated in the East African embassy bombings.


Training camps

Many of the operatives in the African Embassy and Cole attacks attended training camps in Afghanistan, as did all 19 of the 11 September hijackers.

The quality of the training provided at al-Qaeda and other jihadist camps was apparently quite good
The training at al-Qaeda and associated camps was multifaceted in nature.

The quality of the training provided at al-Qaeda and other jihadist camps was apparently quite good.

We can conservatively say that thousands of men, perhaps as many as 20,000, trained in Bin Laden-supported camps in Afghanistan between his May 1996 return and 11 September 2001.


Al-Qaeda today

Since the 11 September attacks and the defeat of the Taleban, al-Qaeda's funding has decreased significantly.

Prior to 11 September, al-Qaeda was a centralised organisation.

After al-Qaeda lost Afghanistan after 11 September... the organisation is far more decentralised. Bin Laden's seclusion forced operational commanders and cell leaders to assume greater authority.

Al-Qaeda remains extremely interested in conducting chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear attacks.

Al-Qaeda and other extremist groups will likely continue to exploit leaks of national security information in the media, open-source information on techniques such as mixing explosives, and advances in electronics.

Regardless of the tactic, al-Qaeda is actively striving to attack the United States and inflict mass casualties.


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