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Tuesday, 23 April, 2002, 12:39 GMT 13:39 UK
Al-Qaeda: How widespread is the network?
Five men suspected of links to al-Qaeda are going on trial in Frankfurt, Germany.
The defendants are of Algerian descent and were based in London before moving to Germany. The prosecution alleges they received training in the al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan.
The five are accused of conspiring to bomb the market in the French city of Strasbourg. There is tight security in Frankfurt - some fear that "sleeping cells" of al-Qaeda might be triggered back to action as the trial starts.
And debates continue over how recent was the footage of Osama Bin Laden aired by an Arabic TV channel on Monday. This new Bin Laden video might suggest that at least some al-Qaeda members are still active and continuing their propaganda war against the West.
Do you think the al-Qaeda still poses a threat? And just how widespread is its network?
Although the real "al Qaeda" have obviously been largely destroyed, I have never really thought of them as anything more than an umbrella name for disparate groups of Muslim extremist. I assume that some of them are more sophisticated than others, and that some of them cooperate from time-to-time, but I really doubt that they are a tightly knit worldwide organization! That said, I'm a firm believer that the war on terrorism is wholly justified; they are a cancer on the world that need to be totally eliminated ... as ruthlessly and rapidly as possible.
This matter is of a philosophical nature. A few thousand lives here and there don't really have any significance to those in power. Retaining that power is all that matters. There has always been war on this Earth, beginning, metaphorically, with Abel and Cain and there will always be war, because we all think that we are intrinsically different from the next person and in so believing, we have a tendency to want to impose our beliefs on everybody else. This is a 'seeing it from a broader perspective' type of comment, of course.
Grant Valentine, Reading, UK
Al-Qaeda are the excuse now. In ten years time it will be another name. Governments are continuing the fine human tradition of trying to obliterate other people who are not the same as us on the pretext of sanctity of human life and we are better than them philosophy. The human race continues to be as bigoted and biased towards its own subgroup of people as it ever was. The only difference is nowadays through technology we can kill people quicker, more efficiently (i.e more deaths per strike) and from further away.
This is law of the jungle stuff - the only thing animals like terrorists respond to is kill or be killed. Capture & imprison their leaders - it works. Block access to money & assets -it works. Destroy their organisation everywhere it exists - it works. No pussy footing. The war is against Al-Qaeda, not Muslims - The USA is a country of cultural diversity, that includes the right to worship, including Allah. That is what the fight is for - freedom of choice.
At the moment when I wrote this paragraph and at the moment you are reading it, there are terrorists of al Al-Qaeda's ilk earnestly plotting to annul some of our lives. The inherent problem of Al-Qaeda and their like is the disparate balance of representative decision-makers found in some countries of the world. Democracies enjoy the more-or-less majority, if not unanimous, support of their citizens. Organizations like Al-Qaeda are spawned in countries where decision-making is concentrated in very few hands. Coupled with the fact that a few of these countries tend to frown on competing religions, an almost inevitable outcome will be racist hatred. The West has witnessed its own travails with racism. It is a crippling malignity whether practiced by individuals or countries. The bare fact of the matter, something we all endeavour so hard to forget or ignore, is that we wouldn't have to deal with nearly so much racist terrorism if the totalitarian Arab regimes were democratized.
A. Tater, USA
Rivers of Blood will never bring peace, they will only bring vengeance. America is digging itself a deeper grave.
BIllions are being
spent to create Al-
Qaeda's agents to help Bush dynasty.
There must be sane
methods to curb and
eliminate this body
instead of waging
war on ordinary folks.
Al-Qaeda - is it an organization or is it an ideology? History has shown us time and time again that when empires become powerful to the degree that they are seen as "invincible", then they are invariably challenged by individuals who are ridiculed, demonised, and executed. Their followers are hunted down and persecuted, and their ideas are suppressed. My perception of this situation is that Al-Qaeda exists in the hearts of every person in the world who does not conform to western capitalist democracy, but has felt its wrath.
It had become clear over the last six months that a sufficiently determined and well funded group could put together a devastating nuclear, biological or chemical package and deliver it to a major city in the West. Given that this capability clearly exists, and has done for some time, the only possible explanations for the fact that an attack of this nature has not yet occurred are that no such determined and well funded group exists, which seems unlikely, or that these determined and well funded groups do not plan to carry out assaults with weapons of mass destruction. In either case, the hysteria over terrorism in the media today is clearly just that, a hysteria which when successfully inculcated into the general population and gives the governments of the West a licence to take any measure which can be claimed to increase security.
Agha Ata, Houston, USA
Let's have a look where we claim to have found or arrested their members de facto [which in some instances includes evidences of governments supporting their members]: USA, Afghanistan, Arabia, Germany, Albania, Bosnia, Iran/Iraq, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Philippines, Nigeria ...etc..
How bigger can you get? I believe we need to wake up big time and realise that this is not a organisation, but multiple organisations activated under same name, with different activities all over the world but with the same aim - 'spiritually cleansed world' or whatever their blinded religious fascism allows them to name it.
I am really trying to figure out how this terrorist group operates a network from caves? If this is referring to computer networks, i.e., the internet, how is it they are operating on PC's? Do the US government and their media take us all for fools? Do they not realize that "not everybody is a dumb sheep being brought to the slaughter" by listening to their insane accusations? Some of us can actually think for ourselves! There is no electricity, phone lines, etc. in a cave! Get real!
Bobby Murphy, Wheaton, United States
The root cause of all terrorism is, in my view, the great existential social inequalities in the world. Sure, the immediate cause of terrorism is, indeed, religious extremism, but the reason these extremists are so angry in the first place isn't the strength of their beliefs, it's clearly because we, in Western Civilization, have so much, and these have little more than their beliefs. This can be rectified by development.
al-Qaeda seems to be a loosely connected network with little cells. It is very hard to tell for an outsider how big that network is and how efficient it will be able to strike in the future. But I think there is still a lot more ahead. 9/11 was only the beginning. They are so full of hatred against the rest of the world, not only the Western world, as a lot of people seem to believe. Militant Islam is indeed a threat to Hindus as it is to Jews and Christians. It's about time to get together and destroy their networks all over the world.
My understanding is that al-Qaeda is an umbrella organisation representing and supporting a number of groups. Some of these groups are terrorist. As such the individual groups resourced by al-Qaeda will continue to function (with reduced operational capability) as they have separate command structures, even if al-Qaeda itself is dismantled. The disruption of al-Qaeda activity may actually inhibit intelligence gathering on these individual groups, assuming their only link with each other is al-Qaeda.
It is stupid to think that al-Qaeda still exists. There were a few people associated with this organisation. Most of them were killed in the military action and the rest are trying to find refuge so as to save their life. There is a certain lobby in the news media that is raising the bogey of threat from Al Qaeda.
I do believe they are still worldwide. I think two points are often overlooked with respect to America around the world. My country has been criticized for military action in Afghanistan. To not act would be an injustice to the victims of Sept 11 who died merely for going to work in the morning. The second is Afghanistan needs a stable democratic government with it's own military to prevent future attacks planned and financed on it's soil. Military action is not always the answer. America, believe it or not, does understand this. But inaction and wishing it away will not solve terrorism. To forget that would also be to forget the lessons of WWII where those who sought to dominate, oppress, and impose their beliefs on innocent others were nearly successful. America has its faults but she does the best she can in a world that is not always black and white.
al-Qaeda is a network of people with connections all around the world. Even though the media portrays these members as "terrorists" with no other cause but to kill, they are people with educated backgrounds. The network abuses long-standing controversial issues, such as Palestine, to justify their actions because it recognizes the sensitivity of the majority of the global population towards Palestine and Israel. Therefore the their role in attacks such as September 11 will continue until all the religious communities of this world recognize their demise, which is using sensitive issues as the guinea pig to obtaining control over powerful countries. Al-Qaeda claims to fight for the freedom of all Muslims around the world... Yet this is one of their tactics to spread anger and fear among people of the world, especially Americans, just to achieve the upper hand in the game. But in the end nothing is achieved, just more warfare, more humans with destructed homes, and the US continuing its "search for al-Qaeda" members around the world. So when will ALL the members of al-Qaeda be sought and punished? Not until this world stops feeding into the manipulation of the al-Qaeda network and stops creating those members.
Jennifer Ethington, USA
I agree with Clive that this question is silly to say the least. The most powerful Western governments aren't even sure exactly who is in Al-Qaeda and where all the cells are. How would the ordinary public know?
Terrorist networks will always exist. People should remember that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter - the NORAID funding for the IRA from the United States is a prime example. What astounds me are the reactions from people on this page who think that violence is the only answer. Maim, destroy, kill - but isn't that what Al-Qaeda did on September 11? Just because we do it with B-52 bombers as opposed to 767 airliners doesn't exactly make any of it right, or raise the dead of families who suffer on either side - does it?
How widespread is the Al-Qaeda network? If you are writing to this forum then you don't know, and if you do know then you certainly don't write to this forum. Ask us something that we can actually have an opinion on without having to resort to wild speculation and fantasy.
Al-Qaeda are a terrorist network, nothing more, nothing less. Al-Qaeda will continue be a thorn in the western world's side but they will not bring about its destruction unless they gain popular support, which given their extreme views is unlikely.
Abdulrahman, Saudi Arabia
I personally think AL-Qaeda are everywhere, loads of backup. They must be big - I mean so far they have outsmarted CIA, FBI, NSA to name a few. They are always one step ahead and you can't do that unless you have the resources.
Why don't you ask the government of the US to tell us about it?
Hopefully they know more about the issue, but then again, do they really need any proof to go out and start fighting
''pre-fab terrorists'' which they themselves had trained years ago?!
Chances are Bin Laden escaped Afghanistan on September 12th. He must have known what the reaction from the US would be.
We can see from the way he has organised Sept 11th that he is anything but stupid, to suggest that he stayed in Afghanistan waiting to get caught is naivety and stupidity on our own part.
al-Qaeda is most likely in every country of the world and, as much as I hate to say it, where there is a population of either Muslims or people from the Middle East there will be a small minority of al-Qaeda. These are facts in the post 9/11 world.
Kwaku Aryee, Ghana
The network is more widespread than anyone thinks. There are institutions that teach children as young as 8 to fight in the name of religion. These are naive brains that do not understand the importance of life.
The talk here is of some club, a definite set of people. This is not the case. The terrorists are people that resent bullying tactics used by the west. By no means do I condone their actions, they disgust me, but their reasons need to be listened to, if not publicly then privately. What you are fighting is hate. And the more you kick and hit those people, the stronger the hatred grows. By all means take action to stop their plans in the short term, but this is not an answer, only a temporary stop-gap. Our capacity to help our fellow man is visibly missing, as Afghanistan fades from our memories and we fret on where we should send our soldiers next. I would imagine that Afghanis would be thinking "deja-vu". Until the next time Afghanistan...
Joseph Fifield, UK
Give it a name. Al-Qaeda will exist just as long as the US/UK governments want them too. They provide a handy excuse to carry out military operations and spread their influence in other countries, whilst being assured of the general support of the international community. As you can't go around attacking the countries that don't provide resources like oil or people at the price they want to, or don't buy the weapons they want to sell, then 'links' to Al-Qaeda can always be found which will justify some kind of military action or economic sanction. The actions taken to date will not really go any way to solving the problem of the likes of Al-Qaeda. If the US/UK are not prepared to tackle the 'cause' of terrorist organisations then there will always be organisations like them who are prepared to carry out these acts. Killing the 'terrorist' is not enough. You have to address why they become terrorists in the first place.
It is reported on the radio that these "suspects" are indeed members of this terrorist organisation. It makes my stomach turn that these people will never get a fair trial as they are being lynch-mobbed by the press.
I feel very sorry for people who bear hatred for Muslims in the middle east as they have no idea how wonderful some of them can be. I know as I have spent some of the best years of my life in the Middle East and I am glad that I have had the opportunity to do so. I am saddened by the fact that they are stereotyped by the actions of extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda. To Maria, USA I wonder how can you think of harming millions and millions of innocent people living in the Middle East based on the behaviour of a handful of people. I am trouble by your intentions of retaliating with nukes and I am left wondering how are your intentions any different from those responsible for the September 11 attacks? I simply cannot understand your position on this.
Maria in the US and Marilyn in the UK: It is this equally barbaric approach to 'nuke' everything and dismiss cultures, countries and religions with complete disregard and ignorance is what makes things like September 11 possible time and time again. Pathetic.
Al-Qaeda and groups like them is like cancer: the more you cut into them the more it grows. But you can rest assured that if something like 9/11 happens again on the US soil, we will use nuclear weapons and destroy the entire Middle East. Just don't mess with the US, plain and simple!
I guess no one really knows how much of an immediate threat the al-Qaeda poses. However, I would imagine that it would not be short of volunteers with what Israel is doing in Palestine. Time will tell.
Who cares how many there are? It doesn't matter if it's a million people or a hundred people, because at the end of the day it only takes one to plant a bomb.
What will it take for people to wake up? A nuclear bomb? Anyone who says Al-Qaeda is not a threat must be completely blind. We cannot do any right in the eyes of these fanatics and nothing will stop them except our will to beat them to the ground.
We have only cut the branches. The roots remain.
Darron, USA: If we have always known Bin-Laden was a threat, why was your country willing to fund him? Not to mention Saddam, he had a fist full of dollars as well once upon a time. The West is being bitten by its policy to fight the cold-war by proxy. The price had to be paid, but payment was deferred. Al-Qaeda is a symptom of a disease, once of the causes is the 0Middle East conflict; another is the poor relationship between the secular West and the Islamic East. Fix that relationship and you will marginalise the extremists.
The network of Al-Qaeda will exist wherever there is a sizable Muslim population that experiences (external and internal) political manipulation, poverty and subsequent neglect. Only the CIA (and probably what remains of the KGB) can know how widespread the Al-Qaeda link could be. After all, it was the CIA that armed and trained them when they were "freedom fighters." The effect of trade in poppy, for ammunition, introduced to the area by the CIA (just like the one introduced to the S.E Asian region) also has a major role in creating social inequillibriums that will inevitably lead to safe-havens for the Al-Qaeda network.
As long as the 'leaders' in the Al Qaeda movement manipulate and purport to pride itself to 'champion' the cause of the Muslims faith, the danger of its existence and influence are still very real. I personally believe that all religions preach humanity and good. The only one that evangelizes terror and destructions are the devil himself in one form or another.
I don't understand why people are still so worried about al-Qaeda, because they are for the most part defeated. I am sure there are many other groups which may pose an even larger threat, some we may not have even heard of. Al-Qaeda members are not the only people that hate the United States.
Let us not quarrel about a name. Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, they all act mostly individually, sometimes in aggregate, but always very effectively. They should be penetrated and destroyed from within. Difficult? Indeed. Doable? Certainly.
Brendan Dugan, USA
In all honesty, how would we, the general public, know? How can we possibly speculate? All we know is what the media tells us... so why is the media asking us?
For Al-Qaeda read Hezbollah, read Hamas, read PLO. There is no difference - all are financed by the same sources, all are indoctrinated with the same hatred towards the West, all want to see the demise of the only democracy in the Middle East, namely Israel. We, the civilised democracies, must fight these factions to the end and destroy their infrastructure. The world will be a better, safer place without them.
Karin from Canada asks: "Has anyone ever heard an American wanting to sit down with Saddam Hussein in trying to solve problems?" Get a grip. Diplomacy has failed many times in the past. Can't we all just sit around and talk and try to appease you with lunatics.
Most of these murderous groups exist because of the religious intolerance taught at a very early age that is then translated to the political. It is very easy for Muslim governments to avert all blame to the West and avoid political coups for their failings. Mideast leaders act like sheep herders and the flock just moves right along to their beat.
To Karin Pasnak, Canada: do you think that negotiations with Hitler that UK, France and others held for years, helped them? Don't you see it is the same situation here and you are talking about negotiation with Saddam who used chemical weapons against his own people!
Al-Qaeda and groups like that will never disappear and as long as the USA supports Israel, bombs the heck out of Afghanistan looking for a few terrorists and already looks ahead to attacking Iraq. Has anyone ever heard an American wanting to sit down with Saddam Hussein in trying to solve problems? With the Americans it's all about oil and for Bush revenge for his father when the Iraqis attempted to kill him 10 years ago. Any other country, like England and Mr. Blair who supports Bush will also be a target to these groups and if anyone thinks that it will get better, wake up!
Oliver John, Netherlands
I believe that that Saudi religious intolerance is the breeding ground for Al-Qaeda and as long as they will not tolerate other religious ideas in their land the view that others have no rights and can be exterminated will continue to spread.
Al-Qaeda is a loose confederation whose link is mainly financial. That said all of Al-Qaeda's sub-units share a common goal: the eradication of Israel and the replacement of western democracy with an Islamic World Order. If you doubt me, I invite you to walk down Brick Lane walk into a newsagent there and select any one of the Arabic language papers and read it. You can also purchase a charming pamphlet entitled 'Building the new Caliphate - Islam and the New World Order' which apparently is selling like hot cakes. Of course it helps if you can read Arabic; I encourage all westerners to learn, it's most illuminating.
Al-Qaeda or a similar organisation will always exist whilst the West is seen by Muslims to give military backing to Israel and continue with actions such as bombing Iraq. If you have no doubt about the validity of your cause and complete faith in your religion - as millions of Muslims do - then how can you be afraid of death whether you are a member or al-Qaeda or not?
The action in Afghanistan may have weakened al-Qaeda. But the current troubles in the middle east would give them a new life line. The Israeli incursions in the Palestinian territories, the "massacres" which took place, and the weak reaction of the international community, would undoubtedly create a large number of potential recruits, which represent the backbone of any organisation like al-Qaeda.
Although I am more doubtful than others on this board that bin-Laden is dead, I don't think it really matters anymore. The various bombings of bases and embassies, and the terrorist attacks across the world, indicate that al-Qaeda is not some neatly organized pyramid with bin-Laden at the top. Rather, I think these various cells are capable of operating completely on their own and will continue to do so.
I doubt that, aside from the Hussein regime, there is much left internationally to worry about. Rather, I think nations will have to concentrate on their home fronts as well as cooperating with each other in tracking al-Qaeda movements across their various borders.
It is just not realistic to believe that Al-Qaeda has been destroyed. They are undoubtedly still trying to regroup. There are many who think that it is futile to pursue them and try to prevent the next attack. There is certainly weariness in Europe over continuing military operations in Afghanistan. Some of this is fear over an ill-advised plan to attack Iraq. Some of it is understandable sympathy with Arab causes, including those of the Palestinians. However it should be understood that in America there is a vast majority of people who, for the sake of our future and to uphold the place of the United States in the world today and before the judgement of history, are committed to continue to seek the physical destruction of all Al-Qaeda elements. Let history record that when most of Europe tired and turned away from pursuing those who would destroy whole cities if they had the means, America pressed on. Let it record that when made aware of the elusiveness of Bin-Laden and his men, a determined centre of American opinion focused on their historical obligation to pursue and destroy them without thought to time or expense or sacrifice.
Andrew Plumer, USA
The Al-Qaeda network is a major threat to the civilised world because it has managed to infiltrate the civilised world. Countries from the USA to UK and from Israel to India have been victims of the Al-Qaeda. We have managed to cause some infrastructural damage to Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, but it's bases are still widespread in the Middle East and in Pakistan. Countries such as the USA, Israel and India must continue to work closely together to rid the world of Al-Qaeda.
As a Muslim convert living in London, I know many practising Muslims who just want to be able to live in peace and to practise their religion. However many Muslims are very angry at the injustice of Western foreign policy. Iraq is held to be in violation of UN resolutions and it is bombed by Britain and America. Israel is in breach of UN resolutions and do we see any action taken against them? The situation regarding the Palestinians and Israel and the complete lack of any will by the West to do anything about it will only cause an increase in the number of Muslims who will be prepared to join with groups like Al-Qaeda.
Wherever people have a grievances against the US they will find shelter. Osama may be dead or alive but one thing is for sure if they are prepared to fight to the death, losing one leader is not going to stop them. We have to remember is Sept 11th took months if not years of planning.
Pius, South Africa
I think the Al-Qaeda network is widely spread in England and there are members in West Yorkshire who are prepared to help and organise terrorists attack
I think Al-Qaeda is a thing of the past. We haven't seen any action from them since 11 September and things seem to have calmed down. I am completely baffled - why our troops are still in Afghanistan? Bin Laden is more than likely already dead and defeated.
In response to Jo-Anne. The terrorist threat is not over, they still lurk out there in hiding. Yes there hasn't been an attack since the 11th of September, but that does not mean they are not there. Why are your troops in Afghanistan? They are helping route out the threat before it hits anywhere else. Iżm pretty sure your opinion would be different if aeroplanes were flown into buildings right down the street from where you live
Of course they still pose a threat. Would UK troops be fighting for our nation if they thought Al-Qaeda were dead and buried? Absolutely not.
Previous Al-Qaeda video releases have been of set piece speeches, whereas this one looks like library footage. I think this strongly suggests that the video was set up and distributed by somebody outside Bin Laden's closest circle, and that Bin Laden is either dead or incapacitated. The fact that a rallying speech by one of the September 11 terrorists was also released, rather than a speech by Bin Laden himself, also points to his demise. The remaining question is of how effectively Al-Qaeda can operate without him. The resources required to produce the 'retrospective' rallying speech may indicate educated sophisticated operatives like Mohammed Atta et al. are still at large.
Chris Gower, London, England
Clive: ridiculous or no, even in a small nation (5.5 million), we see Muslim fanatics here in Scotland. There are thousands of doctors, oil folk and others from many countries here, who are welcome. But a frightening hardcore group openly support Islamic fundamentalism and the actions of bin Laden. I don't need to be 'briefed' to recognise this as a threat. Not just to US-worshippers, but to the 4+ billion non-Muslims (infidels) in the world.
I'm sorry, but what a ridiculous question to be asking members of the public - how on earth is anybody on this page, unless they are a bona-fide expert on international terrorism or in a position where they are briefed by such, know how widespread al-Qaeda cells are or if the group still poses a threat? A ridiculous waste of time.
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