Al-Qa‘ida (AQ) was organized by Usama bin Ladin in 1988 with Arabs who fought in Afghanistan against the occupying military forces of the now-defunct Soviet Union. AQ strives to eliminate Western influence from the Muslim world, topple “apostate” governments of Muslim countries, and establish a pan-Islamic caliphate governed by its own interpretation of sharia law that would ultimately be at the center of a new international order. These goals remain essentially unchanged since the group’s 1996 public declaration of war against the United States. AQ has lost dozens of mid- and senior-level operatives to counterterrorism efforts, but continues to recruit, plan, inspire, and conduct attacks. AQ has affiliated organizations in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia and its contemporary strength is primarily in these affiliates.
AQ is responsible for many large-scale, mass-casualty attacks. AQ conducted three bombings against U.S. troops in Aden, Yemen in 1992 and claimed responsibility for shooting down U.S. helicopters and killing U.S. soldiers in Somalia in 1993. AQ also carried out the August 1998 bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam that killed 224 people and injured more than 5,000. In October 2000, AQ conducted a suicide attack on the USS Cole in the port of Aden with an explosives-laden boat that killed 17 U.S. Navy sailors and wounded more than 30. On September 11, 2001, 19 AQ members hijacked and crashed four U.S. commercial jets – two into the World Trade Center in New York City, one into the Pentagon, and the last into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The 9/11 attacks killed nearly 3,000 people.
On October 8, 1999, the U.S. Department of State designated AQ as a Foreign Terrorist Organization under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended. On September 23, 2001, AQ was listed in the Annex to Executive Order 13224. As a result of this designation, among other consequences, all property, and interests in property, of AQ that are subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with AQ. In addition, it is a crime to knowingly provide, or attempt or conspire to provide, material support or resources to AQ.