A Department of Homeland Security Emeritus Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

BAAD - Al-Qa'ida - 2012



Al-Qa’ida (AQ) was founded in 1988 by Osama Bin Laden,[2] to eradicate Western influence from the Muslim world, overthrow governments of Muslim countries who do not abide by its interpretation of sharia law, and establish a pan-Islamic caliphate.[3] Bin Laden moved AQ’s base of operations to Sudan in 1991, with the cooperation of the National Islamic Front.[4] The group continued to operate there until 1996, when international pressure persuaded the Sudanese government to expel Bin Laden.[5] AQ then relocated to Afghanistan, operating training camps in safe havens provided by the Afghani Taliban.[6] In 1998, AQ released a fatwa, demanding that all Muslims should make it a mission to murder Americans. Later that year, AQ carried out simultaneous suicide bombings on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.[7] In October 2000, AQ militants launched a suicide attack against the USS Cole docked at a port in Aden, Yemen, killing 17 American sailors and injuring 39.[8] On September 11, 2001, 19 AQ members hijacked four commercial airplanes flying out of Boston and Washington, DC. Three were then flown into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon, while a fourth crashed in Pennsylvania.[9] The attacks claimed nearly 3,000 lives.[10]

On October 7, 2001, the United States, with the support of Great Britain, began Operation Enduring Freedom, a military offensive meant to strike back at AQ and end Taliban control of Afghanistan.[11] This caused most AQ members to flee to Pakistan. The organization transformed from a military hierarchy to a looser cellular structure, focused on strengthening the international jihadist network[12] by providing funding, arms, logistical support and ideological support to affiliated groups that boast stronger numbers and control territory in several countries.[13]

Osama bin Laden was killed in a U.S. Navy Seal raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2, 2011.[14] The following month, Ayman al-Zawahiri was appointed to lead AQ.[15] Zawahiri has attempted to solidify AQ's position at the ideological center of the global jihadist movement,[16] but the organization has been challenged by the growth of Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS), which al-Zawahiri expelled from the AQ network in 2014 due to their brutality and internal disputes.[17] AQ affiliates operate in Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, and Algeria.[18] View full narrative

Quick Facts for 2012


3842 (Total of 1998 through 2012)


Approximately 500-1000

Territorial Control:
Does Not Control Territory (0)

Funding through Drug Trafficking:

Sorry, but there are no organizational details available for this group at this time.


Primary Ideology

  • Ag = Anti-Globalization
  • An = Anarchist
  • En = Ethnic
  • Ev = Environmental
  • Le = Leftist
  • Re = Religious
  • Ri = Rightist
  • Se = Separatist
  • Su = Supremacist
  • Vi = Vigilante


  •  Ally
  •  Suspected Ally
  •  Rival
  •  Violence
  •  Mixed Relations


  •  Blue 0 - 1479 fatalities
  •  Green 1479 - 2958 fatalities
  •  Yellow 2958 - 4437 fatalities
  •  Orange 4437 - 5916 fatalities
  •  Red 5916 - 7396 fatalities

Lethality is calculated as the total number of fatalities from 1998-2012.


Icon sizes depict approximate relative sizes of the organizations.

  • Smallest 0 - 10 members
  •   11 - 100 members
  •   101 - 1000 members
  •   1001 - 10000 members
  • Largest > 10000 members

Other Notes

Icons with no color coding or ideology icon have no detailed data at this time, and are provided as relationship information only.