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The story of Osama bin Laden's life is well known, yet a narrow focus on his own itinerary and that of his followers too often overlooks a wider a trend among Islamist militants during the s. Al-Qa'ida's history is inseparable from its associates, argues Camille Tawil. His book rightly places the group in a wider context of Islamist militancy in the wake of the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan.

Al-Qa'ida was not the only post-Afghan group to emerge and in this fascinating account Tawil recounts the histories of its Algerian, Egyptian, and Libyan Brothers in Arms. It is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand the wider revolutionary generation of which al-Qaeda is part. Tawil is well-placed to do so. For decades, this Lebanese journalist has reported from London on the activities of North African Islamist groups in the Arabic newspaper al-Hayat. Throughout the 'Londonistan' era, Tawil gained the trust of, and access to, many insider sources completely unattainable to most Western journalists.

It clearly payed off; his book traces the groups of Arab volunteers who had fought in Afghanistan as they coalesced into militant groups dedicated to continuing their struggle and overthrowing the authoritarian Arab regimes that many of their members had earlier had to flee from. Accessed 7 Dec. He supported the Afghan resistance to the Soviet occupation in the s, then began to target the U. He was killed by U. Navy Seals in May Mustafa Abu al-Yazid , also known as Sheikh Saeed al-Masri unknown-May 22, : Yazid was a founder and financial chief of AQ and was also believed to be third in command of the group behind Zawahiri and bin Laden.

He played a vital role in the planning of operations, especially attacks on Western forces in Afghanistan. Yazid was killed in May by a U. He was killed by a U. He was reportedly second to Zawahiri when he was killed in a U. S drone strike in North Waziristan. Hamza bin Laden unknown-present : The something son of Osama bin Laden, Hamza is believed to operate in AQ leadership in some capacity. The group is reportedly preparing him to take over from Zawahiri.

Hoffman, Bruce. Officials Say. Airstrike in Yemen. The name "Al Qaeda" comes from the name for one of the mujahedeen training camps established during the Afghan insurgency against the Soviet invasion in the s.


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February 5, Originally archived on December 6, Accessed August 2, The organization has an extremely tight-knit core leadership group and mostly utilizes operatives from allied affiliate groups to carry out attacks. Estimates of core membership are generally less than 1,, though second-tier membership lies in the thousands to tens of thousands and outer-shell support could be up to , September 9, July 5, Accessed July 30, A core group of fundraisers reportedly collected both from donors who knew the eventual destination of their money and those who did not, primarily in the Gulf States.

Additionally, corrupt employees at charitable organizations siphoned money to AQ. AQ has also obtained funding by holding hostages for ransom. While the U. It Needs an Audit. Disclaimer : This is a partial list of where the militant organization has bases and where it operates.

Brothers in Arms : The Story of Al-Qa'ida and the Arab Jihadists

This does not include information on where the group conducts major attacks or has external influences. Al Qaeda aims to rid the Muslim world of Western influence, to destroy Israel, and to create an Islamic caliphate stretching from Spain to Indonesia that imposes strict Sunni interpretation of Shariah law. Some consider Shiite Muslims to be apostates, while others do not. This disagreement has caused rifts between AQ and its affiliates — for example, when AQI targeted Shiites in Iraq against the instructions of bin Laden.

Core Al Qaeda has never engaged in the political process on any level. Bin Laden personally advocated for followers to focus on education and persuading others to join their cause, rather than political engagement with Islamic political parties. May 4, Al Qaeda uses a wide variety of tactics to achieve their goals.

AQ and its affiliates employ suicide bombings, IEDs, rocket and small arms attacks, grenades, kidnapping and hostage-taking, ransoms, hijackings, and propaganda to further these goals against a number of different countries, both in the Middle East and around the globe. Al Qaeda also has reportedly sought nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, and the group attempted to purchase weapons-grade uranium as early as AQ and its affiliates have attempted and carried out a number of assassinations.

It assassinated Ahman Shah Massoud, a powerful anti-Taliban military and political leader in Afghanistan, on September 9, AQ and its affiliates target U. AQ affiliates rarely attempt to attack the U.

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Others claim that AQ is not currently planning larger attacks because it is no longer capable and instead is willing to rely on smaller, more achievable attacks. Bergen, Peter. Cable News Network, 28 Dec.

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Disclaimer : These are some selected major attacks in the militant organization's history. It is not a comprehensive listing but captures some of the most famous attacks or turning points during the campaign. August 7, : Two truck bombs detonated outside the U. The significant majority of casualties occurred in Nairobi. The bombings took place on the eighth anniversary of U. Al Qaeda and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility. Cole naval ship, detonating a large bomb stored on the watercraft upon impact.

September 11, : In the most destructive attack ever attributed to Al Qaeda, operatives hijacked four U.

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The fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania, probably en route to an additional target. Following the attacks, the United States invaded Afghanistan to find and prosecute those responsible for the attacks, driving bin Laden and his organization to flee to remote regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan. November 15, : Carried out over two days November 15 and November 20, , four truck bombs ran into 2 Jewish synagogues, a bank, and the British Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

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The bombing at the British Consulate may have been coordinated with U. The militants took 41 hostages, reportedly questioning and releasing only Muslim hostages prior to their standoff with police. Abdulaziz al-Muqrin, the leader of AQAP from , claimed responsibility for the attacks in an audio tape. A Spanish government investigation report found that AQ may have inspired the attacks, but that AQ had no involvement in the planning or operation of the bombings.


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  • Intelligence gathered after the investigation suggests that AQ may have facilitated and supervised the attack. July 7, : Four British men detonated 3 bombs on the London Underground and one on a double-decker bus during morning rush hour in London. Al Qaeda claimed the bombings, but there is no direct evidence that shows that AQ directed the attack. November 23, : Al Qaeda in Iraq detonated a series of car bombs and carried out mortar attacks in Sadr City, Iraq. It was the deadliest sectarian attack since the beginning of the U. December 27, : Al Qaeda spokesman Mustafa Abu al-Yazid claimed that AQ was responsible for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, former prime minister of Pakistan, in advance of upcoming elections.

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    September 20, : A truck bomb exploded at the Marriot Hotel in Islamabad. Intelligence officials suspected AQ, although the attack was never claimed. No casualties [12]. The bombs were discovered before the planes left for the U. No casualties [13]. January 7, : Two gunmen attacked the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris. AQAP claimed the attack, though there is evidence that at least one of the gunmen traveled to Yemen, participated in AQ training, and receiving funding for an attack.

    Reinares, Fernando. Ray, Michael. Worth, and Eric Lipton. Department of State. United Nations, n. Currently, a significant portion of Al Qaeda members are tribal leaders and former madrasa students, largely of Pakistani descent. Al Qaeda has a positive relationship with some parts of the Pashtun community; bin Laden himself was Pashtun and frequently referenced this identity in his statements.


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    • Support for AQ among Muslims has declined since the early s. Between and , support for bin Laden among Muslim publics dropped by 38 points. Large-scale attacks, especially indiscriminate attacks that kill Muslims, have drawn backlash from the Muslim community. In the case of the Jordanian bombings, it chose its relationship with its affiliate, rebuking AQI leader Zarqawi privately, but not issuing a public apology or repudiation.

      In , attempting to boost its support in the Muslim world, AQ increased outreach over the internet and made its instructions on when and how to carry out terrorist attacks public to separate itself from some of the more indiscriminate attacks of its affiliates. Relationship-building with communities appears to have had success for AQ in Yemen. Operating against a backdrop of war and instability, AQ attempts to secure the support of populations in areas where governments are unable to provide basic services. In Yemen, order has broken down amid civil war, and AQAP has recruited hundreds, possibly thousands, of fighters from local communities.

      Rural areas, where people are generally conservative, have proved fertile grounds for finding new combatants and supporters. Pew Research Center, 10 Sept. AQ may seek affiliate relationships to increase its operational reach, gain local expertise, and boost its legitimacy across Muslim movements around the world. However, the documents seized from Abbottabad when U.