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News, documents and analysis on violent extremism

Monday, August 11, 2008

It Was 20 Years Ago Today...

While many experts (including myself) will give you a wide range of possible dates when Al Qaeda became meaningfully functional as a terrorist/jihadist organization, there is only one date that is crystal clear.

Twenty years ago today, Osama bin Laden (Abu Abdullah) and Mohamed Loay Bayazid (Abu Rida Al Suri) held a meeting regarding "the establishment of the new military work" -- including the general terrorist training camp, the special camp and above them both, "The Base," or in Arabic, Al Qaeda.

8/11/1988: Tareekh Osama memo

It's telling that the media -- usually obsessed with anniversaries -- has not spent much capital on the observance of this landmark meeting. Seven years after 9/11, the mainstream media is still woefully uneducated as far as Al Qaeda is concerned.

According to the memo, written by Abu Ridah, "initial estimate, within 6 months of Al Qaida (the Base), 314 brothers will be trained and ready."

Within a few weeks of the meeting, more than 30 people had been recruited, according to subsequent documents (included in the PDF above).

The follow-up memos discuss taking over the infrastructure of Abdullah Azzam's Makhtab al-Khidamat (The Services Office), an organization which had managed foreign fighters during the jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan and the organization from which Al Qaeda was splitting.

A little more than a year later, Azzam would be assassinated by a car bomb, after which Al Qaeda completely absorbed the operations of the Services Office.

There are also several references in the documents to seizing control of Al Jihad magazine, which had just a few months earlier published a jihadist manifesto by Azzam entitled "The Solid Base" -- in Arabic, Al-Qa`idah al-Sulbah. This remains the most likely explanation of Al Qaeda's name, although alternative theories abound.

The document linked above was provided by the Motley Rice law firm, as part of its lawsuit on behalf of the victims of the September 11 attacks.


Views expressed on INTELWIRE are those of the author alone.



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INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.


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