By Jim GaramoneAmerican Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 14, 2002 When President Bush says the United States will bring terrorists to justice, he isn't just talking about Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network.
Bush has said America will go after terrorist groups with worldwide reaches. The tools used will change with the circumstances, he has said. In some cases that may mean military action and, in others, economic starvation, diplomatic moves or law enforcement actions.
By Jim Garamone American Forces Press Service
President Bush last September said in regard to Osama bin Laden, "I want justice. There's an old poster out West, as I recall, that said, 'Wanted: Dead or Alive.'"
The U.S. government has not changed its stance.
U.S. officials say bin Laden's Al Qaeda is responsible for the attacks on New York's World Trade Center, the Pentagon and aboard a hijacked aircraft that crashed in Pennsylvania. If anyone had doubts about bin Laden's involvement, he himself removed them in a videotape U.S. forces found in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, in November 2001.
The tape shows bin Laden calmly discussing the attacks. "We had notification since the previous Thursday that the event would take place that day," he can be heard saying to a visiting sheik. At one point, he told his visitor that they had been trying to estimate the number of casualties that would result from the World Trade Center attacks.
"We calculated in advance ... ," bin Laden can be heard saying. "Due to my experience in this field, I was thinking that the fire from the gas in the plane would melt the iron structure of the building and collapse the area where the plane hit and all the floors above it only. This is all that we had hoped for."
The Sept. 11 attacks are just the latest attributed to the Al Qaeda, a network bin Laden established in 1988. The group also was responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, an assassination attempt on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 1995, the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and the attack on the destroyer USS Cole in 2000.
Al Qaeda's avowed goal is to "unite all Muslims and establish a government which follows the rule of the Caliphs," according to a U.S. government fact sheet. Under the caliphs, the successors of Mohammed, Islam expanded from Arabia through Persia, the Middle East and North Africa.
Al Qaeda seeks to overthrow nearly all Muslim governments because bin Laden regards them as corrupted by the West. It also seeks the "liberation" of Islam's three holiest places -- Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia and Jerusalem.
According to published sources, "Al Qaeda" translates to "the Base." It is a loose coalition of groups with a total of about 3,000 members. The network has a global reach, with cells in more than 30 countries -- including the United States, as the events of Sept. 11 indicated.
Bin Laden was born around 1955 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He left home in 1979 to fight against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. In the mid-1980s he co-founded the Maktab-al-Khidamat, or "Services Office," to funnel money and fighters to Afghanistan. Egyptians, Lebanese, Turks and others, numbering thousands in bin Laden's estimate, joined the Afghan Muslims in ousting the Soviets.
After the Soviets withdrew in 1989, bin Laden turned his attention to the United States and its Middle East allies. He also worked against the Saudi royal family and for that was expelled from Saudi Arabia in 1991.
Bin Laden took refuge in Sudan and continued his efforts against the United States and its allies. Sudan expelled him in 1996 due to threats of U.N. sanctions for bin Laden's complicity in the attempt on Mubarak's life. Praising the 1996 terrorist attack on the U.S. Air Force barracks in Khobar Towers, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, he promised more attacks on Americans.
In February 1998, he created a new terrorist alliance, the International Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Jews and Crusaders. Parts of that group are the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the Harakat ul-Ansar, according to a U.S. government release. He's also suspected of helping to set up Islamic training centers to prepare soldiers to fight in Chechnya and other parts of the former Soviet Union.
(This updates an American Forces Press Service article published Sept. 21, 2001.)
Here is a short list of terror groups that threaten America, its allies and friends, based on U.S. State Department data:
Soldiers Participate in Exercise Bronco Rumble