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Founded in 1988 by Usama bin Laden, Al Qaeda (AQ) serves as the strategic hub and driver for the global Islamist terrorist movement. The group's goals include uniting Muslims to fight the United States and its allies, overthrowing regimes it deems "non-Islamic" and expelling Westerners and non-Muslims from Muslim countries.
AQ’s activities include, but are not limited to, suicide attacks, simultaneous bombings, kidnappings, and hijackings. Following AQ’s attacks on September 11, 2001, and the subsequent fall of the Taliban regime, AQ’s central leadership, including bin Laden, sought refuge in Pakistan’s tribal areas, where in 2007 US intelligence agencies found that AQ was regrouping and regaining strength. In May 2011, bin Laden was killed by US forces in Pakistan, which left AQ’s leadership in disarray and the organization on the defensive. Since his succession as the leader of AQ, Ayman al-Zawahiri has renewed the group’s call for jihad, rallying fighters and supporters and reminded that jihad does not end with the death of its leaders.
Despite counterterrorism actions against its leadership, AQ has extended its geographic reach through regional affiliates so as to leverage their respective regional infrastructures, recruits and sources of funds, and increase its overall ability to threaten Western and local interests. Regional affiliates include AQ in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), AQ in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), AQ in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), Al Nusra Front (JN) and Al-Shabaab (AS).
On February 3, 2014, AQ released a statement that disowned Daesh, stating that the group was “not a branch of AQ and we have no organizational relationship with it”, and adding that it was not responsible for its “actions and behaviours”.
On January 7, 2015, brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi attacked the headquarters of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, in Paris, France, killing 12 people. AQAP claimed responsibility for the attack saying that the attack had been ordered by AQ leader al-Zawahiri as vengeance for the magazine’s publication of cartoons of the prophet Mohammed. The Kouachi brothers are known to have trained with AQ in Yemen.
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