Terrorism: October 11, 2002


The organizational structure of al Qaeda is murky at best (even to its members) but some general outlines are becoming clear. The head of the organization (Osama bin Laden) and his deputy (Ayman al-Zawahiri) remain at large, probably in Pakistan. The military commander, Mohammed Atef, was killed during the Afghan war. The top "management staff" of about 30 has been seriously disrupted with at least ten of them dead or captured, but the most dangerous seven of these remain at large. Beyond that core are perhaps 100 "cells", each with three-to-ten members. Some cells are planning terrorist attacks, but others function in other roles, such as raising money (many of them through criminal practices such a credit card fraud), recruiting disaffected youths at radical mosques, gathering intelligence on potential targets, or providing safehouses and fake documents for traveling members. Beyond these are thousands of people who passed through al Qaeda training camps but were, for the most part, never made members. Most of these simply went home, some to join local radical groups and others just to get on with their lives after their grand adventure. Some of them were given sanctions to plan their own terrorist attacks, although it is anyone's guess if the al Qaeda leadership felt that these people would actually mount attacks or would only form a smokescreen to confound intelligence agencies.--Stephen V Cole


Article Archive

Terrorism: Current 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999



Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close