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Ten years ago, one of the world’s most dangerous terrorists, Osama bin Laden, was killed in a U.S.-led military operation after perpetrating a sinister attack on the Twin Towers in New York in 2001. However, the roots of radical Islamism and terrorism go back even further, beginning almost a century ago. Here is a brief account.
1928: Hassan al Banna, creator of moderate Islamism, founded in Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood Organization of the Sunni branch, the majority of Islam, four years after Kemal Ataturk established a secular state in Turkey.
1948: The Muslim Brothers carry out violent actions against the Egyptian monarchy.
1952: After the Egyptian Revolution and the coming to power of Abdel Nasser, the fight against them intensifies and they tried to assassinate him in 1965.
1970s: The Gamaa Islamiya, a Sunni Islamist movement, emerges in Egypt with the aim of overthrowing Hosni Mubarak, whom it considers “impious”, to replace him with a strictly Islamic system, and after the Muslim Brotherhood opted for non-violence.
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1979: February-March: Triumph of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. The Shiite regime of the Ayatollahs, headed by Ruhollah Khomeini, is installed.
July: Saddam Hussein, a member of the Sunni branch of Islam, comes to power in Iraq. Sunni political and military supremacy has reigned in Iraq since the Ottoman Empire, despite the fact that they represent a third of the population compared to the Shiites, who make up more than 63%.
December: The USSR invades Afghanistan, fearing an Islamization of its borders after fighting intensifies between rebels and government troops. Jihadism begins to internationalize to combat Western occupation.
The mujahideen movement, an irregular army with Islamic overtones trained and financed by Saudi Arabia, the United States and Pakistan, together with other Muslim countries, arises in Afghanistan, fighting the nation’s communist regime.
1980-1988: beginning of the Iraq-Iran war, initiated by Saddam Hussein in order to stop a possible Shiite insurgency in Iraq, in the face of the irruption of the new regime of the ayatollahs.
1982: Bin Laden settles in Afghanistan and organizes groups of mujahideen to fight the Russian occupation.
1987: The Islamic Resistance movement, Hamas, is created shortly after the first Palestinian “Intifada” against Israel.
1988: The Al Qaeda organization created by Bin Laden begins to take shape.
1990: Al Qaeda emerges after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
1991: Armed groups of extremist veterans of the war in Afghanistan emerge in Algeria, whose main motivation is “jihad” and the creation of an Islamic republic. Shortly before, the results of the elections that gave victory to the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) were annulled. Among these groups, the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) stands out, the germ of what later became Al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb or Al Qaeda of North Africa Islamic (AQIM), previously known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat.
1993, February 26,: Attack on the World Trade Center in New York with six dead and a thousand wounded, the largest attack so far in the United States, and whose authorities pointed to Al Qaeda.
1994: The Taliban movement, originally made up of Afghan students trained in “madrasas” (Koranic schools), breaks out in southern Afghanistan, mainly in Pakistan where they remained as refugees.
Bin Laden launches a Declaration of Holy War against the United States “occupying the land of the two Holy Places (Mecca and Medina)” and also includes “Jews and Crusaders.”
September: The Taliban seize power in Afghanistan.
2001, September 11: The United States suffers the largest attacks in its history with 2,973 dead (including 2,749 at the World Trade Center, 184 at the Pentagon and 40 occupants of the fourth plane in Pennsylvania). Bin Laden, hiding in the mountains of Afghanistan, is targeted.
2001, October 7: “Operation Enduring Freedom” begins. U.S. bombs Afghanistan, with British assistance to dislodge the Taliban regime.
2003, March 20: The United States invades Iraq with the intention of finding weapons of mass destruction and ending Saddam’s regime.
2004 March 11: Spain suffers the worst attacks in its history, and in Europe, with 192 dead. Al Qaeda is blamed.
2004, 29 October: Bin Laden bursts into the US electoral campaign with a letter to the American people, in which he states that the 9/11 attacks “were conceived in 1982, when the United States allowed Israel to invade Lebanon.”
2005, July 7: Jihadist attacks on the London Underground with 56 dead.
2011, May 1: President Barack Obama announces the death of Bin Laden by gunfire from a special U.S. commando at the mansion where he was hiding in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
2014: The Islamic State (IS) of Sunni tendency, which took advantage of the civil war in Syria to introduce itself, albeit under other names, is unveiled. Attacks, kidnappings and beheadings follow one after another, especially of Westerners.
2015, 27 September: The French air force begins bombing raids against IS.
2015, 13 November: ISIS claims responsibility for the attacks in Paris with 130 dead, which France considers an act of war.
2016, March 22: IS attacks in Brussels at the airport and the metro with a death toll of 32. Days earlier, Salah Abdeslam, the mastermind of the Paris attacks, had been arrested in the Belgian capital.
2017, 17 August: IS attacks in Catalonia with 16 dead, in the worst terrorist attack since 2004.
Over the ensuing years Al Qaeda has lowered its profile in both East and West and its prominence has been inherited by ISIS. The current leader of Al Qaeda, Al Zawahiri, for whom the United States is asking 25 million euros in reward, is unaccounted for and made his last appeal for support to the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2016.
There is an extension of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in the Sahel, the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (GAIM) created in 2017 and which has managed to halt the organization’s decline.