Sayyid Qutb imprisoned in Egypt
Sayyid Qutb was a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Like other Muslim scholars and preachers, he was very critical of Arab leaders: he believed they were not leading Muslim people as they should. He called for a return to the earliest days of Islam, when all Muslims lived in a single state under the religious leadership of a "Caliph".
Qutb had spent time studying in America where he developed a distaste for the modernity and commercialism of American society which fuelled his regressive belief system.
Sayyid Qutb was later hanged by Egyptian authorities in 1966. His book 'Milestones' was hugely influential for Islamists and greatly influenced Osama Bin Laden and other extremists who sought to restore the Caliphate (Muslim state under religious leadership).
Osama bin Laden attends university in Saudi Arabia
In the late 1970s, Osama bin Laden attended university at Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.
Here he was greatly influenced by the extreme views of a minority of Muslim scholars and preachers, which were based on the teachings of men like Sayyid Qutb (see 1954). Many of these teachers believed that Israel and the USA were anti-Muslim powers and taught their followers to use violence against them and against any Muslim leaders who would not stand up to them.
Tahlia Street, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Original image image credit: Ammar Shaker
Soviet (Russian) invasion of Afghanistan
In December 1979, the Soviet Union (Russia) invaded Afghanistan. Afghan Muslim warriors, called Mujahideen, took up their arms and tried to turn the Russians back. It seemed an impossible task as Russia was a superpower.
Osama bin Laden and thousands of other extreme Muslims travelled from all over the world to fight against the Russians who had dared to attack a Muslim land. This war proved to be a great training ground for extreme Muslims to learn how to fight for their faith. The Al-Qaeda terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks all trained in Afghanistan.
In late 1988 or early 1989, Osama bin Laden and other extremist Muslims agreed to set up a loose organisation called Al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda grew out of the success that Muslim fighters were having in the war against Soviet Russia in Afghanistan.
The name means "The Base" and the organisation's aim was to provide money and training to support attacks on the enemies of Islam all over world. It later organised the 9/11 attacks on the USA.
Soviet Withdrawal from Afghanistan
On 15th February 1989, the last Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan a decade after the initial invasion. The Muslim forces that defeated the Russians were called "Mujahideen".
Osama Bin Laden had led a group of Arab Mujahideen training and occasionally fighting the Soviet occupation forces. Although Bin Laden's Arab Mujahideen played a minor role in the conflict, the withdrawal of the Soviets (one of the two world superpowers) gave the extremist fighters a great deal of confidence. Bin Laden's followers created a mythology surrounding the withdrawal which inflated both Bin Laden and the Arab Mujahideen's role in defeating the Soviet Union.
While many Afghan Mujahideen were motivated by local and regional concerns, Bin Laden and the other Arab Mujahideen were often sidelined in the conflict and viewed as zealots who had a lack of military experience and often did not speak the local dialects in Afghanistan. Nonetheless, the Civil War and rise of the Taliban which followed the Soviet withdrawal afforded Bin Laden the safe haven in Afghanistan he needed to establish al-Qaeda and mount attacks against targets around the world.
Osama Bin Laden believed that his conviction that the global superpowers did not have the stomach for a long fight had been vindicated. Soon after the Soviet withdrawal, Bin Laden turned his sights to the other global superpower - the United States.
Mujahideen loyal to Yunus Khalis, Afghanistan
Iraqi invasion of Kuwait
In August 1990, Iraq, led by Saddam Hussein, invaded Kuwait and took its oil wells and ports. This affected the world’s oil supplies and a United Nations force, made up mainly of American forces, quickly restored Kuwait’s freedom. Most Arab states supported this, believing that Saddam Hussein was a threat to them all.
Osama bin Laden disliked Saddam Hussein but was disgusted when American forces were invited to be based in Saudi Arabia during the war. He vowed to drive them out of the country where two of Islam’s most holy sites at Mecca and Medina are found.
"Steel Rain:" The Army National Guard in Desert Storm by Frank M. Thomas
Defeat of Iraq - and strict sanctions imposed
After Saddam Hussein's Iraqi forces had been forced out of Kuwait, the United Nations imposed strict controls (called sanctions) on Iraqi trade. The aim was to stop Saddam Hussein buying new weapons. However, the sanctions ruined Iraq’s economy. Saddam stayed rich but hundreds of thousands of Iraqis suffered.
Although bin Laden hated Saddam Hussein, he was horrified when reports reached him that thousands of Iraqi children were dying due to sanctions cutting medical supplies. He pointed out that the United Nations did nothing like this to Israel, even though the Israelis had never obeyed the United Nations’s orders to give back Palestinian land.
It was American ships and planes (including some based in Saudi Arabia) that enforced the sanctions. The 9/11 attacks aimed to make the US withdraw its bases from the Gulf region and end United Nations sanctions on Iraq.
USAF aircraft of the 4th Fighter Wing fly over Kuwaiti oil fires
US troops suffer losses in Somalia
In 1991, a civil war broke out in the Muslim country of Somalia in east Africa. The United Nations sent a force into the country to try to restore order. The USA provided many of the troops and weapons.
In 1993, an American force tried to capture a tribal leader who had been responsible for many deaths. The mission went badly wrong and resulted in the death of 19 US soldiers and many more Somalis. Soon afterwards, the US withdrew its troops from Somalia.
Osama bin Laden later claimed that this showed that the USA would end its support for Israel and remove its bases from Saudi Arabia if Al-Qaeda were to hit US cities with massive terrorist attacks.
Super64 was the second helicopter to crash on the Battle of Mogadishu
1993 World Trade Center Bombing
In 1993 a terrorist cell led by Ramzi Yousef detonated a truck bomb in the parking lot beneath the twin towers at the World Trade Center site in Manhattan, New York City.
Yousef had planned for the explosion to cause Tower 1 to collapse, leading to the collapse of Tower 2, killing all the civilians inside. However, although the explosion caused significant damage to the parking lot and lower floors of the World Trade Center, the towers remained standing. 6 people were killed in the attack.
Yousef had spent time with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and was the nephew of Khaled Sheikh Mohammad, one of the principal architects of the September 11th 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon buildings. Yousef had received training and financial support from his uncle and al-Qaeda to launch an attack against the United States.
In pre-planned letters and his own trial, Yousef cited United States support for Israel as a justification for attacking the World Trade Center. As a symbol of the economic might of the USA, the World Trade Center would remain a target for terrorists linked to al-Qaeda.
Taliban movement founded in Afghanistan
After the Russians left Afghanistan (see 1989), the country had no single government. Local tribal warlords fought each other for control.
By 1994, a force of highly committed Muslims formed a group called the Taliban, which gradually restored order over large parts of the country. It imposed the most strict form of Muslim law and social control ever seen in a modern state. The Taliban allowed Al-Qaeda to operate freely from secret bases such as those in the Tora Bora mountains - where the 9/11 attacks were planned and where the hijackers were trained.
Map of territorial control of Afghanistan in early 2000
Khalid Sheikh Mohamed suggests an attack on USA
In mid-1996, a Muslim extremist called Khalid Sheikh Mohammed met Osama bin Laden at the Al-Qaeda base in Afghanistan. He put forward his plan to attack US cities by flying hijacked planes into well-known buildings. Bin Laden did not immediately support the idea.
In August 1996, bin Laden issued a "Declaration of War" on America for its support for Israel and its use of air bases in Saudi Arabia.
Over the next two years, bin Laden kept in touch with Kahlid Sheikh Mohammed and a version of his original plan was finally put into action on 11 September 2001.
Tora Bora Mountains in Afghanistan
Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania
Two massive suicide bombs at US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania killed hundreds of people in August 1998. Most of the dead were not US citizens and many were local people.
As he grew in confidence, bin Laden started planning attacks against targets in the USA.
Terrorists bombed the US Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya in August 1998, leaving hundreds dead and wounded.
Bin Laden warns USA to expect attacks
In 1998, Osama bin Laden issued another declaration against the USA. He called on all Muslims to serve God by killing Americans so that the USA would withdraw its troops from Saudi Arabia and end its support for Israel. Secretly, he was already supporting several terrorist attacks against US targets in Africa.
In May, he allowed an American television reporter to interview him in his secret base in Afghanistan. In that interview he again warned the US to expect direct attacks by terrorists.
Bin Laden starts planning 9/11 attacks
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Osama bin Laden finally agreed to plan an attack on sites in the USA, using suicide bombers and planes. This was the start of the 9/11 attacks.
Khalid Shaikh Mohamed, upon capture.
Final planning for 9/11 attacks
Preparations for the 9/11 attacks were more or less finalised when the lead hijacker, Mohammed Atta, travelled from the USA to Madrid in Spain to meet his Al-Qaeda contact there.
After this meeting, Atta flew back to America and arranged the final practical details such as buying tickets for the flights that were to be hijacked.
Hijacker pilot Mohamed Atta and another hijacker checked in at Portland airport. Atta was taken for extra security screening but passed through to board the short flight to Boston.
Flight 77 – Washington to LA
Flight 11 – Boston to LA
Mohamed Atta and four other hijackers boarded American Airways Flight 11 to Los Angeles.
Hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz al-Omari passing through security checkpoint at Portland International Jetport on the morning of September 11, 2001.
Flight 11 – Boston to LA
Flight 11 took off.
Flight 175 – Boston to LA
Flight control at Boston informed Air Defense about the hijackings – but no one suspected the planes would be used for suicide attacks.
The Air Traffic Control tower at Logan International Airport (KBOS) in Boston.
New York City
Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center between the 93rd and 99th floor. All 92 on board and hundreds on those floors died instantly. Hundreds more were trapped and jet fuel burst through the elevator shafts, causing explosions on other floors.
New York City
Police (NYPD) and fire (NYFD) services raced to the World Trade Center.
Flight 77 was hijacked.
A flight attendant informed United Airlines that Flight 175 had been hijacked.
Fighter jets sent by US air defense
Fighter jets were sent by US air defense to search for Flight 11.
F15A Eagle of the 101st Fighter Squadron flying over New York City after September 11 2001
White House, Washington
Vice President Cheney watched Flight 175 hit the World Trade Center and immediately knew that the USA was under attack. The Government defence and security systems went into action.
Richard Bruce "Dick" Cheney, 46th Vice President of the United States from 2001 to 2009, under President George W. Bush.
New York City
Flight 175 crashed into floors 77 to 85 of the South Tower of the World Trade Center, filmed by news cameras. Hundreds - including all 65 on board the plane - died instantly.
Amazingly, one person escaped from an office that was struck directly by a wing of the plane.
Flight 175 crashed into floors 77 to 85 of the South Tower of the World Trade Center, filmed by news cameras.
President Bush was informed of the attacks on the World Trade Center as he read to children in a Florida primary school. He stayed with the children for a few minutes before going to another room to talk to advisers.
President Bush is informed of the events of the September 11th attacks
New York City
Flight 93 was hijacked.
United Air Flight 93 air traffic recording
Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon building, Washington - the headquarters of the US defence forces. All 64 people on the plane and 125 people in the Pentagon died in this attack.
A helicopter flies over the area as smoke pours from the southwest corner of the Pentagon Building
Original image image credit: JO1 Mark D. Faram, USN
President Bush's plane took off from Florida and flew to Barksdale airbase in Louisiana, as this was believed to be safer than returning to Washington.
President George W. Bush confers with White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card aboard Air Force One
Original image image credit: Eric Draper
Passengers on Flight 93 attacked the hijackers as they had learnt from mobile phone calls to relatives that other flights had been flown into the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
New York City
The South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed to the ground, just as people from the top floors began to leave the building at ground level.
New Yorkers watched from the streets and from other buildings. Other people all over the world watched on television as a thick cloud of dust and rubble spread across Manhattan.
The city's street are filled with clouds of dust after the the Towers collapse.
Flight 93 crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania killing those on board after passengers overpowered the hijackers and prevented them from crashing into their intended target - possibly the US Capitol building in Washington D.C.
Flight 93 crash site
A full evacuation of the Pentagon was ordered as news arrived that another plane might be about to attack.
United States Air Force Memorial, The Pentagon, Washington DC
President Bush gave authority for the US airforce to shoot down any planes that did not respond to flight control orders.
The Pentagon, September 11 2001 -- Launched from bases all over the United States, Air National Guard fighter and tankers moved quickly to protect America from further attacks on September 11, 2001.
Original image image credit: Gil Cohen
President Bush's plane landed at Barksdale.
He recorded a brief statement vowing to hunt down those responsible for the attacks. His plane soon took off again for a bigger airbase at Offut in Nebraska.
US Defense chiefs ordered battleships and aircraft carriers to patrol the east coast of the USA, to intercept any other possible attacks.
President Bush's plane landed at Offut airbase. He held a video conference with his advisers and decided to return to the White House.
George W. Bush confers with Vice President Dick Cheney from Air Force One during his flight to Andrews Air Force Base
Original image image credit: Eric Draper
White House, Washington
The US Government received messages of sympathy from leaders all over the world, but news reports from the Middle East showed videos of Palestinians in refugee camps cheering and dancing when they learnt about the attack.
Palestinian leaders joined many more Muslim leaders in condemning the terrorism. One Muslim leader said differently: Saddam Hussein of Iraq says that the attacks are the "fruits of America's crimes against humanity".
White House, Washington
President Bush addressed the nation on television. He said "We make no distinction between those who committed these acts and those who harbour them."
After the broadcast, he met his advisers to review the day. They already had evidence that the attacks were organised by Osama bin Laden - the leader of the extreme terrorist group Al-Qaeda based in Afghanistan.
President Bush – We Will Make No Distinction
US air space reopened
Within minutes of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center, all air space over the US was shut down. It remained closed for two days.
Since 9/11, airports all over the world have tightened security procedures, which now take much longer for passengers.
A new Transportation Security Agency employee checks a traveler as he passes through a security checkpoint in Terminal 5/International Departures at O'Hare International Airport August 6, 2002 in Chicago, Illinois
President Bush visits Ground Zero
On 14 September, President Bush visited Ground Zero (as the site of the attacks on the World Trade Center had become known).
He met rescue workers and made a short speech to those who were there in an attempt to lift the nation's spirits.
Standing upon the ashes of the worst terrorist attack on American soil, President Bush pledges that the voices calling for justice from across the country will be heard
First conspiracy theory published
One week after the 9/11 attacks, the first "conspiracy theory" was published in the French newspaper, Le Monde. It claimed that the attacks were an "inside job" planned by Americans.
Many alternative theories about 9/11 have been put forward since then.
9/11 Truth Movement demonstrator
President Bush declared "War on Terror"
On 20 September 2001, President Bush addressed the United States Congress. By then, his security advisers had decided that the attacks had been organised by Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda.
Bush declared a "War on Terror" and warned that this war would start with Al-Qaeda but would not end there. This was to prove to be the start of major military campaigns - first against Afghanistan and then, in 2003, against Iraq.
President Bush pledges to defend America's freedom against the fear of terrorism.
US/UK invasion of Afghanistan
Despite warnings, the Taliban in Afghanistan refused to hand Osama bin Laden over to the USA.
On 7 October, a combined US and UK force attacked Afghanistan, aided by anti-Taliban Afghans called the Northern Alliance. The invasion started with massive bombing raids over the Tora Bora mountains where Osama bin Laden had his base.
Bin Laden escaped and was only found in 2011 when he was killed by US soldiers. The war in Afghanistan is still ongoing today, and up to 42 nations have supported the campaign.
US airstrike during the battle of Tora Bora
USA Patriot Act passed
On 26 October, US Congress passed the Patriot Act, which gave the US authorities much more freedom to investigate telephone, email, medical, financial, and other records.
It also allowed them to detain people suspected of terrorist activities more easily.
Some Americans have seen these changes as a serious threat to their liberty.
President George W. Bush signs the Patriot Act in the East Room Oct. 26
UK Anti-terrorism Act passed
The United Kingdom Government passed the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act on 19 November 2001. It allowed the UK authorities to detain indefinitely any non-British person if they were suspected of terrorist involvement.
As in the USA, some people criticised the Government for threatening the liberty of the British people in an effort to prevent terrorism.
House of Commons Chamber: Speaker's table.
"Shoe bomber" attack failed
In December 2001, a UK Muslim called Richard Reid, was arrested on an American Airlines flight to the USA. He was attempting to blow up the aircraft in mid-air by lighting a fuse to explosives that were hidden in his shoes.
Reid became known as the Shoe Bomber. He had converted to Islam after he was imprisoned for street robbery in 1992, and became a terrorist after being taught extremist views at a mosque in London. His actions made airport security even more tightly controlled.
New Afghan government installed by US/UK
By December 2001, the Taliban regime had been overthrown by the forces of the USA, UK and the Afghan Northern Alliance.
A leading anti-Taliban Afghan politician called Hamid Karzai was installed as the leader of a temporary government until elections could be held. This eventually happened in 2004, when Kharzai became the official President of Afghanistan - even though the Taliban continued to control large areas of the country.
Chairman Hamid Karzai surrounded by supporters after his victory in balloting at the Loya Jirga, or Grand Council
First detainees arrive at Guantanamo Bay
As the war in Afghanistan and other actions continued, the USA captured more and more suspected terrorists.
It decided to set up a special detention centre where the suspects could be held and interrogated. It did this at a US Naval base at Guantanamo Bay (which is on part of the island of Cuba that belongs to the USA). Ever since it opened, some people have criticised the US for harsh and unfair treatment of the people who are held there, as they have not faced normal court proceedings.
Guantanamo captives in January 2002
Invasion of Iraq
After months of warnings, the USA and UK invaded Iraq on 20 March 2003 claiming that Saddam Hussein was building up weapons of mass destruction that threatened world peace. Even though Iraq had no proven links to al Qaeda, the invasion was still seen as part of the War on Terror.
Saddam Hussein was quickly overthrown and captured. The USA and UK found it difficult to set up an orderly government in Iraq and the presence of US and British troops there led to an increase of terrorist attacks both against western troops and between Muslim groups.
Map of major operations and battles of the Iraq War as of 2007
US Commission Report published
Almost three years after the 9/11 attacks had taken place, the US Government published its report into them.
The report blamed Al-Qaeda but said little about why bin Laden and other terrorists hated the USA. It also showed how the US security systems and the Government had missed opportunities over the years to deal with Al-Qaeda.
9/11 Commision Report cover
London 7/7 bombings
Since the 9/11 attacks, there have been many more terrorist bombings around the world. The attacks that are remembered most in Britain are the 7/7 bombings in London, when four British Muslim suicide bombers blew up three Tube trains and a bus, killing 56 people including themselves.
The bombers left videotaped messages in which they praised Osama bin Laden and other Al-Qaeda leaders, and said that similar attacks would continue until Britain and America withdrew all troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, and ended support for Israel.
Ambulances at Russell Square, London after the 7th July bombings
Original image image credit: Francis Tyers
Execution of Saddam Hussein
After being captured in December 2003, the ex-Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, was tried and found guilty of murdering Iraqi citizens.
As required by Iraqi law he was exececuted on 30 December 2006. This did nothing to end the continuing violence across Iraq, however.
Saddam Hussein after he was captured
Last British combat troops leave Iraq
Most British troops withdrew from Iraq in April 2009. US troops and a smaller contingent of British troops would remain until full withdrawal in 2011.
Row over "Ground Zero mosque"
In May 2010, it was reported that some American Muslims planned to build a community centre with a prayer room at a site a few hundred metres from Ground Zero. This caused a fierce debate in the American media.
Some mistakenly claimed that Muslims were planning to build a mosque at Ground Zero. Feelings ran high and polls showed that most Americans opposed the plan.
An artistic rendering of the proposed Park 51 Islamic Community Center
"Arab Spring" protests demand democracy
In the first few months of 2011, mass pro-democratic protests spread across the Middle-East and North Africa, where corrupt and oppressive regimes had long been in place. Protestors effectively harnessed the power of social media and the internet to spread ideas and arrange demonstrations.
In Egypt, Tunisia and Libya the protests led to the overthrow of the government. In Syria, the mass protests were met with force by the Assad Regime, leading to a defection of Army officers to form the Free Syrian Army, throwing Syria into a state of Civil War. In 2018, the Civil War in Syria is still raging and is believed to have killed some half a million people.
Initial optimism over the future of democracy in the Middle-East out of the Arab Spring appears to be dashed in many instances, with a new dictatorship in Egypt and instability in Libya, Syria and Yemen - with many extremist groups leading the opposition, often marginalising the pro-democracy forces in the region.
Osama bin Laden killed
In the early hours of 2 May 2011, members of SEAL team Six, US Special Forces, raided a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan killing the al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden. After confirming his identity, Bin Laden's body was buried at sea.
Following Bin Laden's death, Aymen al-Zawahiri took over leadership of al-Qaeda. The group's leadership had been decimated after losing the safe haven of Afghanistan following the US invasion, and many of those that fled were killed by air strikes and Special Forces raids. This significantly reduced the operational capability of al-Qaeda Central, although there are still a number of al-Qaeda affiliate 'franchises' around the world.
Osama bin Laden compound