11th September 2001
On September 11th 2001, 2,977 lives were lost in the deadliest terror attack in history, after four passenger airliners were hijacked by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists.
The coordinated attacks saw two of the planes flown into the North and South towers of the World Trade Centre complex in Manhattan, New York. The third plane was flown into the Pentagon, with the fourth (initially headed towards Washington D.C.) crashing in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania and claiming the lives of all those on board, after passengers revolted in an attempt to overpower the hijackers.
The 9/11 attacks led directly to the War on Terror that would ensue.
Congress authorises force against terrorists and "associated forces"
On 14th September 2001, 5 days after the 9/11 attacks, The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMS) was passed by the United States Congress which authorised the use of the US armed forces against those responsible for the 9/11 attacks and any “associated forces”. This allowed the President to use “necessary and appropriate force” against anyone involved in planning and carrying out the attacks, and anyone else found harbouring them.
One week after the 9/11 attacks on 18th September 2001, letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to several news media offices and two Democratic US Senators (Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy) over a 3-week period. 5 people died and 17 others were infected as a result of the attacks.
Handwritten notes within the letters read anti-American and anti-Israeli messages, ending with “ALLAH IS GREAT”. After an investigation which would span the next half a dozen years, the FBI concluded in 2008 that the attacks were likely not motivated by Islamist extremism. Instead, they identified a sole perpetrator, a scientist who had been working on a failing anthrax vaccine programme, with a possible motive of wanting to rejuvenate the programme. He had since committed suicide.
"War on Terror" first used
The term War on Terror was first used on 20th Septermber 2001 by then US President, Geroge W Bush, to describe the American-led global counter-terrorism campaign.
During a televised address to Congress, President George W. Bush said: "Our war on terror begins with al- Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated."
Operation Enduring Freedom - Afghanistan
On 7 October, after warnings from the US were ignored by the Taliban to hand over bin Laden, Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), the term the US administration officially used for the War on Terror began with a combined US and UK force attack in Afghanistan, aided by anti-Taliban Afghans called the Northern Alliance.
The invasion started with large scale bombing raids over the Tora Bora mountains where Osama bin Laden had his base.
Bin Laden escaped and managed to stay in hiding for another 10 years after the war began.
USA PATRIOT Act signed
In response to 9/11 and the anthrax attacks, The US congress moved quickly to strengthen security controls. On 26 October, 45 days after the 9/11 attacks, the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act 2001 (USA PATRIOT Act) was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush.
Most importantly it made permissible for US authorities the seizure “any tangible thing” without warrant that the government had reason to believe was affiliated with an act of terrorism, surveillance or wiretapping of a specific person or facility without warrant and secret surveillance on non-US citizens who have given probable cause of engaging in or supporting international terrorism.
Fall of Mazar-i-Sharif
On 9th November 2001, the fall of Mazar-i-Sharif resulted from the first major offensive of the Afghanistan war after the American intervention approximately a month before.
Airstrikes were called against the Taliban, targeting their air defense installations, defense ministry, airport-based command centers, airfields, electrical grids and other energy production facilities.
Response from the Taliban was suppressed immediately, thus the Taliban forces who had held the city since 1998 withdrew within a day.
The city’s capture opened supply routes and provided an airstrip inside the country for American aircraft.
Battle of Tora Bora
On 6th December 2001, The battle of Tora Bora, a military engagement in Afghanistan which lasted 12 days, was launched by the US forces who believed Osama bin Laden to be hiding in the Tora Bora mountains.
Though the US and allied forces managed to overrun the Taliban and al-Qaeda positions and intercept bin Laden’s voice in radio transmissions, they failed to capture him and bin Laden escaped to The Federally Administrated Tribal areas of Pakistan.
Terrorist Group Ansar al-Islam Established
On 10th December 2001, Ansar al-Islam a Sunni Muslim insurgent group was established in Iraqi Kurdistan by former al-Qaeda members. The movement imposed a strict application of Sharia Law in the villages it controlled.
The group was a designated terrorist organisation and in 2014 dissolved to merge with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Zacarias Moussaoui charged
On 11th December 2001, Zacarias Moussaoui, a French citizen who had been denied a visa to enter the US was alleged by prosecutors to have been a replacement for the initial “20th hijacker”, and was charged with conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism, alongside five other related charges. Moussaoui pleaded guilty to conspiring to kill citizens of the United States as part of the September 11th attacks and in 2006 he eventually received a sentence of life in prison without parole.
Failed shoe bombing
On 22nd December 2001, British citizen, Richard Reid, later to be known as the ‘Shoe Bomber’ unsuccessfully tried to detonate explosives he had hidden in his shoes, onboard American Airline flight 63 from Paris to Miami. He was subdued by passengers and subsequently arrested at Logan International Airport, Boston where the flight made an emergency landing.
Reid had converted to Islam in prison some years before, where he was serving a sentence for robbery. He later became radicalised, visiting Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he trained to become a member of al-Qaeda.
Guantanamo Bay Opened
In January 2002, Guantanamo Bay detention camp, a United States military prison located within the Guantanamo Bay naval base, along the coast of Cuba was opened.
The camp was established as part of the War on Terror, where suspects considered extraordinarily dangerous people could be held and interrogated.
The camp has received significant opposition for holding inmates indefinitely without trial, with detainees reporting abuse and torture. Amnesty International has declared the operations within the camp a major breach of human rights. Under president Bush’s administration however, the United States claimed that Guantanamo Bay detainees were not on US soil and therefore not covered by the US Constitution, and that enemy combatant status meant they could be denied some legal protections.
Georgia Train and Equip Program Announced
On 27th February 2002, the US media reported that about 200 US Army Special Forces personnel would be sent to Georgia as part of a $67 million program to train Georgian troops, particularly in counter-terrorism techniques.
Many Russians protested the program, which led to a response from Russian president Vladimir Putin in which he met with the Georgian president and pledged his support for the initiative.
The program began in May 2002 and lasted until April 2004. The training began with the individual soldiers and continued through to the fire team, squad, platoon, company, and battalion level tactics as well as staff planning and organization. Upon completing training, each of the new Georgian infantry battalions began preparing for deployment rotations in support of the Global War on Terrorism. As part of the program Georgian troops were issued new uniforms, boots, weapons, and other articles of equipment.
On 12th October 2002, three bombs were detonated in the popular tourist area of Kuta in Bali, killing 202 people and injuring a further 209.
The death toll included 88 Australians, 38 Indonesians and others of over 20 nationalities. Two of the bombs were detonated in or near popular nightclubs, while a third much smaller bomb caused more minor damage outside the US Consulate located nearby in Denpasar.
Various members of Jemaah Islamiyah, a violent Islamist group, were convicted in relation to the bombings, including three individuals who were sentenced to death. An audio-cassette purportedly carrying a recorded voice message from Osama bin Laden stated that the Bali bombings were in direct retaliation for support of the United States' war on terror and Australia's role in the liberation of East Timor.
Iraq Resolution Passed by Congress
On 16th October 2002, the US Congress passed the Iraq Resolution, authorising the use of military force against Iraq.
Almost all representatives in Congress from the governing Republican party voted for the resolution, although representatives from the opposition Democratic party were divided. However, this was still sufficient for the bill to pass with a comfortable majority.
The resolution authorised President Bush to use the US Armed Forces as he deemed “necessary and appropriate” against Iraq, in the interests of the US’ national security.
Predator Drone Strikes Kill al-Qaeda Suspects in Yemen
On 3rd November 2002, the first predator drone strike in the War on Terror outside of Afghanistan was launched by the CIA, killing 6 alleged terrorists in Yemen, including Abu Ali al-Harithi, the reputed head of al-Qaeda in Yemen and a wanted suspect in the bombing of the USS Cole (A United States Navy guided-missile destroyer).
The drone struck a jeep that the men were travelling in, with Yemini sources reporting that the vehicle was destroyed and that the bodies were burned beyond recognition.
UN Resolution 1441 on Iraq is Passed
On 8th November 2002, The UN Security council unanimously passed a resolution offering Iraq a final opportunity to comply with disarmament obligations.
Iraq was widely believed to have possessed weapons of mass destruction (nuclear weapons) at the time, something used as a major point of justification for the subsequent US-led invasion of Iraq by both the US and UK administrations.
Receiving unanimous support, the resolution was voted for by the 15-member Security Council’s major Western nations, Russia, China, and even Arab countries such as Syria.
Anti-War Protests Take Place Worldwide
On 15th February 2003, a coordinated day of protests took place across more than 600 cities worldwide, in which protesters expressed their opposition to the imminent Iraq war, in what has been described as the largest protest event in human history. Many questioned the US governments motives and rationale behind the decision to go to war with Iraq.
Estimations vary of the number of people who protested ranging from six to thirty million, with the largest crowds drawn in Europe; 3 million protesters in Rome broke the world record for the largest anti-war rally in history, being listed in the 2004 Guinness Book of World Records.
Colin Powell Address to UN Security Council
On 5th February 2003, former United States national security advisor appeared before the United Nations Security Council to prove the urgency to engage a war with Iraq. Although the presentation failed to change the fundamental position of the Security Council, it hardened the overall tone of the United Nations towards Iraq.
In the presentation, Powell noted that Iraq harboured a terrorist network headed by al-Qaeda operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and alleged that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction from inspectors and refusing to disarm.
Iraq War Begins
On 20th March 2003 the invasion of Iraq began in what was known as Operation Iraqi Freedom, after an ultimatum issued to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was issued by then United States President, George W Bush a few days before stating that should Hussein and his family not leave Iraq within 48 hours the country would face military action.
The United States led coalition launched a bombing campaign on a farming community outside of Baghdad where Saddam Hussein was believed to have been hiding.
Iraqi forces were quickly overwhelmed and the invasion led to the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s government within a few weeks.
On 16th May 2003, a series of coordinated suicide bombings took place in Casablanca, Morocco across four locations, killing 45 people including the 12 suicide bombers, and injuring over 100 in the deadliest terrorist attack in Morocco’s history.
The attackers targeted two restaurants, a hotel and the Belgian Consulate.
A large demonstration was organised in response to the attack through the streets of Casablanca and drew condemnation from world leaders.
In November 2003, Four truck bomb attacks occured in Istanbul, Turkey, in which 57 people lost their lives and over 700 were injured.
On 15th November two trucks carrying bombs drove into the Bet Israel and Neve Shalom Synagogues in Istanbul. The ensuing explosions devastated the Synagogues, killing 23 people and injuring more than 300 others.
5 days later another two trucks carrying explosives were detonated by suicide bombers operating the vehicles at the HSBC Bank headquarters and the British Consulate, killing 30 people and injuring 400 others.
A Turkish Islamist group initially took responsibility for the attacks, although Turkish investigators since attributed the attacks to high ranking military officials seeking to destabilise the government
Operation Red Dawn - Saddam Hussein Captured
On 13th December 2003 Operation Red Dawn, an American military operation was conducted which led to the capture of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, who had disappeared from public view not long after the Iraq invasion began.
The operation was launched after actionable intelligence was gained identifying two likely locations of Hussein’s whereabouts that were codenamed Wolverine 1 and Wolverine 2.
The US forces searched the two sites unsuccessfully, to then discover Saddam Hussein hiding in a ‘spider hole’ between the two sites. Hussein did not resist capture and was subsequently put on trial and executed within the same month by the post-invasion Iraqi authorities.
SuperFerry 14 Bombing
On 27th February 2004 A terrorist attack in the Philippines resulted in the sinking of SuperFerry 14, killing 116 people in both the deadliest attack in the Philippines and the world’s deadliest terrorist attack at sea.
On the night of 27th February the 192-ton ferry set sail out of Manila for Cagayan de Oro City with 899 recorded passengers and crew on board. A television set containing a 3.6KG TNT bomb had been placed on board the lower deck.
An hour after the ferry had set sail the explosion from the TV bomb resulted in a fire that engulfed the ship. Survivors fled the ship by either jumping into the sea or embarking the rescue boats. The final death toll in the days that followed the attack amounted to 116 people.
Months after the incident there was evidence found of a bomb blast which contradicted earlier reports of the blast having been an accident. A man named Redondo Cain Dellosa, a Rajah Sulaiman Movement member – a Philippine terror group, confessed to planting the bomb, triggered by a timing device, for the Abu Sayyaf group, also known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Philippine Province.
On the morning of 11th March 2004, during the peak of rush hour, 10 bombs almost simultaneously went off on board 4 trains on the commuter train system of Madrid, killing 192 people and injuring around 2,000.
A subsequent official investigation by the Spanish courts found that an al-Qaeda terrorist cell was responsible for the bombings. The attacks are the deadliest terrorist attacks to have taken place on Spanish soil, and were widely seen as a reprisal for Spanish involvement in the US-led invasion of Iraq.
The attacks are also believed to have contributed to the incumbent party’s loss in Spain’s general elections three days later.
First Battle of Fallujah
On 4th April 2004 the First Battle of Fallujah, also known as Operation Vigilant Resolve began to root out extremist elements in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, as a respone to the deaths of 4 American contracters a month prior.
US forces launched a major assault, and fighting ensued for nearly a month, after which the forces withdrew, turning over any remaining operations to the newly formed Fallujah Brigade - a Sunni security force formed by the CIA, which would be armed with US weapons and equipment.
However, the local forces disintegrated soon afterwards, and the city was taken by insurgents, with all the US weapons being handed over to the insurgency.
On 29th May 2004, four men armed with guns, bombs and knives attacked two oil industry installations - the Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation building and the Al-Khobar Petroleum Centre, as well as a residential compound in al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia – the hub of the Saudi oil industry.
The assault took place over the course of 25 hours in which 22 people were killed and a further 25 were injured, the majority being foreign nationals. The attackers first stormed the Petroleum Centre, shooting a guard and then continued on a hunt for Westerners. The attackers then proceeded to the the Petroleum Investments Corporation in search of further 'disbelievers'. Finally, the assailants entered the resedential complex with a spray of bullets, where the situation then escalated to a hostage situation in which the gunmen distinguished between Muslims and non-Muslims, targeting the latter, claiming they were ‘Zionists and Crusaders’ who are in Saudi Arabia to ‘steal oil and resources.’
After failed negotiations, three of the gunmen escaped after using hostages as human shields, however the leader was wounded and captured.
A local Saudi Arabia based faction of al-Qaeda claimed responsibility – ‘The Jerusalem Squadron’.
The attack shook the Saudi regime and by forcing up the price of oil, caused global economic upset.
Drone Strikes on al-Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban
On 18th June 2004 one of the first known US drone strikes in Pakistan took place in Wana, South Waziristan – a mountainous region in the northwest. The target was the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda factions. The attack killed between 5 and 8 people, including a prominent Pakistani mujahideen (jihadi leader), Nek Muhammad Wazir and his two children.
Wary of revealing the CIA’s involvement, Pakistan’s army initially claimed the attack as their own work.
Over the course of 3 days, starting on 1st September 2004, armed Islamist militants attacked a school in Beslan, south west Russia, taking over 1,100 people, including 777 children hostage.
The hostage-takers were the Riyad-us-Saliheen sent by the Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, who demanded recognition of the independence of Chechnya, as well as Russian withdrawal from Chechnya.
The siege ended when Russian military forces stormed the school, killing the militants. At least 334 people, including 186 children, were killed.
In the aftermath, multiple investigations estimated that between 34 and 76 hostage takers were involved.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq is Formed
On 17th October 2004, al-Qaeda in Iraq was established when Abu Mus ab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian-born militant already leading insurgent attacks in Iraq, formed an alliance with al-Qaeda, pledging his group’s allegiance to Osama bin Laden in return for bin Laden’s endorsement as the leader of al-Qaeda’s franchise in Iraq.
Al-Zarqawi, who quickly came to be regarded as one of the most destructive militants in Iraq, organized a wave of attacks, often suicide bombings, that targeted security forces, government institutions, and Iraqi civilians.
The group’s aims included the expulsion of US forces from Iraq, taking control of the region and establishing a ‘caliphate’, or Islamic authority.
2nd Battle of Fallujah
After the first attempt to take control of the city of Fallujah in Iraq failed, the city was recaptured from insurgent forces by the US-led coalition in the Second Battle of Fallujah in November 2004.
Also termed Operation Phantom Fury, it was a joint American, Iraqi and British offensive lasting around one and a half months before the city was secured. The battle had the most casualties of any single conflict in the entire Iraq War, with 107-110 coalition forces killed and 613 wounded, and was notable for being fought solely against Islamist insurgents as opposed to the forces of the former Iraqi government, deposed in 2003.
London Transport Bombings
On 7th July 2005 the deadliest terror attack to have taken place on British soil occurred in London when four suicide bombers detonated homemade explosives in a coordinated attack.
At 8.49am explosions took place on three tube trains within 50 seconds of each other, followed by a bombing on a double-decker bus an hour later. 52 people lost their lives in total during the height of the morning rush hour. A further 700 were left injured.
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.
On 9th November 2005, a series of co-ordinated bomb attacks across three hotels took place in Amman, Jordan killing 60 people and injuring 115 others.
The majority of the casualties were Jordanian citizens, although some foreign citizens and diplomats were also caught up in the attacks. al-Qaeda in Iraq quickly claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that they were attempting to hit "American and Israeli intelligence and other Western European governments".
Mujahideen Shura Council Formed
On 15th January 2006 The Mujahideen Shura Council, an umbrella organisation of at least six Islamist militant groups taking part in the Iraqi insurgency against US-led coalition forces, was established.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq Spokesman, Abu Maysarah al-Iraqi announced the formation of the Mujahideen Consultative Council via a statement posted on jihadist website, Hanin Net. The main purpose of the group was to resist efforts by the American and Iraqi authorities to win over Sunni supporters of the insurgency and as a result to ward of the invading ‘infidels’.
Islamic Courts Union Make Gains in Somali Civil War
The Islamic Courts Union - a group of Sharia courts that united themselves to form a rival administration to the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, with Sharif Sheikh Ahmed as their head, made significant advances during the early stages of the Somali Civil war in June 2006 with the conquest of Mogadishu from the Aliiance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism and then continued with further expansion in the country
Until the end of 2006, they controlled most of southern Somalia and the vast majority of its population, including most major cities, whereby they lost much of the territory, and abandoned Mogadishu leaving the city in chaos.
Following their loss, hardline Islamists broke ranks from the Islamic Courts Union and formed other militant groups, such as al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam, to continue the war against the government.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi Killed in Airstrike
On 7th June 2006, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian born jihadist who had been the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq since late 2004, was killed in a targeted US air strike, after being located in a safehouse in northern Iraq.
He was reported to have been killed along with 5 others, including one of his wives and children. His body was identified the following day by facial recognition, fingerprinting, known scars and tattoos. The death of one of his key lieutenants, spiritual adviser Sheik Abd-Al-Rahman was also announced.
The task force had been tracking Zarqawi for some time but he had managed to elude several close calls, before intelligence pointing towards his safehouse led to his eventual demise.
Ethiopian Troops Enter Somali Civil War
On 20th July 2006, Ethiopian troops moved into Somali territory, whilst Somalia’s interim government was resisting advances by the Islamic Courts Union. The move gained widespread public attention, as more than 100 Ethiopian trucks as well as armoured cars, were seen crossing into Somalia.
Prior to this event there had been territorial conflicts between Somalia and Ethiopia dating back to the 1940’s, as well as a history of Ethiopian intervention.
A Somali Islamist leader ordered a "jihad" to drive out Ethiopian troops, however Sharia courts in Ethiopia condemned the Islamic Courts Union's declaration of holy war.
Formation of Islamic State in Iraq
In October 2006, the merging of two Islamist insurgent groups, the Mujahideen Shura Council and al-Qaeda in Iraq, led to the formation of Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), with Abu Omar al-Baghdadi presented as emir (leader) of the group. It was declared that the Islamic State of Iraq would encompass the governorates of Baghdad, Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Salaheddin, Niniveh, and parts of Babel and Wasit – a swathe of central and western Iraq where most Sunni Arabs live. The goals of ISI were to expel the US from Iraq, and turn the country into a Sunni Islamic caliphate, as well as extend this programme to neighbouring countries.
Al-Shabaab Breaks From Islamic Courts Union
By December 2006, more Ethiopian troops had entered Somalia to assist the Somali government in its fight against the Islamic Courts Union.
Ethiopian troops allying with the Somali government forces allowed the latter to recapture the capital of Mogadishu and retake much of the lost territory, leading to the collapse of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) into insurgent splinter groups including al-Shabaab; the youth wing of ICU, with a multi-ethnic composition, that continued its ‘holy war’ against the Somali government and repositioned themselves as a militant Islamist group, encouraging people from all parts of society, including elders to join their ranks. Al-Shabaab would go on to become the most prominent terrorist organisation in Somalia.
Saddam Hussein Hanged
On 30th December 2006, Saddam Hussein was executed by the post-invasion Iraqi authorities after a trial which took less than a month to complete.
Despite his wish to be shot (feeling it to be more dignified), Hussein was denied the request and hanged at Camp Justice - an Iraqi army base in the capital Baghdad. Hussein was convicted of crimes against humanity by the Iraqi Special Tribunal for the murder of 148 Shi’ites in the town of Dujail in 1982. An official videotape of his execution was released by the Iraqi government.
Hussein’s body was returned to his birthplace of Al-Awja in Tikrit the following day and buried amongst the graves of other family members.
The execution received international criticism, from human rights groups in particular for a flawed trial and an alleged lack of due process.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb Formed
On 28th January 2007 al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) was founded , having initially originatied as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat. The aim of AQIM was overthrowing the Algerian government and establishing an Islamic State. The organisation has since declared its intention to further target European and American targets.
AQIM went on to become one of the regions wealthiest groups by taking Western nationals hostage, and making significant ransom demands from humanitarian organisations and Western governments.
The organisation operates a media outlet al-Andalus, regularly releasing statements as well as videos of hostages.
On 11th February 2007, two car bombs were detonated in a near simultaneous attack in the Algerian capital of Algiers, starting around 09.30 local time.
The first explosion occurred near the Supreme Constitutional Court, with the second – a confirmed suicide bombing – occurring on the road that separates the United Nations offices from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, causing the third highest number of staff casualties in the history of the United Nations, with 17 employees losing their lives.
Overall the number of victims was 41, with a further 177 people injured. The newly formed al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the attacks.
The 2007 Lebanon conflict started on 20th May when fighting broke out between Fatah Al-Islam, an Islamist militant organisation, and Lebanese Armed Forces. The conflict revolved mainly around the siege of Nahr el-Bared – a Palestinian refugee camp, and became the most severe case of internal fighting since the country’s civil war.
The army was able to take control of the camp from the militants after an extended siege and a series of engagements which took just under 4 months to complete. Between 168 and 179 Lebanese soldiers, and 226 militants, were killed as a result of the fighting. More than 200 militants were captured. The majority of the leadership of Fatah Al-Islam managed to escape the camp at the conclusion of the conflict.
Caucasus Emirate Formed
On 7th October 2007, The Caucasus Emirate was founded – partially a successor to the secessionist Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, which was abolished by its former president, Dokka Umarov, who instead declared himself the first emir of the Caucasus Emirate.
The aims of the militant jihadist organisation was to expel Russian presence in the North Caucasus region and establish an independent Islamic emirate.
The emirate received significant funds from overseas Islamic terrorist organisations and was designated as a terrorist organisation by the United Nations. During its years of operation it claimed a number of attacks, including the 2010 Moscow Metro bombings.
A few years after the formation of the Emirate the insurgency began to decline and by August 2016 dissolved entirely.
First Battle of Swat
The First Battle of Swat, known as Operation Rah-e-Haq was fought between Pakistani government forces and the Taliban over control of the Swat District in northern Pakistan.
The battle began on 25th October and lasted just over a month, during which time the Pakistani military enjoyed superiority in numbers and battlefield success. 15 soldiers and 3 policemen were killed, versus 290 militants killed and 143 captured.
The conflict started with the Taliban occupation of Swat, in which forces were massing in the district in a bid to impose their version of the Sharia Law, and though Pakistani forces were able to regain much control the conflict ended due to political pressure for a ceasefire with the Taliban, which allowed Taliban forces to reconsolidate.
Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, also known simply as the Taliban, is an umbrella organisation of Islamist militant groups, with close ties to al-Qaeda, operating in Pakistan which includes most local Taliban groups as well. The organisation was formed in December 2007 when 13 such groups united under the leadership of Baitullah Mehsud, operating mostly in the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas along the border of Afghanistan.
The stated objectives of the group at the time of formation included: resistance against the Pakistani state, Pakistani army, enforcement of their interpretation of Sharia and a plan to unite against NATO-led forces in Afghanistan
The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan was officially designated a Foreign Terrorist Organisation by the United States in 2010 and while the Taliban had a significant presence elsewhere (e.g. Afghanistan), the Pakistani Taliban gained notoriety for its willingness to attack local authorities and Muslim citizens, as well as Western targets. The organisation became responsible for many of the suicide bomb attacks that took place in the country.
Al-Qaeda Military Commander Killed in Somalia
On 1st May 2008, Aden Hashi Farah Aero, who was named as military commander of al-Qaeda in the wartorn nation of Somalia, was killed in a US airstrike alongside another prominent figure of the terrorist organisation, Muhyadin Omar. The airstrike targeted Aero's house in Dhushamareb.
The United Nations had attributed 16 killings to Aero, including that of a BBC journalist, as well as a failed attempt to bring down an Ethiopian airliner.
Danish Embassy Bombing, Islamabad
On 2nd June 2008, a suicide car bombing at the Danish embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, resulted in 8 dead and 24 injured, when a stolen Toyota Corolla driving at high speed past the entrance, managing to forgo heightened security due to its diplomatic registration plates, stopped at a parking lot in front of the complex, detonating a car bomb, causing structural damage and leaving a crater in front of the building.
None of those killed were Danish employees of the embassy, although at least 2 local employees and numerous bystanders were caught up in the attack, including a Danish citizen of Pakistani origin. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility, citing the reprinting of a Danish newspaper’s cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed and the presence of Danish troops in Afghanistan as motives for the attack. The attack received international condemnation, in particular from then Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Per Stig Møller.
Anjum Naveed/Associated Press
American Embassy Attack, Yemen
On 17th October 2008, an attack on the US embassy in Yemen resulted in 12 deaths and 16 injuries, after attackers dressed as policeman armed with rifles and explosives, attacked outer security at the gate of the embassy from within their car.
A 20 minute battle ensued between the terrorists and the embassy security force during which the latter were fired upon before a car bomb exploded at a second security ring. It is believed there were up to five explosions during the attack, including those from suicide vests. Six members of the Yemini securtiy force and six civilians were amongst those who lost their lives. Six of the attackers also died.
The Islamic Jihad of Yemen, an al-Qaeda affiliate claimed responsibility for the attack and threatened future attacks against other embassies.
Saba, via Associated Press
CrediSaba, via Associated Press
In November 2008, 10 trained members of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), an Islamist militant organisation based in Pakistan, carried out a series of 12 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks across Mumbai, beginning on 26th November and lasting four days.
According to investigations the attackers had travelled by sea from Karachi, hijacking an Indian fishing trawler and forcing the captain to sail to Mumbai after having killed the crew of four onboard. They then entered Mumbai on a rubber dinghy.
Transport terminals, cafes, hotels, cinemas and a hospital were all targeted, as well as hostages taken at the Taj Hotel and at a Jewish centre in Colaba. LeT reiterated its aim to introduce an Islamic state in South Asia and to "liberate" Muslims residing in Indian Kashmir. The attacks which saw 166 people killed, including 28 foreign nationals from across 10 countries and over 600 non-fatal injuries, drew widespread global condemnation
On 29 November, India's National Security Guards (NSG) conducted 'Operation Black Tornado' to flush out the remaining attackers at the Taj Hotel, ending all fighting. Only one attacker survived, who was hanged in jail at a later date.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula Formed
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula became a formal militant Islamist organisation in early 2009, stating its subordination to al-Qaeda and being primarily active in Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
Considered the most active and dangerous branch of al-Qaeda by the US State Department, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has carried out numerous terrorist attacks against Western targets, more recently including the Charlie Hebdo shooting of 2015. The organisation also took control of Yemeni territory and established an emirate during the 2011 Yemeni Revolution.
2009-Present Phase of Somali Civil War
Following a power-sharing deal between the previous governing forces and more moderate Islamists from the Islamic Courts Union, the previous phase of the Somali Civil War from 2006-2009 was brought to an end, with the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops and national elections.
However, more hard-line Islamist factions broke off from the Islamic Courts Union, leading to splinter groups such as al-Shabaab, which have since affiliated with al-Qaeda in the 2009-present phase of the war, which is concentrated in southern Somalia, and has led to the displacement of thousands of people.
Civil war between new government forces (including the moderate Islamists) and al-Qaeda continued and is still ongoing today, though the Somali government has taken control of much of central and southern Somalia from the insurgents.
Operation Name Change
In March 2009 The US Department of Defense officially changed the name of operations from "Global War on Terror” to “Overseas Contingency Operation” (OCO), with the Obama administration requesting that Pentagon staff avoid the use of the former term, however Basic objectives of the Bush administration's "War on Terror", such as targeting al Qaeda and building international counterterrorism alliances, remained in place.
Islamist insurgency in the North Caucasus Begins
On 16th April 2009, a low-level, prolonged conflict between the Islamist Caucasus Emirate and Russian government forces began, following the end of the decade-long Second Chechen War on the same day.
The insurgency is a direct result of the two post-Soviet wars fought between Chechnya and Russia and has been marked by conflict in the North Caucasus region, particularly Chechnya, as the insurgents seek independence from Russia and the establishment of an Islamic emirate. Although it has become relatively dormant in recent years, sporadic violence associated with the insurgency continues today, with militants in the insurgency being associated with the Caucasus Emirate as well as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Last British Combat Troops Leave Iraq
Most British troops withdrew from Iraq on 30th April 2009. A smaller contingent of troops, mainly from the Royal Navy remained until full withdrawal on 22nd May 2011 as part of the Iraqi Training and Advisory Mission.
Operation Telic – the codename under which all of the United Kingdom’s military operations in Iraq were conducted, was one of the largest deployment of British forces since World War II (46,000 troops deployed at onset) and the total cost of the war stood at 9.24 billion GBP in 2010.
Boko Haram Insurgency Begins
Boko Haram, a Jihadist rebel group, began its armed insurgency on 26th July 2009 by rebelling against the government of Nigeria, in response to an investigation launched by the government into the group’s activities amid rumours that members were arming themselves; after having conducted its operations more or less peacefully up until this point.
After several arrests were made in Bauchi, deadly clashes began with the Nigerian forces, which resulted in an estimated 700 deaths. The group’s founder and leader Mohammed Yusuf was killed during this time whilst in police custody. Abubaker Shekau was named his successor.
The group base their operations in the predominantly-Muslim northern states of the country, controlling territory in the north-east and carrying out numerous terrorist attacks against Christians in the south.
The group have more recently become infamous for the 2014 Chibok kidnapping, in which Boko Haram militants abducted 276 female students from a college in Chibok. Many of the girls were sold into forced marriages, and the Twitter hashtag #BringBackOurGirls began as a worldwide campaign for efforts to achieve the girls’ release.
Fort Hood Shootings
On 5th November 2009, a mass shooting took place at Fort Hood - a US military training base in Texas, when Nidal Hasan, a US Army major and psychiatrist, shot 13 people dead and injured over 30 others, in what became the deadliest mass shooting at an American military base.
Hasan entered the Soldier Readiness Processing Center, where personnel receive routine medical treatment immediately prior to and on return from deployment, at 1.43pm local time. Shortly after Hasan started spraying bullets at soldiers, before taking aim at individuals, in what was described as constant shooting and lasted around 10 minutes. It was reported that Hasan targeted soldiers in uniform, passing up several opportunities to shoot civilians. In the aftermath 146 spent shell casings were recovered from inside the building, and another 68 outside.
Allegedly, Hasan had become radicalised in the years leading up to the shooting, expressing a desire to leave the US Army due to its involvement in wars against Muslim countries. After the attack, he cited his extremist Islamist beliefs as his main motive, with speculation that his imminent deployment to Afghanistan and grievance against the US Army stemming from his ideological beliefs as other motives.
During the assault Hasan was shot and as a result paralysed from the waist down. He was charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder – military prosecutors argued that charges of terrorism were not possible within the military justice system – and was sentenced to death.
Al-Shabaab Align with al-Qaeda
On February 2nd 2010, Somalia-based militant group, al-Shabaab announced for the first time that it had aligned with al-Qaeda’s global terror network, further complicating peace keeping efforts in Mogadishu.
The group issued a statement in both Arabic and Somali claiming it would connect the Horn of Africa jihad to the one led by al-Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden.
Al-Qaeda had long been receptive to al-Shabaab’s overtures toward the global terror network, however before the announcement al-Shabaab’s links were believed to be purely ideological.
Farah Abdi Warsameh/AP
Leaders of ISI Killed in Iraq
On 18th April 2010, a joint military operation by US and Iraqi government forces on a safehouse in northern Iraq, led to Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the leader of Islamic State of Iraq, being killed, alongside the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu-Hamzah al-Muhajir. The attack was carried out by ground forces that surrounded the house and also through the use of missiles. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced the killings at a news conference in Baghdad, showing photographs of the corpses.
Al-Baghdadi’s son was also amongst those who were killed and 16 others were arrested.
Then US Vice President, Joe Biden, called the killings ‘potentially devastating’ blows to the terror network.
Battle of Mogadishu Begins
On 23rd August 2010, The Battle of Mogadishu began when al-Shabaab insurgents attacked Somali and African Union military positions in the Somali capital of Mogadishu.
The battle lasted for just under a year, and was eventually won by government forces and resulted in the withdrawal of al-Shabaab, who continued to carry out terrorist attacks via a guerrilla warfare approach. Over 1,000 al-Shabaab militants were killed and 2,000 injured, with over 600 Somali and African Union soldiers killed in action. Taking place in one of the most densely populated regions of the country, the battle resulted in heavy civilian casualties also, with over 2,000 dead and 6,000+ wounded.
Arab Spring Protests
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. Countries that particiatped in demonstrations included Tunisisa, Egpyt, Libya, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, Morocco, Iraq, Algeria, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Sudan - as well as others.
The term 'Arab Spring' was an allusion to the revolutions of 1848, which are sometimes referred to as the 'Springtime of Nations'. The protests have also been referred to as the 'Arab Revolutions'.
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.
Sinai Insurgency Begins
The Sinai insurgency began after the Egyptian revolution in 2011 in which former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was overthrown, with Islamist militants attacking Egyptian civilians and security forces.
After the onset of the Arab Spring in which numerous Arab countries experienced protests and the overthrow of autocratic regimes in favour of greater democracy, insurgents took advantage of the resultant instability in Egypt, launching numerous attacks on government forces. The insurgency continues today, with a recent terrorist attack in November 2017 on a mosque in the north-east of the country resulting in over 300 deaths and 100+ injured. The waves of military and security campaigns have had little to no success in ending the crisis and it's the first time in Egypt's modern history that an organised non-state actor acquires that level of military skill and resources.
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, all of which took 38 minutes in total. After confirming his identity, Bin Laden's body was buried at sea.
Al-Qaeda confirmed the death on May 6 with posts made on militant websites, vowing to avenge the killing. Other Pakistani militant groups, including the Tehrik-i-Taliban, vowed retaliation against the U.S. and against Pakistan for not preventing the operation.
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.
Anwar al-Awlaki Killed
On 30th September 2011, Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni-American Islamist militant and preacher originally born in New Mexico in the US, was killed in a US drone strike in Yemen, becoming the first US citizen to be purposely targeted by such a strike without rights of due process. The strike was carried out by Joint Special Operations Command, under the direction of the CIA.
After moving back to Yemen as a child, al-Awlaki attended university in the United States, becoming radicalised during and shortly after this period of time. Al-Awlaki subsequently became a central figure in planning key al-Qaeda operations and attacks, and radicalising terrorists, reportedly having preached to three of the 9/11 hijackers. He was also known for publicising extremist content and videos online in a more widespread attempt to radicalise others, acting as an ideological figurehead for al-Qaeda and using his English proficiency to attract non-Arabic speaking followers.
Khaled Abdullah Ali Al Mahdi/Reuters
US Withdrawal from Iraq
On 18th December 2011, the final US troops were withdrawn from Iraq under President Obama, in accordance with an agreement signed by President Bush with the Iraqi government in 2008. Obama stated that the United States was leaving behind a “sovereign, stable and self-reliant” Iraq.
Although it took the US-led coalition just over 2 months to complete the invasion, the subsequent insurgency (largely Islamist) against the occupying forces and post-invasion Iraqi government meant the war was protracted until 2011.
Conflict in Iraq after the war continues to the present day, with the rise and decline of ISIS being accompanied by further US and UK involvement in the region, largely through bombing campaigns.
On 16th January 2012, Islamist insurgent groups began an armed conflict against the Malian government, seeking independence for northern Mali and the imposition of strict Islamist law upon the region.
By March 2012 President Amadou Toumani Toure was ousted in a coup. Mutinous soldiers then took control and suspended the Constitution of Mali. Consequently Mali’s 3 largest northern cities fell to rebels due to the instability in the country.
On 5th April 2012 after the capture of the town of Douentza, independence for northern Mali was proclaimed from the rest of the country, and was subsequently named Azawad.
The government of Mali asked for foreign help to re-take the north and in January 2013 the French military began operations against the Islamists, alongside forces from other African Union states. In less than a month the northern territory had been recaptured by the Malian military.
The conflict officially ended with the signing of a peace accord in the capital on 15th April 2015, however fighting is still ongoing, even though French forces are scheduled for withdrawal.
Both al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Boko Haram have been involved in the conflict fighting alongside local insurgent groups.
On 11th September 2012, a co-ordinated attack took place against two US government facilities; the US’ main diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya and a motor attack on the CIA annex, approximately 1 mile away.
The first attack on the diplomatic compound took place on the evening of September 11th 2012 local time, the 11th anniversary of 9/11, with the motor attack in the early hours of the following day. The attacks claimed the lives of four Americans, including the US ambassador to Libya, J Christopher Stevens; the first US ambassador killed in the line of duty since 1979, US Foreign Service Information Management officer, Sean Smith and two CIA contractors. 4 Americans and 7 Libyans were also injured.
The Islamist militant group Ansar al-Sharia claimed responsibility, who were closely allied with al-Qaeda. The attacks took place against a background of protests rioting outside US embassies in Middle Eastern countries including Egypt and Libya, in response to an anti-Islamic short film released by an Egyptian-born US producer. Many Libyans condemned the attacks, taking to the streets in solidarity with the US and protesting Ansar al-Sharia’s activities in the country.
President Obama and Secretary Clinton honor the Benghazi attack victims at the Transfer of Remains Ceremony
ISIS/ISIL is Formed
In April 2013, the leader of Islamic State in Iraq (ISI), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi released a series of audiotapes in which he announced that the now popular Jabhat al-Nusra (JaN) or al-Nusra Front in Syria had been founded and financed by ISI. Baghdadi announced that the two groups were merging to become the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Abu Mohammad al-Julani, the leader and founder of JaN and Aymen al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's replacement at the top of al-Qaeda Central, both publicly rejected the merger, stating that they had not been consulted and nothing agreed.
Throughout 2013 al-Qaeda leadership made several public and private rulings against the merger which were publicly rejected by Baghdadi, causing a major schism in international Jihadism. Zawahiri ordered that JaN lead operations in Syria while Baghdadi's group remain in Iraq. A defiant Baghdadi, bolstered by a campaign to attack Iraq's prison system freeing hundreds of veteran Jihadists began increasing the group's presence in Syria.
By the end of 2013, ISIS had captured large swathes of territory in Syria, including Raqqa and parts of Aleppo. ISIS has been extremely well-funded through oil revenues and taxes gained from captured territory, ransom demands and alleged state backing by Gulf states including Saudi Arabia. It has been unique among Islamist terrorist groups in its ability to run its version of a caliphate, or fundamentalist Islamist state, in its captured territories. The group has since lost the vast majority of its territory in Iraq and Syria, however, and has resorted to continued terrorist attacks.
Westgate Mall Attack
On Saturday 21st September 2013, unidentified gunmen attacked Westgate shopping mall, the most expensive shopping centre in Nairobi, Kenya, resulting in fighting with armed police which continued over 48 hours.
The attack resulted in at least 67 deaths, and more than 175 people were reportedly wounded in the mass shooting. The extremist Islamist group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the incident, which it characterised as retribution for the Kenyan military's deployment in the group's home country of Somalia.
Many media outlets also suspected the insurgent group's involvement in the attack based on earlier reprisal warnings it had issued in the wake of Operation Linda Nchi from 2011 to 2012.
TTP Leader Killed
On 1st November 2013, a US drone strike killed Hakimullah Mehsud, the head of the Pakistan Taliban in the North Warizastan region bodering Afghanistan, when missiles struck the vehicle he was travelling in. Mehsud at the time had a $5 million bounty on his head set by the FBI. Security officials said that he was killed along with 3 others, including his bodyguard and driver.
Mehsud’s death at the time was the latest in a series of setbacks for the Pakistani Taliban.
Mullah Fazlullah was named his successor in the days following the strike.
Al-Qaeda Cuts Ties with ISIS
In February 2014 al-Qaeda cut all ties with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, by formally disassociating itself with its onetime affiliate via a statement, in an unprecedented move. The repudiation meant that al-Qaeda would no longer have representation in Iraq.
Going back to the first meeting between Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the founder of the organisation which would become ISIS, and Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, there had always been significant differences between the two men and their organisations.
Current al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, shared the sentiments of his predecessor as he believed ISIS a liability to the al-Qaeda brand, and too extreme even for them. Zawahiri also condemned the infighting amongst rebels in Syria.
It was Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of al-Qaeda’s branch in Iraq that spread the group’s influence into Syria, creating ISIS and trying to force a merger with the Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s Syria branch. The move defied the orders from Zawahiri.
The disavowal was the culmination of years of difference, as well as symptomatic of the waning influence of al-Qaeda over the international Jihadist movement, particularly in the wake of Osama bin Laden's death.