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Terrorists and Their Supporters

This section of Discover The Networks examines the worldviews, objectives, and activities of individuals who have helped to plan, finance, or carry out terrorist attacks in the United States and elsewhere around the world. Many of the terrorists profiled here are Muslims who have pursued their deadly agendas in the name of their faith. Others are non-Islamic Americans whose deeds have been rooted not in religion but in a radical vision that seeks to destroy Western society and replace it with a socialist or communist utopia.

In the mid-1980s the infamous founder of al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, began to establish training camps in Afghanistan for the mujahedeen, or "freedom fighters," who were waging a jihad, or Islamic "holy war," to repel Soviet invaders from their country. After the Afghan-Soviet war was over, bin Laden set his sights on other targets worldwide. Using the $300 million family fortune he had inherited, the al Qaeda kingpin attracted thousands of recruits from Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Egypt, Yemen, Pakistan and Sudan.

Bin Laden has been directly linked to the August 7, 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania -- attacks that killed a combined 224 people. He was also a mastermind of the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole near Yemen, killing 17 American sailors. Moreover, he has been implicated in the murders of Western tourists by militant Islamic groups in Egypt; bombings in France by extremist Algerian Muslims; the 1992 bombing of a hotel in Yemen; the 1995 detonation of a car bomb in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; a 1995 truck bomb in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. servicemen; and the 1995 assassination attempt on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Bin Laden also maintained a safe-house in Pakistan for Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, the convicted mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and he sheltered Omar Abdel Rahman, who was likewise convicted for his role in that bombing. Most famously, bin Laden authorized the September 11, 2001 al Qaeda airplane hijackings leading to the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, killing some 3,000 people.

Among the most infamous terrorists of the 20th century was the late Yasser Arafat, the founding father of Palestinian nationalism. The nationalist movement that Arafat created remains unique in human history as the only one whose defining paradigm is terrorism, and whose raison d’etre is the destruction of a sovereign state and the decimation of its Jewish population.
 Arafat romanticized the murder of innocent civilians, turning terrorism into a populist revolutionary tool. As head of the Palestinian Authority, he transformed the schools of the West Bank and Gaza into centers of Jew-hatred designed to imbue the nation’s children with the ambition to murder as many Jews as they could.

One of the more notorious “home-grown” American terrorists of the 20th century was Bill Ayers, a 1960s leader of Weatherman (later known as the Weather Underground, or WU), a Marxist-Leninist splinter faction of Students for a Democratic Society. Characterizing WU as “an American Red Army,” Ayers summed up his organization's ideology as follows: “Kill all the rich people. Break up their cars and apartments. Bring the revolution home, Kill your parents.”

In his 2001 book Fugitive Days, Ayers recounts his life as a Sixties radical and boasts that he “participated in the bombings of New York City Police Headquarters in 1970, of the Capitol building in 1971, and the Pentagon in 1972.” All told, Ayers and WU were responsible for 30 bombings aimed at destroying the defense and security infrastructures of the U.S.  "I don't regret setting bombs," said Ayers in 2001, "I feel we didn't do enough."
 In an interview that same year, Ayers expressed his enduring hatred for the United States: “What a country. It makes me want to puke.”

These emotions are shared by fellow WU leader Bernardine Dohrn, who today is Ayers' wife. At a 1969 “War Council” in Flint, Michigan, Dohrn gave her most memorable and notorious speech to her followers. Holding her fingers in what became the Weatherman “fork salute,” she said of the bloody murders recently committed by the Manson Family in which the pregnant actress Sharon Tate and several others had been brutally stabbed to death: “Dig it! First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them. They even shoved a fork into the victim’s stomach! Wild!”  The “War Council” ended with a formal declaration of war against “AmeriKKKa,” always spelled with three K’s to signify the United States' allegedly ineradicable white racism.

These are just a few of the many terrorists who are profiled in Discover The Networks.

The RESOURCES column on the right side of this page contains a link to the section where profiles of terrorists and their supporters can be found. It also contains links to articles, essays, books, and videos that explore such topics as:

  • radical Islamist calls for genocide against infidels;
  • evidence refuting the notion that the root causes of terrorism include poverty, material deprivation, and lack of education;
  • the psychological roots of Islamic terrorism; and
  • how a lack of immigration-law enforcement leads to a rise in the incidence of illegal border-crossing, which in turn makes it easier for aspiring terrorists to enter the United States.  

Individual Profiles

Group Profiles



                                SEE ALSO

* Terrorism

* Terrorist Groups

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