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Al-Qaeda and ISIL Relations

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ISIL--Al-Qaeda relations
Map indicating locations of Iraq and Afghanistan


Diplomatic mission
Islamic State of Iraq and SyriaAl-Qaeda
Abu Musab al-ZarqawiOsama bin Laden

Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) are two globally termed terrorist organisations in the 21st century. ISIL was initiated back in 2004 [1]. ISIL is officially known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and ISIS for short [2]. The group is also known as Daesh in the Arabic Language [3]. The detailed name for the group in Arabic is Al-Dawla Al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham or the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham [2]. ISIS claims to follow the hybrid Islamic ideology of Sunni Islam and Salafist Jihadism [4]. ISIS came in control of Fallujah, Mosul and Tikrit in Iraq in 2014 [1] and in the same year, ISIS proclaimed itself as the only Islamic Caliphate all over the world [5]. Caliphate in this context means political and religious area ruled by a leader also known as a Caliph [1]. Al-Qaeda means “the Base” in Arabic [6]. Al-Qaeda came into formation back when the Soviet Union went on to invade Afghanistan in the late 1970s [6]. Between 1979 and 1989 during the time of the Soviet-Afghan war in the Afghanistan region, Muslim fighters better known as Mujahideens waged Jihad war against the invaders after receiving support from the Soviet government [6]. Al-Qaeda is responsible for many major terrorist attacks including the 9/11 and is responsible for killing over three thousand individuals globally including children [6]. Al-Qaeda follows the same ideology as ISIS, fundamentalist Sunni Islam [7]. The said organisations have been recognised under Islamist extremism and declared as major terrorist groups by the United Nations Security Council, European Union and several other International Security Councils.


Flag of Jihad, the flag used by ISIS

See also: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden

ISIS was founded by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2004 [8]. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was a journalist of Jordanian background [9]. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi worked with Osama bin Laden the founder of Al-Qaeda for a long time before starting his own organisation and self proclaimed Islamic State, ISIS [1]. The first ISIS Caliphate, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was appointed in 2014. After becoming the Caliphate, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi became known as "Khalifa Ibrahim" [5]. He ruled the office until he was killed in October 2019.The current and second ISIS Caliphate is Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi who preceded Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in October 2019 after his death [10]. Al-Qaeda was formed by Osama bin Laden in 1988 [11]. During the 1979 to 1989 Soviet-Afghan war period, when the Mujahideen waged war, Osama bin Laden was among them and also provided the Mujahideen fighters with alms [6]. Osama bin Laden was a Millionaire construction magnate [6]. Osama bin Laden faced exile from Saudi Arabia and soon lost his Saudi citizenship in 1994 [6]. Following that, Osama bin Laden moved to Sudan from Afghanistan [6]. Due to his attacks in Sudan, Sudan government expelled Osama bin Laden in 1996, when he returned to Afghanistan since he had protection from the Taliban [6]. Osama bin Laden sustained his position until 2011 when he died of a gunshot wound. After Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri took charge of the leadership and is the leader of Al-Qaeda as of present [12].

Purpose and Strategy[edit]

See also: Jihad

ISIS and Al-Qaeda have similar purpose and strategy when it comes to why both the organisations were formed. The two organisations follow the ideology of Wahhabism and Salafist Jihadism. However, the organisations have different take on enemies and other fundamental factors [13]. Al-Qaeda declared a religious, sacred war on the United States of America and Jewish community along with their allies [6]. Al-Qaeda's main purpose is to purify the corruption in the Middle East and reestablish the Islamic values Al-Qaeda believes to be true [13]. In order to do this, Al-Qaeda's main strategy is to fight with the United States [13]. Al-Qaeda claims that the United States is the reason for the problems in the Middle East, hence, it wants to terrorise the United States enough that it stops the support it provides to the Middle Eastern States [13]. If the United States stops supporting the Middle Eastern States, it will become an easier target for Al-Qaeda to attack the states from within [13]. However, ISIS has a different take on this. ISIS believes that the United States is a secondary enemy in the region and the primary target should be to cleanse the Islamic community from within by killing the other Islamic sects, such as the Shia sect and other minorities [13]. Since ISIS claims itself to be the only Islamic Caliphate in the world, it also wants to attack the other Jihadist terrorist organisations which are supposedly ISIS's rivals [13]. ISIS also wants to spread Islam and implement Shariah Law which is a religious law with strict codes [1]. While the organisations have different and various enemies within and outside the region, they serve the same aim, which is to spread the self-interpreted Islam.

Human Rights Violation[edit]

See also: 9/11

ISIS and Al-Qaeda are responsible for major human rights violating attacks. Al-Qaeda was responsible for the attacks of September 11, also known as 9/11. Nineteen Al-Qaeda militants hijacked four airplanes and were responsible for attacking targets in the United States through suicide attacks [14]. Two airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York, one airplane attacked the Pentagon outside Washington and the last airplane hit a field located in Shanksville, Pennsylvania [14]. The suicide attacks were responsible for killing almost three thousand people [14]. In 2015, ISIS carried out a suicide attack in Sanaa mosque located in Yemen [15]. Al-Qaeda was also responsible as confirmed by Al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden for attacking two black hawk helicopters in the midst of Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia in 1993 [6]. Al-Qaeda also executed a car bombing which destroyed the United States of America's leased military buildings in Saudi Arabia in 1995 [6]. ISIS fighters were responsible for attacking a northern town located in Iraq which accommodated Yazidis mostly, which is a religious minority group [1]. In the attack, ISIS fighters killed hundreds of individuals, sold women as slaves, forced Yazidis to convert from their religion and also lead the Yazidis in majority to flee from their homes [1]. Two ISIS suicide bombers also attacked the Shia mosque during the midday prayer which killed at least 142 individuals [16]. In November 2015, ISIS carried out attacks on the streets Paris, in the form of bombing and shooting which killed 130 individuals [1]. ISIS and al-Qaeda violates Human rights in the similar way, by carrying out bombings and killings mostly in the form of suicide attacks.

International Reaction[edit]

ISIS and Al-Qaeda have already spread fear internationally through the bombings and killings, but they also use social media to spread fear. Al-Qaeda was the first terrorist organisation to use the internet [17]. Al-Qaeda's website also included a section which motivated individuals to join Al-Qaeda in its mission to spread the self-proclaimed Islam [17]. This spread an International fear of young teenage individuals joining the organisation. This strategy was very successful as five American students in Pakistan were arrested for supposedly joining the terrorist group [17]. ISIS has used social media platforms to upload videos and life streams of executing Western hostages and beheading individuals brutally [18]. The videos and pictures are accessed by a large number of individuals including children and are responsible for terrorising individuals [19]. In August 2014, ISIS posted its first video displaying violence when it uploaded the beheading of United States of America Journalist, James Foley on YouTube [1]. Following that, a month after, ISIS uploaded another video of beheading United States of America Journalist, Steven Sotloff [1]. Also, in February 2015, ISIS uploaded a video of burning Jordanian Pilot, Moath al-Kasasbeh alive [1]. ISIS uploaded videos and photos in English language indicating they want Western audiences to see and understand what is going on [18]. ISIS and Al-Qaeda both had similar content on the internet spreading International terror and fear.


See also: Zakaat

ISIL and Al-qaeda, both, have different sources of funding through which they run their operations. ISIS has been labeled as the richest terrorist organisation in the world [1]. It is said that the terrorist organisation made two billion US dollars in solely the year 2014, also the year it declared Caliphate [1]. One of the major sources is through charities from wealthy individuals [20]. The main way ISIS gets its funding is through capturing oil refineries, banks and other assets within its occupied territories [1]. Another way ISIS gains the funding is through receiving ransom for kidnapping, extortion, taxes, stolen artefacts, help from foreign fighters and donations [1]. Al-Qaeda as well as ISIS get a large sum of their funding through donations [20]. There are a lot of charities in the Islamic religion, and only a few support the terrorist organisations but even that charities give huge sums to the organisations [20]. They also get charities from influential state led and non-state led organisations. Since the religion of Islam preaches charity as a pious act, it is thus not difficult to get support from individuals in the name of religion [20]. Moreover, the other sources of financing are via drug trade [20]. According to the United States of America, the poppy crops grown in Afghanistan region account for eighty six percent of world's supply of Opium [20]. It is believed that terrorist organisations like Al-Qaeda gain highly through polly crops [20]. Furthermore, these organisations also run front companies with legitimate businesses, which are their source of income [20]. These businesses are said to include agriculture, construction and livestock [20]. According to a New York Times Report of 2001, Osama bin Laden of Al-Qaeda owned and operated a string branches of honey shops all over the Middle East and Pakistan [20].


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 Editors, History com. "ISIS". HISTORY. Retrieved 2020-02-12.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "ISIS oe ISIL? The debate over what to call Iraq's terror group". Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  3. "One More Name for Islamic State: Daesh". Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  4. "Why ISIS is a threat to Saudi Arabia: Wahhabism's deferred promise". Archived from the original on 2014-08-24. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  5. 5.0 5.1 "ISIS announces formation of Caliphate, rebrands as 'Islamic State'". Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 Editors, History com. "Al Qaeda: Facts About the Terrorist Network and Its History of Attacks". HISTORY. Retrieved 2020-02-12.
  7. "Al Qaeda v ISIS: Ideology & Strategy | Wilson Center". www.wilsoncenter.org. Retrieved 2020-02-12.
  8. Kemp, Ted (2016-08-11). "Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is the man who founded ISIS". CNBC. Retrieved 2020-02-12.
  9. Hassan, Hassan (2018-11-30). "The True Origins of ISIS". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2020-02-12.
  10. "Islamic State Group Names Successor to Al-Baghdadi". NBC Los Angeles. Retrieved 2020-02-12.
  11. "Osama bin Laden | Biography, al-Qaeda, Terrorist Attacks, & Facts". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2020-02-12.
  12. "Zawahiri 'becomes al-Qaeda chief'". BBC News. 2011-06-16. Retrieved 2020-02-12.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 13.6 Byman, Daniel L. (April 29, 2015). "Comparing Al Qaeda and ISIS: Different goals, different targets". Brookings. Retrieved 2020-02-12.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Editors, History com. "9/11 Attacks". HISTORY. Retrieved 2020-02-12.
  15. "Bombs 'kill at least 20' in Yemen". BBC News. 2015-09-02. Retrieved 2020-02-12.
  16. "IS claims Sanaa mosque bombings, killing at least 142". Middle East Eye édition française (in français). Retrieved 2020-02-12.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Jenkins, Brian Michael (2011). "Is Al Qaeda's Internet Strategy Working?". www.rand.org. Retrieved 2020-02-12.
  18. 18.0 18.1 "A Short History Of ISIS Propaganda Videos". HuffPost. 2015-03-11. Retrieved 2020-02-12.
  19. Leetaru, Kalev. "Can We Finally Stop Terrorists From Exploiting Social Media?". Forbes. Retrieved 2020-02-12.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 20.5 20.6 20.7 20.8 20.9 "Tracking Down Terrorist Financing". Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved 2020-02-12.

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