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Al Qaeda

Al Qaeda

Excerpt from "The Al Qaeda Training Manual"
Reprinted from Terrorism: Documents of International and Local Control, Volume 39, U.S. Perspectives, edited by James Walsh
Published in 2003

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the United States was involved in a long struggle to protect the nation's homeland and American interests abroad from terrorism. The threat of terrorism was an ever-changing enemy involving America in a new kind of war. The enemy was not a specific government of a specific country. Terrorist threats take many forms and aim at many different targets. The enemy has many hiding places and, more often than not, is invisible. Terrorist threats have only one common element, they aim at America's "vulnerabilities," weaknesses they find in U.S. defenses or in U.S. preparedness.

Since 9/11 the U.S. government's top priority has been the prevention of terrorist attacks. The United States has had to plan defenses for many types of terrorist methods—bombings, hostage taking, assassinations, and even cyber attacks. The U.S. government treats all terrorist threats or action as criminal activity.

"Islamic governments have never and will never be established through peaceful solutions. . . . They are established as they [always] have been by pen and gun, by word and bullet."

The targets are as varied as the methods—individuals, structural facilities of businesses and government, airlines, railroads,
subways, seaports, power generation systems, large gatherings at entertainment and sports venues, and computer networks. Threats or actual attacks are meant to instill fear in not only those directly involved but also in all who learn about them through media coverage. Terrorist actions are planned for maximum surprise, shock, and destruction. The goal is to so alarm individuals, groups, or governments that they give into terrorists demands.

Al Qaeda, the Islamic terrorist group responsible for 9/11, remains America's most serious threat despite the disruption of its central base in Afghanistan by U.S. troops. The following excerpt comes from "The Al Qaeda Training Manual." British law enforcement discovered the training manual when searching a home in Manchester, England.

With great detail, clear instructions, and extensive warnings about not being discovered, the manual teaches how to operate as an al Qaeda terrorist. Included in the manual are such topics as the principles of military organization; qualifications for members; counterfeit currency and forged documents; hiding places; training; weapons; security plans; and espionage.

The thorough nature of the manual and its attention to detail illustrate how highly organized al Qaeda had become. It also reveals the determination of terrorist groups to further their cause by violent criminal acts.

Things to remember while reading excerpts from "The Al Qaeda Training Manual":

  • The United States government considers radical Islamic religious terrorism the most serious form of all terrorism worldwide.
  • The major or overall theme of the manual is that every movement and action of an al Qaeda operative must be done only after careful planning and in total secrecy.
  • The well written manual reflects the organizational capabilities of the terrorist group to plan and carry out its terrorist acts.

Excerpt from "The Al Qaeda Training Manual"

Islamic governments have never and will never be established through peaceful solutions and cooperative councils. They are established as they [always] have been by pen and gun by word and bullet. . . .

The young men returning to Allah realized that Islam is not just performing rituals but a complete system: Religion and government,worship and Jihad [holy war], ethics and dealing with people, and the Koran and sword. The bitter situation that the nation has reached is a result of its divergence from Allah's course and His righteous law for all places and times. That [bitter situation] came about as a result of its children's love for the world, their loathing of death, and their abandonment of Jihad [holy war]. . . .

These young men realized that an Islamic government would never be established except by the bomb and rifle. Islam does not coincide or make a truce with unbelief but rather confronts it.

The confrontation that Islam calls for with these godless and apostate regimes, does not know Socratic debates, Platonic ideals nor Aristotelian diplomacy . But it knows the dialogue of bullets, the ideals of assassination, bombing, and destruction, and the diplomacy of the cannon and machine-gun.

The young came to prepare themselves for Jihad [holy war], commanded by the majestic Allah's order in the holy Koran. . . .

I present this humble effort to these young Moslem men who are pure, believing, and fighting for the cause of Allah. It is my contribution toward paving the road that leads to majestic Allah and establishes a caliphate according to the prophecy. . . .


Principles of Military Organization:

Military Organization has three main principles without which it cannot be established:

1. Military Organization commander and advisory council

2. The soldiers (individual members)

3. A clearly defined strategy

Military Organization Requirements:

The Military Organization dictates a number of requirements to assist it in confrontation and endurance. These are:

1. Forged documents and counterfeit currency

2. Apartments and hiding places

3. Communication means

4. Transportation means

5. Information

6. Arms and ammunition

7. Transport

Missions Required of the Military Organization:

The main mission for which the Military Organization is responsible is:

The overthrow of the godless regimes and their replacement with an Islamic regime. Other missions consist of the following:

1.Gathering information about the enemy, the land, the installations, and the neighbors.

2. Kidnapping enemy personnel, documents, secrets, and arms.

3. Assassinating enemy personnel as well as foreign tourists.

4. Freeing the brothers who are captured by the enemy.

5. Spreading rumors and writing statements that instigate people against the enemy.

6. Blasting and destroying the places of amusement, immorality, and sin. . . .

7. Blasting and destroying the embassies and attacking vital economic centers.

Blasting and destroying bridges leading into and out of the cities. . . .


Necessary Qualifications for the Organization's members


The member of the Organization must be Moslem . How can an unbeliever, someone from a revealed religion [Christian, Jew], a secular person, a communist , etc. protect Islam and Moslems and defend their goals and secrets when he does not believe in that religion [Islam]? The Israeli Army requires that a fighter be of the Jewish religion. Likewise, the command leadership in the Afghan and Russian armies requires anyone with an officer's position to be a member of the communist party.

2—Commitment to the Organization's Ideology :

This commitment frees the Organization's members from conceptional problems.


The requirements of military work are numerous, and a minor cannot perform them. The nature of hard and continuous work in dangerous conditions requires a great deal of psychological, mental, and intellectual fitness, which are not usually found in a minor. . . .


He [the member] has to be willing to do the work and undergo martyrdom for the purpose of achieving the goal and establishing the religion of majestic Allah on earth.

5—Listening and Obedience:

In the military, this is known today as discipline. It is expressed by how the member obeys the orders given to him. That is what our religion urges. . . .

6—Keeping Secrets and Concealing Information

[This secrecy should be used] even with the closest people, for deceiving the enemies is not easy. . . .

7—Free of Illness. . . .


[The member] should have plenty of patience for [enduring] afflictions if he is overcome by the enemies. He should not abandon this great path and sell himself and his religion to the enemies for his freedom. He should be patient in performing the work, even if it lasts a long time.

9—Tranquility and "Unflappability"

[The member] should have a calm personality that allows him to endure psychological traumas such as those involving bloodshed, murder, arrest, imprisonment, and reverse psychological traumas such as killing one or all of his Organization's comrades. [He should be able] to carry out the work.

10—Intelligence and Insight. . . .

11—Caution and Prudence . . . .

12—Truthfulness and Counsel . . . .

13—Ability to Observe and Analyze. . . .

14—Ability to Act, Chan ge Positions and Conceal Oneself. . . .


Definition of Bases

These are apartments, hiding places, command centers, etc. in which secret operations are executed against the enemy.

These bases may be in cities, and are [then] called homes or apartments. They may be in mountainous, harsh terrain far from the enemy, and are [then] called hiding places or bases.

During the initial stages, the Military Organization usually uses apartments in cities as places for launching assigned missions, such as collecting information, observing members of the ruling regime, etc.

Hiding places and bases in mountains and harsh terrain are used at later stages, from which Jihad [holy war] groups are dispatched toexecute assassination operations of enemy individuals, bomb their centers, and capture their weapons. In some Arab countries such as Egypt, where there are no mountains or harsh terrain, all stages of Jihad work would take place in cities. . . .

Security Precautions Related to Apartments:

1. Choosing the apartment carefully as far as the location, the size for the work necessary (meetings, storage, arms, fugitives, work preparation).

2. It is preferable to rent apartments on the ground floor to facilitate escape and digging of trenches.

3. Preparing secret locations in the apartment for securing documents, records, arms, and other important items.

4. Preparing ways of vacating the apartment in case of a surprise attack (stands, wooden ladders).

5. Under no circumstances should anyone know about the apartment except those who use it.

6. Providing the necessary cover for the people who frequent the apartment (students, workers, employees, etc.)

7. Avoiding seclusion and isolation from the population and refraining from going to the apartment at suspicious times.

8. It is preferable to rent these apartments using false names, appropriate cover, and non-Moslem appearance. . . .

11. Avoiding police stations and government buildings. Apartments should not be rented near those places. . . .

13. It is preferable to rent apartments in newly developed areas where people do not know one another. Usually, in older quarters people know one another and strangers are easily identified, especially since these quarters have many informers. . . .

15. Agreement among those living in the apartment on special ways of knocking on the door and special signs prior to entry into the building's main gate to indicate to those who wish to enter that the place is safe and not being monitored. Such signs include hanging out a towel, opening a curtain, placing a cushion in a special way, etc.

16. If there is a telephone in the apartment, calls should be answered in an agreed-upon manner among those who use the apartment. That would prevent mistakes that would, otherwise, lead to revealing the names and nature of the occupants. . . .


First Means: The Telephone:

Because of significant technological advances, security measures for monitoring the telephone and broadcasting equipment have increased. Monitoring may be done by installing a secondary line or wireless broadcasting device on a telephone that relays the calls to a remote location. . . . That is why the Organization takes security measures among its members who use this means of communication (the telephone).

1. Communication should be carried out from public places. One should select telephones that are less suspicious to the security apparatus and are more difficult to monitor. It is preferable to use telephones in booths and on main streets.

2. Conversation should be coded or in general terms so as not to alert the person monitoring [the telephone].

3. Periodically examine the telephone wire and the receiver.

4. Telephone numbers should be memorized and not recorded. If the brother has to write them, he should do so using a code so they do not appear as telephone numbers (figures from a shopping list, etc.).

5. The telephone caller and person called should mention some words or sentences prior to bringing up the intended subject. The brother who is calling may misdial one of the digits and actually call someone else. The person called may claim that the call is for him, and the calling brother may start telling him work-related issues and reveal many things because of a minor error.

6. In telephone conversations about undercover work, the voice should be changed and distorted. . . .

Facsimile and Wireless:

Considering its modest capabilities and the pursuit by the security apparatus of its members and forces, the Islamic Military Organization cannot obtain these devices. In case the Organization is able to obtain them, firm security measures should be taken to secure communication between the members in the country and the command outside. These measures are:

1. The duration of transmission should not exceed five minutes in order to prevent the enemy from pinpointing the device location.

2. The device should be placed in a location with high wireless frequency, such as close to a TV station, embassies, and consulates in order to prevent the enemy from identifying its location.

3. The brother, using the wireless device to contact his command outside the country, should disguise his voice.

4. The time of communication should be carefully specified.

5. The frequency should be changed from time to time.

6. The device should be frequently moved from one location to another.

7. Do not reveal your location to the entity from which you report.

8. The conversation should be in general terms so as not to raise suspicion. . . .


Prior to dealing with weapons, whether buying, transporting, or storing them, it is essential to establish a careful, systematic and firm security plan that deals with all stages. It is necessary to divide that task into stages: First Stage: Prior to Purchase; Second Stage: Purchasing; Third Stage: Transport; Fourth Stage: Storage.

1. Prior to Purchase Stage: It is necessary to take the following measures:

a. In-depth knowledge of the place where weapons will be purchased, together with its entrances and exits.

b. Verifying there are no informants or security personnel at the place where purchasing will take place.

c. The place should be far from police stations and government establishments.

d. Not proceeding to the purchasing place directly by the main road, but on secondary streets.

e. Performing the exercises to detect the surveillance.

f. One's appearance and clothing should be appropriate for the place where purchasing will take place.

g. The purchasing place should not be situated in such a way that the seller and buyer can be seen from another location. To the contrary, the purchasing place should be such that the seller and buyers can see the surrounding area.

h. Determining a suitable cover for being in that place.

i. The place should not be crowded because that would facilitate the police hiding among people, monitoring the arms receiving, and consequently arresting the brother purchasing.

j. In case one of the parties is unable to arrive, it is essential to prearrange an alternative place and time with the seller.

k. Selecting a time suitable for the purchase so that it does not raise suspicion.

l. Prior to purchasing, the seller should be tested to ensure that he is not an agent of the security apparatus.

m. Preparing a place for storage prior to purchasing.

2. The Purchase Stage:

a. Verifying that the weapons are in working condition.

b. Not paying the seller the price for the weapons before viewing, inspecting, and testing them.

c. Not telling the seller about the mission for which the weapons are being purchased.

d. Extreme caution should be used during the purchasing operation in the event of any unnatural behavior by the seller or those around you.

e. Not lengthening the time spent with the seller. It is important to depart immediately after purchasing the weapons.

3. The Transport Stage:

a. Avoid main roads where checkpoints are common.

b. Choose a suitable time for transporting the weapons.

c. Observers should proceed on the road ahead of the transportation vehicle for early warning in case of an emergency.

d. Not proceeding directly to the storage place until after verifying there is no surveillance.

e. During the transport stage, weapons should be hidden in a way that they are inconspicuous and difficult to find.

f. The route for transporting the weapons should be determined very carefully.

g. Verifying the legality of the vehicle, performing its maintenance, checking its gasoline and water levels, etc.

h. Driving the car normally in order to prevent accidents.

4. The Storage Stage:

a. In order to avoid repeated transporting, suitable storage places should be selected. In case the materials are bombs or detonators , they should be protected from extreme heat and humidity.

b. Explosive materials and detonators should be separated and stored apart from each other.

c. Caution should be exercised when putting detonators in the arsenal.

d. Lubricating the weapons and placing them in wooden or plastic crates. The ammunition should be treated likewise.

When selecting an arsenal , consider the following:

1. The arsenal should not be in well-protected areas, or close to parks or public places. . . .

3. The arsenal should not be in an apartment previously used for suspicious activities and often frequented by security personnel.

4. The arsenal should not be a room that is constantly sued and cannot be given up by family members who do not know the nature of the father or husband's work.

5. The apartment selected as an arsenal should be owned by the Organization or rented on a long-term basis.

6. The brother responsible for storage should not visit the arsenal frequently, nor toy with the weapons.

7. The arsenal keeper should record in a book all weapons, explosive materials, and ammunition. That book should be coded and well secured.

8. Only the arsenal keeper and the commander should know the location of the arsenal.

9. It is necessary to prepare alternative arsenals and not leave any leads in the original arsenals to the alternative ones.


Principle of Moslems Spying on their Enemies:

Spying on the enemy is permitted and it may even be a duty in the case of war between Moslems and others. Winning the battle is dependent on knowing the enemy's secrets, movements, and plans.The prophet—Allah bless and keep him—used that method. He would send spies and informants. . . . Since Islam is superior to all human conditions and earthly religions, it permits spying for itself but not for others. . . . The prophet says, "Islam is supreme and there is nothing above it." Islam, therefore, fights so the word of Allah can become supreme. Others fight for worldly gains and lowly and inferior goals.

An Important Question:

How can a Muslim spy live among enemies if he maintains his Islamic characteristics? How can he perform his duties to Allah and not want to appear Muslim?

Concerning the use of clothing and appearance. . . . The [Muslim] man may prefer or even be obligated to look like them , provided his action brings a religious benefit of preaching to them, learning their secrets and informing Muslims, preventing their harm, or some other beneficial goal. . . ."

As for the visible duties, like fasting and praying, he can fast by using any justification not to eat with them. . . . As for prayer . . . "he [the Moslem] may combine the noon and afternoon [prayers], sunset and evening [prayers]. That is based on the fact that the prophet—Allah bless and keep him—combined [prayers] . . . without fear or hesitation.". . .

Guidelines for Beating and Killing Hostages:

Religious scholars have permitted beating. . . .

In this tradition, we find permission to interrogate the hostage for the purpose of obtaining information. It is permitted to strike the nonbeliever who has no covenant until he reveals the news, information, and secrets of his people.

The religious scholars have also permitted the killing of a hostage if he insists on withholding information from Moslems. They permitted his killing so that he would not inform his people of what he learned about the Muslim condition, number, and secrets. . . .

The scholars have also permitted the exchange of hostages for money, services, and expertise, as well as secrets of the enemy's army, plans, and numbers. . . .


Information needed through covert means: Information needed to be gathered through covert means is of only two types:

First: Information about government personnel, officers, important personalities, and all matters related to those (resident, work place, times of leaving and returning, wives and children, places visited).

Second: Information about strategic buildings, important establishments, and military bases. Examples are important ministries such as those of Defense and Internal Security, airports, seaports, land border points, embassies, and radio and TV stations.

General security measures that should be taken by the person gathering information: During the process of gathering information, whether about governing personalities or establishments, the person doing the gathering must take the following security measures:

1. Performing the exercises to detect surveillance while executing the mission. These exercises are not well defined, but are dependent on the time, place, and the ability to be creative. These exercises include the following:

a. Walking down a dead-end and observing who is walking behind you. Beware of traps.

b. Casually dropping something out of your pocket and observing who will pick it up.

c. Walking fast then stopping suddenly at a corner and observing who will be affected.

d. Stopping in front of store windows and observing who is watching you.

e. Getting on a bus and then getting off after it departs and observing who will be affected.

f. Agreeing with one of your brothers to look for whoever is watching you.

Surveillance by car:

Surveillance by car requires taking certain measures:

1. Inspecting the car's fuel, water, and lights.

2. The car should be of a common type so it would not attract people's attention.

3. The car should be in good condition and the driver should be experienced.

4. The car plates should not contain real numbers. It is important to use a false license plate and small numbers in order to prevent anyone from spotting and memorizing it.

5. The car's interior light should be disabled in order to hide the identity of the surveillance team members sitting inside. . . .

A. Surveillance, Intelligence, and Observation (Information about the enemy places)

The Organization's command needs detailed information about the enemy's vital establishments, whether civilian or military, in order to make safe plans, reach firm decisions, and avoid surprises. Thus, the individual who gathers information about a desired location should, in addition to drawing a diagram, describe it and all its details.

The Drawing: The brother should draw a diagram of the area, the street, and the location which is the target of the information-gathering. He should describe its shape and characteristics. The drawing should be realistic so that someone who never saw the location could visualize it. It is preferable to also put on the drawing the directions of traffic, police stations, and security centers. . . .

Recruitment Stages: Suppose the Islamic Organization, with its modest capabilities, wants to obtain information about an important target (important personality, building, camp, agency, ministry). It has to do the following:

1. Finding the Agent : In this stage, the Organization picks the suitable person for supplying the information. The Organization learns about that person: His financial condition, his family status, his position regarding the government, and his weaknesses and strengths.

2. Evaluating the Agent: In this stage, the agent is placed under continuous observation to learn the times of his departure to and return from work, the places he visits, the individuals he meets, and his social interaction with those that he meets in coffee shops, clubs, etc.

3. Approaching the Agent: After gathering information about him, a relationship with him is developed under a certain cover, such as:

a. Family connection and tribal relations.

b. Developing a friendship with him in the club, coffee shop, and workers union. The [recruiting] brother develops the friendship as if it were unpretentious and unplanned. The relationship should develop naturally and gradually in order not to attract the target's attention.

Important Note: In case the first brother fails to develop a friendship with the target, another brother takes over after learning from the first about the target's weaknesses (motives that can be exploited) such as his love for money, opposition to the government, love for adventure. . . .

4. Recruiting the Agent: After finding, evaluating, and approaching a target, comes the second stage of recruiting him. Recruiting may be direct, that is, telling the agent frankly about working for the Organization for a specific and agreed-upon salary. A promise is secured in writing or verbally.

Or recruitment may be indirect, that is, information may be taken from the target without informing him that he is an agent. That maybe accomplished by giving him gifts, sharing his joys and sorrows, and attempting to solve his problems.

Testing the Agent: In this stage, the agent is assigned certain tasks in order to test his ability, loyalty, and dependability. The agent does not know that the Organization already has the sought information. If the information supplied by the agent does not match the Organization's existing information, then the agent may be an unreliable source of information or may be trying to mislead the Organization. During the testing stage, the agent should remain under careful observation to spot all his movements. . . .

What happened next . . .

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports since 9/11 thousands of al Qaeda terrorists have been arrested and a considerable number of the top leaders killed or captured. Osama bin Laden had not been captured as of late spring 2004. Although severely disrupted by U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and worldwide efforts against al Qaeda by many governments, al Qaeda persists.

Groups of al Qaeda terrorists, called cells, are located worldwide. The global efforts to eliminate them have caused the cells to diversify and regroup into smaller cells. The cells, knowing their terrorist training manual directives well, operate independently to carry out strikes. While much of the funding that moved through financial institutions has been cut off, cells rely on informal person-to-person money transfers called "hawalas" that leave no electronic or paper trail and are untraceable. The threat of al Qaeda to U.S. interests abroad and to the U.S. homeland continued to be of major concern in mid-2004.

Did you know . . .

  • Only the most dedicated, well-trained recruits are allowed to become full al Qaeda members. Osama bin Laden hand-picked the operatives used to hijack U.S. planes in the 9/11 attack.
  • In 2002 and 2003 no successful attacks occurred on U.S. soil but attacks against U.S. interests worldwide continued. In 2002 of all anti-U.S. attacks carried out by various terrorist organizations, the most—forty-six—occurred in Latin America followed by sixteen in the Middle East and ten in Asia. The type of facilities targeted most were U.S. businesses. Most terrorist threats and attacks involved bombings.
  • Each year the U.S. State Department compiles a list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations known as FTOs. Compiled since 1997, the list took on a new sense of urgency since 9/11. In 2004 the list included thirty-six terrorist organizations. The U.S. government may freeze any FTO assets in U.S. financial institutions, may deny entry of a FTO member into the United States, and may prosecute any U.S. citizen or person in the United States who supports an FTO in any way.

Consider the following . . .

  • The current FTO list and information about each terrorist organization is available at the Center for Defense Information (CDI) Web site at or the U.S. State Department Web site at
  • After reading this chapter's sidebar on the USA Patriot Act, find a number of investigative tools allowed by the act that should be helpful in uncovering al Qaeda cells.
  • Research al Qaeda in depth. For what purpose was it originally created? Why did the United States and U.S. interests become a focus of its terrorist activities?

Allah: Term for God in Islamic religion.

Koran: The holy book of Islam, like the Bible in Christian religions.

Bitter situation: Following worldly ways of desiring material goods rather than strictly following Islamic ways.

Divergence: Separate path.

Unbelief: Not believing in Islam.

Apostate: Those who reject religion or another set of guiding principles.

Socratic debates, Platonic ideals nor Aristotelian diplomacy: The thought processes of Western world societies such as the United States and Europe in which citizens are free to debate and explore basic ideas about the natural world and society.

Caliphate: A spiritual leader in Islam.

Strategy: Overall planning and objectives.

Forged: Illegal copies.

Moslem: One who follows the Islamic religion.

Secular: Apart from religion.

Communist: An economic theory that the state owns all production and profits are shared equally among the people; rejects religion.

Ideology: Beliefs and goals.

Conceptional: Questioning the ideology of the Organization.

Minor: Commonly a person under eighteen years of age.

Martyrdom: Honored for dying for a cause.

Afflictions: Great suffering.

Prudence: Using good judgment.

Counsel: Giving good advice.

Facsimile: Electronically transmitting a document through telephone lines.

Modest capabilities: Lack of money.

Security apparatus: Law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Inconspicuous: Not easily seen.

Detonators: Devices used to explode a bomb.

Arsenal: Storage place for weapons.

Open methods: not undercover intelligence gathering.

Obligated: Committed or required.

Them: Those being spied on.

Covenant: An agreement between humans and God.

Covert: Hidden, undercover.

Modest: Limited money or equipment or available members.

Agent: A person Al Qaeda wants to recruit.

Unpretentious: Simple, not complex.

For More Information


Walsh, James, ed. Terrorism: Documents of International and Local Control. Vol. 39, U.S. Perspectives. Dobbs Ferry, NY: Oceana Publications, Inc., 2003.

Web Sites

Center for Defense Information (CDI). (accessed on May 28, 2004).

"Significant Terrorist Incidents, 1961–2003: A Brief Chronology." U.S. Department of State. (accessed on August 19, 2004).

U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (accessed on August 19, 2004).

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