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Al-Qaida timeline: Plots and attacks

The following is an integrated chronology of the public face of al-Qaida, including its terror plots and attacks, leaders’ public statements, and the U.S. response, including the hunt for, capture or killing of top leaders, beginning in 1992.
/ Source: and NBC News

Below is an integrated chronology of the public face of al-Qaida, including terror plots and attacks blamed on the loose network and its alleged associate groups, leaders’ public statements, and the U.S. response, including the hunt for, capture or killing of top leaders, beginning in 1992.


(Attacks in Iraq blamed on Ansar al Islam and its leader, Abu Musawi al-Zarqawi, can be found in this

-- Dec. 29, 1992

In the first al-Qaida attack against U.S. forces, operatives bomb a hotel where U.S. troops -- on their way to a humanitarian mission in Somalia -- had been staying. Two Austrian tourists are killed.  Almost simultaneously, another group of al-Qaida operatives are caught at Aden airport, Yemen, as they prepare to launch rockets at U.S. military planes.  U.S. troops quickly leave Aden.

--Feb. 26, 1993

The first World Trade Center attack and the first terrorist attack on America. A bomb built in nearby Jersey City is driven into an underground garage at the trade center and detonated, killing six and wounding 1,500.  Yousef, nephew of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, masterminds the attack, working with nearly a dozen local Muslims. While U.S. officials disagree on whether Osama bin Laden instituted the attack and Yousef denies he has met bin Laden, the CIA later learns that Yousef stayed in a bin Laden-owned guest house in Pakistan both before and after the attacks.

--April – June 23, 1993

Militants plan a series of near simultaneous bombings in New York.  Among the targets were prominent New York monuments: The Lincoln and Holland tunnels linking New York to New Jersey, the George Washington Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, the United Nations, the last to be planted with the help of diplomats from the Sudanese mission, the Federal Building at 26 Federal Plaza, and finally, one in the Diamond District along 47th Street, populated by mostly Jewish diamond dealers.  On June 23, as terrorists mix chemicals for the bombs, FBI agents raid their warehouse and arrest twelve.

-- May - July 28, 1993

After two months of planning, Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the World Trade Center bombing, travels to Karachi, the hometown of Benazir Bhutto, then former prime minister of Pakistan, who is seeking to regain her old job. He and two others are in the process of planting a remote control bomb on the road when the ageing Soviet detonator he obtained in Afghanistan explodes in his face, ending the plot. Financing for the bombing comes from radical Islamic groups in Pakistan, according to Bhutto.

-- June 1993

Al-Qaida reportedly attempts to assassinate then Jordanian Crown Prince Abdullah. He succeeded his father as king of Jordan in February, 1999.

--Oct. 3-4, 1993

In a battle for the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia, a unit of U.S. special operations forces gets pinned down after two U.S. helicopters are shot out of the sky.   Eighteen Americans die, killed by Somalis reportedly trained by al-Qaida.  “It is true that my colleagues fought with [Somali warlord] Farah Adid’s forces in Somalia,” bin Laden subsequently claims. The al-Qaida leader also insists, with a characteristic exaggeration, that 100 Americans died in the attack, not 18. The attack leads to the U.S. withdrawal from Somalia, a move hailed by bin Laden as a great victory for the Islamic world.

--March 11, 1994

Led by Ramzi Yousef, a group of Islamic militants hijack a delivery truck in downtown Bangkok, strangle the driver and load a one-ton bomb on board.  Their target: the Israeli embassy.  But the truck has an accident and the hijacker abandons it, leading to the discovery of the bomb and driver’s body.   Several of the plotters are arrested, but Yousef escapes again.

--June 1994

Imad Mugniyeh, the military chief of Hezbollah during its 1980’s attacks on U.S. personnel, meets secretly with Bin Laden in Khartoum.  Mughniyeh, at that point the most wanted terrorist in the world for his role in the Beirut embassy and Marine Barracks bombing, advises Bin Laden on planning.

Ali Mohamed, the al-Qaida security director at the time, later tells U.S. officials that Mughniyeh told bin Laden how the Marine bombing in Beirut led to the U.S. withdrawal from Lebanon and how such a campaign could eventually lead to a similar route of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia and the whole Islamic world.

-- June 20, 1994

Ramzi Yousef, working with the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, blows up the Shrine of Reza, the great grandson of Mohammed and a Shiite saint, in Mashad, Iran.  The explosion took out the entire wall of the mausoleum, killing 26 pilgrims, mostly women. At the time, Yousef was motivated as much by hatred of Shiite Muslims as by hatred of America.  Also involved in the plot were his father and brother.

-- Nov. 12-14, 1994

Extremists working for bin Laden conduct extensive surveillance of President Bill Clinton and his party during a state visit to Manila in anticipation of mounting an assassination attempt when Clinton returns to the Philippine capital in November 1996 for an already scheduled APEC summit.  Bin Laden orders al-Qaida to use still and video cameras to follow Clinton and Secret Service personnel. The Secret Service later learns from an al-Qaida defector that the surveillance was extensive, and the tapes along with maps and notes were sent to bin Laden, who was then living in Sudan. The Secret Service was unaware of the surveillance although there was some concern at the time that the president was exposed during the trip. “We did not know there was a plot to assassinate the president,” said a high-ranking Secret Service official. “We only found out later.”

--Dec. 8, 1994 - Jan. 5, 1995

Ramzi Yousef rents an apartment in the Dona Josefa apartment complex on Quirino Boulevard, in Manila, Philippines, believing that Pope John Paul II will take that route on his way to a huge outdoor mass planned for Jan. 15.  The apartment is only 500 feet from the Manila home of the Vatican ambassador to the Philippines where the Pope will stay during his 5-day visit to the country.  In addition, he rents a beach house to train his compatriots for the attack and purchases two Bibles, a crucifix, a large poster of the Pope, several priests’ garments — accurate down to the tunic buttons and confessional manuals.  The plan, investigators said, was to place a bomb under a manhole cover along Quirino Boulevard.  The attack is thwarted when bomb-making materials catch fire in the sink of the apartment kitchen.  As it turns out, the pope travels to the Mass by helicopter.

-- Dec. 10, 1994

As part of the planning for the Day of Hate [see below] Yousef plants a crude bomb on board a Philippines Airlines plane from Cebu City, the Philippines, to Tokyo.  When the bomb detonates, it kills one passenger, a Japanese businessman, and forces the plane, a 747, to land in Okinawa.  Yousef calibrates the damage and increases the size of the bomb so it can take down an entire jumbo jet.

-- Jan. 21-22, 1995

In what would have been an attack with a higher death toll than the Sept. 11 attacks, bombs placed on board 11 jumbo jets are to be detonated by timing devices as the planes fly over the Pacific, killing an estimated 4,000 people.   Most of the jets are to be American carriers and most of the dead would have been Americans.  The bombs would have been timed to go off over a number of hours to heighten the terror.  The plan, called the Day of Hate, was conceived by Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing and his uncle, Khalid Sheik Mohammed. Only a fire in Yousef’s Manila apartment on Jan. 6 thwarts it. Mohammed later modifies the plan and takes it to Osama bin Laden. That modified plan becomes the blueprint for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

--June 26, 1995

Less than an hour after Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak arrives in Addis Ababa to attend the Organization of African Unity summit, several members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, a group working with al-Qaida, attack his motorcade. Ethiopian forces kill five of the attackers and capture three others.  Ethiopia and Egypt charge the government of Sudan, where bin Laden is living, with complicity in the attack and harboring suspects. Privately, Egyptian officials tell U.S. intelligence they believe Bin Laden is behind the attack. Later, Egyptian officials learn that the terrorists had conducted surveillance of the last trip Mubarak had made to Ethiopia, just as they had with President Clinton.

-- Nov. 13, 1995

A truck bomb explodes outside the Saudi National Guard Communications Center in central Riyadh, killing five American servicemen and two Indian police.  Four Saudi men, all self-described disciples of bin Laden, are quickly executed before the FBI can determine their ties to al-Qaida.

-- June 25, 1996

In an attack whose authorship is still debated by intelligence and law enforcement officials, a truck bomb is detonated at the Khobar Towers complex in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 American servicemen and wounding 400.  Although an indictment in early 2001 pins blame on Shiite Muslims backed by Iran, many U.S. officials still believe bin Laden is responsible.  Bin Laden himself states in a 1997 interview, “Only Americans were killed in the explosions. No Saudi suffered any injury. When I got the news about these blasts, I was very happy.”

--Aug. 8, 1998

Al-Qaida sends suicide bombers into the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Truck bombs kill more than 240 people, including 12 Americans at the Nairobi embassy. The attack results in the quick arrest of several of the bombers, but not the mastermind, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed. Also known as “Harun,” Mohammed is involved in later al-Qaida attacks.

--Jan. 1-3, 2000

U.S. and Jordanian authorities thwart attacks planned to coincide with the Millennium celebrations. In mid-December, Jordanian authorities arrest more than 20 al-Qaida operatives who are planning to bomb three locations where American tourists gather: Mt. Nebo, where Moses first saw the Promised Land; the Ramada Hotel in Amman, a stopover for tour groups; and the spot on the Jordan River where tradition holds John the Baptist baptized Christ.  Later in the month, U.S. authorities seize Ahmed Ressam at a border crossing in Port Angeles, WA.  He is carrying bomb-making equipment and later discusses his plan to blow up Los Angeles International Airport on New Year's Eve.

-- Jan. 13, 2000

The cross Africa Dakar-to-Cairo auto race is diverted after the U.S. intelligence community receives word of a planned ambush in the African nation of Niger.  Word of the planned ambush was passed to race organizers over the weekend shortly after it was received, leading to a suspension of the race and a massive airlift on Thursday. Cargo planes were flying some 1,365 crew members and 336 vehicles as well as tons of equipment from Niamey, capital of Niger, to Sabha in southern Libya.

-- Oct. 12, 2000

A bomb on board a small Zodiac-like boat detonates near the USS Cole in the port of Aden in Yemen, killing 17 U.S. sailors and wounding scores more. The bombing also kills two al-Qaida operatives in the boat.  The United States later learns the Cole was the second destroyer targeted by al-Qaida. The attack was originally planned for Jan. 3, 2000, when the USS The Sullivans was in the same port. 

-- Sept. 9, 2001

Two Moroccan men, posing as television journalists, kill themselves and Ahmad Shah Massoud, leader of the Northern Alliance, at the alliance headquarters in the Panjshir Valley of Afghanistan. The killing of Massoud may have been the first part of the Sept. 11 attacks.

--Sept. 11, 2001

Three hijacked planes are flown into major U.S. landmarks, destroying New York's World Trade Center towers and plowing into the Pentagon. A fourth hijacked plane crashes in rural Pennsylvania, its target believed to have been the U.S. Capitol. At least 3,044 people are killed. The death toll is nearly 10 times greater than any other terrorist attack in history and makes bin Laden, for the first time, a household name in the United States and the west.

--Dec. 22, 2001

Passengers and crew of an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami subdue Richard Reid after he attempts to light a bomb hidden inside his shoe. Some in U.S. intelligence community believe the bombing was last vestige of a larger plan that included the attacks on New York and Washington as well as bombings of other airliners over the oceans.

--Jan. 31, 2002

Pakistani militants behead Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Karachi after holding him for several days. U.S. officials report there is evidence Khalid Sheik Mohammed. Al-Qaida’s operations chief, may have played a role in his kidnapping and murder. Pearl is shown on a tape being beheaded.

-- March 17, 2002

Islamic militants attack the Protestant International Church in Islamabad, killing five. Among those killed were Americans Barbara Green and her daughter Kristen Wormsley. Pakistani officials blame al-Qaida.

--March 20, 2002

Nine people are killed and 30 wounded in a car bomb explosion near the U.S. Embassy in Lima. Peru.

--April 11, 2002

A suicide bomber explodes a truck near the El Ghriba synagogue on the southern Tunisian island of Djerba, killing 14 Germans, five Tunisians and a Frenchman. Khalid Sheik Mohammed and Saad bin Laden, Osama bin Laden's third youngest son, are believed behind the attack.

--May 8, 2002

A suspected suicide bomber in a car kills himself near a bus carrying 11 French navy experts and three Pakistanis outside the Sheraton Hotel in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi.

--May 2002

Moroccan police arrest three Saudi nationals who were allegedly planning attacks against U.S. and British warships in the Strait of Gibraltar. The men are arrested in May and claim to belong to the al-Qaida network. Moroccan officials say the suspects planned to sail a dinghy loaded with explosives from Morocco into the strait to attack the vessels.

--June 14, 2002

Another suicide car bomber detonates a bomb outside the U.S. consulate in Karachi, killing at least 11 people and wounding 45.  No Americans is killed. The bomb is in the trunk of a moving car.  The car's passengers, Pakistani nursing students, are unaware of the bomb.

--Sept. 5, 2002

Afghan President Hamid Karzai survives an assassination attempt when shots are fired into the presidential limousine. Karzai was on his way to a wedding celebration in Kandahar. He is not hurt but one of this U.S. bodyguards and the governor of Kandahar are wounded.  The attack comes just after a car bomb exploded near two government offices in Kabul, killing 22 people.

--Oct. 5, 2002

A small boat sidles up to the SS Limburg, a French tanker off al-Mukalla, Yemen, and detonates a bomb. One crew member drowns and 24 are rescued.

--Oct. 8, 2002

Two U.S. Marines are killed in Kuwait in the early stages of the U.S. military buildup in preparation for the invasion of Iraq. The Marines were attacked on Faylaka Island, about 12 miles north of Kuwait City.

--Oct. 12, 2002

Bombs explode in Kuta Beach nightclub district of Bali in Indonesia, killing 202 people and wounding hundreds. Five Americans are among the dead. A third bomb explodes near the U.S. Consulate in Sanur near Kuta, without causing casualties. Bombers later admit they expected many more American casualties. The bombing highlights the reach of al-Qaida.

--Oct. 28, 2002

A group of al-Qaida operatives kills U.S. AID worker Laurence Foley, 62, outside his home as he prepared to leave for work. Foley’s attackers are arrested by Jordanian officials in December.

--Nov. 28, 2002

At least 15 people are killed in car bomb attack on hotel frequented by Israeli tourists in Kenyan port of Mombasa. On the same day, two missiles are fired at but miss an Israeli airliner taking off from the city. Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, mastermind of the 1998 embassy bombings, is sought by Kenyan officials in the attacks.

--May 12, 2003

Suicide bombers in vehicles shoot their way into housing compounds for expatriates in Saudi capital of Riyadh so they can set off bombs. Some 35 people, including nine Americans, are killed. The attacks are a watershed for the Saudi government, which for years had thought al-Qaida would not attack the kingdom. As a result of the attacks, cooperation between the U.S. and Saudi governments grows rapidly.

--May 16, 2003

Suicide bombers using cars or explosive belts set off at least five blasts in Casablanca, Morocco, killing 44 people, including 12 bombers, and wounding about 60. The deaths of 17 bombers in Saudi and 12 in Morocco suggest that al-Qaida is having no trouble recruiting suicide bombers.

--June 7, 2003

A suicide car bomber blows up a bus full of German peacekeepers, killing four and wounding 31 east of Kabul. An Afghan civilian and the bomber are also killed.

--Aug. 5, 2003

A huge truck bomb kills 16 people and wounds 150 as it rips through Marriott Hotel in the Indonesian capital Jakarta. One foreigner, a Dutch businessman, is among the dead. 

--Nov. 8, 2003

In an attack reminiscent of al-Qaida's May attack, suicide bombers backed by gunmen enter a residential compound in Riyadh detonate two car bombs, killing 17, among them 5 children, and wounding 122. The attack uses vehicles disguised to look like police cars.  U.S. and Saudi intelligence services had warned of a possible attack in the days before, even thwarting an attack in Mecca.  

--Nov. 15, 2003

At least 29 people are killed and scores were injured in near simultaneous explosions at two Istanbul synagogues, the first al-Qaida attack against Muslim Turkey, a NATO member and military ally of Israel. One blast occurs outside the Neve Shalom synagogue in the historic Beyoglu district in the heart of Istanbul. Another goes off close to another synagogue in the nearby neighborhood of Sisli. An small Turkish militant group aligned with Al-Qaida takes responsibility for the attack.

--Nov. 20, 2003 

The Istanbul headquarters of London-based bank HSBC and the British consulate in the Turkish city are targeted in similar attacks, with a total of 32 people killed in the twin blasts.  The blasts replicate the twin attacks five days earlier against Istanbul synagogues in that both used “drive by bombings,” in which bomb-laden trucks are detonated by suicide bombers as the vehicle moves past the target.     

--Dec. 4, 2003

Maj. Gen. Abdelaziz al-Huweirini, the No. 3 official in Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry and the kingdom's top counterterrorism official, is moderately wounded in an attack. Huweirini has worked closely with American officials. It is one of at least three such attacks or assassination attempts on Saudi intelligence service officials in December.  No one has been killed in the attacks, which are in retaliation for the stepup in Saudi operations against al-Qaida.

--Dec. 14, 2003

Pakistani President Pervez Musharaff barely escapes death as his presidential motorcade travels over a bridge in Rawalpindi. The president is saved because of a jamming device on his car which scrambles signals on frequencies used to detonate remotely controlled bombs.  The bomb detonates 30 seconds after the motorcade passes by.  It is estimated to have weighed 1,000 pounds. The sophistication of the attack seems to indicate an “inside job.” Pakistani officials publicly blame al-Qaida for the attack, noting that 10 weeks earlier, Ayman Zawahiri called for Muslims to “topple” Musharraf’s regime.

--Dec. 25, 2003

Two pick-up trucks packed with explosives ram into Pakistani President Musharraf's cavalcade from opposite sides of the road while he returns from Islamabad to his official residence at Army House in Rawalpindi. Musharraf was not hurt, but three vehicles at the tail end of the convoy are destroyed. Several policemen on security duty are killed and more than fifty others wounded.

--Feb. 6, 2004

A suicide bomber detonates a bulk explosive at the deepest point in the Moscow Metro, killing 40 people.  The attack is believed to be the work of a Saudi militant Abu Walid, whose financing of Chechen rebels has given him great power within the movement to free the breakaway Russian republic. The attack occurs near the Avtozavodskaya metro station and is supposedly a revenge attack for Russian troops atrocities against Chechen civilians in the town on Alda four years to the day earlier.

--Feb. 27, 2004

A bomb onboard a Philippines ferry detonates, starting a fire that kills at least 100 people on their way from Manila to Bacolod in the central Philippines.  The ferry was carrying around 860 people when two hours into the trip an explosion ripped the ferry, leading to a fire that quickly engulfed it. Abu Sayef, the al-Qaida affiliate, initially claims responsibility although the  Philippines government denies the explosion was the result of a bombing. Later U.S. officials say the bombing was deliberate, not accidental.

--March 11, 2004

A co-ordinated bombing of trains in Madrid leaves more than 190 people dead and hundreds wounded. The attack, which leads to the unexpected fall of the pro-U.S. government of Anzar, is blamed on Morrocan terrorists with close links to al-Qaida. According to investigators, the attack was carried out not by al-Qaida or even an affiliate, but instead by radical Muslims who identified with al-Qaida and were led by a charismatic figure.

--April 5, 2004

The mastermind of the March 11 attacks and five others blow themselves up in a Madrid apartment building, killing a special policeman as well.  Explosives discovered in the building where the five killed themselves to avoid capture indicate they were plotting more violence and were linked to the failed bombing of a high-speed rail line Friday.  Two or three suspects may have escaped before blast.

--April 21, 2004

A suicide bomber kills five people, including two senior Saudi police officers and an 11-year-old girl, in an attack on a government building in Riyadh. An Islamic militant group, the al-Haramin Brigades, claims responsibility.

--May 1, 2004

Attack on oil refinery in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia, in which gunmen target senior executive at the facility, partly owned by ExxonMobil. Five foreigners are killed, including two Americans. 

--May 20, 2004

Saudi security forces clash with five suspected Islamic militants near Buraida, killing four and wounding the fifth.

--May 30, 2004
Miilitants go on a shooting rampage at two oil industry office/residential compounds in the Persian Gulf coast city of Khobar, killing 22 people, mostly foreigners including one American.

--Dec. 6, 2004
Al-Qaida claims responsibility for an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, that left five non-American employees dead.

--Dec. 12, 2004

A bomb exploded in a Philippine market packed with Christmas shoppers Sunday, killing at least 15 people and shattering a months long lull in terror attacks in the volatile southern Philippines, where Muslim rebels are active.

The homemade bomb, concealed in a box, went off in the meat section of the market in General Santos, about 620 miles south of Manila. Officials immediately bolstered security in the predominantly Christian port city of 500,000 people, fearing more attacks.

--Dec. 29, 2004

Al-Qaida operatives launch an attack on Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Interior in Riyadh, hoping to topple the ministry's inverted pyramid structure.The attack fails with seven terrorists killed and one ministry officer seriously wounded.

--June 20, 2004

U.S. and Afghan authorities disclose the arrest of four Pakistani men on charges they were plotting the assassination of Zalmay Khalilizad, the US ambassador to Kabul.

—June 15, 2005

Chechen rebels try to derail a train on its way from Grozny to Moscow.  The train derails, but only 15 people are injured.

—July 7, 2005

Four suicide bombers detonate bombs on London Underground trains and a double-decker bus, killing 56 people in the worst terrorist attack ever in the UK and the greatest civilian loss of life since the blitz more than 60 years ago.  The bombers are all British nationals and three are British born.  Three are of Pakistani descent, the fourth a Jamaican who converted to Islam.

July 21, 2005

Two weeks after the first Underground bombing, four other would-be suicide bombers attempt an identical attack on three trains and a bus.  The bombs fail to go off and wound only one passenger.  Within days, all four men are identified and arrested.  Again, all are British nationals, this time of East African descent.

—July 23, 2005

Three bombs detonate in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh, killing 63, the worst terrorist attack in that country’s history.  Two of the bombs detonated at resort hotels favored by Western tourists while the third went off in the city’s marketplace.  Egyptian authorities rounded up a number of suspects and later killed one of the country’s leading Islamists in a shootout.

—Aug. 19, 2005  

Attackers fire Katushka rockets in the Jordanian port city of Aqaba, narrowly missing a U.S. Navy ship, and killing a Jordanian security man in a dockside warehouse. Two rockets are fired into the nearby Israeli port city of Eliat, causing minor damage.