Al Qaida which is Arabic for “the base” is a global militant Islamist organization founded by Osama bin Laden in 1988 with its origins being traceable to the Soviet War in Afghanistan.It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless army and a radical Sunni Muslim movement calling for global Jihad and a strict interpretation of sharia law. The group is responsible for several terrorist attacks around the globe, but most famously for flying two commercial airplanes into the World Trade Centre towers in Manhattan on September 11, 2001. Since then, the US has led a self-proclaimed “War on Terror” seeking to fight Al Qaida in Afghanistan, Pakistan. Drone strikes have been a popular method of US President Barak Obama’s administration of hitting “high-value” targets in Pakistan and Yemen. After Osama Bin Laden was killed by US forces in Pakistan on May 2, 2011, Egyptian-born doctor and surgeon Ayman Al Zawahri succeeded him as the group’s leader.
AQAP: (Al Qaida in the Arabian Penninsula)- Al Qaida’s Yemeni and Saudi wings merged in 2009 into the new group, Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, based in Yemen. They announced this three years after a counter-terrorism drive halted an Al Qaida campaign in Saudi Arabia. In 2011 Al Qaida-linked militants, exploiting mass protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33 years in office, seized large swathes of territory in southern Yemen, including at least two towns. The army, which split into two factions during the uprising that eventually unseated Saleh, has been battling to get the upper hand against the militants.
AQIM- Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb -Led by Algerian militant Abdul Malek Droukdel, AQIM burst onto the public stage in January 2007, a product of the rebranding of fighters previously known as Algeria’s Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC). The Salafists had waged war against Algeria’s security forces but in late 2006 they sought to adopt a broader jihadi ideology by allying themselves with Al Qaida. Its objectives include ridding North Africa of Western influence, overthrowing apostate “unbeliever” governments. The group has gain notoriety for kidnapping Westerners in the Sahel region including Mali, Niger and Mauritania. AQIM took control of the northern half of Mali last year and threatened the capital, Bamako, until France intervened and sent in elite troops and air power to reverse the situation.
AQI- Al Qaida in Iraq- The group was founded in October 2004 when Jordanian militant Abu Musab Al Zarqawi pledged his faith to Osama bin Laden and Al Qaida. An Egyptian called Abu Ayyab Al Masri but also known as Abu Hamza Al Muhajir is said to have assumed the leadership of Al Qaida in Iraq after Zarqawi was killed in 2006. In October 2006, the Al Qaida-led Mujahideen Shura Council said it had set up the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), an umbrella group of Sunni militant affiliates and tribal leaders led by Abu Omar Al Baghdadi. In April 2007 it named a 10-man “cabinet”, including Masri as its war minister. On April 18, 2010 Abu Ayyub Al Masri and Abu Omar Al Baghdadi were killed in a raid in a rural area northwest of Baghdad by Iraqi and U.S. forces. A month later the ISI said its governing council had selected Abu Baker Al Baghdadi Al Hussaini Al Qurashi as its caliph.
Analysts say AQI which has been largely marginalised in Iraq seeks boost its influence by teaming up with Jabhat Al Nusra in Syria who are fighting alongside rebels to oust Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.
Al Shabab - The toppling by warlords of military dictator Mohammad Siad Barre in 1991 plunged the Horn of Africa nation into anarchy, allowing al Shabaab, which means “Youth” or “Boys” in Arabic, to seize control of large areas of south and central Somalia. Al Shabaab’s militia was part of Somalia’s Islamic Courts Union movement that pushed U.S.-backed warlords out of the capital Mogadishu in June 2006 and ruled for six months before Somali and Ethiopian forces ousted the movement. In February 2012, Al Qaida announced that Al Shabaab had joined its ranks and the group has since resorted to guerrilla-style hit and run tactics.
Jabhat Al Nusra or The Front for the Defence of the Syrian People - first announced its existence with a video posted online in January in 2012.
In the statement, the group said it was behind many of the suicide bombings that have rocked Syria since the uprising began in March 2011. “We are Syrian mujahideen, back from various jihad fronts to restore God’s rule on the Earth and avenge the Syrians’ violated honour and spilled blood,” a masked man declared in the video. Since its first public appearance, Al Nusra is thought to have led numerous guerrilla attacks against strategic state targets. The US has blacklisted the group as a terrorist organisation in response to the bombing campaigns. The former shadowy group has emerged as of recently to centre stage conducting skillfull and effective operations which has seen their popularity soar amongst rebel groups. Al Qaida leader Ayman Al Zawahiri has broken his long-time silence and released an audio tape declaring the groups intention to estbalish an Islamic state in Syria.