Editor's note: The death toll in the Bamako, Mali, hotel attack remains unclear. France's defense minister says 18 people have died, while the U.N. initially said the death toll was 27, The Associated Press reports. It is also unclear if the gunmen are included in these totals. A militant group led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar has claimed responsibility for the attack. - Stephanie
Editor's note: An African Jihadist group affiliated with al Qaeda is using twitter to claim responsibility for the Mali hotel attack. 'Al-Mourabitoun' is based in Mali and and according to the Reuters news agency is comprised of mostly Tuaregs and Arabs. We can't at this stage verify their claim. - Luke
Editor's note: Initial reports suggested al-Qaeda was responsible for attack in Yemen army barracks that killed at least 15 soldiers in Hadramawt. A later statement released says Islamic State is claiming responsibility. We will bring you more updates on this story. - Ariana
Editor's note: Abdul Rahman Shalabi, a Guantanamo Bay detainee released to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, was a suspected bodyguard for Osama bin Laden. The Miami Herald reports he has been on a long-term hunger strike - Tom
Al-Qæda (/ælˈkaɪdə/ or /ˌælkɑːˈiːdə/; Arabic: القاعدة al-qāʿidah, Arabic: [ælqɑːʕɪdɐ], translation: "The Base", "The Foundation" or "The Fundament" and alternatively spelled al-Qaida, al-Qæda and sometimes al-Qa'ida) is a global militant Islamist organization founded by Osama bin Laden, Abdullah Azzam, and several others, at some point between August 1988 and late 1989, with origins traceable to the Arab volunteers who fought against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s. It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless army and an Islamist, extremist, wahhabi jihadist group. It has been designated as a terrorist group by the United Nations Security Council, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Union, the United States, Russia, India, and various other countries (see below). Al-Qaeda has carried out many attacks on targets it considers kafir.
Al-Qaeda has mounted attacks on civilian and military targets in various countries, including the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings, the September 11 attacks, and the 2002 Bali bombings. The U.S. government responded to the September 11 attacks by launching the "War on Terror". With the loss of key leaders, culminating in the death of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda's operations have devolved from actions that were controlled from the top down, to actions by franchise associated groups and lone-wolf operators. Characteristic techniques employed by al-Qaeda include suicide attacks and the simultaneous bombing of different targets. Activities ascribed to it may involve members of the movement who have made a pledge of loyalty to Osama bin Laden, or the much more numerous "al-Qaeda-linked" individuals who have undergone training in one of its camps in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq or Sudan who have not. Al-Qaeda ideologues envision a complete break from all foreign influences in Muslim countries, and the creation of a new worldwide Islamic caliphate. During the Syrian civil war, al-Qaeda factions started fighting each other, as well as the Kurds and the Syrian government.
Among the beliefs ascribed to al-Qaeda members is the conviction that a Christian–Jewish alliance is conspiring to destroy Islam. As Salafist jihadists, they believe that the killing of non-combatants is religiously sanctioned, but they ignore any aspect of religious scripture which might be interpreted as forbidding the murder of non-combatants and internecine fighting. Al-Qaeda also opposes what it regards as man-made laws, and wants to replace them with a strict form of sharia law.
Al-Qaeda is also responsible for instigating sectarian violence among Muslims. Al-Qaeda leaders regard liberal Muslims, Shias, Sufis and other sects as heretics and have attacked their mosques and gatherings. Examples of sectarian attacks include the Yazidi community bombings, the Sadr City bombings, the Ashoura massacre and the April 2007 Baghdad bombings. Since the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011 the group has been led by Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri.