Al-Qaeda declared war on the United States and its allies two times before the attacks on September 11, 2001. Those two declarations came in the form of fatwas, a type of Islamic religious decree.
The First Fatwa
In August of 1996, Osama bin Laden issued his first fatwa, a 30-page polemic entitled "Declaration of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places," against the United States and Israel, and it was published in a London newspaper called Al Quds al Arabi.
The central premise of this fatwa is that "the people of Islam had suffered from aggression, iniquity, and injustice imposed on them by the Zionist-Crusaders alliance and their collaborators." He chronicles the various "injustices" and concludes that, "It is no longer possible to be quiet. It is not acceptable to give a blind eye to this matter."
Bin Laden says that there is "no more important duty than pushing the American enemy out of the holy land,"and he calls on his Muslim brothers to concentrate on "destroying, fighting and killing the enemy until, by the Grace of Allah, it is completely defeated." He warns fellow Jihadists that, due to "the imbalance of power between our armed forces and the enemy forces, a suitable means of fighting must be adopted i.e. using fast moving light forces that work under complete secrecy."
At the end of the fatwa, Osama bin Laden urges all Muslim brothers to "take part in fighting against the enemy -- your enemy and their enemy -- the Americans and the Israelis. They are asking you to do whatever you can, with one's own means and ability, to expel the enemy, humiliated and defeated, out of the sanctities of Islam."
The Second Fatwa
The second fatwa was published on February 23, 1998, in Al Quds al Arabi. Unlike the first fatwa, which was issued by Osama bin Laden alone, this fatwa was signed by Osama bin Laden; Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of Jihad group in Egypt and al Qaeda second-in-command; Abu-Yasir Rafa'l Ahmad Taha, leader of the Islamic Group; Sheikh Mir Hamzah, secretary of the Jumiat-ut-Ulema-e-Pakistan; and Fazlul Rahman, leader of the Jihad Movement in Bangladesh.
The fatwa reasons that "three facts that are known to everyone" compel war against the United States. First, the United States has been "occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places." Second, the "crusader-Zionist alliance" has inflicted great devastation upon the Iraqi people. Third, the United States' goal is "to serve the Jews' petty state and divert attention from its occupation of Jerusalem and murder of Muslims there."
It concludes with instructions to Muslims everywhere:
The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies -- civilians and military -- is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it.... [E]very Muslim who believes in God and wishes to be rewarded to comply with God's order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it.
Al-Qaeda Terrorist Acts Before 9/11
Al-Qaeda has been linked to a number of terrorist acts before those of 9/11 and took credit for many acts of terrorism, as well. The group's acts show an ever-increasing level of violence, culminating in the horrific attacks of 9/11. They include:
Al-Qaeda and its affiliates have continued their attacks on the U.S. and its allies since 9/11. Some of those attacks include: