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Charting Al Qaeda's Post-9/11 Terrorism

Surges In Al Qaeda Terrorist Attacks Since 9/11



The four graphs above and below chart Al Qaeda's major surges of terrorism against America and her allies in the global arena of the 9/11 War.  Measuring the intensity of terrorist attacks per unit of time, one set of the graphs depicts every attack and the other set represents attacks on American targets only. 

In each of the four cases, whether we emphasize the chronological repetition of Al Qaeda's October Surprise strategy or the gradual escalation of the terrorism's intensity, two clear patterns emerge about the timing and locations of Al Qaeda's major surges.  The syndicate's leadership attempts to:
  1. Launch its most provocative strikes biennially during the weeks before U.S. national  elections, and

  2. Increase the magnitude of these pre-election catastrophes incrementally by changing the targets.

Axes Measurements (Intensity Per Unit Of Time)

Each of the four graphical displays plots quantitative data for time versus qualitative data for terrorism intensity.


The time scale begins at 9/12/2001 and extends through 2012.  The scale identifies the time periods immediately preceding each biennial U.S. national election.  These time periods amount to 4-month blocks marking the influential campaign season in America, starting from the time of party nominations and lasting until Voting Day.  Most Al Qaeda attacks designated as part of a pre-election surge occurred during the final seven weeks before the vote, and any strikes that took place earlier in an election season represented either trademark Al Qaeda “precursor” attacks or plots launched prematurely by hasty operatives.  

In the context of October Surprise operations designed to rig U.S. national elections by dominating voters' minds with the issue of Al Qaeda terrorism, the intensity of an Al Qaeda surge depends on its proximity to Voting Day (along with other criteria such as geographical location and death toll, enumerated below).  Although the term “October Surprise” nominally refers to a one-month time frame for events that can influence biennial U.S. national elections on the first Tuesday of November, in practice the term applies to a longer period that includes the very influential days in November before the election and, more generally, the final decisive weeks of the political campaign.
The intensity scale for Al Qaeda terrorist surges in the 9/11 War qualitatively measures the geopolitical influence of the syndicate's attacks, primarily their ability to terrorize Americans into reacting violently.  NOTE:  This qualitative measurement is not intended to assign values to the overall ferocity or human cost of terrorist attacks, but rather gauge the influence of this terrorism on the superpower.

Beginning at 0 and proceeding through increasing degrees of disaster, the scale ends at an undetermined value (not displayed) no less than that of Al Qaeda's 2008 surge, approximately 9/11 strength and no greater than that of a “dirty” bomb strike on New York and Washington.  Three notches designate the increasing degrees of intensity for these terrorist attacks.
0-1:  Category 1 – Ex. A major bombing of an American hotel in the Muslim world.

1-2:  Category 2 – Ex. Multiple major bombings of U.S. targets in the Muslim world.

2-3:  Category 3 – Ex. A Mumbai-scale strike on U.S. targets in the Muslim world.
While a “Category 1” rating refers to a routine terrorist attack, “Category 3” denotes a terrorist surge so catastrophic that it rates on par with nuclear brinkmanship. 

We arrive at "intensity" values for every Al Qaeda surge since 9/11 based on three parameters that gauge the geopolitical influence an international terrorist attack exerts.
(1) Symbolism of Target (Especially Location)

Al Qaeda attacks inside America and Israel rate as having the greatest terror value in the context of the 9/11 War, while equivalent attacks on other American allies rate as less severe, and equivalent attacks in most areas of the Muslim world as least severe.  Similarly, strikes against U.S. targets in the Muslim world rate as more severe than attacks against other nationalities.

(2) Radius of attack zone 

Multiple attacks spread across large distances demonstrate sophisticated global coordination that confers a greater terror value to the surge than equivalent attacks that are confined to a small attack zone like a single city.

(3) Death toll

Extremely deadly attacks or nearly catastrophic strikes terrorize populations far greater than terrorist incidents that produce small death tolls.  

Note:  A fourth factor, timing, specifically proximity to a U.S. national election, also helps determine the influence an Al Qaeda attack exerts on American war policy. Since timing is already considered in this analysis as the x-axis factor, y-axis intensity values do not take into account this fourth criteria.


A surge of Al Qaeda terrorism against America is defined as a grouping of major terrorist attacks by Bin Laden's global syndicate launched during the same time period in order to portray a distinct, synchronized offensive in the 9/11 War.  In addition to their proximity to each other, attacks are grouped into “surges” based on well known Al Qaeda objectives related to the given time period.  These motives include election rigging, military desperation or the propaganda opportunism that surfaces during peaks in anti-American sentiment, when Al Qaeda's leadership attempts to burnish the credentials of its anti-American movement as a righteous defensive insurgency.

Al Qaeda's greatest surges have occurred during the weeks and months prior to U.S. national elections.

October 2002               Rigging the 2002 U.S. Election
(Bali, Moscow, Aden port)
July-Oct 2004              Rigging the 2004 U.S. Election
(Tashkent, Beslan, Jakarta, Taba)

August 2006                Failing to Rig the 2006 U.S. Election
(Atlantic Airlines Plot)

July-Oct 2008              Failing to Rig the 2008 U.S. Election
(Istanbul, Sanaa, Islamabad, Mumbai Massacre plot)

October 2010               Rigging the 2010 U.S. Election
(Air Cargo plot)

Sept-Oct 2012               Failing to Rig the 2012 U.S. Election
(Attacks on U.S. diplomatic missions in Libya, Egypt and Yemen, along with the failed truck-bombing of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York City)

Besides the regular surges before the four U.S. elections that are highlighted in the graphs, Al Qaeda has launched seven less intense surges since the start of the 9/11 War.

Late 2001                     Escaping from Tora Bora
(New Delhi)

Early 2003                   Retaliating for the Iraq Invasion
(Riyadh, Morocco)

Early 2004                   Retaliating on 1st Anniversary of Iraq Invasion / Rigging SP

Late 2004                     Retaliating for George Bush's Reelection

Mid 2005                     Retaliating for Tony Blair's Reelection

Late 2005                     Retaliating for the Onset of the Iraqi Civil War

Late 2009 - 2010         Sabotaging Obama's Defense Record

(New York Subway Plot, Fort Hood Massacre, Detroit Airliner Plot, Times Square Plot)

See Endnote for more Legend details.

See directly below for three supplementary charts of Al Qaeda attacks.

Surges In Al Qaeda Terrorist Attacks Against America Since 9/11
A graph charting Al Qaeda's 9 terrorist surges against America since 9/11.

Time Scale:         
9/12/2001-2010, scored by the four-month campaign periods leading up to biennial U.S. national elections. 
Intensity Scale:  
A qualitative measurement of the relative influence an Al Qaeda terrorist surge exerts in the 9/11 War based on its ability to terrorize Americans.  Criteria include symbolism of target (especially location), radius of attack zone and death toll.
Red 1 (Atlantic AIrlines plot), Red 2 (Istanbul, Sanaa, Islamabad, Mumbai), Red 3 (Air Cargo plot); Blue 1 (Riyadh), Blue 2 (Tashkent, Taba), Blue 3 (Jeddah), Blue 4 (Amman), Blue 5 (Jakarta), Blue 6 (New York Subway Plot, Fort Hood Massacre, Detroit Airliner Plot, Times Square Plot)
For more details, see Legend above.

Ceilings For Al Qaeda Terrorism Since 9/11

Charting the maximum intensities set by Al Qaeda's foremost surges since 9/11.

Time Scale:         
9/12/2001-2010, scored by the four-month campaign periods leading up to biennial U.S. national elections. 
Intensity Scale:  
A qualitative measurement of the relative influence an Al Qaeda terrorist surge exerts in the 9/11 War based on its ability to terrorize Americans.  Criteria include symbolism of target (especially location), radius of attack zone and death toll.
1 (Moscow, Bali, Aden), 2 (Tashkent, Beslan, Jakarta, Taba), 3 (Atlantic Airlines plot), 4 (Istanbul, Sanaa, Islamabad, Mumbai), 5 (Air Cargo plot)
For more details, see Legend above.

Ceilings For Al Qaeda Terrorism Against America Since 9/11
Charting the maximum intensities set by Al Qaeda's foremost surges against America since 9/11.

Time Scale:         
9/12/2001-2010, scored by the four-month campaign periods leading up to biennial U.S. national elections. 
Intensity Scale:  
A qualitative measurement of the relative influence an Al Qaeda terrorist surge exerts in the 9/11 War based on its ability to terrorize Americans.  Criteria include symbolism of target (especially location), radius of attack zone and death toll.
1 (Riyadh), 2 (Tashkent, Taba), 3 (Atlantic AIrlines plot), 4 (Istanbul, Sanaa, Islamabad, Mumbai), 5 (Air Cargo plot)
For more details, see Legend above.

October Surprises

n every U.S. national election since 2000, Al Qaeda has intervened with an October Surprise psychological operation designed to support the war-hawk candidate:

October 2000

USS COLE bombing, Bin Laden's original launch date for the 9/11 operation

October 2002

Bali bombings, Moscow theatre siege, COLE sequel in Aden port

September-October 2004

Russian school massacre (the largest post-9/11 terrorist attack), Bombing of American hotel in Egypt popular with Israelis (coming just months after Al Qaeda's second post-9/11 terrorist attack on an American target (the July 2004 bombings of the U.S. and Israeli embassies in Uzbekistan)), Bin Laden's Halloween video

September-October 2006

Launch date for Failed "Atlantic Bojinka" airlines plot

September-October 2008

Al Qaeda's largest post-9/11 surge against America, including: The armed raid on the U.S. embassy in Yemen, Pakistan's 9/11 (targeting the country's premier American hotel), the original launch date (October 1) for the Mumbai Massacre - a plot to target American congregations in India with the largest terrorist attack in world history.

Note: After a two-year lull in Al Qaeda terrorist attacks on American targets, Al Qaeda began this pre-election surge at the U.S. consulate in Istanbul during the same hour that director David Malone warned on national headline news about this imminent Al Qaeda plot with actionable intelligence.

October 2010
Air Cargo plot
September-October 2012
Attacks on U.S. diplomatic missions in the Arab world and failed truck- bombing of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York City

Imitating The Messiah

According to a host of ancient prophetic traditions observed by Muslim apocalypticists, the Mahdi’s Apocalypse War was slated to begin at the onset of the third millennium. In a duplicitous attempt to vivify this myth at the anointed time, during the opening of the third millennium, the 9/11 attack intentionally aimed to goad America into unknowingly portraying the murderous role of "
the Great Satan Empire" from which the prophesized Mahdi saves the Muslim world. From the timing of the war to the locations of the major battle zones to the roles of the characters, the Al Qaeda leadership has endeavored to replicate this mythological account for the global audience.

In the first year of the 21st century.
Conflicts in the Arabian Peninsula, Greater Khorasan (a geographical region encompassing the lands of modern-day Afghanistan and Northwestern Pakistan), Palestine and Babylon (modern-day Iraq) constitute the four main battlefields (located in six modern countries) of the Mahdi’s world war.
The Mahdi:
  • Establishes a global stateless empire that wages an Islamic holy war against a "Great Satan Empire", which is responsible for an unparalleled oppression of Muslims worldwide. 

  • Launches the most devastating attacks against the "Great Satan Empire" and then evades retaliation.

  • Issues religious instructions to all Muslims.

  • Represents the foremost opponent of the Jewish people.

  • Declares his revolutionary awakening at age 40.
Of all the prescribed characteristics that Bin Laden has attempted to imitate, the Mahdi's legendary righteousness constitutes the basis for his claim to being the divinely anointed Messiah. Bin Laden's inability to mirror this benevolent quality may ultimately sabotage his quest for Messiah pretension, particularly when he is formally condemned for his conspiracy to kill four billion people in a global nuclear holocaust.

Gradually Escalating Provocations

From U.S. Allies To America, From The War Zones To The Homeland

Since starting the 9/11 War, Al Qaeda's terrorist campaign against America has conspicuously tried to portray itself as a defensive insurgency by following a "scaled-catastrophe" strategy without deviation. To date, the Al Qaeda leadership has proceeded through four distinct phases of this campaign for gradually escalating terrorist attacks against America.

  1. 9/12/2001-2002:  No attacks on U.S. targets

    The first phase of this new war began with major terrorist strikes least likely to incite America, involving operations smaller than 9/11 that marked targets of minor value to Americans.  These plots targeted allies already fighting Islamist insurgencies, including Russia (in Chechnya), Australia (in Indonesia) and France (in Algeria) and Israel. Most importantly, these plots did not target American civilians. 

  2. 2003-2005:  Limited attacks on U.S. targets in the Muslim world

    Once this opening phase of the 9/11 War ended with the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the ensuing collapse of America's international prestige, Bin Laden's syndicate began the next phase distinguished by attacks more apt to arouse American military reprisals.  Beginning in the month after the Iraq invasion, a full eighteen months following 9/11, Al Qaeda resumed major terrorist attacks against U.S. targets.  These operations hit U.S. civilian targets inside the Muslim world: in Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan and Jordan.  In addition, this new phase of the war included attacks against U.S. allies like Spain and Britain that had only entered the Western wars against Radical Islam after 9/11.  The expansion of Bin Laden's terrorism to Western Europe in 2004 and 2005 represented his greatest provocation of the U.S. coalition since beginning the war. 

  3. 2006-2008:  9/11-scale operations targeting America abroad

    Only after Americans endorsed the Iraq invasion by reelecting George Bush did Al Qaeda initiate the third phase of its war, the era of 9/11's on U.S. targets abroad.  After failing in a plot to down U.S.-bound airliners in 2006, Al Qaeda returned during the weeks before the next U.S. national election to launch its greatest ever surge of terrorism against the United States abroad, targeting American civilians in Turkey, Yemen, Pakistan and India. 
  4. 2009-2012:  Strikes targeting the U.S. homeland

    The escalation of the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan by President Obama has coincided with the onset of the the fourth phase in Al Qaeda's strategy for gradually escalating the campaign against America, the resumption of homeland operations. 

By proceeding with small attacks inside the U.S. homeland in prelude to a 9/11 sequel, Al Qaeda's high command aspires to climax its nine-year, four phase terrorist war against America.

The scaled provocation evident in Bin Laden's post-9/11 strategy echoes his pre-9/11 strategy for attacks against America, which proceeded from U.S. military targets in Saudi Arabia to U.S. diplomatic outposts in the greater Muslim world to small-scale Millennium Bomb Plots inside America to 9/11.  Similarly, Al Qaeda replicated this pattern against U.S. allies, targeting Israel (2002-2008), Spain (2003 Casablanca), Britain (2003 Istanbul) inside the Muslim world before moving to attack the homelands of Israel (2009-), Spain (2004) and Britain (2005). 

The pattern of gradually escalating terrorism displayed by Al Qaeda since declaring war on America in 1996 explains three of the most vexing questions of the 9/11 War:

  1. Does the Al Qaeda syndicate exist, or is it a loose network with no strategic guidance?

  2. Why did Al Qaeda not attack the vulnerable American homeland for eight years after 9/11?

  3. Why did Al Qaeda promptly resume attacking the U.S. homeland when the war hawk George Bush was replaced by the peace dove Barack Obama?

The pattern of scaled provocation in Al Qaeda attacks suggests that (1) its high command has remained intact directing this overarching strategy, ignoring small attacks and the details of day-to-day operations by affiliates while requiring command approval for large-scale terrorist strikes, particularly those against U.S. targets. Furthermore, this trend supports the contention that (2) Al Qaeda chose not to attack the vulnerable U.S. homeland for the eight years following 9/11 in order to shift war blame to the bellicose Bush Administration, and (3) Al Qaeda resumed attacking the U.S. homeland after President Obama took office in order to sabotage his defense record and empower war hawks in American foreign policy to expand the 9/11 War.  In this devious manner, Al Qaeda endeavors to convince the world that America is in fact to blame for the 9/11 War.

For more on Al Qaeda's strategy of gradually escalating provocations, see Bin Laden's Plan, Ch.9.2.

Notes On Graphs

On the Phrase “Al Qaeda's Major Terrorist Attacks in the 9/11 War”

Refers to a physical attacks by the Al Qaeda syndicate intended to terrorize Americans into reacting fearfully. This category of attacks does not include:
  • Individual acts of small-scale terrorism in any venue except the most politically sensitive for the 9/11 War, the U.S. homeland, or
  • Al Qaeda strikes inside the official battle zones of the 9/11 War (Afghanistan, Western Pakistan and Iraq), which are classified as insurgent attacks that lack the terrorizing geopolitical influence of attacks outside of war zones.
Although the population inside the war zone (both soldiers and civilians) are "terrorized” by these attacks, the absence of a stable government capable of representing the nation's sentiments and the prevalence of violence in the war zone blunts their terror value in the context of the global 9/11 War.  Essentially, popular tolerance for violence inside known war zones negates the “terror value” of insurgent attacks to a campaign of international terrorism.  For example, attacks on American targets in Western Pakistan such as NATO supply convoys or U.S. consulates are categorized as insurgent attacks that are confined to a known war zone and do not terrorize U.S. voters like attacks outside of war zones.
An important distinction:  While terrorism is typically defined as being lethal attacks on civilian targets that exert significant political influence, the term "civilian" refers to the geographical location (inside or outside of established war zones) of the target.  The nature of the target, be it a civilian or military one, is irrelevant in the classification of an attack as an act of terrorism.  Accordingly, Al Qaeda attacks on civilian targets inside war zones (like the August 2003 bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad) are labeled "insurgent attacks", while Al Qaeda attacks on military targets outside of war zones (like the 2000 USS COLE bombing or the November 2009 Fort Hood shooting) are called "terrorism".

On Al Qaeda's Previous October Surprises

In considering the periodic surge pattern that reflects Al Qaeda's October Surprises, these post-9/11 graphs exclude the first two incidents of this trend and actually only begin in 2002 with the third Surprise.  As observed by the 9/11 Commission, 9/11 was an October Surprise operation delayed from 2000, which (due to the executioners' ineptitude) was temporarily replaced with the USS COLE bombing in October 2000.  This attack itself was preceded in 1998 by Al Qaeda's first attempt to rig a U.S. election, the August 1998 U.S. embassy bombings.  In addition to their direct terror value to the 1998 U.S. mid-term election, this early scheme aimed to provoke a disastrous U.S. military escapade in the Muslim world during the deciding weeks before the election.

On The Dotted Line In The Graphs

This dotted line signifies that the graphs were created and published as a terrorism forecast during the days before the public disclosure of the October 2010 air cargo plot.