The Oslo Accords: Rabin and Arafat shake hands
at the White House as Clinton looks on


Keys to symbols


==Jan.20 > [] Bill Clinton is inaugurated as President of the United States.

==Jan.25 > [•X] A young Pakistani named Mir Amal Kansi shoots several motorists stopped at a traffic light at the entrance to CIA headquarters. Kansi flees the country, but he is finally apprehended in 1997.      [clarke]

==early.1993 > [X] Al-Qaeda members complete the comprehensive terrorist manual Encyclopedia of the Afghan Jihad, thousands of pages long.  Police in Brussels find a copy on a CD in Mar.1995.  At some point in the next few years, al-Qaeda produces another terrorist primer: Military Studies in the Jihad against the Tyrants.      [berg / nyt.Jan.14.2001]

==Feb.26 > [XX] The first major Islamist terrorist attack within the US: the original World Trade Center bombing is carried out by Ramzi Yousef and associates from the Alkhifa Center in Brooklyn. Hoping to kill thousands by toppling the North Tower onto the South, the group detonates a 1500-pound bomb concealed in a rental van in a parking garage beneath the towers. The blast and the smoke from the resulting fires kill six people and injure about 1000. The $5000 terrorist operation does $300 million worth of damage, but the towers remain standing. During the well-conducted investigation into the bombing, US officials get their first glimpses into the activities of Muslim extremists, though for several years they have only a vague understanding of the threat. See Jun.1993.      [mcder / 911cm]
= [X] The 1993 evacuation of the towers is an ordeal; with the electricity knocked out and the public address system silenced, it takes ten hours to get everyone down the darkened, smoke-filled stairs and out of the buildings. The Port Authority - the landlord of the World Trade Center - eventually corrects many of the problems by beefing up security, intensifying evacuation training, and improving stairwell lighting. The Fire and Police Departments make little effort to improve the poor communication that plagued their responses to the 1993 bombing.      [dwyer]
= [XX] In retrospect, the 1993 WTC bombing marks the beginning of the third and most prolonged wave of international terrorism. Islamist extremists are the predominant terrorists, either operating as freelancers or as part of loose associations like al-Qaeda. Earlier terrorist organizations often had state sponsors, were usually pursuing identifiable goals, and seldom attempted mass casualty attacks. Some groups gave up violence when they were drawn into conventional politics. The new Islamist terrorists are different - they generally have no coherent political aims at all, are indifferent to threats or rewards, and often plan terrorist actions designed to slaughter as many people as possible.      [naftali]
= [X] After several years of cutbacks, funding for the CIA's Counterterrorism Center slowly begins to climb again after 1993.      [naftali]

==Mar.29 > [X] In public hearings on the World Trade Center bombings, former WTC director Guy Tozzoli urges officials to prepare for the possibility of a plane hitting the twin towers. His suggestions are completely ignored.      [nwd.Nov.12.2001 / dwyer]

==Mar.--- > [X] Pakistan arrests 800 foreign Muslim extremists - but fails to suppress al-Qaeda and other militant groups.  In May, 300 foreign Afghan war veterans flee Pakistan for Sudan, with bin Laden paying their travel expenses.      [berg / senic.Oct.17.2002]

==Apr.14 > [] Kuwaiti police thwart an Iraqi attempt to assassinate visiting former President Bush. In retaliation, on Jun.26, Clinton launches missiles that demolish Iraqi intelligence headquarters in Baghdad. After this blow, there is no evidence that Iraq engages in any further acts of terrorism.      [usdos / wall / 911cm]

==May.16 > [X] The Saudi government issues an arrest warrant for Osama bin Laden.      [pbsf]

==May.--- > [] Russia signs a mutual security pact with Tajikistan and posts 15,000 border guards on the Tajik-Afghan border, protecting Russian-dominated Central Asia against instability from disintegrating Afghanistan.  In July, the Russian border guards fight off a large-scale attack by Afghan-based Tajik insurgents.      [hiro1]

==Jun.---  > [XX] The FBI disrupts the 'landmarks plot,' an Islamist plan to blow up the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, the UN, and the Manhattan Federal Building which houses the FBI. Among those arrested are the blind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and other extremists who were involved in the February WTC bombing.      [nyt.Sep.16.2001 / 911cm]

==Jul.14-Aug.28 > [X] Osama bin Laden begins showing up in US intelligence reports: he is linked to Egyptian terrorists in Sudan and to the Dec.1992 hotel bombing in Aden. During 1993, his name is included on a State Department watchlist. But for several years he's believed to be a financier of terrorism, rather than a major leader.      [911cm]

==summer > [] Samuel P. Huntington’s article 'The Clash of Civilizations' appears in Foreign Affairs.  Huntington contradicts the optimistic globalism that dominates the 1990s, asserting that struggles between largely irreconcilable civilizations are likely to increasingly destabilize the world.  He sees Islam as especially threatening.  'The Clash of Civilizations' is met with general skepticism, but its bleak outlook is a foretaste of the grim, fearful tone of international relations after 9/11.  The article is expanded and published in book form in Nov.1996.     [foraf.Summer.1993 / amz]

==Aug.--- >  [] 33 years after it was first promised, a Saudi Consultative Council is appointed by King Fahd. Clinton calls it “an important step to widen popular participation.”  In fact, the council is unelected and powerless, and Saudi Arabia is becoming even more authoritarian.  A Saudi liberal tells a reporter “Now we couldn’t even set up a neighborhood committee for dealing with stray dogs.”      [hiro1]

==Sep.01 > [X] Louis Freeh is sworn in as FBI Director.      [fbi]

==Sep.09-10 > [] Israel and the PLO recognize each other.      [lmd]

==Sep.13 > [] The Oslo accords: Rabin and Arafat sign the ‘Declaration of Principles’ in Washington, setting up a framework for establishing Palestinian self-government. Further accords are signed in 1994.  Tensions temporarily ease in the Middle East and a stable Israeli-Palestinian peace briefly seems possible.      [wall / lmd]

==Oct.03-04 > [X] In the battle later portrayed in Black Hawk Down, 18 US troops are killed in confused urban combat in Mogadishu, Somalia.  Some of the Somali fighters were evidently  trained by al Qaeda operatives, though the US did not realize this until years later.      [berg / nyt.Jan.14.2001]

==Nov.--- >  [X] The height of the Egyptian Islamist crisis.  The government further intensifies its crackdown, routinely torturing prisoners, taking militants’ relatives hostage and censoring even moderate Islamist writers.  These heavy-handed policies are having some effect.  Al Jihad commits its last terrorist attack within Egypt - damaged by arrests, the organization remains active abroad and eventually merges with al-Qaeda.  There are 1,116 deaths related to religious violence in Egypt in 1993 - but by 1994, the violence is starting to ease off.      [hiro1 / bbc]

==Dec.--- > [X] An al-Qaeda team begins casing targets for a terrorist attack in Nairobi, the beginning of the operation that will result in the embassy bombings of Aug.07.1998.      [911cm]

== ------- > [] Washington labels Sudan a supporter of international terrorism.     [hiro1]

== ------- > [X] Al Quds mosque opens in Hamburg, Germany.  The mosque eventually plays a key role in the plots that lead to 9/11.  See Apr.11.1996      [lat.Sep.01.2002]

==1993-1994 > [X] A Pentagon study group prepares a report on potential terrorist attacks entitled Terror 2000.  The group discusses the possibility of airliners being deliberately flown into public buildings, including the Pentagon.  A draft report predicts that “In the future, horrified civilians will get to watch every step in a terrorist plot.  CNN and other networks will certainly air the footage.”  One member speculates that terrorists would launch “multiple, simultaneous operations” to stun the government.  From the mid-1990s, there are many committees studying terrorism - but most of them focus on weapons of mass destruction and ignore more likely tactics.  [wap.Oct.02.2001]

==Jan.01-Feb > [] Renewed fighting between mujahedeen factions leaves half the remaining residents of Kabul homeless. Factional violence in Afghanistan is becoming endemic.  See spring      [hiro1]

==Jan.--- >  [X] Al-Qaeda is operating at least three military training camps in northern Sudan.      [senic.Oct.17.2002]

==early.1994 > [X] World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and his uncle Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) enter the Philippines and begin developing a series of terrorist plots. KSM, who attended college in North Carolina, has been a committed Islamist since the late 1980s and has fought in Afghanistan and Bosnia. His activities in the Philippines are his first direct involvement with terrorism. He is ostensibly employed as an engineer by the government of Qatar, but he's evidently loosely supervised - over the next couple years he spends much of his time in extensive international travel related to terrorist activity. See Dec.11.1994 and Jan.06.1995      [lat.Sep.01.2002 / 911cm]

==Feb.25 > [X] Baruch Goldstein, a Jewish right-wing extremist and US citizen, machine-guns a mosque in Hebron on the West Bank, killing 29 worshippers.      [usdos / lmd]

==Feb.--- > [X] The Saudis quietly strip Osama bin Laden of his citizenship and freeze his assets - for several years he seems to be short of funds.  In March, the bin Laden family disowns Osama.  A 1994 assassination attempt on him in Khartoum is probably ordered by the Saudi regime.    [hiro1 / berg]

==Apr.07-Sep. > [X] A disgruntled FedEx flight engineer hitching a ride on a cargo plane attacks the crew with hammers and is subdued only after a violent struggle. The attacker evidently intended to take over the controls and crash the plane into a FedEx building in Memphis. In September a man crashes a stolen single-engine Cessna into a tree on the White House grounds, close to the president's bedroom. These are the only acts of air piracy in America between 1991 and the 9/11 attacks. Worldwide, hijackings are generally becoming increasingly rare during the 1990s.    [airsafe.Aug.23.1996 / nyt.Oct.03.2001 / sundti.Sep.12.2001]

==spring > [X] The Taliban is formed.  The group’s origins are obscure, but it probably begins around the spring of 1994 as an informal organization of religious students near Kandahar, who are appalled by the lawlessness of the mujahadeen and wish to restore order.  Soon after the group’s formation, Taliban chief Mullah Omar defeats a local warlord who had raped two girls, and hangs him from the barrel of a wrecked Russian tank.  In July, Omar forces an end to full-scale fighting in Kandahar between two commanders vying for the sexual favors of a young boy.  The Taliban seems to promise an end to anarchy, and many Afghans initially support its rise.  See Nov.05      [rash2 / hiro1]

==May.--- > [] Israelis withdraw forces from part of the West Bank and from the Gaza Strip, to make way for Palestinian self-rule.     [wall]

==Jul.01 > [] Arafat returns to Gaza, entering Palestinian territory for the first time in 25 years.       [wall]

==Jul.11 > [X] Bin Laden forms the Committee for Advice and Reform (CAR or ARC), ostensibly to promote Islamist-imposed reform in Saudi Arabia.      [hiro1 / berg]

==Jul.25 > [] Israel and Jordan end the state of conflict between the two countries.  On Oct.26, a formal peace treaty is signed.      [wall / lmd]

==Aug.--- > [] Ken Starr is appointed independent counsel in the Whitewater investigation.      [msnbc]

==Aug.--- > [XX] North African/French Muslims open fire in a tourist hotel in Morocco, killing two Spaniards.  The subsequent investigation begins to uncover the network of Islamist extremist cells in Europe.       [nyt.Jan.14.2001]

==Oct.15 > [] Rabin, Peres, and Arafat win the Nobel Peace Prize.

==Oct.21 > [] The US and North Korea reach an accord, ending a highly dangerous crisis brought on by North Korea’s nuclear program.      [wall]

==Nov.05 > [X] The Taliban secure control of Kandahar, free a Pakistani truck convoy that had been waylaid by local warlords while on its way to Central Asia, and begin to develop strong ties with Islamabad - the Pakistani Interior Minister refers to the group as “our boys.”  They enforce an extreme version of Islamic law, start to build a well-armed military force, and begin to rapidly expand at the expense of the mujahadeen. The Taliban are becoming a major force in south Afghanistan.  [rash2 / hiro1]

==Nov.08 > [] The Republicans win a strong victory in US midterm elections, gaining control of both houses of Congress for the first time in decades.  George W. Bush is elected Governor of Texas.

==late 1994 or early 1995 > [X] Al-Qaeda makes intermittent overtures to Iraq, until 1999. Baghdad, however, is generally wary and Saddam and bin Laden evidently never collaborate.       [911cm]

==Dec.24 > [XX] Members of the Algerian Islamist GIA hijack an Air France airliner with the intention of crashing it into the Eiffel Tower, but the hijackers are killed when the plane is stormed by a SWAT team.      [usdos / nwwk.May.27.02]

==Dec.11 > [] Russian forces invade the Muslim region of Chechnya in the Caucasus - the First Chechen War to 1996.      [wall]

==Dec.11 > [X] Ramzi Yousef tests the detonation device he's invented by setting off a bomb in a Philippines Airlines flight to Tokyo, killing a Japanese businessman and injuring 10 other passengers. Yousef had conducted an earlier test on Dec.01, bombing a movie theater in Manila.     [911cm / wap.Jul.21.1996]

==Dec-Jan. > [X] Reflecting the Saudi regime’s temporarily mellowed attitude toward Israel after the Oslo accords, the Grand Mufti preaches that it’s possible for Muslims to coexist with Jews.  Saudi Islamists react furiously to the sermons.     [hiro1]

== ------- >  [] Afghanistan produces 3,200 metric tons of opium, more than half the world’s total, and a 32-fold increase since war broke out in 1979.      [hiro1]

==Jan.06 > [XX] The Manila bomb factory run by Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is discovered. The two terrorists escape, but police seize an abandoned laptop that contains plans to assassinate the pope, to crash a plane into CIA headquarters, and to blow up a dozen American airliners over the Pacific in a two-day period. The latter plot is known as ‘Project Bojinka,’ a nonsense word that KSM picked up in Afghanistan. Yousef and KSM were also working on plots to assassinate President Clinton and to blow up cargo flights. Counterterrorist investigators become aware of “a strong network, continuously hatching plots.” See Feb.07.1995, early 1996, and late winter 1999      [lat.Sep.01.2002 / 911cm]

==Jan.--- > [X] An Islamic Jihad suicide bombing in Beit Lid kills 19, provoking Israel to seal off the occupied territories and threatening the peace process.      [lmd]

John O’Neill

==Feb.07 > [X] Ramzi Yousef, the organizer of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, is apprehended in Islamabad as he is about to board a bus for Afghanistan.  The arrest operation is coordinated by the energetic John O’Neill, who had just taken over as the FBI counterterrorism chief.  O’Neill immerses himself in the study of Islamist terrorism, and eventually becomes one of the first Americans to begin to understand how al-Qaeda functions and to grasp the danger it represents. But he alienates Director Freeh and the FBI establishment and becomes increasingly frustrated by the Bureau’s internal politics.  See Sep.10.2001      [pbsf.Oct.03.2002 / nykr.Jan.14.2002]

==Feb.--- > [X] In what is perhaps the first official American action against bin Laden, he is included in a confidential court document listing dozens of unindicted possible co-conspirators in the landmarks plot (see Jun.1993). US authorities still regard him as no more than a financier of terrorism, and won't begin to recognize his significance until early 1996.     [911cm]

==Mar.20 > [X] The Aum Shinrikyo cult releases nerve gas in a Tokyo subway, killing twelve commuters and injuring over 5000.     [usdos]

==late.Mar >  [XX] The extremist ‘Islamic People’s Congress’ in Khartoum is attended by bin Laden and al-Qaeda, the GIA from Algeria, Hezbollah from Lebanon, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad from the Occupied Territories, and extremist groups from Pakistan, Tunisia, and other countries. Bin Laden meets with Hezbollah representatives.      [hiro1 / berg]

==Mar.27 > [X] Inspired by the Aum nerve gas attack in Tokyo, the Apr.03 issue of Time magazine (on sale Mar.27) features a frightening article on large-scale terrorism, with experts making comments like “Nightmares are coming true.  I think we're in for deep trouble.”  The normally calm Senator Nunn discusses the possibility of terrorists crashing a radio-controlled drone plane loaded with chemical weapons into the Capitol during the State of the Union Address, wiping out much of the federal government.  A deep fear of terrorism is taking root in America.

==Apr.19 > [XX] The Oklahoma City bombing: American right-wing extremists blow up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, in the worst American terrorist attack until 2001.  There are 168 fatalities, including 19 children in a day care center.  Counterterrorism becomes a major priority of the Clinton administration.      [hrtl / nyt.Dec.30.2001]

==Apr.---> [X] After three attacks on Israelis by Hamas, Arafat arrests 170 members of the group.      [lmd]

==Jun.21 > [X] The Clinton administration issues PDD-39, a directive outlining its beefed-up policies against terrorism. This is the first formal presidential directive on terrorism in almost a decade. Clinton has been promoting a package of strong counterterrorist legislation for months, but it will wind up being blocked by Congressional Republicans.      [clarke / usgov / naftali / 911cm]

==Jun.26 > [X] Visiting Addis Ababa, Mubarak narrowly survives an assassination attempt by Egyptian terrorists operating from Sudan. He immediately re-intensifies the crackdown on Egyptian Islamists. Sudan is soon under pressure: the UN votes sanctions, the US considers raiding al-Qaeda bases in the country, and Egypt threatens direct military action.      [hiro1 / clarke]

==Jul.11-16 > [] Bosnian Serbs overrun the town of Srebrenica and massacre about 7,000 Muslim men.      [bbc]

==Aug.09 > [] The initial public offering of Netscape Communications Corp. sees its stock more than double in value on its first day of trading, though the company has yet to make any money.  The enthused high-tech venture capitalist John Doerr is soon promoting the ‘new economy’ as “the greatest legal creation of wealth in the history of the planet.” The Internet boom is underway.      [wap.Nov.13.2002]

==Aug.--- > [X] In an open letter to King Fahd, bin Laden calls for guerilla warfare to drive the US out of Arabia.     [pbs]

==Sep.05 > [X] In western Afghanistan, the Taliban captures Herat from a pro-Iranian faction, provoking hostility from Tehran.  Saudi Arabia aligns with the Taliban.      [rash2 / hiro1]

==Sep.28 > [] The Oslo II agreement is signed by Arafat and Rabin in Washington, extending Palestinian autonomy to the West Bank.  Clinton, Mubarak, and King Hussein witness the event.      [lmd]

==Oct.21 > [] The politically well-connected American oil company Unocal signs an agreement with Turkmenistan to build a pipeline through Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Unocal faces stiff competition from its Argentine rival Bridas.  Highly involved oil politics start to further complicate the situation in Central Asia.  See early Dec.1997      [rash2 / wap.Oct.05.1998]

==Nov.04 > [X] Yitzhak Rabin is assassinated by a young Israeli rightwing extremist. Hopes for peace in the Middle East recede.      [lmd]

==Nov.13 > [X] The first major bombing in Saudi Arabia kills 5 US troops in Riyadh.  The bombers are apprehended and eventually confess that they were veterans of the Afghan war and were inspired by bin Laden.  They are probably linked to al-Qaeda, but are beheaded by the Saudis before they can be interviewed by the FBI.      [hiro1 / berg]

==Nov.20 > [X] The Egyptian embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, is wrecked by a powerful truck bomb attack that kills 15 and wounds 80.  US investigators believe that al-Qaeda is involved and Pakistan cracks down on local al-Qaeda operations. The bombers’ method is similar to that which will be used in the bombing of the US embassy in Kenya in 1998.      [berg]

==late.Nov. > [] King Fahd suffers a severe stroke that leaves him largely paralyzed, and Crown Prince Abdullah becomes the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia. The House of Saud is divided by factional power struggles, and Abdullah is unable to stem the Saudi royal family’s growing corruption and estrangement from the Arabian public.      [hiro1 / nykr.Oct.16.2001]

==Nov.--- >  [X] The Egyptian government suppresses the relatively moderate Muslim Brotherhood and blatantly rigs a parliamentary election.  The Al Gamaat group responds with several terrorist attacks, but the Egyptian Islamists are loosing their struggle with Mubarak.      [hiro1]

==Nov-Dec. > [] Israeli forces complete their withdrawal from Palestinian towns, except for Hebron.      [lmd]

==late.1995 or early.1996 > [X] Sudan quietly offers to hand bin Laden over to Saudi Arabia, but the Saudis decline to take him.     [911cm]

==Winter 1995-1996 > [X] After returning to Hamburg from a pilgrimage to Mecca, graduate student Mohamed Atta begins gravitating toward Islamist extremism. He largely loses interest in his academic work, socializes almost exclusively with ultra-pious Muslims, and spends more time at the hard-core al Quds mosque. Around this time he strikes up a friendship with Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a Yemeni who is seeking asylum in Germany and who is also being drawn to Islamism. See end.1997- early.1998      [mcder]

==Dec.--- > [] The California Public Utilities Commission votes to deregulate the state’s power industry.  Next year, after a unanimous vote in the legislature, California becomes the first state to deregulate electricity.  See Mar.20.2001      [pbs]

==Dec.--- > [] 'From Containment to Global Leadership?: America & the World After the Cold War' by neo-conservative Zalmay Khalilzad is published, arguing in favor of pre-emptive wars to forestall any possible rivals to US predominance.  Khalizad later becomes an influential foreign policy adviser and special envoy to Afghanistan in the George W. Bush administration.      [harp.Oct.2002 / amz]

== ------- > [X] The CIA's Clandestine Services reaches its nadir, with only 25 new officers. The increasing fear of terrorism after the 1995 attacks in Tokyo and Oklahoma City will lead to revived support for the agency.    [911cm]

== ------- >  [] The US begins admitting Uzbek officers to Pentagon military schools.  In Aug.1996, US troops participate in joint military exercises in Uzbekistan.  America is beginning to forge military ties with the newly independent nations that used to comprise Soviet Central Asia.      [hiro1]



Text Symbols

[] = The Levant: Israel, Palestine,
         Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey

[X]  = Non-Islamist Terrorism

[] = Egypt and North Africa

[X] = Islamist Extremists

[] = The Persian Gulf Region and Arabia

[X] = Islamist Terrorism (not al-Qaeda)

[] = Central and Southern Asia

[X] = al-Qaeda and bin Laden

[] = Africa

[X] = The 9/11 Operation

[] = Europe and the Soviet Union

[X] = Counterterrorism

[] = The United States




This chronology is intended as an outline of developments related to 9/11 and its aftermath, and tends to focus on unrest, war, and terrorism. It is not meant to be a comprehensive timeline of Middle East history.


9/11 Intro          Source Abbreviations

1948-1978      1979-1986      1987-1992      1996-1998      1999-2000

2001, Jan-Jun      2001, Jul-Sep.10

September 11, 2001, Part I      September 11, 2001, Part II