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The Looming Tower

Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11

By Lawrence Wright
13-minute read
Audio available
The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright

The Looming Tower (2006) is all about al-Qaeda, its formation, and the personalities behind it. These blinks detail the route taken to power by al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and the run-up to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack that devastated the United States.

  • Anyone interested in the global effects of national policies
  • Political science junkies
  • History enthusiasts

Lawrence Wright is a staff writer at the New Yorker who has written a number of other non-fiction titles. He received the Pulitzer Prize for The Looming Tower.

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The Looming Tower

Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11

By Lawrence Wright
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
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The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright
Synopsis

The Looming Tower (2006) is all about al-Qaeda, its formation, and the personalities behind it. These blinks detail the route taken to power by al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and the run-up to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack that devastated the United States.

Key idea 1 of 8

The 9/11 attacks were the culmination of longstanding tensions and the work of three masterminds.

The September 2001 attacks were an unconscionable tragedy in American history, but also the climax of a long conflict between Islam and the West. When two planes collided with the World Trade Center in New York and a third struck the Pentagon in Washington D.C., 2,996 people were killed, another 6,000 were injured, and the catastrophe launched the so-called “War on Terror.”

But how did such a horrific event happen in the first place?

Well, the emergence of al-Qaeda, the group responsible for 9/11, was the result of a unique convergence of three personalities. The first man to play a key role was Sayyid Qutb, the intellectual father of the Islamist movement and a great influence on the other two primary actors.

The second was Ayman al-Zawahiri, the current leader of al-Qaeda and a promoter of the apocalyptic idea that only violence and vengeance could transform history. The third, and most notorious, was Osama bin Laden, the founder and former leader of al-Qaeda.

When bin Laden first formed al-Qaeda in 1988, it wasn’t clear that it would become the powerful terrorist organization it is today. In the early days, there was disagreement about the organization’s trajectory. Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, another al-Qaeda founder, wanted to use the group to win back lands once held by Islamic peoples from Soviet Central Asia to Bosnia, while Zawahiri dreamt of beginning a vicious cycle of terror and repression in Egypt, a vision not necessarily shared by Azzam and bin Laden.

A long and complicated history led to the group becoming what it is today. Next up, you’ll learn all about these three key figures and the reign of terror they launched.

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