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BUZZ WORDS AND CATCH PHRASES
A Glossary for Our Changing World, by Steve Buttry
with NewsLab links to additional information

Terms discussed here include people, places, agencies, technology, jargon and clichés used in the aftermath of the attack on the United States. The glossary is organized by topics: terrorism, war, geopolitics, religion, homeland security, disaster recovery and miscellaneous. In some cases, the glossary notes alternative spellings of Arabic and other non-English words. Others may have alternative spellings not noted here. Highlighted links will open in a new window, taking you to sites offering more information on selected topics.

Terrorism Terminology
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
 
A Back to Index Bar Back to Top

agro-terrorism. Terrorism by contaminating crops or livestock with a deadly contagious disease.

American Airlines Flight 11. Crashed Sept. 11 into north tower of World Trade Center. Hijacked en route from Boston to Los Angeles. Suspected hijackers were Wail M. Alshehri, Waleed M. Alshehri, Mohamed Atta, Satam al-Suqami and Abdulaziz Alomari.

American Airlines Flight 77. Crashed Sept. 11 into the Pentagon. Hijacked en route from Washington-Dulles International Airport to Los Angeles. Suspected hijackers were Khalid al-Midhar, Majed Moqed, Nawaq Alhazmi, Salem Alhazmi and Hani Hanjour.

anthrax. Deadly bacterium used in apparent bioterrorist attacks since Sept. 11. Anthrax can infect by inhalation or skin contact (cutaneous infection). It is treatable with antibiotics, primarily doxycycline and Cipro. If diagnosed early, the patient has a strong probability of full recovery.

anti-terrorism. Anti-terrorism efforts are preventive measures, such as judicial, legislative, security or military measures taken to reduce vulnerability to a terrorist attack, as contrasted with counter-terrorism measures, which are military, police and intelligence measures used to fight terrorism through pre-emptive or retaliatory measures.

assassination. Terrorist groups may engage in assassination, but assassination is not terrorism. Assassination has a specific target, though other people may be killed or injured. Terrorists target a group of people, but generally choose specific victims randomly. If the Sept. 11 attack had succeeded in killing President Bush, it would have involved assassination and terrorism. President Ford banned CIA involvement in assassinations with a 1976 executive order, after a congressional investigation revealed evidence of a plot to kill Fidel Castro. Some U.S. leaders want to repeal the order.

Atlanta. Site of still-unsolved bombing at Centennial Olympic park during 1996 Summer Olympics. Security guard Richard Jewell was identified publicly as a suspect, but later was cleared. No terrorist group took credit. One person was killed and 111 were injured. In 1998, a federal complaint charged Eric Robert Rudolph with the crime.

Atta. Mohamed Atta is suspected of being the ringleader of the 19 terrorists who died in the Sept. 11 hijackings.

Aum Shinrikyo. Japanese cult that released sarin nerve gas in subway in 1995, killing 12.

B Back to Index Bar

bin Laden. Osama (also spelled Usama) bin Laden, a Saudi native, was the 17th of 24 sons of Saudi Arabia's leading builder, Yemeni immigrant Mohammed bin Oud bin Laden. Osama's share of the family wealth has been estimated at $300 million, though some say that figure is too high. He helped the mujahedeen in their war with the Soviet Union, mostly by building facilities and helping recruit other Arabs. His hatred of the United States stems from his view that U.S. forces desecrated holy ground in Saudi Arabia with their presence in the war against Iraq. He was expelled from Saudi Arabia in 1991, then from Sudan in 1996. Since 1996 he has operated terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. His worldwide network, al Qaeda, is blamed for the Sept. 11 attack on the United States, the 2000 attack on the USS Cole and other terrorist attacks. Osama means "like a lion."

bioterrorism. Terrorism using deadly bacteria or virus.

Black September. The Palestinian terrorist group that captured and killed members of the Israeli Olympic team at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, West Germany.

botulinum. Bacterium that could be used by terrorists to contaminate food.

C Back to Index Bar

cell. Small group working together clandestinely. Contact with other cells of the same organization and even with command structure of the organization is limited.

chlorine dioxide. Chemical used to purify water, which can kill hard-to-destroy bacteria. Used as a gas to clear Hart Senate office building of anthrax contamination.

counter-terrorism. Counter-terrorism measures are military, police and intelligence measures used to fight terrorism through pre-emptive or retaliatory measures, as contrasted with anti-terrorism measures, which are preventive measures to reduce vulnerability to terrorist attacks.

cyanide. Poison feared as a possible agent in chemical terrorism.

D Back to Index Bar

Dar es Salaam. Capital of Tanzania and site of U.S. Embassy bombed Aug. 7, 1998, by suicide bombers linked to bin Laden. U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, was bombed at the same time. The two embassy attacks killed 301 and injured 5,000. United States retaliated with missile strikes on an abandoned training camp in Afghanistan and a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan, mistakenly thought to be a chemical weapons factory.

Dark Winter. Bioterrorism "war game" exercise that government agencies tried in June. Hypothetical smallpox epidemic spread to 25 states.

drain the swamp. Cliché meaning that you have to clean up the environment in which a terrorist network operates, rather than retaliate in a limited way.

E Back to Index Bar

Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Terror group blamed for the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. President Bush identified Egyptian Islamic Jihad in his address to Congress as one of the groups working with al Qaeda.

Entebbe. Perhaps the most celebrated response to terrorism was the surprise raid by Israeli troops at Uganda's Entebbe Airport in 1976. Gunmen demanding the release of Palestinian prisoners hijacked an Air France flight from Athens to Paris. During a week on the ground, the hijackers released 143 passengers but held 103 hostages, mostly Israelis. In a nighttime raid, three C-130 transport planes landed at Entebbe, loaded with Israeli commandos who killed the seven hijackers and 20 Ugandan soldiers, who were suspected of aiding the hijackers. Three hostages and the Israeli commander also died.

F Back to Index Bar

al-Fadl. Jamal al-Fadl, who fled to the West after he was caught embezzling from bin Laden's operation, has helped authorities understand how the operation works.

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. 1978 law allows FBI to monitor suspected terrorists or spies without showing probable cause of a crime.

Foreign Terrorist Asset Tracking Center. Abbreviated FTAT. Agency that will track and attempt to seize or freeze terrorist assets around the world.

G Back to Index Bar

Gamaa Islamiya (the Islamic Group). Egypt's largest terrorist group. Claimed responsibility for June 1995 assassination attempt on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Signed bin Laden's 1998 fatwa, declaring jihad against the United States.

H Back to Index Bar

Hamas. Palestinian terror group seeking to oust Israel from Palestine. Claimed June 1 attack on Tel Aviv night club and Aug. 9 attack on Jerusalem restaurant. The two suicide attacks killed a combined 39 people.

Harakat ul-Mujahedin. On State Department's list of global terrorist groups.

Hizbullah or Hizballah or Hezbollah. Lebanon-based group that bombed U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983.

hate crimes. A crime whose victim is selected because he or she belongs to a group the attacker hates. Some, but not all, hate crimes are acts of terrorism.

hawala. Paperless financial system that al Qaeda is suspected of using. From the Hindi for "in trust," the system works on cash and promises of repayment, making tracing of transactions difficult.

Hydra. Bin Laden's terrorist network frequently is likened to the Hydra, a multi-headed creature of Greek mythology that grew two new heads each time a head was cut off.

I,J Back to Index Bar

Irradiation. Process used to reduce or eliminate disease-causing germs, most often in food. The US Postal Service plans to irradiate mail to combat anthrax.

Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. One of two groups President Bush identified in his address to Congress as affiliates of al Qaeda.

Islamic Observation Centre. London-based extremist group.

K Back to Index Bar

kamikaze. Japanese pilots who flew suicide missions, crashing their planes into American ships were called kamikaze pilots. The term has come to mean any suicide mission, such as the terrorist attacks on U.S. buildings.

al-Khobar Towers. U.S. military apartment complex in Saudi Arabia, attacked in 1996 by suicide bombers linked to bin Laden. Bomb killed 19 and injured 370.

Kurdistan Workers Party. On State Department's list of global terrorist groups.

L Back to Index Bar

Lockerbie. Site where Pan Am Flight 103 crashed in Scotland in 1988 after a terrorist sent plastic explosives aboard in a radio in a checked bag.

M Back to Index Bar

make a statement. Cliché for the intended meaning of a terrorist attack or the response to a terrorist attack. Same as "send a message."

McVeigh. Timothy McVeigh was executed June 11 for the Oklahoma City bombing.

al-Midhar. Khalid al-Midhar, a suspected terrorist who died on Flight 77. The CIA filmed him in 2000 at a Kuala Lumpur meeting of suspected terrorists that included a man suspected in the bombing of the USS Cole.

millennium plot. Foiled terrorist plot, linked to bin Laden, to bomb Los Angeles International Airport in December 1999.

Munich. Site of 1972 terrorist attack that gained worldwide attention during the Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany. Eleven Israeli athletes and coaches were killed in the incident, which began with their abduction in the Olympic Village by eight members of the Palestinian terrorist group Black September.

N Back to Index Bar

Nairobi. Capital of Kenya and site of U.S. Embassy bombed Aug. 7, 1998, by suicide bombers linked to bin Laden. U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, was bombed at the same time. The two embassy attacks killed 301 and injured 5,000. United States retaliated with missile strikes on an abandoned training camp in Afghanistan and a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan, mistakenly thought to be a chemical weapons factory.

National Coordinator on Counterterrorism. National Security Council position. Retired Gen. Wayne Downing was appointed to the position.

National Pharmaceutical Stockpile. Vaccines and antidotes stored at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, to protect against germ warfare.

O Back to Index Bar

Oklahoma City. Site of worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil before Sept. 11. Timothy McVeigh parked and detonated a truck loaded with explosive fertilizer in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people, including 19 children. McVeigh, who was seeking to avenge the 1993 deaths of members of the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas, was executed June 11. Accomplice Terry Nichols is serving a life term in federal prison and faces a possible death sentence in a pending trial on state murder charges.

P Back to Index Bar

Pan Am Flight 103. Airliner that blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, killing 270.

Pentagon. Headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense. The five-sided, x-story building was completed in 1943. American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon Sept. 11, killing 189.

Q Back to Index Bar

al Qaeda or al-Qaida. The terrorist network of bin Laden. It means "the Base" or "the Foundation."

R Back to Index Bar

Rahman. Omar Abdul Rahman, the "blind sheikh" with CIA ties, who was convicted as the mastermind of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Leader of Gamaa Islamiya.

Ressam. Ahmed Ressam was convicted of 1999 "millennium" plot to bomb Los Angeles International Airport during New Year's celebrations. He testified that bin Laden gave him $12,000 and told him to raise the rest of the money for his mission by robbing banks. Trained at camp in Afghanistan.

S Back to Index Bar

sarin. Nerve gas used in 1995 subway attack in Tokyo by Aum Shinrikyo cult. One of the most likely toxic chemicals to be used in a terrorist attack.

selling short. A technique in options trading that allows a party to profit from a decline in the market. Bin Laden's network is suspected of selling short before Sept. 11, to profit from the decline in airline and reinsurance stocks.

send a message. Cliché for the intended meaning of a terrorist attack or the response to a terrorist attack. Same as "make a statement."

smallpox. Deadly virus that was declared eradicated in 1979 by the World Health Organization. Vaccinations stopped, and even laboratory samples have been destroyed, though two research centers retain DNA fragments under tight security. Feared as a possible agent of bioterrorism.

state terrorism. Acts of terrorism by a government against its own people. Iraq has practiced state terrorism against the Kurds, just as Nazi Germany did against the Jews and other minorities and as Stalin did against various dissident groups.

state-sponsored terrorism. Acts carried out by non-government groups with funding, arms, intelligence or other direct or indirect help from a government. State Department lists seven nations as sponsors of terrorism: Cuba, Libya, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.

T Back to Index Bar

terrorism. The use of force or threats to demoralize or intimidate a group of people for political reasons.

toxin. A toxin is a poison released by a living organism. Chemicals used in terrorism are not toxins.

TWA Flight 847. 1985 flight hijacked en route from Athens to Rome. Hijackers held the crew and most passengers hostage for 17 days, flying to Algiers and Beirut as they tried to negotiate for the release of prisoners held by the Israelis. The hijackers used airport cleaning crew to smuggle guns and grenades into the airplane's restroom.

U Back to Index Bar

United Airlines Flight 93. Crashed Sept. 11 in rural Pennsylvania. Hijacked en route from Newark to San Francisco. Some passengers apparently overpowered the hijackers, keeping them from hitting their intended target, possibly the U.S. Capitol. Believed to be the only Sept. 11 flight with four hijackers. Suspected hijackers were Saeed Alghamdi, Ahmed Alhaznawl, Ahmed Alnami and Ziad Jarrah.

United Airlines Flight 175. Crashed Sept. 11 into the south tower of the World Trade Center. Hijacked en route from Boston to Los Angeles. Suspected hijackers were Marwan al-Shehhl, Fayez Ahmed, Ahmed Alghamdi, Hamza Alghamdi and Mohand Alshehri.

USS Cole. Destroyer attacked Oct. 12, 2000, in Yemen's Aden Harbor by suicide bombers linked to bin Laden. Attack killed 17 and injured 39.

USS Sullivan. Target of failed January 2000 bombing attack in Yemen. The boat carrying explosives sank.

V Back to Index Bar

VX. Nerve gas feared as a possible agent in a chemical attack by terrorists.

W Back to Index Bar

World Trade Center. The seven-building financial complex was the target of a 1993 truck bombing that killed six people and injured more than 1,000. In the Sept. 11 attack, hijacked planes flew into both towers of the trade center, causing fires that caused the towers to collapse.

X, Y, Z Back to Index Bar

Yousef. Ramzi Yousef, Pakistani who planned the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Also involved in failed plots to assassinate Pope John Paul II and President Bill Clinton and to bomb 11 U.S. airliners in flight on the same day in 1995. Other defendants in terrorism trials in the 1990s in the United States included Wadih el Hage, Mohamed al-Owhali and Khalfan Khamis Mohamed. Yousef was imprisoned with Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

al-Zawahiri. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, is believed to be hiding in Afghanistan with bin Laden and is viewed as perhaps the strategic leader of al Qaeda.

 

War Terminology

 
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W XYZ
 
A Back to Index Bar

Ahmed al-Jabat. Air base in Kuwait likely to be used in war on terrorism.

Aidid. Muhammad Farah Aidid was the Somali warlord whom U.S. troops sought and failed to capture in an invasion that started in 1992. He declared himself president of Somalia in 1995 and died in a battle in 1996.

airborne. Soldiers trained to attack from the air, by parachute or helicopter.

asymetrical warfare. Battle between different forces, such as terrorists vs. conventional forces.

B Back to Index Bar

B-1B. Long-range bomber that may be used in missions against targets in Afghanistan.

B-2. "Stealth" bomber stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., used in initial attacks on military and terrorist targets in Afghanistan.

B-52. Nation's oldest bombers, making bombing runs against al Qaeda and Taliban bases from Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

ballistic missiles. Missiles with no guidance system. They can be aimed at a target, but their course cannot be adjusted in flight. Where they land is determined by initial thrust and drag on the missile in flight. Can be launched from submarines.

biological warfare. Use of a bacterium (such as anthrax) or virus (such as smallpox) as a weapon. Many experts believe biological weapons present a more serious terrorist threat than chemical or nuclear weapons, because the organisms can multiply and spread through the population, so an attack would not require the volume of material needed in a chemical attack.

C Back to Index Bar

chemical warfare. Use of toxic chemicals as weapons. Chemical weapons would be more difficult to use in a massive terrorist attack than biological weapons because of the volume of chemicals needed. After the Sept. 11 attack, the FAA grounded all crop dusting operations, fearing a possible chemical attack. Chemical warfare does not include use of herbicides to defoliate enemy hiding areas and riot-control agents such as tear gas.

collateral damage. Civilian casualties and civilian property damage in an attack on a military target. Timothy McVeigh outraged the nation, particularly families of victims in the Oklahoma City blast, by referring the 19 children he killed in the day care center as collateral damage. After the Sept. 11 attack, producers halted the release of an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie "Collateral Damage."

commando. Forces trained to fight in small units, attacking by surprise to achieve limited objectives.

cruise missile. Missile with a guidance system to deliver it to a specified target. The United States used cruise missiles in its initial attack on Taliban targets and in the 1998 attacks on targets in Sudan and Afghanistan after terrorists bombed embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. Can be launched from submarines.

cyberwarfare. Damaging an enemy through use of computers.

D,E Back to Index Bar

Delta Force. Elite Army unit trained in rescue and other special operations.

Diego Garcia. Island home of U.S. naval base in Indian Ocean.

F Back to Index Bar

.F-14 Tomcat. Fighters stationed on U.S. aircraft carriers.

F/A-18 Hornets. Fighters stationed on U.S. aircraft carriers.

G Back to Index Bar

Green Berets. Army Special Forces unit trained in commando fighting. U.S. has about 5,000 Green Berets.

H,I Back to Index Bar

Homeland Defense Command. Military agency, not to be confused with Homeland Security Council.

J Back to Index Bar

Joint Special Operations Command. Runs the military's special forces.

 

K

Kalashnikov. Captured Soviet rifles used widely in Afghanistan.

L,M,N Back to Index Bar

land mines. Afghanistan has an estimated 6 million land mines, mostly left over from the war with the Soviet Union. An estimated 100 to 300 people a month die from land mine explosions.

O,P,Q Back to Index Bar

Operation Desert Storm. The name of the military operation to drive Iraq out of Kuwait in 1991. During the buildup in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf prior to the bombing of Iraq and the invasion of Kuwait, it was Operation Desert Shield.

Operation Enduring Freedom. The second name for the U.S. military response to the Sept. 11 attack. It was adopted after Muslims objected to Operation Infinite Justice.

Operation Infinite Justice. The short-lived name of the U.S. military response to the Sept. 11. attack. The Defense Department quickly abandoned it upon learning that the phrase is offensive to Muslims, who believe only Allah can dispense infinite justice. The response instead became known as Operation Enduring Freedom.

Operation Just Cause. The name for the military operation to arrest President Manuel Noriega of Panama in 1989.

R Back to Index Bar

Rangers. Army airborne unit, trained to fight behind enemy lines. U.S. has about 2,000 Rangers.

S,T Back to Index Bar

SH/HH-60 Seahawks. Helicopters stationed on U.S. aircraft carriers.

Seals. Navy commando units. Acronym stands for Sea, Air and Land. Former Sen. Bob Kerrey led a Seal unit in Vietnam. U.S. has about 2,200 Seals.

special forces. Small units trained for special missions, such as unconventional warfare and counter-terrorism.

Stinger. Small heat-seeking missiles fired from a shoulder launcher, usually to bring down a helicopter or other low-flying airplane. The United States shipped Stinger missiles to Afghanistan through Pakistan during the war against the Soviet Union. U.S. forces don't know how many Stingers the Taliban forces might have.

surgical strike. Military operation with a limited objective, performed with precision and swiftness, usually from the air.

symmetrical warfare. Battle between like forces: tanks vs. tanks and aircraft vs. aircraft. War on terrorism may be largely asymmetrical.

U,V,W,X, Y, Z Back to Index Bar

USS Carl Vinson. Aircraft carrier heading battle group in the Persian Gulf.

USS Enterprise. Aircraft carrier heading battle group in the Arabian Sea.

USS Kitty Hawk. Aircraft carrier heading battle group en route to Indian Ocean from Japan.

USS Theodore Roosevelt. Aircraft carrier heading battle group sent from Norfolk, Va., to Middle East.

 

Geopolitical Terminology

 
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X,Y,Z
 
A Back to Index Bar

Ab-I-Pandj River. River between Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Refugees crowded onto islands in the river when Tajikistan would not allow them in.

Afghanistan. Central Asian nation that defeated Soviet Union in 1980s war. Taliban came to power in 1996.

Albania. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

Algeria. Home to Islamic Salvation Front, affiliated with al Qaeda. Might help U.S. in war on terrorism by providing intelligence and other non-military help.

Arabs. People from the Arabic-speaking countries of the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan and Libya, among others. Most Arabs in the Middle East are Muslims, but only 12 percent of the world's Muslims are Arabs. Most Arab Americans are Christians.

Argentina. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

Ariana Airlines. Afghanistan's airline. President Clinton ordered the Ariana's assets frozen in 1998 for allegedly transporting men and equipment for al Qaeda.

Australia. May join U.S. in military action.

Azerbaijan. Islamic former Soviet republic bordering Iran. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

B Back to Index Bar

Bahrain. Island nation in Persian Gulf. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

Baltic States. Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are former Soviet republics seeking membership in NATO. Russia opposes their admission to NATO, and may delay their admission as part of its price for helping in the war on terrorism.

Bangladesh. Formerly East Pakistan. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

Belgium. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

benchmark. A surveying term for a reference point. Secretary of State Colin Powell is telling other nations that cooperation in the war in terrorism is the "new benchmark" that will determine the nations' relationship with the United States.

Bosnia-Herzegovina. "Ethnic cleansing" in Bosnia triggered U.S. military involvement in the 1990s. Bin Laden reportedly has sent about 70 operatives from Afghanistan to Bosnia.

Brazil. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

Burma. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

C Back to Index Bar

Camp David. The presidential retreat in the Maryland mountains, named by President Dwight D. Eisenhower for his grandson David. Jimmy Carter took Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to Camp David in 1978 to negotiate peace between Egypt and Israel that has lasted ever since. Many Palestinians see the Camp David accords as a betrayal by Egypt. Camp David was thought at one point to be the target of Flight 93, which crashed Sept. 11 in Pennsylvania. Persistent rumors on Sept. 11 said it was the anniversary of the Camp David accords. The parties were negotiating that day, but the agreement was reached Sept. 17, 1978.

Canada. Some of the hijackers might have entered the United States through Canada. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

Cayman Islands. Caribbean nation known for secretive banks that are useful for hiding and laundering money. Al Qaeda is suspected to have used Cayman banks.

cease-fire. A temporary agreement to stop fighting. A cease-fire has no terms beyond the suspension of fighting, whereas a peace treaty involves concessions by both sides and a surrender involves either conditions or one side's unconditional surrender. In a cease-fire, both sides hold the ground they held when the cease-fire started. A cease-fire might be called during peace negotiations or a holiday. The Israelis and Palestinian rebels called a cease-fire after the terrorist attack.

Chechnya. Republic seeking independence from Russia. It has a large Islamic population and some of its rebels have trained at bin Laden's camps. Russians probably will expect U.S. acquiescence in suppression of Chechen rebels in return for support in war on terrorism.

China. Last spring's confrontation with the United States over mid-air collision between Chinese fighter jet and U.S. surveillance plane has faded as an issue. China, fearing Islamic rebels in its western Xinjiang province, wants U.S. to defeat Taliban. Might help by providing intelligence and other non-military help.

Comoros. Obscure island group in Indian Ocean is one of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

Congo. West African nation fighting civil war is one of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

Croatia. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

Cuba. Identified by State Department as a state sponsor of terrorism.

D Back to Index Bar

Dari. Persian language spoken by most Afghans.

Denmark. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

Djibouti. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

E Back to Index Bar

Ecuador. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

Egypt. Became outcast Arab state after reaching peace agreement with Israel in 1978. Egyptian Islamic Jihad assassinated President Anwar Sadat in retaliation in 1981 and is al Qaeda's strongest ally. Egypt might allow U.S. to use bases in military action against terrorists. President Hosni Mubarak wants to maintain U.S. favor without inflaming extremists in Egypt.

Eritrea. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

Ethiopia. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

F Back to Index Bar

France. May join U.S. in military action. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

G Back to Index Bar

.Germany. May join U.S. in military action. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

gum arabic. Sweetener used in U.S. soft drinks. Bin Laden at one time had a heavy interest in Sudan's production of gum arabic and some believe he still does.

H Back to Index Bar

Hamburg, Germany. Mohamed Atta and other hijackers appear to have planned much of the Sept. 11 attack from Hamburg.

Hazara. Ethnic group making up about 19 percent of Afghanistan's population.

Hindu Kush. The tall, treacherous mountain range of northeast Afghanistan.

I Back to Index Bar

India. Faced U.S. sanctions after nuclear test in 1998. Sanctions lifted to win Indian support for action against al Qaeda. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active. Might allow U.S. to use bases in military action against terrorists.

Indonesia. Has world's largest Islamic population. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active. Might help U.S. in war on terrorism by providing intelligence and other non-military help.

Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Pakistani military and intelligence forces. ISI forces fought with Afghan rebels against the Soviet Union and fought with Taliban and forces of bin Laden to help Taliban gain control of most of Afghanistan.

intifada. Uprising. The rebellion by Palestinians against Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is called the intifada. The current intifada has lasted about a year.

Iran. Held 52 Americans hostage for more than a year from 1979-81. Longtime enemy of the United States, though we never went to war directly. U.S. aided Iraq in the 1980s war against Iran. President Mohamad Khatami has indicated a possible willingness to cooperate with the U.S., but religious leader Ayatulla Ali Khamenei has been less willing. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active. Listed by State Department as state sponsor of terrorism.

Iraq. Suspected as a state sponsor of al Qaeda activities and other terrorism. Defeated by U.S. and allies in 1991 war. Some advisers to President Bush are pushing for action to oust Saddam Hussein as ruler of Iraq. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

Israel. Bin Laden and al Qaeda want to drive the Israelis out of Palestine. Israel has been odds with neighboring Arab states and Palestinian groups since its creation in 1948.One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

Italy. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active. Might allow U.S. to use bases in military action against terrorists.

J Back to Index Bar

Jalalabad. Eastern Afghanistan city, near the border with Pakistan. Bin Laden has training camps around Jalalabad.

Japan. Might allow U.S. to use bases in military action against terrorists.

Jordan. Along with Egypt, Jordan is the only Arab state that has reached a peace agreement with Israel. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active. Might allow U.S. to use bases in military action against terrorists.

K Back to Index Bar

Kabul. Capital of Afghanistan.

Kandahar. Central Afghanistan city, headquarters of Taliban and former headquarters of bin Laden's operations in Afghanistan.

Karmal. Babrak Karmal installed by Soviet Union as leader of Afghanistan in 1979.

Kashmir. A mountainous region of northern India and constant source of disputes between Pakistan and India. Many believe Pakistan's price for cooperating in U.S. action against the Taliban may be support for a favorable settlement of the longtime border dispute.

Kazakhstan. The largest of the Islamic former Soviet republics of Central Asia. It has vast oil reserves and does not border Afghanistan. Population is about half Christian and half Muslim. President Nursultan Nazarbayev has offered U.S. forces use of air space and military bases.

Kenya. U.S. Embassy in Nairobi bombed in al Qaeda attack in 1998. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

Khan. Muhammad Daoud Khan ousted King Zahir Shah in 1973 to become ruler of Afghanistan. Was killed in Marxist coup in 1978.

Khost. Afghan town near border with Pakistan. Bin Laden built U.S.-financed underground compound near Khost during war against Soviet Union.

Khyber Pass. Narrow mountain pass with steep cliffs on both sides. Primary route from Pakistan into Afghanistan. Leads to Kabul.

Kosovo. Serbs say bin Laden has training camps in Kosovo.

Kurdistan. A region in southwestern Asia including parts of Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Armenia. Saddam Hussein's regime forced 600,000 Kurds to flee Iraq as refugees.

Kuwait. Persian Gulf nation invaded by Iraqi forces in 1990 and freed the following year by U.S.-led coalition. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active. Might allow U.S. to use bases in military action against terrorists.

Kyrgyzstan. The smallest of the Islamic former Soviet republics of Central Asia. It does not border Afghanistan. Offered U.S. use of air space for military operations. May cooperate further.

L Back to Index Bar

Lebanon. Bekaa Valley has long been a hiding place and training ground for terrorist groups. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active. Might help U.S. in war on terrorism by providing intelligence and other non-military help.

Libya. Formerly regarded as one of the most dangerous terrorist states. In response to a 1986 terrorist bombing that killed a U.S. soldier in West Germany, President Ronald Reagan ordered an air strike on a compound where President Moammar Gadhafi was believed to live. Gadhafi survived, but Libya has faded as a terrorist threat. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active. Still listed by State Department as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Luxembourg. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

M Back to Index Bar

Malaysia. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

Massoud. Ahmed Shah Massoud, the "Lion of Panjshir," a hero of the Afghan resistance against the Soviets and former defense minister and vice president of Afghanistan under President Burhanuddin Rabboni. Massoud, leader of the Northern Alliance, was killed Sept. 9 by two suicide assassins posing as journalists. One had a bomb inside his video camera.

Mauritania. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

Morocco. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (also translated as Enforcement of Virtue and Suppression of Vice). The agency through which the Taliban have imposed strict laws and harsh punishments on the people of Afghanistan, especially women.

mujahedeen or mujahedin or mujahidin. The Afghan "freedom fighters" or "holy warriors" who resisted the Soviet invasion throughout the 1980s. They were supported by the CIA through Pakistan. Bin Laden and other Arabs who saw the war as a battle in defense of Islam joined the mujahedeen in their fight.

Musharraf. Pervez Musharraf is president of Pakistan. He came to power in a 1998 coup. He was one of the four world leaders George W. Bush could not identify in an impromptu 1999 foreign-affairs quiz posed by a reporter.

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Najibullah. Dr. Sayid Mohammed Najibullah was elected president of Afghanistan in 1987 but was regarded by many as a Soviet puppet. He resigned in 1992 and the Taliban executed him in 1996.

Netherlands. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

New Zealand. May join U.S. in military action.

Nigeria. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Post-World War II alliance consisting of United States, Canada and 17 European nations. Article 5 of the NATO Charter says, "An armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all." NATO unanimously invoked this principle in voting to support U.S. response to the Sept. 11 attack.

North Korea. Listed by State Department as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Northern Alliance. Rebel groups fighting Taliban for control of Afghanistan.

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Omar. Mullah Mohammed Omar is the reclusive supreme leader of the Taliban. He lost an eye in the war with the Soviets. He avoids all photographs. He grew up in Singhesar and is believed to be about 40 years old. He did not graduate from the madrasah where he learned Wahhabi Islam, but received an honorary degree. He has proclaimed himself Amir-ul-Momineen (Commander of the Faithful).

opium. Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of opium. Bin Laden's organization reportedly makes some of its money providing security for opium shipments.

Ottoman Empire. Turkish empire that extended into the Balkans, across the Middle East and North Africa at its peak. Lasted from the 13th Century until 1923.

P Back to Index Bar

Pakistan. Neighbor to southeast of Afghanistan. Pakistani agents have been active in Afghanistan since war against Soviet Union. Pakistan has more than 2 million Afghan refugees, with more on the way. UNO educational operations for Afghanistan have been based in Peshawar, Pakistan. U.S. special forces already doing reconnaissance in Afghanistan are based in Pakistan. In return for its support in war on terrorism, Pakistan may want at least partial forgiveness of its $37 billion foreign debt.

Palestine. Region on the eastern Mediterranean coast that is claimed by Israel and by Palestinian Arabs. Continuing disagreements and violence between Israelis and Palestinians have caused problems throughout the Mideast for decades.

Paraguay. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

Pashto. Language of the Pashtun.

Pashtun. The largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, with about 38 percent of the population.

Pashtunwali. Strict Pashtun moral code which stresses honor, courage, hospitality and revenge.

Philippines. Site of 1994 plot to assassinate Pope John Paul II and bomb U.S. and Israeli embassies and 1995 plots to assassinate President Bill Clinton and blow up 11 U.S. airliners over Pacific Ocean.

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Qatar. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active. Home of Al-Jazeera television station that bin Laden uses to relay messages to the world.

quid pro quo. The diplomatic principle of getting something in return for a favor to another country. For instance, Sudan's Islamic government supports the U.S. war on terrorism, hoping to ease U.S. opposition to its war against Christians in Southern Sudan and Russia hopes to ease U.S. opposition to its war against Chechens.

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Rabbani. Burhanuddin Rabbani, leader of guerrillas who opposed Soviet Union, was president of Afghanistan from 1992-96.

Riyadh. Saudi Arabian city where bin Laden was born. Location of U.S. Air Force base, Prince Sultan Air Base.

Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin surprised many with his quick support for U.S. war on terrorism, particularly pressuring former Soviet republics in Central Asia to give U.S. access to military bases. Might help by providing intelligence and other non-military help. Russia will want substantial favors in return.

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sanctions. This is one of those words with meanings that are nearly opposites. If the United Nations approves of something, we say it is U.N.-sanctioned. However, if the United Nations disapproves and decides to impose punitive measures such as restricting trade, we call those measures sanctions.

Saudi Arabia. Richest Arab nation. Saudi Arabia has a long relationship with the United States and was the staging ground for the allied effort to push Iraq out of Kuwait in 1991. Bin Laden considered it sacrilege to allow U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia. He was expelled from his homeland in 1991. Many wealthy Saudis still contribute to his organization, though. Before Sept. 11, Saudi Arabia was one of three nations to recognize the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active. Expected to allow U.S. to use bases in military action against terrorists.

sea change. Cliché often used to describe the vast change in international relations or U.S. outlook caused by the terrorist attack. From Shakespeare's "The Tempest": "Nothing of him that doth fade but doth suffer a sea-change into something rich and strange." Paul Brians, English professor at Washington State University, writes of the cliché: "This rich language has so captivated the ears of generations of writers that they feel compelled to describe as "sea changes" not only alterations that are "rich and strange," but, less appropriately, those that are simply large or sudden. … In its original context, it meant nothing more complex than "a change caused by the sea." Since the phrase is almost always improperly used and is greatly over-used, it has suffered a swamp change into something dull and tiresome. Avoid the phrase; otherwise you will irritate those who know it and puzzle those who do not." Fowler's Modern English Usage calls it "One of the most importunate and intrusive of irrelevant allusions and hackneyed phrases."

Senegal. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

Al Shamal Islamic Bank. Sudanese bank started by bin Laden, according to US State Department.

shura. The ruling 10-man council of the Taliban.

Somalia. East Africa country invaded in 1992 by U.S. forces, seeking to restore order in a country run by warlords. U.S. troops withdrew in 1994 with the warlords still in charge. Al Qaeda claims to have shot down U.S. helicopters in Oct. 3, 1993 attack in Mogadishu that killed 18 Rangers on Oct. 3, 1993.

South Africa. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

South Korea. Might allow U.S. to use bases in military action against terrorists.

Spain. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

-stan. "Land of" or "home of." For example, Afghanistan is the Land of the Afghans.

strange bedfollows. Another cliché that originated with "The Tempest": "Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows." It frequently is applied to politics and already is being used to describe the U.S. willingness to work with such nations as China, Iran and Sudan in the battle against the Taliban and bin Laden.

strategic Islamic depth. Pakistan's policy of cultivating relations with Afghanistan and other Islamic nations to the west, seeking support and security for future confrontations with India.

Sudan. After being expelled by Saudi Arabia in 1991, bin Laden lived five years in Sudan, aiding the Islamic government there in development of the highways that serve its oil fields. Bin Laden invested heavily in Sudan, including banking and agriculture. Sudan, under pressure from the United States, expelled bin Laden in 1996 and has voiced support for the war on terrorism, though he is still believed to have investments in Sudan. The Arab government has been at civil war with the African and mostly Christian tribes of Southern Sudan since 1983. About 3,000 to 5,000 refugees from Southern Sudan have moved to Omaha. Listed by State Department as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Sweden. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

Switzerland. Al Qaeda appears to have used Swiss banks for moving some of the money used to finance terrorist activities. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

Syria. Long regarded as a state sponsor of Palestinian terrorist groups, but President Bashar Assad wants better relations with the United States. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active. Might help U.S. in war on terrorism by providing intelligence and other non-military help.

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Tajik. Second largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, with about 25 percent.

Tajikistan. An Islamic former Soviet republic, bordering Afghanistan on the northeast. Government fought civil war against fundamentalist Islamic rebels from 1992-97. Terrorist raids by groups with Taliban ties continue. Government has closed its border to Afghan refugees. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active. Initially balked at allowing U.S. to use bases in military action against terrorists, but Russia indicated that Tajikistan may offer use of Dushanbe airport.

Tanzania. U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam bombed by al Qaeda in 1998. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

Third World. During the Cold War, this became the term for developing countries, because most of them weren't aligned with either the United States or the Soviet Union. It became inaccurate long before the end of the Cold War, because China clearly wasn't aligned with the Soviet Union and many Third World nations did align with one of the first two worlds. Use of the term has faded, but not entirely, since the end of the Cold War. In some respects, Russia today is a Third World country.

Tunisia. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

Turkestan. Former collective name for the five Soviet republics of Central Asia: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Turkey. The only mostly Muslim nation in NATO. Former seat of the Ottoman Empire. Will let U.S. forces launch attacks on Afghanistan from Incirlik Air Force Base. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

Turkmenistan. An Islamic former Soviet republic, bordering Afghanistan on the northwest. Has offered U.S. forces use of air space and may cooperate further.

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Uganda. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

Uighurs. Muslims living in Xinjiang province of western China, which has a small border with Afghanistan. Chinese fear Islamic extremism among the Uighurs.

United Arab Emirates. A small nation on the Persian Gulf, it was one of three nations to recognize the Taliban government of Afghanistan but withdrew recognition after the Sept. 11 attack. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

United Front of Afghanistan. Another name for the Northern Alliance.

United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan. Formal name of the Northern Alliance, the rebel groups opposing the Taliban.

United Kingdom. Britain might be the ally most likely to provide forces for joint military efforts against terrorism. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. U.N. agency that runs refugee camps and works to resettle refugees. Even before the Sept. 11 attack, more than 3.7 million refugees had fled Afghanistan. Most live in refugee camps in Pakistan.

United Nations Security Council. U.N. agency charged with keeping peace. Even before the Sept. 11 attack, the Security Council had passed two resolutions calling on the Taliban to turn over bin Laden for trial on previous crimes.

Uruguay. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

Uzbekistan. An Islamic former Soviet republic, bordering Afghanistan on the north, between Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. Agreed to let U.S. forces use a base. Government has battled with Islamic rebels tied to bin Laden. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

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World Food Program. U.N. agency trucking food into Afghanistan from Pakistan.

World Trade Organization. International body founded in 1994 to regulate international trade. Russia wants to join the WTO and may win U.S. support with aggressive help in war on terrorism.

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Xinjiang. Western province of China, bordering on Afghanistan. Chinese fear Islamic extremism among the Uighurs living in Xinjiang.

Yemen. Bin Laden's father was from Yemen. His organization attacked the USS Cole in Yemen. One of 60 nations believed to have al Qaeda cells active.

Zahir Shah. Exiled 86-year-old king of Afghanistan. Deposed in 1973. Currently living in Rome. Some Afghans want to return him to the throne.

 

Religious Terminology (primarily Islamic)

 
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X,Y,Z
 
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Allah. Arabic word for God. American Muslims are as likely to say God.

Aqsa Mosque. Mosque in Jerusalem. Bin Laden's 1998 fatwa vowed to free it from the Israelis.

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Bamiyan. Central Afghanistan region where the Taliban destroyed ancient statues of Buddha, taller than the faces on Mt. Rushmore, carved in the Second Century.

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chadri. Head-to-toe shrouds that the Taliban require women to wear in public.

cleric. A member of the clergy in any faith.

Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Washington-based group seeking to educate Americans about Islam. It stresses that most Muslims abhor violence and do not believe or endorse the strain of Islam espoused by terrorists.

Crusades. Wars by European Christians in the 11th, 12th and 13th Centuries trying to recapture Jerusalem from Muslims. Though crusade has become a common noun and verb in English, meaning a vigorous campaign in pursuit of a cause, the word remains offensive to Muslims and President Bush apologized for using the word to refer to the war on terrorism.

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Deobandi. The strict branch of Sunni Islam that includes the Taliban. It is named for an Indian town that is home to a radical madrasah.

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fatwa. A religious decree. Bin Laden issued a fatwa in 1998, before the attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, declaring jihad against the United States. The fatwa said every Muslim must obey "God's order to kill the Americans and plunder their money."

fundamentalism. In any religion, fundamentalists have a strict theology and moral code and insist they are the only true believers. Term comes from an early 20th Century Christian movement that believed in the doctrines spelled out in a series of books titled "The Fundamentals."

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.graven images. Mullah Omar refuses to allow any photographs, saying they are forbidden graven images.

Great Satan. Term Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran and Saddam Hussein of Iraq and other Islamist leaders have used to condemn the United States.

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hajj. The pilgrimage to Mecca, one of five pillars of Islam.

Haqqania. The madrasah in Pakistan where many of the Taliban learned Wahhabi.

Haram Mosque. Holy mosque in Mecca. Bin Laden vowed in 1998 fatwa to free it from the "grip" of the Americans.

hijab. The head scarf worn by some Islamic women and girls.

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imam. The prayer leader in a Muslim congregation.

infidel. Someone who does not believe in the speaker's religion. Christians described Muslims as infidels during the crusades, and Islamic fundamentalists use the term to denounce members of other faiths. When the Taliban destroyed the Buddha statues at Bamiyan, they denounced them as "gods of the infidel" and bin Laden has referred to Americans as infidels.

Islam. The faith of followers of the 7th-Century prophet Muhammad. Islam has more than 1 billion believers worldwide. The nation with the largest Islamic population is Indonesia. Like Christianity, Islam encompasses groups with wide-ranging interpretations and applications of Muhammad's teachings. Islam means "surrender."

Islamic. The adjective form of Islam. Muslim is also used sometimes as an adjective.

Islamist. People or groups who invoke Islam for political ends. Not all Islamist groups advocate terrorism.

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Jerusalem. Considered a holy city by Jews, Muslims and Christians.

jihad. Jihad means struggle. Mainstream Muslims use jihad to refer to struggles of varying degrees, ranging from the personal struggle to avoid temptation and follow Allah's law to a war in defense of Islam. Wahhabi Muslims more often use it with a meaning of "holy war," an offensive war against perceived enemies of the faith.

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Koran. The common English spelling of the holy book of Islam. Most Muslims spell it Qur'an.

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madrasah or madrasa. Religious schools in Pakistan that teach strict Wahhabi version of Islam. Pakistan has 15,000 madrasahs similar to those where the Taliban studied. They do not teach other academic subjects, but do teach military strategy and tactics.

Mecca. The holiest city of Islam, in Saudi Arabia. Mecca is where Muhammad was born and received his revelations from Allah. If possible, every Muslim is required to make a pilgrimage to Mecca sometime during his or her life.

Medina. Muhammad's second home and one of the three holy cities of Islam.

Moslem. Term formerly used in the United States in reference to Islam and its followers. Muslims object to this spelling. The preferred terms are Islam for the faith, Islamic as an adjective and Muslim as a noun for the followers of Islam.

Muhammad. The 7th-Century Arabian prophet who founded Islam.

mujaddid. A "renewer of the faith" who comes along once in a century.

mullah. A scholar of Islam. Mullah Omar, leader of the Taliban claims the title, but has only an honorary degree from the madrasah he attended.

Muslim Brotherhood.
Egyptian group founded in 1928. The first of the modern Islamist groups.

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Nation of Islam. Islamic group headed by Louis Farrakhan.

The Neglected Duty. Pamphlet written in 1979 by Egyptian Muhammad Abd al-Salem Faraj that called for holy war to defend Muslims and Islamic dignity.

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Pillars of Islam. Five practices required of Muslims: the profession of faith, the five daily prayers, almsgiving, fasting during Ramadan and a pilgrimage to Mecca.

purdah. The Taliban-required practice of secluding women and requiring them to wear the chadri when in public. Sometimes used to refer to the veil itself.

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Qur'an. The holy book of Islam. This spelling is preferred by Muslims, as opposed to the English spelling, Koran.

Ramadan. Muslim holy month, marked by fasting during daylight hours. Fasting is one of the pillars of religious obligation under Islam, and is mandatory for most Muslims during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.

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Saladin. 12th Century Kurd who commanded combined Islamic armies to defeat the Europeans and recapture Jerusalem. Bin Laden has described himself as a latter-day Saladin.

Sharia. Islamic law, strictly enforced by the Taliban. Offenses are published with harsh penalties including amputation and execution.

Shi'a. The smaller of two primary divisions of Islam. Shi'ites believe that Muhammad designated his son, Ali, as his spiritual successor, and only Ali's descendants can become the caliph, or the supreme leader of Islam. Iran's Muslims are mostly Shi'ite.

Sikh. Sikhs are not Muslims. The Sikh faith developed in northwest India in the late 15th Century and follows the teachings of Guru Nanak. Men wear turbans. A Sikh was murdered in Mesa, Ariz., following the Sept. 11 attack by a man who thought he was a Muslim.

Sunni. The largest division of Islam. Sunnis believe the caliph should be elected by a council of elders. Sunnis generally are more tolerant of difference within Islam than Shi'ites.

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Taliban. Plural of Talib, Pashto word for students of Islam or seekers of knowledge. Clerics trained at madrasahs in Pakistan called themselves the Taliban when they started a rebellion against the Afghan government in 1996.

Taymiyya. Ibn Taymiyya's teachings from the 14th Century guide many of today's militant Islamists. He wrote that "jihad against the disbelievers is the most noble of actions."

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Wahhabi. 18th Century Islamic movement that rejected all innovations in Islam and insisted on a strict, puritanical behavior code. Founded by Syrian Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, it attacked and purged shrines in Saudi Arabia in the 19th Century. The Taliban and other fundamentalist Muslims today are Wahhabis.

World Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Jews and Crusaders. Name used by the leaders of Islamic terrorist groups who joined bin Laden's 1998 fatwa calling on Muslims everywhere to kill Americans and drive Americans from Arabia and Jews from Palestine.

Homeland Security Terminology

 
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U,V,W,X,Y,Z
 
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Air Force One. Any airplane carrying the president. The Air Force actually has two specially equipped Boeing 747-200's that serve as Air Force One. They were manufactured in 1990. Authorities believe terrorists targeted Air Force One in some way for attack on Sept. 11.

air marshal. A federal marshal who rides commercial flights in cognito, armed to prevent hijackings. Israel uses air marshals on El-Al airline and hasn't had a hijacking in 31 years. The United States uses only a few air marshals, so most flights do not have one. President Bush has proposed using them extensively.

B Back to Index Bar

Barksdale. Louisiana Air Force Base where President Bush stopped en route to Offutt Air Force Base after Sept. 11 attack.

bag matching. A security technique developed in the 1980s after bombings in which terrorists checked bags containing bombs, but then did not board the planes themselves. Now on international flights, luggage is removed from the plane if the corresponding passenger does not board.

biometrics. The measurement of biological characteristics such as fingerprints or iris scans.

body scan. "Soft" X-ray scan that does not penetrate the body, but reveals its contours, allowing screeners to spot plastic or ceramic weapons a passenger is carrying.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). Treasury Department agency responsible for enforcement of alcohol, tobacco and firearms laws. One of many agencies whose work will be coordinated by the new Office of Homeland Security.

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Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Responsible for foreign intelligence gathering. CIA activities were restricted in the 1970s after scandals over involvement in assassinations and coups. One of many agencies whose work will be coordinated by the new Office of Homeland Security.

Cheyenne Mountain. Secure underground location near Colorado Springs, CO, from which the president and/or military leaders can direct U.S. military and security operations.

Coast Guard. Responsible for law enforcement along U.S. coastline and waterways. Part of the Transportation Department. The Coast Guard is one of many agencies whose work will be coordinated by the new Office of Homeland Security.

Commission on National Security/21st Century. Study panel that issued a report in March calling for Cabinet-level office to coordinate law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Computer-Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS). System analyzes 40 pieces of passenger data, such as destination and frequency of past trips, use of one-way tickets, paying for tickets with cash and how long before the flight a ticket was bought. System identifies possible suspicious passengers for hand inspection of luggage or other security measures. Critics say the system is using or could use racial profiling. Categories are classified, but the Justice Department says it does not use ethnic factors.

Cooper vane. A latch that prevents opening an airplane's door while flying. Developed after D.B. Cooper hijacked a plane in 1971 and parachuted out over southwest Washington with $200,000 in ransom money. He was never found.

CT scan. Gives screener a three-dimensional look at objects inside luggage, making it easier to spot weapons. Used on some international flights.

Customs Service. Treasury Department agency responsible for border security. One of many agencies whose work will be coordinated by the new Office of Homeland Security.

Cyber Security, Office of. National Security Council office headed by Richard Clarke.

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Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). Coordinates military intelligence. One of many agencies whose work will be coordinated by the new Office of Homeland Security.

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face-recognition software. Passengers pass by closed-circuit television cameras, which record digital images and match faces against people on "watch" lists as possible terrorists.

FBI. Federal Bureau of Investigations, an agency of the Justice Department responsible for domestic law enforcement. One of many agencies whose work will be coordinated by the new Office of Homeland Security.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Responsible for aviation safety in the United States. Runs air traffic control system, but not airport security. One of many agencies whose work will be coordinated by the new Office of Homeland Security.

H Back to Index Bar

hand geometry. Using machines that scan the size and shape of a hand would make passports harder to forge and would make stolen passports worthless.

Homeland Security Council. White House Council coordinating work of agencies overssen by Office of Homeland Security. Headed by Tom Ridge. Members include attorney general; defense, treasury, health and human services and agriculture secretaries; directors of FBI and FEMA.

Homeland Security, Office of. New agency headed by former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, in charge of coordinating the 40 or so federal agencies with responsibilities for protecting the nation against terrorism and investigating acts of terrorism. In the speech, Bush did not say what Ridge's title would be. He simply said, "I announce the creation of a Cabinet-level position reporting directly to me, the Office of Homeland Security." Formally, he probably will be secretary or director, but may well become known as a "czar," the informal title given to the chiefs heading inter-agency efforts on energy and drugs.

I,J,K,L Back to Index Bar

Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Justice Department agency responsible for enforcing immigration laws. One of many agencies whose work will be coordinated by the new Office of Homeland Security.

iris scanners. Devices that scan a passenger's eye could increase security at airports. Already in use at some prisons and banks.

M,N Back to Index Bar

Marshal Service. The oldest federal law enforcement agency, the Marshals Service is responsible for protecting and ensuring the effective operation of federal courts. One of many agencies whose work will be coordinated by the new Office of Homeland Security.

material witness. Someone believed to have direct knowledge of a crime and believed to be in danger or believed to be likely to flee rather than appear in court. Authorities can hold material witnesses on a separate warrant that does not charge them with the crime.

metal detectors. Used in airports to screen passengers since Jan. 5, 1973. They were used in response to three hijackers who made a pilot circle the Oak Ridge nuclear facilities, threatening to crash the plane. Metal detectors would not prevent hijackers from bringing ceramic or plastic weapons onto a plane.

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Operation Noble Eagle. The name of the military operation to protect the nation's domestic shores.

P,Q,R Back to Index Bar

pattern recognition software. Used in connection with CT scanners. Software identifies possible weapons, selecting a bag to be hand-searched.

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Secret Service. Treasury Department agency responsible for protecting the president and investigating counterfeiting. One of many agencies whose work will be coordinated by the new Office of Homeland Security.

screeners. Workers who operate security checkpoints at airports. A General Accounting Office study last year found that at many airports they are paid less than fast food workers. Airlines are responsible for screening and hire private security companies for the task. President Bush has proposed a federally sponsored non-profit corporation to handle screening, funded by a $3 surcharge on airline tickets. Critics say the federal government should take over airport security.

security questions. Before checking bags and issuing boarding passes, airline agents ask whether passengers packed the bags themselves and whether the bags have been in their control since being packed. The questions were developed after a 1986 bombing in which a Palestinian terrorist sent 10 pounds of explosives onto an airplane at Heathrow Airport in London with his unsuspecting girlfriend.

signal rate. The frequency with which screeners spot a possible threat. A low signal rate is said to relax the screener's vigilance.

sky marshal. Same as air marshal.

stun gun. Weapon that temporarily disables victim with an electrical charge. User must come into contact with the victim to generate the charge. President Bush has proposed arming pilots with stun guns. The Airline Pilots Association wants pilots armed with firearms.

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threat image projection (TIP). Software program that projects images of weapons onto screens as carry-on luggage is passing through checkpoints. After recognizing the image, the screener can hit a button to see whether it is an actual weapon or a projection. This is designed to provide a check on screeners and raise the signal rate, reducing the tedium of the job and increasing screener alertness.

transponder. Communications device that sends out signal allowing air traffic controllers to track an airplane. Transponders were disabled in some of the planes hijacked Sept. 11. President Bush has proposed requiring transponders that cannot be disabled from the aircraft.

U, V, W, X, Y, Z Back to Index Bar

X-ray. Technology used to provide two-dimensional view of items in checked and carry-on baggage. Knives are difficult to spot if standing on their end, next to another metal object or with the blade turned so only the edge is visible.

 

Disaster Recovery Terminology

 
ABC   DEF   GHI   JKL   MNO   PQR   STU   VWXYZ
 
A, B, C Back to Index Bar

bathtub. Reinforced concrete wall keeping water from the Hudson River out of the basement (and now out of the debris) of the World Trade Center. Recovery workers are concerned about the stability of the bathtub.

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debris. The fragments of something that has been destroyed. Debris is a broader term than rubble, which means the stone and brick fragments.

DNA. Deoxyribonucleic acid, the genetic "fingerprint" that is unique to each individual. Searchers are using DNA testing to identify body fragments and tissue found at the World Trade Center, so loved ones will have something to bury.

forensic. Adjective meaning "used in courts of law." Forensic specialists digging through the debris at crash sites are gathering evidence.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Agency in charge of disaster recovery.

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Ground Zero. The nickname quickly assigned to the cleanup site at the World Trade Center. The phrase initially meant the site right below where a nuclear weapon detonates.

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P, Q, R Back to Index Bar

post-traumatic stress disorder. Common ailment for survivors and rescue workers in disasters.

reinsurance. Reinsurance companies protect insurance companies against catastrophic losses. Reinsurance companies, including General Re, owned by Berkshire Hathaway Inc., expects to suffer $2.2 billion in losses in the Sept. 11 attack. Authorities are investigating whether al Qaeda agents might have sold short in three reinsurance companies whose prices fell sharply right before the attack, AXA, Munich Re and Swiss Re.

rubble. Stone and brick fragments of something that has been destroyed. Not as broad a term as debris, which means all the fragments.

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tiebacks. Cables used to hold bathtub in place during construction of the World Trade Center. New tiebacks may be needed to hold the bathtub in place during recovery operations.

Towers of Light. A proposal to replace the Twin Towers in the New York skyline at least temporarily with projected towers of light.

V , W, X, Y, Z Back to Index Bar

wreckage. The remnants of a wreck. This would refer to a plane that crashed into a building, but the remains of the building would be rubble or debris.


Miscellaneous Terminology

Nostradamus. 16th Century physician, astrologer and poet who is viewed by some as a prophet. Lines of some of his poems were pulled out of context and strung together, along with some verses Nostradamus never wrote, to suggest he had predicted the Sept. 11 attack.

Putting Reading First. The education program President Bush was promoting in Florida when the World Trade Center was attacked.

Sources

Back to Top

This information was compiled by Steve Buttry, Writing Coach/National Correspondent, Omaha World-Herald, and posted on the training Web site No Train-No Gain. It originally was a handout for a workshop for Creighton University's Employee Development Program. It discusses the terminology of various issues that have dominated news coverage since Sept. 11, 2001. NewsLab added the links to additional information. To the best of Steve's ability, the information here was current as of Oct. 7, 2001. He may update it periodically. If you see information that you believe is outdated or inaccurate, please e-mail Steve Buttry. If you have problems with links, please e-mail Deborah Potter.


Page Last Updated
January 15, 2009
 

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