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1979-1989: Afghan Mujahideen Battle the Soviets
Hindu Kush Mountains

The mujahideen battled the Soviets in Afghanistan's Hindu Kush Mountains


The U.S.-funded Afghan insurgents were called mujahideen, an Arabic word that means "strugglers" or "strivers." The word has its orgins in Islam, and is related to the word jihad, but in the context of the Afghan war, it may be best understood as referring to "resistance."

The mujahideen were organized into different political parties, and armed and supported by different countries, including Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, as well as the United States, and they gained significantly in power and money during the course of the Afghan-Soviet war.

The legendary fierceness of the mujahideen fighters, their stringent, extreme version of Islam and their cause—expelling the Soviet foreigners—drew interest and support from Arab Muslims seeking an opportunity to experience, and experiment with, waging jihad.

Among those drawn to Afghanistan were a wealthy, ambitious, and pious young Saudi named Osama bin Laden and the head of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad organization, Ayman Al Zawahiri.

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