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Context of '1995-February 2001: Monitored Al-Qaeda Leader and British Al-Qaeda Informant Raise Money for Chechen Rebels'

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Chechen rebel leader Ibn KhattabChechen rebel leader Ibn Khattab [Source: Associated Press]Osama bin Laden and Chechen rebel leader Ibn Khattab are, as a CIA officer puts it, “intricately tied together” in a number of ways. Their relationship apparently begins in the mid-1980s, when Ibn Khattab goes to fight in Afghanistan and reportedly meets bin Laden there. It ends in March 2002 with Khattab’s death (see March 19, 2002). [BBC, 4/26/2002; Independent, 5/1/2002; Washington Post, 4/26/2003; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006 pdf file]
bullet They share fundraising and recruiting networks. For example, a Florida cell of radical Sunnis that is monitored by the FBI starting in 1993 is involved with both organizations (see (October 1993-November 2001)). Radical London imam Abu Qatada raises money for jihad in Chechnya (see 1995-February 2001 and February 2001) and is a key figure in al-Qaeda-related terrorism who is in communication with al-Qaeda logistics manager Abu Zubaida. [BBC, 3/23/2004; Nasiri, 2006, pp. 273] The Finsbury Park mosque of fellow London imam Abu Hamza al-Masri is used as a conduit for funds for both jihad in Chechnya and bin Laden’s Darunta camp in Afghanistan (see March 1999 and March 2000-February 2001);
bullet Bin Laden sends hundreds of fighters to help the Chechen cause, and this is publicly revealed no later than August 2000 (see May 2000);
bullet The two leaders debate strategy; [Terrorism Monitor, 1/26/2006] and
bullet Ibn Khattab establishes camps for trainees sent to him by bin Laden, and the US is aware of this no later than October 1998 (see October 16, 1998).
Despite bin Laden’s contribution to the Chechen effort, he does not have control of operations there. [Terrorism Monitor, 1/26/2006] Zacarias Moussaoui will later be linked to Khattab (see August 22, 2001).

Entity Tags: Ibn Khattab, Osama bin Laden, Islamic International Peacekeeping Brigade

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Said Chedadi.Said Chedadi. [Source: Agence France-Presse]Beginning in 1995, Barakat Yarkas, head of an al-Qaeda cell in Madrid, Spain, begins traveling frequently to Britain. Yarkas is being constantly monitored by Spanish intelligence (see 1995 and After) and they learn that his cell is raising money for the Islamist militants in Chechnya who are fighting the Russian army there. Yarkas and fellow cell member Said Chedadi solicit funds from Arab business owners in Madrid and then take the cash to radical imam Abu Qatada in London. Abu Qatada is coordinating fundraising efforts, and from June 1996 onwards, he is also working as an informant for British intelligence, although just how long and how closely he works for them is unclear (see June 1996-February 1997). [Irujo, 2005, pp. 64-65] According to a later Spanish government indictment, Yarkas makes over 20 trips from Spain to Britain roughly between 1995 and 2000. He mostly meets with Qatada and Abu Walid, who an indictment will later call Abu Qatada’s right-hand man. From 1998 onwards, Spanish militant Jamal Zougam also travels occasionally to London to meet with Qatada. Investigators later suspect he travels with Yarkas on at least one of these trips. [Independent, 11/21/2001; El Mundo (Madrid), 7/8/2005] From 1996 to 1998, an informant named Omar Nasiri informs on Abu Qatada and Walid for British intelligence (see Summer 1996-August 1998). Nasiri sometimes passes phones messages between the both of them and al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida, and also reveals that Walid has been to al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. [Nasiri, 2006, pp. 265-282] Waild, a Saudi, apparently will be killed in Chechnya in 2004. [Guardian, 10/3/2006] In February 2001, British police will raid Abu Qatada’s house and find $250,000, including some marked “for the Mujaheddin in Chechnya” (see February 2001). However, he will not be arrested, and it is not clear if he and/or Yarkas continue raising money for Chechnya after the raid. Chedadi will later be sentenced to eight years and Zougam will get life in prison for roles in the 2004 Madrid train bombings (see October 31, 2007). [Agence France-Presse, 1/26/2006]

Entity Tags: Said Chedadi, Omar Nasiri, Jamal Zougam, Abu Walid, Barakat Yarkas, Abu Qatada

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

MI5 headquarters in London.MI5 headquarters in London. [Source: Cryptome]In June and December 1996, and again in February 1997, a British MI5 agent meets with radical Muslim imam Abu Qatada, hoping he will inform on his fellow extremists. Qatada is a Jordanian national who entered Britain in September 1993 using a forged United Arab Emirates passport, and was granted asylum in 1994.
Qatada Promises to Look after British Interests - In his meetings with the MI5 agent he claims to “wield powerful, spiritual influence over the Algerian community in London.” He says he does not want London to become a center for settling Islamic scores, and that he will report anyone damaging British interests. He says the individuals he has influence over pose no threat to British security, and promises that “he would not bite the hand that fed him.” He also promises to “report anyone damaging the interests of [Britain].” The MI5 agent records that “surprisingly enough—[Abu Qatada] revealed little love of the methodology and policies pursued by Osama bin Laden. He certainly left me with the impression that he had nothing but contempt for bin Laden’s distant financing of the jihad.” [Special Immigration Appeals Commission, 1/2004 pdf file; Channel 4 News (London), 3/23/2004; Guardian, 3/24/2004; London Times, 3/25/2004]
Links to Al-Qaeda - Yet Qatada is later described as being a “key [British] figure” in al-Qaeda related terror activity. Around 1996, a highly reliable informer told US intelligence that Qatada is on al-Qaeda’s fatwa (religious) committee (see June 1996-1997). Videos of his sermons are later discovered in the Hamburg flat used by Mohamed Atta. Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, and Zacarias Moussaoui, who is later convicted in connection with the 9/11 attacks, are alleged to have sought religious advice from him. [BBC, 8/11/2005; Guardian, 8/11/2005]
Meetings Apparently Continue - Reportedly, after Qatada’s February 1997 meeting with the British agent, no further such meetings occur. [Special Immigration Appeals Commission, 1/2004 pdf file] However, some French officials later allege that Qatada continues to be an MI5 agent, and this is what allows him to avoid arrest after 9/11 (see Early December 2001). [Observer, 2/24/2002] It will later emerge that Bisher al-Rawi, a friend of Qatada, served as an informant and a go-between MI5 and Qatada in numerous meetings between late 2001 and 2002, when Qatada is finally arrested (see Late September 2001-Summer 2002). Furthermore, al-Rawi says he served as a translator between MI5 and Qatada before 9/11, suggesting that Qatada never stopped being an informant. [Observer, 7/29/2007]

Entity Tags: UK Security Service (MI5), Abu Qatada, Bisher al-Rawi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The French intelligence service Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE) spies on a leading Islamist extremist, known as Abu Walid, in London. According to Pierre Martinet, one of the DGSE operatives that conducts the surveillance, Walid is wanted in connection with the 1995 Paris metro bombings (see July-October 1995) and is linked to the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA), an Algerian militant organization. He is also a top lieutenant for leading imam Abu Qatada (see 1995-February 2001). The DGSE finds that he is a frequent visitor to the radical Finsbury Park mosque, where he is highly regarded by other jihadis as a “fighting scholar.” A team from the DGSE’s Draco unit is on standby to assassinate senior terrorists at this time, and Walid is one target considered, but he is not killed by the DGSE. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 126] Abu Walid will be reported to be in Afghanistan in November 2001. [Guardian, 11/20/2001] He will apparently die in Chechnya in 2004. [Guardian, 10/3/2006]

Entity Tags: Abu Walid, Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure, Finsbury Park Mosque

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Abu Hamza al-Masri, a leading radical and informer for Britain’s security services (see Early 1997), is given the prestigious Friday sermon spot at the large Finsbury Park mosque in London. He is suggested thanks to his work at a mosque in nearby Luton (see 1996) and at his interviews he manages to charm the mosque’s management committee, which is also pleased by his low financial demands.
Abu Qatada Rejected - The committee had also interviewed radical imam Abu Qatada, a well known scholar and author, for the position—Abu Qatada has militant links, but the committee is apparently not aware of them at this time. However, Abu Qatada told the committee that they should be grateful he was willing to take the job, demanding to see the mosque’s accounts and to receive 50 percent of all monies collected there. It is not known what Abu Qatada, an informer for British intelligence (see June 1996-February 1997), wanted to do with the money, but he is apparently a member of al-Qaeda’s fatwa committee (see June 1996-1997) and is linked to terrorism finance (see 1995-February 2001). Due to the mosque’s financial position, the committee does not offer the job to Abu Qatada.
Mosque Already Infiltrated by GIA - A group of Algerian radicals, many of whom are veterans of the Algerian Civil War and are members of the Algerian militant group the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA), had already infiltrated the mosque, and the Algerians assist Abu Hamza after his appointment. One leading Algerian radical seen at the mosque is Ali Touchent, a suspected mole for the Algerian intelligence service (see November 1996).
Takeover - However, Abu Hamza soon begins to take the mosque away from the moderate trustees and turn it into a hotbed of radicalism. Initially, he claims that money has gone missing from a set of flats the mosque rents to tenants, then says that one of the flats is being used as a brothel and that one of the mosque’s old management team is taking a cut. Thanks to Abu Hamza’s exciting sermons, many more people attend the mosque, and there is not enough room to accommodate all of them in the main prayer hall. Abu Hamza makes money by selling tapes of his sermons, as well as videos of radicals fighting in Chechnya, Algeria, and Bosnia, in a shop he opens at the mosque. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 36-43]

Entity Tags: Abu Hamza al-Masri, Abu Qatada, Finsbury Park Mosque, Groupe Islamique Armé

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

According to a November 2001 Spanish government indictment, in August 1997, a Syrian Islamist militant named Abu Bashir is arrested in Yemen and accused of plotting to assassinate the Yemeni deputy prime minister. He is soon deported to Malaysia. London imam Abu Qatada then contacts Osama bin Laden and asks him for his help to get settled with a job and house in Malaysia. Then, in June 1998, Spanish al-Qaeda leader Barakat Yarkas and Qatada arrange for Bashir to move to London. The Observer will report in March 2004 that Bashir apparently is still living in public housing in London. [Observer, 3/21/2004] Presumably the Spanish government knows this because Spanish intelligence is heavily monitoring Yarkas at the time, and he is frequently meeting with Qatada in London (see 1995-February 2001). Qatada is working as a British government informant around this time (see June 1996-February 1997). The exact identity of Abu Bashir is not known as there are several al-Qaeda-linked figures with a similar name.

Entity Tags: Abu Qatada, Abu Bashir, Barakat Yarkas, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Jamal Zougam.Jamal Zougam. [Source: El Mundo]By 2000, a Moroccan living in Spain named Jamal Zougam begins to attract the attention of Spanish intelligence. Barakat Yarkas frequently travels to London to meet with al-Qaeda-linked imam Abu Qatada, and Zougam accompanies Yarkas on at least one of these trips (see 1995-February 2001). Spanish intelligence is monitoring Yarkas and his cell, and they are aware that Zougam is introduced to Qatada as “a gifted young recruit.” [Agence France-Presse, 3/17/2004; Irujo, 2005, pp. 77-79] In June 2001, a French investigator warns that Zougam is an important militant with international links and advise the Spanish to arrest him (see June 2001). Around the same time, Spanish investigators learn that Zougam met with Mohammed Fazazi, a Moroccan imam who preached at the Al-Quds mosque in Hamburg, Germany, that is attended by some of the 9/11 hijackers (see 1993-Late 2001). On August 14, 2001, Zougam is recorded telling Yarkas that he had offered Fazazi money for the jihad cause. Fazazi is also linked to Abu Qatada and had met him in London. After the May 2003 Casablanca bombings (see May 16, 2003), interest in Zougam increases as the Moroccan, Spanish, and French governments all suspect he was involved in those bombings. But he is still not arrested, and his surveillance in Spain is not increased, apparently due to lack of resources. [New York Times, 3/17/2004; Observer, 3/21/2004] In the days before the March 2004 Madrid train bombings (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004), Zougam makes about a dozen phone calls to contacts in London. He is said to talk to four al-Qaeda suspects, as well as a “radical London-based preacher” - a possible reference to Abu Qatada. Zougam will later be sentenced to life in prison for playing a direct role in the Madrid bombings. [Daily Mail, 11/1/2007] After the Madrid bombings, British authorities will say that there was a “definite link” to Britain in the bomb plot. Zougam is believed to have made trips to London in search of funding, planning, and logistical help, and supplying equipment and false identification papers for the bombers. [Independent, 3/19/2004] One figure believed central to the bomb plot, Moutaz Almallah, will be arrested in London in 2005 and extradited to Spain in 2007 (see May 16, 2005).

Entity Tags: Jamal Zougam, Mohammed Fazazi, Abu Qatada, Barakat Yarkas, Moutaz Almallah

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Abu Qatada.Abu Qatada. [Source: Reuters]British police raid the house of radical London imam Abu Qatada and find the equivalent of $250,000 in cash under his bed. Abu Qatada claims that the money is for the construction of a new mosque. However, $1,174 is in an envelope marked “for the Mujaheddin in Chechnya.” [BBC, 8/11/2005] At the time, Qatada has no money-making job and is living with a wife and four children on government benefits worth $150 a week plus other housing aid. [New York Times, 10/26/2002] Spanish intelligence has known for years that al-Qaeda leader Barakat Yarkas has been frequently traveling to London and giving Qatada money for Chechnya that was raised in Spain (see 1995-February 2001). It is not known it the Spanish shared this intelligence with the British. Authors Sean O’Niell and Daniel McGrory will later write, “Jihad supporters have since confirmed that Abu Qatada was known throughout Britain as a conduit for funds destined for the Chechen fighters. Some of that money had been raised—directly and indirectly—in British mosques. There were straightforward appeals for the Chechen struggle, and rather more opaque pleas for charitable donations which were then siphoned off to the militants.” [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 67-8] Abu Qatada has a relationship with British counterintelligence (see June 1996-February 1997 and Early December 2001).

Entity Tags: Islamic International Peacekeeping Brigade, Abu Qatada, Barakat Yarkas

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

In searches conducted shortly after the 9/11 attacks, investigators discover direct links between the 9/11 hijacker cell in Hamburg and the Madrid al-Qaeda cell led by Barakat Yarkas. German police find Yarkas’s phone number in papers belong to 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta. His number is also found in the diary of Hamburg cell member Said Bahaji. [New York Times, 12/28/2001; Irujo, 2005, pp. 150-153] Investigators also find many videos of sermons by Abu Qatada in the apartment where Atta and other members of the Hamburg cell used to live. Qatada is already closely linked to Yarkas and his Madrid cell (see 1995-February 2001). [Guardian, 8/11/2005] Since Spanish intelligence had been monitoring Yarkas’s call since 1995 (see 1995 and After), it is unknown if they ever monitored a call between Yarkas and Atta or Bahaji. However, no such calls will be mentioned in subsequent trials in Spain. The Spanish did monitor numerous calls between Yarkas and Hamburg associates Mohammed Haydar Zammar and Mamoun Darkazanli (see August 1998-September 11, 2001). For years, the Spanish have merely been monitoring Yarkas’s cell. But after discovering these links, the decision is made to shut the cell down. Yarkas and others are arrested in November 2001 (see November 13, 2001). [Irujo, 2005, pp. 162-163] Qatada has been an informant for British intelligence since about 1997; it is unknown if he told his British handlers anything about the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg (see June 1996-February 1997).

Entity Tags: Barakat Yarkas, Abu Qatada, Mohamed Atta, Said Bahaji

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

On November 13, 2001 Spanish police arrest cell leader Barakat Yarkas and ten other alleged members of his cell. Spanish police, led by judge Baltasar Garzon, appear confident that they have smashed the al-Qaeda presence in Spain (see November 13, 2001). However, a number of likely suspects are left at large:
bullet Moutaz Almallah. Spanish police will later say that he had contacts with Yarkas as far back as 1995, the year police began to monitor Yarkas. He is said to have served as the “political chief” of Yarkas’s cell. He and Yarkas were seen meeting with an al-Qaeda courier in 1998. He will move to London in 2002 to live with radical imam Abu Qatada (see August 2002). He will be arrested in 2005 for a role in the Madrid bombings but has yet to be tried (see August 2002). Curiously, in 1995, a police officer who also served as Garzon’s bodyguard, sold Almallah an apartment and stayed friends with him (see November 1995). [El Mundo (Madrid), 3/2/2005; BBC, 3/24/2005]
bullet Amer el-Azizi, who may have had a role in the 9/11 plot, is able to flee a police raid due to a tip-off from Spanish intelligence (see Shortly After November 21, 2001).
bullet Jamal Zougam, even though he has been under suspicion since 2000, and has been tied to al-Qaeda-linked imam Abu Qatada and Mohammed Fazazi, who preached at the mosque attended by the 9/11 hijackers (see 2000-Early March 2004). [New York Times, 11/20/2001; Irujo, 2005, pp. 162-164] A French investigator had warned Spanish intelligence in June 2001 that Zougam was an important Islamist militant in a number of countries and that he should be arrested (see June 2001). Zougam’s Madrid apartment was searched by police on August 10, 2001, and investigators found phone numbers of three other members of the cell, plus a video of mujaheddin fighters in Chechnya. [Associated Press, 3/17/2004]
bullet Serhane Abdelmajid Fakhet. Spanish intelligence began monitoring him in 2000 for his links to other members of the cell. He was photographed with Yarkas in October 2001 (see October 19, 2001). [Irujo, 2005, pp. 182-186] Another informant who later appears as a protected witness will claim that Fakhet was also a government informant (see Shortly After October 2003).
bullet Said Chedadi is arrested, but is later released. He had been monitored traveling to London with Yarkas and giving money to Qatada. He will go on to have a role in the Madrid bombings (see 1995-February 2001). He also is roommates with Dris Chebli up until Chebli is arrested in June 2003 (see April-June 2003). [New York Times, 11/14/2001; El Mundo (Madrid), 10/27/2004]
El-Azizi flees overseas, but allegedly instructs the other cell members not arrested to constitute new cells in Madrid and Morocco. Fakhet becomes a leader of the new cells. Even though the vast majority of those not arrested remain under surveillance, including Fakhet and Zougam (see Shortly Before March 11, 2004), they are able to stage the March 2004 Madrid train bombings (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004). Fakhet will blow himself up shortly after those bombings, while Zougam will get life in prison for his role. El-Azizi has yet to be captured. Yarkas and most of the others arrested with him will be convicted for al-Qaeda ties in 2005 and given prison terms (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004). [Irujo, 2005, pp. 165-174] A Spanish investigator will later call Yarkas the mastermind of the Madrid bombings even though he was in prison since 2001, because virtually all of the bombers were connected to him in some way. “It is very clear to me, that if by mastermind we mean the person who has put the group together, prepared the group, trained it ideologically, sent them to Afghanistan to be prepared militarily for terrorism, that man is [Yarkas], without any doubt.” [New York Times, 10/26/2004]

Entity Tags: Centro Nacional de Inteligencia, Baltasar Garzon, Serhane Abdelmajid Fakhet, Amer el-Azizi, Moutaz Almallah, Jamal Zougam, Said Chedadi, Barakat Yarkas

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

It will later be alleged that in August 2002, radical imam Abu Qatada calls Spanish militant Moutaz Almallah and asks him to live with him in London. Almallah does move to London one month later. For most of 2002, Qatada is supposedly hiding in London, but in fact British intelligence knows where he is (see Late September 2001-Summer 2002 and Summer-Early November 2002), and he has a history of being an British informant (see June 1996-February 1997). The account of Moutaz moving to London comes from the estranged wife of his brother Mouhannad Almallah. Shortly after the Madrid bombings, she will tell a Spanish judge about the call and much more. She will say both brothers had frequent contact with Abu Qatada before moving. Spanish authorities also are aware that the brothers are linked to Barakat Yarkas, who frequently traveled to London to meet with Abu Qatada for many years (see 1995-February 2001). Abu Qatada will be arrested in October 2002, not long after Moutaz moves there (see October 23, 2002), but Moutaz will continue to live in London while making occasional trips back to Spain. Moutaz will be arrested in Britain in 2005. He will be extradited to Spain for a role in the 2004 Madrid train bombings, but will not have been put on trial by July 2007. In 2007, Mouhannad will be sentenced to 12 years for his role in the bombings (see October 31, 2007). [El Mundo (Madrid), 7/28/2005]

Entity Tags: Mouhannad Almallah’s wife, Abu Qatada, Barakat Yarkas, Mouhannad Almallah, Moutaz Almallah

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed.Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed. [Source: Associated Press]The trial of 28 people accused of a role in the 2004 Madrid train bombings comes to an end, and 21 are found guilty. However, only three are convicted of murder and are given life sentences: Jamal Zougam, Othman El Gnaoui, and Emilio Suarez Trashorras. Seven of the principal bombers blew themselves up one month after the bombings (see 9:05 p.m., April 3, 2004). None of the accused confessed, making convictions difficult. Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed was accused of being the bombing mastermind. While living it Italy, he reportedly bragged, “I was the leader of Madrid,” and “the Madrid bombings were my project, and those who died as martyrs there were my beloved friends.” But his defense attorneys argued successfully that the tapes were mistranslated and so they were thrown out as evidence. A counterterrorism expert says the court appeared to have a very strict standard of admissible evidence. However, Ahmed is serving a ten-year prison sentence in Italy based on unrelated charges. [Washington Post, 11/14/2004; MSNBC, 10/31/2007; New York Times, 11/1/2007] Many victims’ relatives complain that the sentences are too lenient. And a spokesperson for Spain’s main opposition party comments, “We still don’t know who gave the order, we still don’t know who built those bombs, and we still don’t know who was the coordinator of these cells that carried out these attacks.” [BBC, 11/1/2007] Some of the other verdicts:
bullet Hamid Ahmidan - 23 years.
bullet Rachid Aglif - 18 years.
bullet Abdelmajid Bouchar - 18 years.
bullet Basel Ghalyoun - 12 years.
bullet Mohammed Larbi ben Sellam - 12 years.
bullet Fouad el Morabit - 12 years.
bullet Mouhannad Almallah - 12 years.
bullet Rafa Zouhier - 10 years.
bullet Youssef Belhadj - 12 years.
bullet Antonio Toro - Acquitted.
bullet Carmen Toro - Acquitted. [El Mundo (Madrid), 11/1/2007]

Entity Tags: Rachid Aglif, Mouhannad Almallah, Othman El Gnaoui, Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed, Rafa Zouhier, Mohammed Larbi ben Sellam, Emilio Suarez Trashorras, Hamid Ahmidan, Abdelmajid Bouchar, Antonio Toro, Basel Ghalyoun, Carmen Toro, Fouad el Morabit, Jamal Zougam, Youssef Belhadj

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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