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Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Laden

Sheikh Usamah bin Muhammad bin Awad bin Ladin (born July 30?, 1957), commonly known as Osama bin Laden (أسامة بن لادن), is the leader and head of al-Qaeda, widely regarded as the most extensive terrorist organization in the world.

The United States government has named Osama as the prime suspect in the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack, which killed 2,992 people. Osama has denied this accusation, although a videotape captured in Afghanistan in 2002 showed Osama discussing the attacks in language which strongly suggested he was at the least a participant in planning the attacks.

Table of contents
1 Names
2 Biography
3 Terrorist activities
4 Osama and September 11
5 Current status of Osama
6 See Also
7 External Links


Osama's name can be transliterated in several ways, including Usama bin Laden (as used by the FBI, the BBC, and FOX News, among others) Ussamah Bin Ladin, Oussama Ben Laden; also ibn Laden and Binladen. As with other Arabic names, it is incorrect to use "bin Laden" as though it was a Western surname (even though some members of his family do this when dealing with Westerners). It means "son of Laden." He should be referred to either as "Osama" or "Osama bin Laden." Osama has several aliases, including The Prince, The Emir, Abu Abdallah, Mujahid Shaykh, Hajj, and The Director.


Osama bin Laden was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 1957, the 17th of 52 children of Muhammad bin Laden, a wealthy businessman involved in construction and with close ties to the royal family of Saudi Arabia. His family originally came from Yemen. He was raised as a devout Muslim and in interviews he frequently invokes Allah. As a college student, he studied business and project administration. He also earned a degree in civil engineering from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah in 1979, possibly as preparation for taking over parts of his father's extensive construction and civil engineering business. After his father died, Osama inherited what was first estimated to be a fortune of US$300 million; more recent estimates put his holdings at about US$25 million.

His wealth and connections permitted him to pursue his interest in supporting the mujahedeen, Muslim guerrillas fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan following the Soviet invasion in 1979. (See the History of Afghanistan.) By 1984 he was running a front organization called Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK), which funneled money, arms and fighters into the Afghan war. MAK was nurtured by Pakistan's state security services and the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), the United States Central Intelligence Agency's most important channel for supporting Afghani resistance to the Soviet occupation. The BBC reported that he received security training from the CIA itself, according to Middle Eastern analyst Hazhir Teimourian.

By 1988, Osama had split from the MAK and established a new guerilla group, dubbed al-Qaida, which included many of the more militant MAK members he had met in Afghanistan. The Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989. Osama was lauded as a hero in Saudi Arabia, but during the Gulf War against Iraq he was critical of Saudi Arabia's dependence on the U.S. military and demanded that all foreigners leave the country. It was the U.S. support of what he viewed to be a corrupt, materialist, and irreligious Saudi monarchy that turned him against the United States. He began to criticize the monarchy and was forced to flee to Sudan in 1991, where he set up a new base of operations.

With the assistance of terrorist sponsoring false charities such as Benevolence International and such as those started by Bin Laden's brother in law, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Osama was able to expand the group's focus and send group members to Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe, and the United States for the purpose of recruiting new members and spreading radical fundamental Islam. Osama lost his Saudi citizenship in 1994 after he admitted his involvement in terrorist attacks in Riyadh and Dahran.

In 1996 Sudan made repeated overtures to the United States to extradite Osama, arrest him, monitor him, and/or provide intelligence on the activities of him and his associates, but the Clinton administration never accepted their offers. In May 1996 Osama was expelled from Sudan. He then headed for Afghanistan, where he had a close relationship with some of the leaders of the Taliban government which had taken control in 1996. The 1997 Luxor tourist massacres in Egypt are believed to have been financed by Osama.

In an interview in 1997, Osama stated that he never personally knew Ramzi Yousef, another well-known terrorist.

Terrorist activities

Osama's first strike against the United States was a bombing of a hotel in Yemen. The soldiers that were targeted had left two days earlier for Somalia. Two Austrian tourists were killed. Some sources say that Osama bin Laden funded and/or directed the World Trade Center bombing in 1993. It is also alleged that Osama and the Indonesian terrorist known as Hambali funded the Operation Bojinka planned terrorist attack until police discovered the plot in Manila, Philippines on January 6, 1995.

In 1998, Osama was a co-signatory with Ayman Zawahiri (formerly of Egyptian Islamic Jihad) to a fatwa, or religious/legal edict, put out in the name of the World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders, declaring, "The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies - civilians and military - is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it, in order to liberate the al-Aqsa Mosque (in Jerusalem) and the holy mosque (in Makka) from their grip, and in order for their armies to move out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim. This is in accordance with the words of Almighty Allah, "and fight the pagans all together as they fight you all together," and "fight them until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah." (statement linked below) His strongly held beliefs appeal strongly with Islamic believers of Jihad including those who believe in forced conversion of non-Muslims to Islam as well as extermination of non-Muslims.

President Bill Clinton ordered Osama's assets frozen in 1998, but none were ever found. Clinton also authorized Osama's arrest and/or assassination while in office; one assassination attempt with cruise missiles in August 1998 failed, while killing 19 other people. The U.S. never apologized for these killings, since the attack was directed at what they considered to be a meeting of terrorists. The U.S. offered a US$25 million reward for information leading to his apprehension or conviction and, in 1999, convinced the United Nations to impose sanctions against Afghanistan in an attempt to force the Taliban to extradite him.

Osama is wanted by the United States in connection with the August 7, 1998 bombings of the United States embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya, in which over 200 people died. Due to this incident, he is on the FBI Most Wanted Terrorists list. Osama is also alleged to have ordered the USS Cole bombing.

Osama and September 11

Immediately after the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks in the United States, the United States government named Osama as the prime suspect. Bin Laden denied this accusation, though he expressed admiration for whoever was responsible.

In December 2001 U.S. forces in Afghanistan captured a videotape during a raid on a house in Jalalabad, in which Osama is seen and heard discussing the September 11 attacks with a group of followers. Osama is heard to say:

We calculated in advance the number of casualties from the enemy, who would be killed based on the position of the tower. We calculated that the floors that would be hit would be three or four floors. I was the most optimistic of them all. (...Inaudible...) Due to my experience in this field, I was thinking that the fire from the gas in the plane would melt the iron structure of the building and collapse the area where the plane hit and all the floors above it only. This is all that we had hoped for. (full text of the tape transcript)

If this tape is authentic, it shows at the very least that Osama had advance knowledge of the attacks on the World Trade Center, including the precise nature of the attacks, and that he probably actually planned the attacks. According to the admission of one of Osama's lieutenants, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the idea for the attacks came from him, although Osama probably funded and oversaw the planning for the operation. Khalid has been in United States custody since September 2003.

Current status of Osama

Osama's current location is unknown, and indeed it is not known with certainty that he is still alive. His last known definite location was in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2001. After the September 11 attacks, the United States asked the Taliban government of Afghanistan to extradite him. When the regime refused, the United States invaded Afghanistan and overthrew the Taliban. They were however unable to locate Osama. The U.S. launched heavy air attacks against areas in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area, such as the Tora Bora mountains, where it was believed Osama may have been hiding in caves. It is possible that he was killed in these raids. There has been no authenticated sighting of him since the end of 2001.

There have also been suggestions that Osama may have died of natural causes. The United States military has reported that Osama suffering from a kidney disorder, requiring him to have access to advanced medical facilities. Although Osama has been disowned by his family (who use the English spelling Binladin), some of his relatives say he continues to receive financial support from his family (See external links below).

A Spanish court indicted Osama and 34 others on charges related to terrorism on September 17, 2003.

See Also

External Links