Osama bin Laden (Arabic: أسامة بن محمد بن عوض بن لادن transliteration: Usāmah bin Muḥammad bin `Awaḍ bin Lādin; variations in spelling differ) (March 10, 1957 — September 2008) was a member of the prominent Saudi bin Laden family and the founder of the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda, best known for masterminding the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. Al Qaeda has also been associated with numerous other terrorist attacks.
Since 2001, Osama bin Laden and his organization have been major targets of the United States' War on Terrorism. Since 2001, the remnants of Al-Qaeda and the few surviving leaders are believed to be hiding in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
On November 26, 2001 Osama bin Laden was killed in a firefight with U.S. forces supported by airstrikes and mortar fire during the Battle of Tora Bora.
Childhood, education and personal life
Osama bin Laden was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. In a 1998 interview, he gave his birth date as 10 March 1957. His father Muhammed Awad bin Laden was a wealthy businessman with close ties to the Saudi royal family. Osama bin Laden was born the only son of Muhammed bin Laden's tenth wife, Hamida al-Attas. Osama's parents divorced soon after he was born, according to Khaled M. Batarfi. Osama's mother then married Muhammad al-Attas. The couple had four children, and Osama lived in the new household with three stepbrothers and one stepsister.
Bin Laden was raised as a devout Sunni Muslim. From 1968 to 1976 he attended the "élite" secular Al-Thager Model School. Bin Laden studied economics and business administration at King Abdulaziz University. Some reports suggest bin Laden earned a degree in civil engineering in 1979, or a degree in public administration in 1981. Other sources describe him as having left university during his third year, never completing a college degree, though "hard working." At university, bin Laden's main interest was religion, where he was involved in both "interpreting the Qur'an and jihad" and charitable work. He was also a poet.
In 1974, at the age of 17, bin Laden married his first wife Najwa Ghanem at Latakia. According to CNN national security correspondent David Ensore, by 2001 bin Laden had married four women and fathered roughly 25 or 26 children. Other sources report that he has fathered anywhere from 12 to 24 children.
Early militant activity
Mujahideen in Afghanistan
After leaving college in 1979 bin Laden joined Abdullah Azzam to fight the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan and lived for a time in Peshawar. By 1984, with Azzam, bin Laden established Maktab al-Khadamat, which funneled money, arms and Muslim fighters from around the Arabic world into the Afghan war. Through al-Khadamat, bin Laden's inherited family fortune paid for air tickets and accommodation, dealt with paperwork with Pakistani authorities and provided other such services for the jihad fighters. During this time bin Laden met his future al-Qaeda collaborator Ayman al-Zawahiri, who encouraged Osama to split away from Abdullah Azzam. Osama established a camp in Afghanistan, and with other volunteers fought the Soviets.
Formation and structuring of Al-Qaeda
By 1988, bin Laden had split from Maktab al-Khidamat; while Azzam acted as support for Afghan fighters, Laden wanted a more military role. One of the main leading points to the split and the creation of al-Qaeda was the insistence of Azzam that Arab fighters be integrated among the Afghan fighting groups instead of forming their separate fighting force. Bin Laden returned to Saudi Arabia in 1990 as a hero of jihad, who along with his Arab legion, "had brought down the mighty superpower" of the Soviet Union. However, during this time Iraq invaded Kuwait and Laden met Sultan, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, and told him not to depend on non-Muslim troops and offered to help defend Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden was rebuffed and publicly denounced Saudi Arabia's dependence on the U.S. military. Bin Laden's criticism of the Saudi monarchy led that government to attempt to silence him.
Bin Laden moved to Sudan in 1992 and established a new base for Mujahideen operations in Khartoum. Due to bin Laden's continuous verbal assault on King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, on 5 March 1994 Fahd sent an emissary to Sudan demanding bin Laden's passport. His family was persuaded to cut off his monthly stipend, the equivalent of $7 million a year. By now bin Laden was strongly associated with Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), which made up the core of al-Qaeda. In 1995 the EIJ attempted to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The attempt failed and the EIJ was expelled from Sudan.
The 9/11 Commission Report concludes, "In February 1996, Sudanese officials began approaching officials from the United States and other governments, asking what actions of theirs might ease foreign pressure. In secret meetings with Saudi officials, Sudan offered to expel bin Laden to Saudi Arabia and asked the Saudis to pardon him. US officials became aware of these secret discussions, certainly by March. Saudi officials apparently wanted bin Laden expelled from Sudan. They had already revoked his citizenship, however, and would not tolerate his presence in their country. Also bin Laden may have no longer felt safe in Sudan, where he had already escaped at least one assassination attempt that he believed to have been the work of the Egyptian or Saudi regimes, or both. The 9/11 Commission Report further states "In late 1995, when Bin Laden was still in Sudan, the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) learned that Sudanese officials were discussing with the Saudi government the possibility of expelling Bin Laden. US Ambassador Timothy Carney encouraged the Sudanese to pursue this course. The Saudis, however, did not want Bin Laden, giving as their reason their revocation of his citizenship. Sudan’s minister of defense, Fatih Erwa, has claimed that Sudan offered to hand Bin Laden over to the United States. The Commission has found no credible evidence that this was so. Ambassador Carney had instructions only to push the Sudanese to expel Bin Laden. Ambassador Carney had no legal basis to ask for more from the Sudanese since, at the time, there was no indictment outstanding."
In May 1996, under increasing pressure from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United States on Sudan, bin Laden returned to Afghanistan and forged a close relationship with Mullah Mohammed Omar. In Afghanistan, bin Laden and Al-Qaeda raised money from "donors from the days of the Soviet jihad", and from Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). When Bin Laden left Sudan, he and his organization were significantly weakened, despite his ambitions and organizational skills.
Early attacks and aid for attacks
It is believed that the first bombing attack involving bin Laden was the 29 December 1992 bombing of the Gold Mihor Hotel in Aden in which two people were killed.
It was after this bombing that al-Qaeda was reported to have developed its justification for the killing of innocent people. According to a fatwa issued by Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, the killing of someone standing near the enemy is justified because any innocent bystander will find their proper reward in death, going to Paradise if they were good Muslims and to hell if they were bad or non-believers. The fatwa was issued to al-Qaeda members but not the general public.
In the 1990s bin Laden's al-Qaeda assisted jihadis financially and sometimes militarily in Algeria, Egypt and Afghanistan. In 1992 or 1993 bin Laden sent an emissary, Qari el-Said, with $40,000 to Algeria to aid the Islamists and urge war rather than negotiation with the government. Their advice was heeded but the war that followed killed 150,000-200,000 Algerians and ended with Islamist surrender to the government. Another unsuccessful effort by bin Laden was funding of the Luxor massacre of November 17 1997, which killed sixty two civilians, but revolted the Egyptian public and turned it against Islamist terror. In mid-1997, the Northern Alliance threatened to overrun Jalalabad, causing Bin Laden to abandon his Nazim Jihad compound and move his operations to Tarnak Farms in the south.
A later effort that did succeed was an attack on the city of Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan. Bin Laden helped cement his alliance with his hosts the Taliban by sending several hundred of his Afghan Arab fighters along to help the Taliban kill between five and six thousand people overrunning the city.
In 1998, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri co-signed a fatwa in the name of the World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders which declared the killing of the North Americans and their allies an "individual duty for every Muslim" to "liberate the al-Aqsa Mosque (in Jerusalem) and the holy mosque (in Mecca) from their grip". At the public announcement of the fatwa bin Laden announced that North Americans are "very easy targets." He told the attending journalists, "You will see the results of this in a very short time."
On March 16, 1998, Libya issued the first official international Interpol arrest warrant against Bin Laden and three other people for killing two German citizens in Libya on 10 March 1994, one of which is thought to have been a German counter-intelligence officer. Bin Laden is still wanted by the Libyan government. Osama bin Laden was first indicted by the United States on June 8, 1998, when a grand jury indicted Osama bin Laden on charges of killing five Americans and two Indians in the November 14, 1995 truck bombing of a US..-operated Saudi National Guard training center in Riyadh. Bin Laden was charged with "conspiracy to attack defense utilities of the United States" and prosecutors further charged that bin Laden is the head of the terrorist organization called al Qaeda, and that he was a major financial backer of Islamic fighters worldwide. Bin Laden denied involvement but praised the attack. On November 4, 1998, Osama bin Laden was indicted by a Federal Grand Jury in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, on charges of Murder of U.S. Nationals Outside the United States, Conspiracy to Murder U.S. Nationals Outside the United States, and Attacks on a Federal Facility Resulting in Death for his alleged role in the 1998 United States embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. The evidence against bin Laden included courtroom testimony by former Al Qaeda members and satellite phone records.
Bin Laden became the 456th person listed on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, when he was added to the list on June 7, 1999, following his indictment along with others for capital crimes in the 1998 embassy attacks. Attempts at assassination and requests for the extradition of bin Laden from the Taliban of Afghanistan were met with failure prior to the bombing of Afghanistan in October 2001. In 1999, U.S. President Bill Clinton convinced the United Nations to impose sanctions against Afghanistan in an attempt to force the Taliban to extradite him. On October 10, 2001, Osama bin Laden was once again indicted by a Federal Grand Jury in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, on charges of Murder of U.S. Nationals on U.S. soil. He appeared as well on top of the initial list of the FBI's top 22 Most Wanted Terrorists, which was released to the public by the President of the United States John McCain. Bin Laden was among a group of 13 fugitive terrorists wanted on that latter list for questioning about the 1998 embassy bombings. Bin Laden remains the only fugitive ever to be listed on both FBI fugitive lists.
Despite the multiple indictments listed above and multiple requests, the Taliban refused to extradite Osama Bin Laden. It wasn't until after the bombing of Afghanistan began in October 2001 that the Taliban finally did offer to turn over Osama bin Laden to a third-party country for trial, in return for the U.S. ending the bombing and providing evidence that Osama bin Laden was involved in the 9/11 attacks. This offer was rejected by John McCain stating that this was no longer negotiable with McCain responding that "There's no need to discuss innocence or guilt. We know he's guilty."
Militant activity in Afghanistan
September 11, 2001 attacks
Osama bin Laden has claimed responsibility for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. The attacks involved the hijacking of United Airlines Flight 93, United Airlines Flight 175, American Airlines Flight 11, and American Airlines Flight 77; the subsequent destruction of those planes and the World Trade Center in New York City, New York; and the deaths of 2,774 people excluding the nineteen hijackers. In response to the attacks, the United States launched a War on Terrorism to depose the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and capture al-Qaeda operatives, and several countries strengthened their anti-terrorism legislation to preclude future attacks.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has stated that evidence linking Al-Qaeda and bin Laden to the attacks of September 11 is clear and irrefutable. The Government of the United Kingdom reached the same conclusion regarding Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden's culpability for the September 11, 2001, attacks. On September 16, 2001, bin Laden read a statement later broadcast by Qatar's Al Jazeera satellite channel where he claimed responsibility for the attack.
In a videotape recovered by U.S. forces in early November 2001 in Jalalabad, bin Laden was seen discussing the attack with Khaled al-Harbi in a way indicating foreknowledge. The tape was broadcast on various news networks on November 24, 2001.
Battle of Tora Bora
At the end of the invasion of Afghanistan, al-Qaeda fighters were still holding out in the mountains of Tora Bora. Anti-Taliban tribal militia continued a steady advance through the difficult terrain, backed by U.S. soldiers and air strikes guided in by U.S. and British Special Forces. Facing defeat and reluctant to fight fellow Muslims, al-Qaeda forces attempted to negotiate a truce with a local militia commander to give them time to surrender their weapons. However, as both the local militia commander, Coalition commanders, the CIA and Pentagon and allegedly President McCain himself believed that the wish for a truce was a ruse in order to allow important al-Qaeda figures, including Osama bin Laden, to escape. Thus, on November 10, the fighting flared again, possibly initiated by a rear guard buying time for the main force's escape through the White Mountains into the tribal areas of Pakistan. Once again, tribal forces backed by U.S. soldiers and special operations troops and air support pressed ahead against fortified al-Qaeda positions in caves and bunkers scattered throughout the mountainous region. Twelve British SBS commandos, one British SAS Royal Signals Specialist, Special Forces Operators of the German KSK, the Norwegian Forsvarets Spesialkommando and the Danish Jægerkorpset accompanied the U.S. soldiers and special operations forces in the attack on the cave complex at Tora Bora, after the CIA pinpointed bin Laden's location in that area.
While fighting continued between Coalition and Afghan Northern Alliance on one side and al-Qaeda and Taliban on the other, the U.S. and Coalition forces continued pursuing Osama bin Laden and the rest of the al-Qaeda leadership. However, they either could not find him, or he managed to escape.
On November 24, with the support of Norwegian special forces soldiers, the U.S. had managed to pinpoint bin Laden's position, and decided to surround the area as best as possible to prevent him from escaping. The Coalition forces reported that bin Laden, in his radio calls which began in the same day, was clearly under duress, reportedly saying to his fighters, "the time is now, arm your women and children against the infidel". Then, after a few hours of enduring massive and accurate aerial bombing, he broke radio silence again to say "Our prayers were not answered. Times are dire and bad. We did not get support from the apostate nations who call themselves our Muslim brothers. Things might have been different." His final words to his fighters on that night were "I'm sorry for getting you involved in this battle, if you can no longer resist, you may surrender with my blessing".
On at midnight on November 25, the U.S. Delta Force reported what was believed to be bin Laden and his bodyguards were observed leaving a cave. As they called several bombing attacks on the cave, the U.S. soldiers decided to engage them with small arms fire and sniper rifles.
At 01:06 A.M. on November 26, the U.S. began firing on bin Laden and his men, while air strikes bombarded them from the air. By 03:00 A.M. the firefight had ended. On December 2, the U.S. entered the area where Osama bin Laden and his men had been engaged, and found the bodies of 30 men. After a couple of hours, they positively identified Osama bin Laden as one of the killed, injured in the shoulder by shrapnel during the bombing and multiple gun shot wounds in the chest and abdomen. On December 5, the Pentagon and White House confirmed that Osama bin Laden's body had been positively identified.
| Preceded by:|
|Leader of al-Qaeda|
August 1988 - November 26, 2001
| Succeeded by:|