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Osama bin Laden

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Osama bin Laden

Usāmah bin Muhammad bin `Awad bin Lādin (born July 30 or March 10, 1957) (Template:Lang-ar), commonly known as Osama bin Laden (Template:Lang-ar), is the figurehead of al-Qaeda, an Islamist movement that has been involved in attacks against civilians and military targets around the world. He is widely believed to have conceived of, incited and been instrumental in, the attacks on September 11, 2001 on New York City and Washington, D.C. which killed at least 2,752 people.

One of bin Laden's main goals was to force the removal of U.S. military bases in Saudi Arabia, where two of Islam's holiest places are located. The U.S. has announced that it will close its bases, although it is unclear whether Bin Laden's activities were a factor in this decision.

Bin Laden is the "most wanted" man in the world with a reward for information leading to his capture of US$50 million. While his current whereabouts are unknown, he is believed to be hiding in Pakistan's unruly tribal region bordering Afghanistan or, more specifically, near the small Pakistani market town of Chitral. Shopkeepers in the town, which is believed by officials to be part of the al Qaeda supply network, told an ABC News consultant as recently as mid-June of 2005 [[1] (http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/Investigation/story?id=855866&page=1)][[2] (http://lopati.pitas.com/apr_04.htmlas)] that foreigners were seen buying large quantities of food only to drive "back up the mountain back to Afghanistan." Speculation as to his whereabouts has not been limited to the Pakistan/Afghanistan region, however, as there has been some more recent speculation from within the US intelligence community that points to the possibility that Iran may be harboring him [3] (http://www.newshounds.us/2005/06/14/imagine_that_osama_bin_ladens_in_iran_get_ready_for_the_next_war.php) [4] (http://washingtontimes.com/national/20050612-110148-6143r.htm). If Bin Laden is in Pakistan, it is likely that he continues to benefit from significant local support from the fiercely independent Waziri tribe. Together with the inhospitable mountainous terrain that characterizes the region, this has made his capture by the US military extremely difficult despite a wide array of sophisticated eavesdropping sensors deployed in the region and the support of the Pakistani military (at least at the upper echelons)[5] (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/03/20/terror/main607634.shtml).

Contents

Background

Family and childhood

Bin Laden was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to Muhammad Awad bin Ladin, a wealthy businessman involved in construction and with close ties to the Saudi royal family. There is no definitive account of the number of children born to Mohammed bin Laden, but the number is generally put at 54. In addition, various accounts place Osama as his seventeenth son, while others say he was the last of 25 sons.

The large number of bin Laden siblings is the result of polygyny; his father was married ten times, although to no more than four women at a time per Islamic law. Osama is the only son of the elder bin Laden's tenth wife, Hamida al-Attas, who is reportedly of Syrian descent. A woman who in 1971 had attended an English language course with bin Laden recalled him saying with some sadness that his mother was a concubine[6] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/uk/newsid_1595000/1595205.stm).

His family originally came from Hadhramaut, Yemen and he was raised as a devout Sunni Muslim. After his graduation from secondary school in 1973, bin Laden went to Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, and allegedly frequented bars and nightclubs. 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 in preparation for taking over parts of his father's extensive construction and civil engineering business.

After his father died, bin Laden inherited what was once estimated to be a fortune of US$300 million although more recent estimates put his holdings at about US$25 million.

In 1974, at the age of 17, bin Laden married his first wife (and first cousin), Najwa Ghanem. Bin Laden reportedly married four other women, divorcing one. He has fathered at least 24 children. Najwa, a Syrian and his mother's niece, reportedly had 11 children by bin Laden, seven of them sons, including Abdallah, Omar, Saad, and Muhammad. Saad, born in 1979, is reportedly active in an Iran-based al-Qaida network. Omar and Abdallah were reportedly organizing the U.S. branch of the World Congress of Muslim Youth in Falls Church, Virginia during the 1990s.

His immensely wealthy family publicly disowned him in 1994, shortly before the Saudi Arabian government revoked his citizenship. He attended his son's wedding in January 2001, but since 9/11 is believed only to have had contact with his mother on one occasion.

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Osama bin Laden

Appearance and manner

Bin Laden is often described as lanky — the FBI describes him as tall and thin, being 6' 4" (193 cm) to 6' 6" (198 cm) tall and weighing 160 pounds (75 kg). He has an olive complexion, is left-handed and usually walks with a cane. He wears a plain white turban and no longer dons the traditional Saudi male headdress.

He reportedly suffers from various medical conditions including kidney disease.

For more information (mostly speculative) see this summary of medical information about bin Laden (http://www.doctorzebra.com/prez/a_binladen.htm).

Names

Bin Laden's name can be transliterated in several ways. The form used here, Osama bin Laden, is used by most English-language mass media, including CNN and the BBC. The second most common English-language form of the name is Usama bin Laden (used by the FBI and FOX News), commonly abbreviated to UBL. Less common renderings include Ussamah Bin Ladin and Oussama Ben Laden (used in French-language mass media). The latter part of the name can also be found as ibn Laden, Binladen or Binladin.

Strictly speaking, under the Arabic naming convention, it is incorrect to use "bin Laden" as though it were a Western surname. His full name means "Osama, son of Mohammed, son of Laden." However, the bin Laden family (or "Binladin," as they prefer to be known) generally use the name as a surname, in the Western style. The family company is known as the Binladin Brothers for Contracting and Industry and is one of the largest corporations in Saudi Arabia. For this reason, although the Arabic convention would be to refer to him either as "Osama" or "Osama bin Laden," using "bin Laden" is in accordance with the family's own usage of the name and is the near-universal convention in Western references to him.

Bin Laden has several aliases and nicknames, including the Prince, the Emir, Abu Abdallah, Mujahid Shaykh, Hajj, and the Director.


Military and terrorist activity

Afghan Jihad

His wealth and connections permitted him to pursue his interest in supporting the mujahideen, Muslim guerrillas fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. (See: the History of Afghanistan.) By 1984 he had established an organization named Maktab al-Khadamat (MAK) (Office of Order in English), which funneled money, arms and Muslim fighters from around the world into the Afghan war.

Some argue that MAK was supported by the governments of Pakistan, the United States[7] (http://www.msnbc.com/news/190144.asp?cp1=1#BODY) and Saudi Arabia, and that the three countries channelled their supplies through Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). This account is vehemently denied by the US government, which maintains that US aid went only to Afghan fighters, and that [Afghan Arabs] had their own sources of funding, an account also supported by Al Qaeda itself. [8] (http://usinfo.state.gov/media/Archive/2005/Jan/24-318760.html)

The accounts of some journalists and investigators, however, dispute these claims, suggesting that CIA money and weapons reached bin Laden through the ISI.[9] (http://msnbc.com/news/190144.asp?cp1=1) According to Ahmed Rashid, Central Intelligence Agency Chief William Casey in 1986 "committed CIA support to a long-standing ISI initiative to recruit radical Muslims from around the world to come to Pakistan and fight with the Afghan Mujaheddin. The ISI had encouraged this since 1982 and by now all the other players had their reasons for supporting the idea.... Washington wanted to demonstrate that the entire Muslim world was fighting the Soviet Union alongside the Afghans and their American benefactors. And the Saudis saw an opportunity to promote Wahabbism and get rid of its disgruntled radicals. None of the players reckoned on these volunteers having their own agendas, which would eventually turn their hatred against the Soviets on their own regimes and the Americans." (Ahmed Rashid, Taliban New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000, p. 129.) This account is also substantially backed up by John Cooley, Unholy Wars : Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism, New York, Pluto Press, 2002. And while Marc Sageman, former CIA officer who worked closely with the mujahedin under Milton Bearden, makes clear that he does not believe the CIA ever came in direct contact with the foreign volunteers (an account refuted by Coll, see p. 201) and calls the notion of CIA training of future al Qaeda terrorists "sheer fantasy," he also notes that U.S. support for the Arab Afghan volunteers was funnelled through the Pakistani ISI at Pakistan's insistence. "The global Salafi jihad," he writes, "is without doubt an indirect consequence of U.S. involvement in that Afghan-Soviet war." (Marc Sageman, Understanding Terror Networks, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004, p. 59, emphasis added).

Formation of al-Qaeda

By 1988, bin Laden had split from the MAK and established a new militant group, later dubbed al-Qaeda by the U.S. government, which included many of the more militant MAK members he had met in Afghanistan. The Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989 and bin Laden was lauded as a mujahideen hero in Saudi Arabia. After Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, bin Laden offered to help defend Saudi Arabia (with 12,000 armed men) but was rebuffed by the Saudi government. Bin Laden publicly denounced his government's dependence on the U.S. military and demanded an end to the presence of foreign military bases in the country. According to reports (by the BBC and others), the 1990/91 deployment of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia in connection with the Gulf War profoundly shocked and revolted bin Laden and other Islamist militants because the Saudi government claims legitimacy based on their role as guardians of the sacred Muslim cities of Mecca and Medina. After the Gulf War, the establishment of permanent bases for non-Muslim U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia continued to undermine the Saudi rulers' legitimacy and inflamed anti-government Islamist militants, including bin Laden. Bin Laden's increasingly strident criticisms of the Saudi monarchy led the government to expel him to Sudan in 1991.

Assisted by donations funneled through business and charitable fronts such as Benevolence International established by his brother-in-law, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden established a new base for mujahideen operations in Sudan to disseminate Islamist philosophy and recruit operatives in Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe, and the United States. Bin Laden also invested in business ventures, such as al-Hajira, a construction company that built roads throughout Sudan, and Wadi al-Aqiq, an agricultural corporation that farmed hundreds of thousands of acres of sorghum, gum arabic, sesame and sunflowers in Sudan's central Gezira province. Bin Laden's operations in Sudan were protected by the powerful Sudanese government figure Hassan al Turabi. The funding from these ventures was used to run several training camps on his farmland, where Islamist militants could receive instruction in firearms use and the use of explosives from former Afghan mujahideen.

Around this time, bin Laden and his associates began developing and executing a series of meticulously-planned terrorist attacks. In 1995, the Saudi Arabian government stripped bin Laden of his citizenship after he claimed responsibility for attacks on U.S. and Saudi military bases in Riyadh and Dahran.

Refuge in Afghanistan

Sudanese officials whose governemnt was under international sanctions offered to extradite bin Laden to Saudi Arabia in the mid-1990s. However, Saudi Arabia refused because of the political difficulties of accepting such a controversial figure into their custody. Thus, in May 1996, under increasing pressure from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United States, Sudan expelled bin Laden to Afghanistan. He chartered a plane and flew to Kabul before settling in Jalalabad. After spending a few months in the border region hosted by local leaders, bin Laden forged a close relationship with some of the leaders of Afghanistan's new Taliban government, notably Mullah Mohammed Omar. Bin Laden supported the Taliban government with financial and paramilitary assistance and, in 1997, he moved to Kandahar, the Taliban stronghold.

Bin Laden is suspected of funding the 1997 massacre of 62 tourists in Luxor, Egypt conducted by Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya, an Egyptian militant Islamist group. The Egyptian government convicted Bin Laden's colleague, one of the leaders of Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, and sentenced him to death in absentia for the massacre.

Attacks on United States targets

Bin Laden's first strike against the United States was the December 29, 1992 bombing of the Gold Mihor Hotel in Aden, Yemen that killed a Yemeni hotel employee, an Austrian national and seriously injured his wife. About 100 US soldiers, part of Operation Restore Hope, had been staying at the hotel for two weeks but had left two days earlier for Somalia. Bin Laden and the Indonesian militant known as Hambali allegedly funded, then aborted Operation Bojinka conspiracy when police discovered the plot in Manila, Philippines on January 6, 1995.

In 1998, bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri (a leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad) co-signed a fatwa (binding religious edict) 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.'" For more information, see Osama bin Laden Fatwa. (http://www.ict.org.il/articles/fatwah.htm)

Bin Laden is officially 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, that killed 225 people and injured more than 4000. Since June 1999, bin Laden has been listed as one of the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives and FBI Most Wanted Terrorists. Al-Qaida was allegedly involved in several unsuccessful conspiracies, including the 2000 millennium attack plots to bomb Los Angeles airport, several tourist sites in Jordan and the USS The Sullivans, and well as the subsequent Paris embassy terrorist attack plot. The al-Qaida organization was allegedly responsible for the successful USS Cole bombing in October, 2000.

In response to these attacks, President Bill Clinton ordered a freeze on assets linked to bin Laden. Clinton also signed an executive order authorizing bin Laden's arrest or assassination. In August 1998, the U.S. military launched an assassination attempt using cruise missiles. The attack failed to harm bin Laden but killed 19 other people. The U.S. offered a US$25 million reward for information leading to bin Laden's 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.

September 11

Immediately after the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks in the United States, the United States government named bin Laden as the prime suspect. He claimed in an interview shortly after the attacks, "I was not involved in the September 11 attacks in the United States nor did I have knowledge of the attacks," and suggested the attacks were the fault of Jews or of the CIA. But in subsequent statements and interviews he expressed admiration for whoever was responsible. He took credit for "inspiring" what he calls the "blessed attacks" of September 11th in several public statements.

In December 2001 U.S. forces in Afghanistan captured a videotape during a raid on a house in Jalalabad, in which he discusses the September 11 attacks with a group of followers. According to the official U.S. translation of this tape bin Laden says:

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) (http://edition.cnn.com/2001/US/12/13/tape.transcript/)

Several other videotapes have surfaced in the media (11.11.01 Sunday Times / Al-Jazeera 26.12.02 / 04.02 Al-Jazeera/AP / Sunday Times 19.05.02 / 09.02 Al-Jazeera etc). The video found in Jalalabad in December 2001 is still the most often cited as evidence for bin Laden's participation in the September 11th attacks.

In a closed door session in October 2001, the U.S. presented evidence to NATO of bin Laden's involvement in the September 11 attacks. NATO's general secretary George Robertson described the evidence as clear and decisive and led the organization to invoke, for the first time in its history, article 5 in the NATO pact. Article 5 states that any attack on a member state is considered an attack against the entire alliance. [10] (http://www.nato.int/terrorism/five.htm) The evidence presented to NATO was never presented to the public for security reasons.

One leading al-Qaida member, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, claims (according to his interrogators) that the idea for the attacks came from him and not from bin Laden. Khalid has been in United States custody since September 2003. The extent to which bin Laden was involved in funding or overseeing the operation is unknown. The FBI's most wanted poster of bin Laden only refers to the embassy bombings and other unspecified terrorist activity.

Nevertheless, bin Laden has publicly praised the September 11 attacks in several instances and has taken credit for being their "inspiration." It is clear in many of his public statements that he views himself as an active participant in the attacks, whether or not he deserves the credit the West gives him as their "mastermind." A good example is this passage from his October 2001 interview with Al-Jazeera:

As for the World Trade Center, the ones who were attacked and who died in it were a financial power. It wasn't a children's school! And it wasn't a residence. And the general consensus is that most of the people who were in there were men that backed the biggest financial force in the world that spreads worldwide mischief [ta`ithu fil ardi fasaadaa]. And those individuals should stand for Allah, and to re-think and re-do their calculations. We treat others like they treat us. Those who kill our women and our innocent, we kill their women and innocent, until they stop from doing so.[11] (http://www.religioscope.com/info/doc/jihad/ubl_int_1.htm)

In October of 2004, a videotape was released of Bin Laden directly admitting that he had ordered the September 11 attacks:

...as I looked at those demolished towers in Lebanon, it entered my mind that we should punish the oppressor in kind and that we should destroy towers in America in order that they taste some of what we tasted and so that they be deterred from killing our women and children.

[12] (http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/79C6AF22-98FB-4A1C-B21F-2BC36E87F61F.htm)

On March 18 2004, the United States House of Representatives unanimously voted to double the reward for information leading to his capture from US$25 million to US$50 million.

Whereabouts

As of June 2005, bin Laden's location is unknown. After the September 11 attacks, the United States asked the Taliban government of Afghanistan to "hand him over." The Taliban counter-offer to try bin Laden in an Islamic court or extradite him to a third-party country was deemed unacceptable by the U.S. government. The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan resulted in the death or arrest of many members of his organization, as well as many civilians, but bin Laden was not found.

There had been suggestions that bin Laden was killed or fatally injured during U.S. bombardments, most notably near Tora Bora, or that he may have died of natural causes. The U.S. military had reported that bin Laden suffered from a kidney disorder requiring him to have access to advanced medical facilities, possibly kidney dialysis. Ayman al-Zawahiri, also an FBI Most Wanted Terrorist, is a physician and may have provided medical care to bin Laden.

Bin Laden was rumored in the Pakistani press to have died in 2001 of pulmonary complications incident to catastrophic kidney failure in the absence of available hygienic dialysis. His death was speculated on by the Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf ([13] (http://edition.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/asiapcf/south/01/18/gen.musharraf.binladen/)) and by President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan ([14] (http://edition.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/asiapcf/central/10/06/karzai.binladen/)). This speculation was later undercut by newly released videos of bin Laden, alive and referring to current events such as the 2004 US Presidential election.

Although he has been publicly disowned by his family, an estranged family member, Carmen Binladin, speculates (without providing evidence) that unnamed family members may be providing financial support to bin Laden.

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

Rumours about his whereabouts have appeared from time to time since the start of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan but none have been confirmed.

On October 21, 2004, John Lehman, a member of the 9/11 Commission, reported that bin Laden was indeed alive, and that the Pentagon knew exactly where he was. According to Lehman, bin Laden was living in South Waziristan in the Toba Kakar Mountains of the Baluchistan region in Pakistan, surviving from donations from outside countries such as the United Arab Emirates and high-ranking ministers inside Saudi Arabia. "There is an American presence in the area, but we can't just send in troops," Lehman said. "If we did, we could have another Vietnam, and the United States cannot afford that right now."[15] (http://www.dailystar.com/dailystar/dailystar/44654.php) On the other hand, as cited earlier, there has been more recent speculation emerging from sources within US intelligence community that points to the possibility that Iran may be harboring him [[16] (http://washingtontimes.com/national/20050612-110148-6143r.htm)].

On October 29, 2004, the Arab television network Al Jazeera broadcast a video tape of bin Laden addressing citizens of the United States, discussing the reasons behind the September 11, 2001 attacks. This release came just four days before the 2004 U.S. presidential election and is subject to speculation by some political analysts as being the reason why George W. Bush won the election. See 2004 bin Laden video.

See also

External links

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  • Identifying Misinformation (http://usinfo.state.gov/media/Archive/2005/Jan/24-318760.html) US government denial of CIA connection

Profiles

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cs:Usma bin Ldin da:Osama bin Laden de:Osama bin Laden es:Osama bin Laden eo:Usama BIN LADEN fr:Oussama Ben Laden id:Osama bin Laden it:Osama bin Laden he:אוסאמה בן לאדן la:Osama bin Laden lv:Osama bin Ladens li:Usmah bin Ldin nl:Osama bin Laden nds:Usmah bin Ldin ja:オサーマ・ビンラーディン nb:Osama bin Laden nn:Osama bin Laden pl:Osama bin Laden pt:Osama bin Laden ro:Osama bin Laden ru:Осама бин Ладен sl:Osama bin Laden sr:Осама бин Ладен fi:Osama bin Laden sv:Usama bin Ladin zh:奧撒瑪·本·拉登

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