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Osama bin Laden

Leader of al-Qaeda

Osama bin LadenOsama bin LadenOsama bin Laden

AffiliationMaktab al-Khidamat
Full Given NameOsama bin Muhammad bin Awad bin Laden
Alias(es)Shaykh Osama bin Laden1, The Prince1, The Director1,5, Abu Abdallah Abd Al-Hakim, Mujahid Shaykh1, The Emir1, Abu Abdallah1,5, Al Qaqa5, Abdul Hay5, Hajj5
Alternate Spelling(s)Usama bin Muhammad bin Laden, Osama ibn Laden, Usama bin Ladin , Usamah Bin-Muhammad Bin-Laden , Usama Bin Laden Muhammad al Wahal Bin Laden
Date of BirthMarch 10, 19571,4
Alternate Date of BirthJuly 30, 19577
Place of BirthRiyadh, Saudi Arabia4
Weight160 lbs1
DescriptionThin build, brown hair, brown eyes, olive complexion, full beard. He is left-handed and walks with a cane. He has appeared gaunt on some videos released since the Sept. 11 attacks.1
Injuries/IllnessHe may have had some sort of kidney problem, like kidney stones, although U.S. counterterrorism officials do not believe he has suffered serious kidney failure, as some, including Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf, have said.
HistoryVeteran of Afghanistan-Soviet civil war (1980-1989)
Charged withConspiracy to Attack Defense Utilities of the United States, The Conspiracy to Kill United States Nationals, Murder 8
Charging authorityUnited States
In connection withEast African Embassy Bombings
Charges issuedJune 10, 1998
Narrative and Notes
  • Osama bin Laden is the 17th of 57 children of Yemeni-Saudi Muhammed bin Laden, a construction magnate who rose from poverty to become one of the wealthiest non-royals in Saudi Arabia before his death in 1968.
  • While most of his family eschewed politics, bin Laden became very religious and interested in the fate of Muslims throughout the Islamic world.
  • His influences include Sayyid Qutb, an anti-Western Egyptian writer who was executed by the Egyptian government in 1996; Abdullah Azzam, the ideological founder of al-Qaeda; and Ayman al-Zawahiri, his chief deputy after the Sept. 11 attacks.
  • In 1980, he left his lavish upbringing behind and opted for a life of warfare, first in Afghanistan, against the army of the Soviet Union.
  • He is thought to have taken part in at least one battle, but his primary role was in directing money, including some of his family fortune, and logistical support to the anti-Soviet fighters, both Afghan and Arab.
  • There is a frequent claim that the CIA directly funded bin Laden. Top CIA officers involved in the effort say, no, their support went directly to the Afghans, or to the Pakistanis. (The Pakistanis, in turn, supported bin Laden and the other foreign fighters in Afghanistan.)
  • In 1984 he and Azzam founded Maktab al-Khidamat, or the "Services Office," which funneled money and volunteers to the mujahideen. This organization can be thought of as the pre-cursor to al-Qaeda.
  • Once victory over the Soviet Union was secured, bin Laden, Azzam and their comrades conceived of a way to continue the jihad: al-Qaeda, the base, as in a military base. Azzam, however, was killed in a car bombing in 1989, leaving bin Laden the sole leader of the extremist movement, which was then based in Peshawar, Pakistan.
  • He became a staunch critic of the ruling Saudi monarchy for allowing the United States to station troops on Saudi soil.
  • In 1991, bin Laden moved al-Qaeda to Sudan, to ally with the nascent National Islamic Front, which had taken power there. The organization employed veterans of the Afghan war and embarked on a number of financial projects to assure income for the continuing jihad. Al-Qaeda members both provided and attended training, and sent money to various militant Islamic organizations around the world.
  • In 1994, the Saudi government revoked his citizen and froze his assets. Most of bin Laden's family disowned him. Until this date, he received about $1 million a year from his family's wealth.
  • By 1996, al-Qaeda had gained enough prestige that various governments pressured Sudan to expel him. He returned to Afghanistan and allied himself with the Taliban, which promised order from country's constant state of warfare.
  • In 1998, al-Qaeda bombed two American embassies in Africa. Osama bin Laden recieved true international notoriety, and President Bill Clinton ordered a missile strike on his supposed location in Afghanistan. The attack failed.
  • Within hours of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the U.S. intelligence community was certain of bin Laden's complicity. America bombed bin Laden's camps and his Taliban allies in Afghanistan, and the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance removed the Taliban from power.
  • An opportunity to capture or kill bin Laden at his Tora Bora redoubt in late 2001 went unrealized, and he has been in hiding ever since, occasionally releasing audio or video tapes to exhort the faithful.
  • Several of his sons are also involved in al-Qaeda; one, Saad, is regarding as a rising leader within the organization.
  • Osama bin Laden's appeal is in blaming the United States for the problems of the Muslim world: its corrupt leadership, its squalor, its moderate view of Islam. Islam's many violent borders -- in Africa, southeast Asia, India, Russia, Israel and Europe -- are to be blamed on the United States and its allies.
  • The State Department's Rewards For Justice Program is offering up to $25 million for information leading to the capture of Osama bin Laden. The Airline Pilots Association and the Air Transport Association are offering another $2 million reward.
  • He held a bank account at Bank Shaml, Khartoum, Sudan, when al-Qaeda was based there.6,7,8
  • In 2000, the U.S. government learned that bin Laden did not have access to a $300 million fortune as widely believed. He received about $1 million a year from his family until 1994.8
    1 FBI Most Wanted Terrorist poster for Osama bin Laden.
    2 Generally believed to be along Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
    3 Formally revoked by Saudi government.
    4 Bin Laden, in 1998 interview, cited by Coll, Steve. 'Young Osama.' The New Yorker: Dec 12, 2005.
    5 Indictment, United States vs. Usama bin Laden, Nov. 4, 1998, and updates.
    6 Jamal Ahmed al-Fadl testimony, United States vs. Osama bin Laden et al, trial transcript, Day 2, Feb. 6, 2001.
    7 Gunaratna, Rohan. 'Inside al-Qaeda: Global Network of Terror.' New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.
    8 9-11 Commission Report, July 22, 2004.
    Photos (left to right): U.S. government.; U.S. government.; FBI
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    Page last modified: 01-11-2006 18:03:58 ZULU