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Osama bin Laden

 

Osama bin Muhammad bin 'Awad bin Laden
(Arabic:
أسامة بن محمد بن عوض بن لادن)

March 10, 1957 (1957-03-10) (age 50)

Image:AQ00100.jpg
Osama bin Laden, Prosecution exhibit from the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui.

Place of birth

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Allegiance

Afghan mujahideen
Maktab al-Khadamat
Al-Qaeda

Years of service

1979–present

Rank

Commander-in-chief

Battles/wars

Afghan Civil War
War on Terrorism

Osama bin Muhammad bin 'Awad bin Laden (Arabic: أسامة بن محمد بن عوض بن لادن; born March 10, 1957[1]), most often mentioned as Osama bin Laden or Usama bin Laden, is a militant Islamist and is reported to be the founder of the organization called al-Qaeda.[2] He is a member of the prestigious and wealthy bin Laden family. In conjunction with several other Islamic militants leaders, bin Laden issued two fatwasin 1996 and then again in 1998—that Muslims should kill civilians and military personnel from the United States and allied countries until they withdraw support for Israel and withdraw military forces from Islamic countries.[3][4]

He has been indicted in United States federal court for his alleged involvement in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Dar es Salaam Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya, and is on the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.

Although bin Laden has not been indicted for the September 11, 2001 attacks, he has claimed responsibility for them in videos released to the public.[5][6][7] The attacks involved the hijacking of United Airlines Flight 93, United Airlines Flight 175, American Airlines Flight 11, American Airlines Flight 77, and the subsequent destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City, New York, and severe damage to The Pentagon outside of Washington, DC,[8] along with the deaths of 2,974 victims.

Early life

Family and childhood

Main article: Bin Laden family

Osama Muhammed bin Laden was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.[9] In a 1998 interview, later televised on Al Jazeera, he gave his birth date as March 10, 1957. His father, the late Muhammed Awad bin Laden, was a wealthy businessman with close ties to the Saudi royal family.[10] Before World War I, Muhammed, poor and uneducated, emigrated from Hadhramaut, on the south coast of Yemen, to the Red Sea port of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where he began to work as a porter. Starting his own business in 1930, Muhammed built his fortune as a building contractor for the Saudi royal family during the 1950s.

There is no definitive account of the number of children born to Muhammed bin Laden, but the number is generally put at 55. Various accounts place Osama as his seventeenth son. Muhammed bin Laden was married 22 times, although to no more than four women at a time per Sharia law. Osama was born the only son of Muhammed bin Laden's tenth wife, Hamida al-Attas, nee Alia Ghanem,[11] who was born in Syria.[12]

Osama attended his son's wedding in January 2001, but since September 11 of that year he is believed only to have had contact with his mother on one occasion.[13]

The Al-Attases served as a step family in Jeddah

Osama's parents divorced soon after he was born, according to Khaled M. Batarfi, a senior editor at the Al Madina newspaper in Jeddah who knew Osama during the 1970s. Osama's mother then married a man named Muhammad al-Attas, who worked at the bin Laden company. The couple had four children, and Osama lived in the new household with three stepbrothers and one stepsister.[14]

Education and politicization

Bin Laden was raised as a devout Sunni Muslim. From 1968 to 1976 he attended the "élite" secular Al-Thager Model School.[15] In the 1960s, King Faisal had welcomed exiled teachers from Syria, Egypt, and Jordan, so that by the early seventies it was common to find members of the Muslim Brotherhood teaching at Saudi schools and universities. During that time, bin Laden was exposed to the Brotherhood's political teachings during after-school Islamic study groups.

Bin Laden may have studied economics and business administration[16] at the Management and Economics School of King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah. Some reports suggest bin Laden earned a degree in civil engineering in 1979,[17] or a degree in public administration in 1981.[18] Other sources describe him as never having graduated from college, though "hard working,"[19] or having left university during his third year.[20]

At university, bin Laden was influenced by Muhammad Qutb and Palestinian Abdallah Azzam, professors with strong ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Qutb, an Egyptian, was the brother and publicizer of the late Sayyid Qutb, author of Ma'alim fi-l-Tariq, or Milestones, one of the most influential tracts on the importance of jihad against all that is un-Islamic in the world.[20][2] Azzam,[20] an Islamic scholar from Palestine, was instrumental in building pan-Islamic enthusiasm for jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan and in drawing Muslims (like bin Laden) from all over the Middle East to fight there.[21]

Bin Laden has informal training in Islamic jurisprudence, is considered "well versed in the classical scriptures and traditions of Islam",[22] and has been mentored by scholars such as Musa al-Qarni.[23] Since bin Laden never studied Islam at a seminary, he is criticized by Islamic scholars as having no standing to issue religious opinions (fatwa). However, it is possible to obtain scholarly credentials in Islam by learning with individual scholars and obtaining certificates (ijaza) from them.[citation needed]

Married life in Jeddah

In 1974, at the age of 17, bin Laden married his first wife, his first cousin from Syria, Najwa Ghanem, his maternal uncle's daughter in Najwa's native land, at Latakia, in northwestern Syria.[24][25] After the birth of his first son, Abdallah, they moved from his mother's house to a building in the Al-Aziziyah district of Jeddah.

Bin Laden is reported to have married four other women[26] and divorced one, Umm Ali bin Laden (the mother of Ali). Umm Ali bin Laden was a University lecturer who studied in Saudi Arabia,[27][28] and spent holidays in Khartoum, Sudan, where Osama later settled during his exile in the years 1991 to 1996. According to Wisal al Turabi, the wife of Sudan's ruler Hassan Turabi, Umm Ali taught Islam to some families in Riyadh, an upscale neighborhood in Khartoum. The three latter wives of Osama bin Laden were all university lecturers, highly educated, and from distinguished families.

According to Wisal al Turabi, he married the other three because they were "spinsters," who "were going to go without marrying in this world. So he married them for the Word of God."[30][25] According to Abu Jandal, bin Laden's former chief bodyguard, Osama's wife Umm Ali asked Osama for a divorce when they still lived in Sudan, because she said that she "could not continue to live in an austere way and in hardship."[31][25]

Children

Bin Laden has fathered anywhere from 12 to 24 children.[32] His wife, Najwa, reportedly had 11 children by bin Laden, including Abdallah (born c. 1976), Omar, Saad and Muhammad. Muhammad bin Laden (born c. 1983) married the daughter of the late alleged al-Qaeda military chief Mohammed Atef in January 2001, at Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Appearance and manner

The FBI describes Osama bin Laden as tall and thin, between 6'4" and 6'6" (193–198 cm) in height and weighing about 165 pounds (75 kg). Interviewees of Lawrence Wright, on the other hand, describe him as quite slender, but not particularly tall.[33] 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, generally white.[34]

In terms of personality, bin Laden is described as a soft-spoken, mild mannered man;[35] and despite his rhetoric, he is said to be charming, polite, and respectful. According to Michael Scheuer, bin Laden claims to speak only Arabic, though others, such as Rhimaulah Yusufzai and Peter Bergen, believe he understands English.[36] However, in a 1998 interview, he had English questions translated for him into Arabic.[37]

Military and militant activity

Jihad in Afghanistan

Bin Laden's wealth and connections assisted his interest in supporting the mujahideen, Muslim guerrillas fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. His old teacher from the university in Jeddah, Abdullah Azzam, had relocated to Peshawar, a major border city of a million people in the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan. From there, Azzam was able to organize resistance directly on the Afghan frontier. Peshawar is only 15 km (9.3 miles) east of the historic Khyber Pass, through the Safed Koh mountains, connected to the southeastern edge of the Hindu Kush range. This route became the major avenue of inserting foreign fighters and material support into eastern Afghanistan for the resistance against the Soviets, and also in later years.

After leaving college in 1979 bin Laden joined Azzam[40][41] to fight the Soviet Invasion[42] and lived for a time in Peshawar.[43] According to Rahimullah Yusufzai, executive editor of the English-language daily The News International in 2001 "Azzam prevailed on him to come and use his money" for training recruits, reported Yusufzai.[44] In the early 1980s, bin Laden lived at several addresses in and around Arbab Road, a narrow street in the University Town neighborhood in western Peshawar, Yusufzai said. Nearby in Gulshan Iqbal Road is the Arab mosque that Abdullah Azzam used as the jihad center, according to a Reuters inquiry in the neighborhood.

By 1984, with Azzam, bin Laden had established a Saudi Arabian funded organization named Maktab al-Khadamat (MAK, Office of Order in English), 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. In running al-Khadamat, bin Laden set up a network of couriers traveling between Afghanistan and Peshawar, which continued to remain active after 2001, according to Yusufzai.

Robin Cook, former leader of the British House of Commons and Foreign Secretary from 1997-2001, wrote in The Guardian on Friday, July 8, 2005,

Bin Laden was, though, a product of a monumental miscalculation by western security agencies. Throughout the 80s he was armed by the CIA and funded by the Saudis to wage jihad against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. Al-Qaida, literally "the database", was originally the computer file of the thousands of mujahideen who were recruited and trained with help from the CIA to defeat the Russians.[45]

However, Peter Bergen, a CNN journalist and adjunct professor who is known for conducting the first television interview with Osama bin Laden in 1997, rejected Cook's notion, stating on August 15, 2006, the following:

that the CIA funded bin Laden or trained bin Laden—is simply a folk myth. There's no evidence of this. In fact, there are very few things that bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and the U.S. government agree on. They all agree that they didn't have a relationship in the 1980s. And they wouldn't have needed to. Bin Laden had his own money, he was anti-American and he was operating secretly and independently. The real story here is the CIA didn't really have a clue about who this guy was until 1996 when they set up a unit to really start tracking him.[46]

Pakistani Brigadier Mohammad Yousaf, who ran ISI's Afghan operation between 1983 and 1987, emphasizes that the CIA funded and supported the mujahideen indirectly:

It was always galling to the Americans, and I can understand their point of view, that although they paid the piper they could not call the tune. The CIA supported the mujahideen by spending the taxpayers' money, billions of dollars of it over the years, on buying arms, ammunition, and equipment. It was their secret arms procurement branch that was kept busy. It was, however, a cardinal rule of Pakistan's policy that no Americans ever become involved with the distribution of funds or arms once they arrived in the country. No Americans ever trained or had direct contact with the mujahideen, and no American official ever went inside Afghanistan.[47]

Other sources also dispute the notion that the CIA had any contact with non-Afghan mujahideen.[48]

For a while Osama worked at the Services Office working with Abdullah Azzam on Jihad Magazine, a magazine that gave information about the war with the soviets and interviewed mujahideen. As time passed, Aymen Al Zawahiri encouraged Osama to split away from Abdullah Azzam. Although Osama and the other Afghan Arabs were considered a minor "sideshow" in the war, Osama did establish a camp in Afghanistan, and with other volunteers fought the Soviets and Marxist Afghan troops. One of his most significant battles was the battle of Jaji, which was not a major fight, but it earned him a reputation as a fighter.

Years later, in 1989, Azzam was blown up in a massive car bombing outside the mosque. Bin Laden is thought by some to be a suspect in that assassination, because of a rift in the direction of the jihad at that time.[49] Others doubt this claim; Ahmad Zaidan, for instance, author of the Arabic-language book Bin Laden Unmasked, told Peter L. Bergen in an interview, "I rule out totally that bin Laden would indulge himself in such things, after all, Osama bin Laden, he's not type of person to kill Abdullah Azzam. Otherwise, if he be exposed, he would be finished, totally." Bergen also cites Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who speculates that there were more likely candidates than bin Laden: "It could be Hekmatyar, it could be KHAD, it could be the Mossad, the Egyptians [around Ayman al Zawahiri] … I met with Hekmatyar, an arrogant, self-centered person. I think Hekmatyar had a secret organization to eliminate his enemies."[50]

Formation of Al-Qaeda

By 1988, bin Laden had split from Maktab al-Khidamat because of strategic differences. While Azzam and his MAK organization acted as support for the Afghan fighters and provided relief to refugees and injured, bin Laden wanted a more military role in which the Arab fighters would not only be trained and equipped by the organization but also led on the battlefield by Arabic commanders. 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.[51]

In 1990 Bin Laden returned to Saudi Arabia a hero of jihad, celebrated in the Saudi press as a pious, courageous warrior, who along with his "Arab legion had brought down the mighty superpower" of the Soviet Union.[52] However, at about the same time the Iraqi army invaded neighbor Kuwait and bin Laden was alarmed at the prospect that foreign non-Muslim troops would enter the Kingdom to fight Iraq. He met with Saudi Prince Sultan, the Minister of Defense, and offered to help defend Saudi Arabia:

[Bin Laden:] I am ready to prepare 100,000 fighters with good combat capability within three months. You don't need American. You don't need any other non-Muslim troops. We will be enough.

[Prince Sultan:] There are no caves in Kuwait. What will you do when he lobs missile at you with chemical and biological weapons?

[Bin Laden:] We will fight him with faith.[53]

Bin Laden was rebuffed and publicly denounced Saudi Arabia's dependence on the U.S. military, demanding an end to the presence of foreign military bases in the country. Other Saudi Muslims were also greatly upset that non-Muslim troops would be on the same peninsula as the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Anti-government Islamist militants in Saudi Arabia were even more inflamed when the foreign bases remained after the Gulf War was over.

Bin Laden's increasingly strident criticisms of the Saudi monarchy led the government to attempt to silence him. According to the 9/11 Commission Report, "with help from a dissident member of the royal family, he managed to get out of the country under the pretext of attending an Islamic gathering in Pakistan in April 1991."[54] Another report has bin Laden retreaving his passport from the Saudi government to go to Peshwar in March 1992 to mediate the Afghan Civil War. In any case Hassan al-Turabi, leader of the National Islamic Front, had invited bin Laden to "transplant his whole organization to Sudan" in 1989. Bin Laden's agents had begun purchasing property in Sudan in 1990. Bin Laden moved to Sudan in 1992.

Assisted by donations funneled through business and charitable fronts such as Benevolence International, established by his brother-in-law, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, and especially by his stipend from the Bin Laden family business empire, bin Laden established a new base for mujahideen operations in Khartoum, Sudan to disseminate Islamist philosophy and recruit operatives in Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe, and the United States.[citation needed] 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 NIF government figure Hassan al Turabi, but were not profitable.[55] While in Sudan, bin Laden married one of Turabi's nieces.[56]

Bin Laden continued his verbal assault on Saudi King Fahd, for example by financing an Advice and Reformation Committee in London that "sent faxes by the hundreds to prominent Saudis" denouncing the king and corrpution in the kingdom. On March 5, 1994, the King retaliated by personally revoking his citizenship and sending an embassary to Sudan to demand bin Laden's passsport so that he no longer travel. His family was persuaded to cut off his monthly stipend equivalent of about $7 million a year. [57]

By now Bin Laden was strongly associated with Egyptian Islamic Jihad who made up the core of al-Qaeda by this time. In 1995 EIJ attempted to assassinate Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak with the help of al-Gama'a al-Islamiya and the Sudanese intelligence service. The attempt failed and disastrous backlash ensued. The EIJ was abruptly expelled from Sudan and bin Laden pressured to go also.

Refuge in Afghanistan

Sudanese officials, whose government was under international sanctions, offered to expel Osama bin Laden to Saudi Arabia in the mid-1990s provided that the Saudis pardon him. The Saudis refused because they had already revoked his citizenship and would not accept him in their country.[58] Consequently, in May 1996, under increasing pressure from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United States, Sudan asked bin Laden to leave. Bin Laden was forced to make a distress sale of his assets in Sudan that left with almost nothing. [59]

He returned to Afghanistan on a chartered plane and flew to Kabul before settling in Jalalabad after being invited by Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, leader of the Islamic Union for the Liberation of Afghanistan, a member of the Afghan Northern Alliance. 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.[60] Bin Laden supported the Taliban regime with financial and paramilitary assistance and, in 1997, he moved to Kandahar, the Taliban stronghold.[61]

Bin Laden is suspected of funding the November 1997 Luxor massacre in Egypt conducted by Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya, the largest 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.[62][63]

Attacks on United States targets

It is believed that the first terrorist attack involving bin Laden was the December 29, 1992, bombing of the Gold Mihor Hotel in Aden, Yemen. The attack was intended to kill American troops on the way to Somalia, but the soldiers were staying in a different hotel.[64] The bombs killed a Yemeni hotel employee and an Austrian national and also seriously injured the Austrian's wife.[65]

It was after this bombing that al-Qaeda was reported to have developed its justificiation for the killing of innocent people, such as the two bystanders at the hotel. According to a fatwa issued by Mamdouh Mahmud Salim (aka, Abu Hajer al Iraqi), the most Islamically knowledgable of Al-Qaeda's members, the killing of someone merely standing near the enemy is justified because any innocent bystander, like the Yemini hotel worker, 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.[66] The fatwa was issued to al-Qaeda members but not the general public.

In 1998, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, (a leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad), co-signed a fatwa (religious edict) in the name of the World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders, declaring:

[t]he 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'.[67][68]

In response to the 1998 United States embassy bombings following the fatwa, President Bill Clinton ordered a freeze on assets that could be linked to bin Laden. Clinton also signed an executive order, authorizing bin Laden's arrest or assassination. In August 1998, the U.S. launched an attack using cruise missiles. The attack failed to harm bin Laden but killed 19 people.[69]

On November 4, 1998, Osama bin Laden was indicted by a Federal Grand Jury, and the United States Department of State offered a US$5 million reward for information leading to bin Laden's apprehension or conviction.[70]

In an interview with journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai published in TIME Magazine, January 11, 1999, Osama bin Laden is quoted as saying:

"The International Islamic Front for Jihad against the U.S. and Israel has issued a crystal-clear fatwa calling on the Islamic nation to carry on jihad aimed at liberating holy sites. The nation of Muhammad has responded to this appeal. If the instigation for jihad against the Jews and the Americans in order to liberate Al-Aksa Mosque and the Holy Ka'aba Islamic shrines in the Middle East is considered a crime, then let history be a witness that I am a criminal."[71]

In May 2007, President George Bush released intelligence of bin Laden seeking to start an Iraq unit in 2005. [citation needed]

 

September 11, 2001 attacks

Osama bin Laden on December 27, 2001.

Osama bin Laden on December 27, 2001.

The FBI stated that evidence linking Al-Qaeda and bin Laden to the attacks of September 11 is clear and irrefutable.[72] 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.[73] However, a "White Paper" by the U.S. government, documenting the case against bin Laden and the Al Qaeda organization concerning the September 11 attacks, publicly promised by Secretary of State Colin Powell, was never published. In 2006, Rex Tomb of the FBI's public affairs unit said, "The reason why 9/11 is not mentioned on Osama bin Laden's Most Wanted page is because the FBI has no hard evidence connecting bin Laden to 9/11".[74] So far, the U.S. Justice Department has not sought formal criminal charges against bin Laden (or anyone but Zacarias Moussaoui) for the 9/11 attacks. This has provided what some call "fodder for conspiracy theorists who think the U.S. government or another power was behind the Sept. 11 hijackings."[75] Two separate indictments were made against bin Laden by two separate grand juries in 1998 for two separate terrorist acts, though no indictments have been filed against him for the events of 9/11.

Bin Laden initially denied involvement in the September 11, 2001 attacks while praising them effusely, explaining their motivation, and dismissing American accusations of his involvement as an example of its hatred for Islam. On September 16, 2001, bin Laden read a statement later broadcast by Qatar's Al Jazeera satellite channel saying:

I stress that I have not carried out this act, which appears to have been carried out by individuals with their own motivation.[76]

God has struck America at its Achilles heel and destroyed its greatest buildings, praise and blessing to Him.[77]

Bin Laden claimed the Taliban were being attacked by American forces

because of their religion, not just because of the presence of Osama bin Laden … It is a known fact that America is against the establishment of any Islamic state.[78]

In November 2001, U.S. forces recovered a videotape from a destroyed house in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. In it Osama bin Laden discusses the attack with an old mujahideen friend Khaled al-Harbi in a way indicating foreknowledge of the attack. "We calculated in advance the number of casualties from the enemy;" and "We had notification since the previous Thursday that the event [the 9/11 attack] would take place that day."[79] The tape was broadcast on various news networks on December 13, 2001. On December 20, 2001, German TV channel "Das Erste" broadcast its analysis of the White House's translation of the videotape. On the show Monitor, two independent translators and an expert on oriental studies found the White House's translation to be not only inaccurate, but also "manipulative". Arabist Dr. Abdel El M. Husseini, one of the translators, stated: "I have carefully examined the Pentagon's translation. This translation is very problematic. At the most important places where it is held to prove the guilt of Bin Laden, it is not identical with the Arabic."[80]

Another bin Laden video was released on December 27, 2001, with much the same message as his first. America had accused him of organizing the attacks because of "Crusader hatred for the Islamic World.

Terrorism against America deserves to be praised because it was a response to … the continuous injustice inflicted upon our sons in Palestine, Iraq, Somalia, southern Sudan, and … Kashmir.[81]

Shortly before the U.S. presidential election in 2004, another taped statement was released and aired on Al Jazeera in which bin Laden abandoned his denials without retracting past statements. In it he told viewers he had personally directed the 19 hijackers,[7][82] and gave what he claimed was his motivation:

I will explain to you the reasons behind these events, and I will tell you the truth about the moments when this decision was taken, so that you can reflect on it. God knows that the plan of striking the towers had not occurred to us, but the idea came to me when things went just too far with the American-Israeli alliance's oppression and atrocities against our people in Palestine and Lebanon.[83][84]

According to the tapes, bin Laden claimed he was inspired to destroy the World Trade Center after watching the destruction of towers in Lebanon by Israel during the 1982 Lebanon War.[85]

In two other tapes aired by Al Jazeera in 2006, Osama bin Laden announces,

I am the one in charge of the 19 brothers … I was responsible for entrusting the 19 brothers … with the raids [5 minute audiotape broadcast May 23, 2006],[86]

and is seen with Ramzi Binalshibh, as well as two of the 9/11 hijackers, Hamza al-Ghamdi and Wail al-Shehri, as they make preparations for the attacks (videotape broadcast September 7, 2006).[87]

Criminal charges and attempted extradition

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 Ladin to Saudi Arabia and asked the Saudis to pardon him. U.S. officials became aware of these secret discussions, certainly by March. Saudi officials apparently wanted bin Ladin expelled from Sudan. They had already revoked his citizenship, however, and would not tolerate his presence in their country. Also bin Ladin 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. In any case, on May 19, 1996, bin Ladin left Sudan—significantly weakened, despite his ambitions and organizational skills. He returned to Afghanistan."[88] The 9/11 Commission Report further states "In late 1995, when Bin Ladin was still in Sudan, the State Department and the CIA learned that Sudanese officials were discussing with the Saudi government the possibility of expelling Bin Ladin. U.S. Ambassador Timothy Carney encouraged the Sudanese to pursue this course. The Saudis, however, did not want Bin Ladin, giving as their reason their revocation of his citizenship. Sudan’s minister of defense, Fatih Erwa, has claimed that Sudan offered to hand Bin Ladin 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 Ladin. Ambassador Carney had no legal basis to ask for more from the Sudanese since, at the time, there was no indictment outstanding."[89]

On June 8, 1998 a United States grand jury indicted Osama bin Laden on charges of killing five Americans and two Indians in the 13 November 1995 truck bombing of a U.S.-operated Saudi National Guard training center in Riyadh.[90] 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 terrorists worldwide.[90] 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[91] 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.[92][93]

On June 7, 1999, bin Laden became the 456th person listed on the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, 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.[94] 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.

Years later, on October 10, 2001, bin Laden appeared as well on 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 George W. Bush, in direct response to the attacks of 9/11, but which was again based on the indictment for the 1998 embassy attack. Bin Laden was among a group of thirteen 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.

Attempted capture by the U.S.

According to the Washington Post, the U.S. government concluded that Osama bin Laden was present during the Battle of Tora Bora, Afghanistan in late 2001, and according to civilian and military officials with first-hand knowledge, failure by the U.S. to commit U.S. ground troops to hunt him led to his escape and was the gravest failure by the U.S. in the war against al Qaeda. Intelligence officials have assembled what they believe to be decisive evidence, from contemporary and subsequent interrogations and intercepted communications, that bin Laden began the battle of Tora Bora inside the cave complex along Afghanistan's mountainous eastern border.[95]

The Washington Post also reported[96] that the CIA unit dedicated to capturing Osama was shut down in late 2005.

Bounty

Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, U.S. government officials named bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda organization as the prime suspects[70] and offered a reward of $25 million for information leading to his capture or death.[97][39] On July 13, 2007, this figure was doubled to $50 million.[98]

The Airline Pilots Association and the Air Transport Association are offering an additional $2 million reward.[99]

Current whereabouts

Claims as to the location of Osama bin Laden have been made since December 2001, although none have been definitively proven and some have placed Osama in different locations during overlapping time periods.

A December 11, 2005 letter from Atiyah Abd al-Rahman to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi indicates that bin Laden and the al-Qaeda leadership were based in the Waziristan region of Pakistan at the time. In the letter, translated by the military's Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, "Atiyah" instructs Zarqawi to "send messengers from your end to Waziristan so that they meet with the brothers of the leadership … I am now on a visit to them and I am writing you this letter as I am with them…" Al-Rahman also indicates that bin Laden and al-Qaeda are "weak" and "have many of their own problems." The letter has been deemed authentic by military and counterterrorism officials, according to the Washington Post.[100][101]

Reports of his death

Reports alleging Osama bin Laden's death have circulated since late 2001. In the months following the 9/11 terrorist attack, many people believed that bin Laden was dead. This belief was perpetuated by subsequent media reports, though there has been stronger evidence to suggest that he is still alive.[102]

April 2005

The Sydney Morning Herald stated "Dr Clive Williams, director of terrorism studies at the Australian National University, says documents provided by an Indian colleague suggested bin Laden died of massive organ failure in April last year … 'It's hard to prove or disprove these things because there hasn't really been anything that allows you to make a judgment one way or the other', Dr. Williams said."[103]

 

August 2006

On September 23, 2006, the French newspaper L'Est Républicain quoted a report from the French secret service (DGSE) stating that Osama bin Laden had died in Pakistan on August 23, 2006 after contracting a case of typhoid fever that paralyzed his lower limbs. According to the newspaper, Saudi security services first heard of bin Laden's alleged death on September 4, 2006.[104][105][106] The alleged death was reported by the Saudi Arabian secret service to its government, which reported it to the French secret service. The French defense minister Michèle Alliot-Marie expressed her regret that the report had been published while French President Jacques Chirac declared that bin Laden's death had not been confirmed.[107] American authorities also cannot confirm reports of bin Laden's death,[108] with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saying only, "No comment, and no knowledge."[109] Later, CNN's Nic Robertson said that he had received confirmation from an anonymous Saudi source that the Saudi intelligence community has known for a while that bin Laden has a water-borne illness, but that he had heard no reports that it was specifically typhoid or that he had died.[110]

 

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