Osama bin Laden

...a profile

Osama bin Laden is a 44 year-old "businessman" and son of one of Saudi Arabia's wealthiest families, and the coordinator of an international terrorist network believed to be responsible for numerous deadly attacks against American and Western targets.

Bin Laden formed the terrorist Al-Qaeda ("the base") organization in 1988, and it is believed to have operatives in as many as twenty countries. In 1998 bin Laden announced the establishment of "The International Islamic Front for Holy War Against Jews and Crusaders," an umbrella organization linking Islamic extremists in scores of countries around the world, including Egypt, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The group issued a religious edict upon its establishment: "The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies, civilians, and the 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 al-Aqsa Mosque and the Holy Mosque 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 God, 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 God."

His militancy is traced back to the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Bin Laden's avowed goal from that time is to remove Western "infidels" from Muslim countries - the Russians from Afghanistan, the American military from Saudi Arabia and other points in the Gulf - the downfall of many government of Muslim states, and for the destruction of the United States and its allies.

Bin Laden is the son of the Yemeni-born owner of a leading Saudi construction company. Born into great wealth, he is believed to have inherited as much as $300 million when his father died in the 1960's. From 1979, bin Laden began raising money for the Mujahadeen forces fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, and gradually became more and more affiliated with Egyptian Islamic extremist groups, such as Egyptian Islamic Jihad. From the mid-1980's bin Laden began to establish training camps in Afghanistan, initially for the war in Afghanistan, but later to fight against other targets worldwide. He has attracted thousands of recruits from Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Egypt, Yemen, Pakistan and Sudan.

Reportedly, bin Laden's anti-Americanism intensified during the Gulf War, when U.S. troops were stationed in Saudi Arabia. According to The New York Times: "The presence of American soldiers in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad and the home of the two holiest Muslim shrines, enraged Mr. bin Laden and other Arab militants." He and his associates also blamed the U.S. support for Israel as anti-Islam.

In 1994 Saudi Arabia stripped bin Laden's citizenship, citing his opposition to the Saudi King and leadership and expelled him from the country. He then went to Khartoum, Sudan (where he owns numerous businesses), but under U.S. pressure was expelled in 1996 and relocated to Afghanistan. Bin Laden is on the FBI's list of 10 most-wanted criminals, and the State Department offered a $5 million reward for his arrest following the August 1998 embassy bombings. The United Nations imposed economic sanctions on the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 1999 for harboring bin Laden, and many nations, including the U.S. have frozen assets owned by bin Laden and his senior associates.

Bin Laden has been thought to finance, inspire or directly organize various terrorist attacks. In one way or another his name has been linked to the killings of Western tourists by militant Islamic groups in Egypt, bombings in France by Islamic extremist Algerians, the maintenance of a safe-house in Pakistan for Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, the convicted mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and sheltering Sheikh Omar Abd Al-Rahman (the Blind Sheikh), who was also convicted in the World Trade Center bombing. He has also been linked to the 1992 bombings of a hotel in Yemen, which killed two Australians, but was supposedly targeted against American soldiers stationed there; the 1995 detonation of a car bomb in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; the 1995 truck bomb in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. servicemen; and the 1995 assassination attempt on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Bin Laden has been directly connected to the August 7, 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, killing 224 people, and the October 2000 attack of the U.S. destroyer ship Cole in Yemen.

Bin Laden has made no secret of his anti-American, anti-Western and anti-Israel sentiments. In fact, he has been outspoken on these topics, issuing theological rulings calling for Muslims to attack Americans and threatening terrorism against related targets. Pointing to the defeat of the Soviet forces in Afghanistan, bin Laden has consistently declared that the United States is vulnerable to defeat by a jihad by Islamic forces:

"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." 
Benjamin Franklin