Foreword to the Foreword:
This was originally written about a month after the events of September 11, 2001. The information contained within is consistant with that available at that time, and was the best the I could pull up. If you have more accurate information, or corrections of any kind, /msg me. I just put this up because there is a serious lack of biographical information on E2.
Foreword:Compiling a biography of the world’s most elusive man proved most
taxing. Osama bin Laden (AKA Usamah bin Ladin AKA Ulsammah bin Mohammed bin
Laden to name a couple aliases) was born into the Arab world in a time when
record keeping was not of the importance it is now. It therefore is most
difficult to collect accurate, specific information on his upbringing. For
instance, there are no concrete documents giving the year of his birth, the
origin of his mother, or the number of siblings he has. Many in the Western
world are just now scrambling to account for Osama bin Laden’s early life. At
this time, and perhaps for all time, only a silhouette of his formative years
may be derived.
Osama’s adulthood and early activities are not much better lit for the
eye of the scholar. The growth of his fortune, his ties with the US in the early
1980s, and the formation of Al Qaeda are still shrouded in mystery.
Found in the following document is a checked (or at least corroborated)
narrative regarding the life of Osama bin Laden. The author has tried to divine
the truth from many sources through cross-checking and analysis. All seriously
questionable or unsubstantiated information was left out. This does not mean,
however, the contents of this document are infallible.
Life of Osama bin Laden
bin Laden is considered a savior by millions of disenchanted extremist Muslims
in the Middle
and Far East
. He is also believed to be the most wicked man alive
by billions of those who live in his crosshairs. Bin Laden’s religious zeal,
multi-million dollar fortune, and his warped genius make him an extremely
dangerous man to any and all who he can reach. Considering his network of
terrorist operatives in the Philippines
, N. Korea
, the European
, Latin America
and the United States
, Osama bin Laden is an extremely dangerous
man to almost all of Earth’s 6.5 billion people.
Bin Laden claims to be the mastermind of terrorist
strikes on targets held by Israel, the United States, and several moderate
Islamic states. Unfortunately, due to the nature of his operations, it is hard
to bring forward concrete prove of his guilt. He is, however, a prime suspect in
the bombings of US embassies in Nairobi, the bombing of the USS Cole, and
assassination plans of the Pope and President Clinton (cnn.com). He is linked
with the terrorists who set up the Lockerby, Scotland plane explosion and the
1993 World Trade Center bombing. Most recently, and perhaps most unsettling, he
has claimed responsibility for the hijacking of four commercial airliners which
kamikaze bombed US landmarks on September 11, 2001. The two World Trade Center
towers were completely demolished when a hijacked plane hit each of the 110
story towers. The Pentagon, godhead of the United States military, was severely
damaged when another jet plane careened into it’s side. The fourth plane,
which crashed in Somerset, Pennsylvania, was apparently headed toward the White
House. If the strikes on each of these targets were successful, (I.E. each
target utterly destroyed) The United States would be without it’s military
guidance, financial infrastructure, and president. The man behind these attacks
could have crippled the strongest nation of earth.
Understanding bin Laden’s background is key to
understanding his motivation. Although the Osama’s history is at times
sketchy, a general picture of his upbringing can be derived. The chronicle of
Osama bin Laden’s life begins with his father.
Mohammed Awad bin Laden came to Saudi Arabia from the
south of Yemen in 1930. From his humble beginnings, (sources give an account of
bin Laden’s father as a porter) slowly he amassed great wealth as a
contractor. The bin Laden construction company became, and is to this day, one
of the largest and most prosperous contracting companies in the Arab world. The
Bin Laden Construction Group is worth an estimated $5 billion US. (ABC News
The Bin Laden
Construction Group, as it is now most often called, has its’ share of foggy
history; like most of the bin Laden family’s activities. What is known,
however, is that the company began its successful climb into the business world
in the mid 1960s. Bin Laden renovated the palace of Saudi Arabia’s then king Abdul
Aziz. The king was apparently very pleased with bin Laden’s work and
granted the company exclusive entitlements to all Islam based construction work,
in both Medina and Mecca. Being that the Arab world is an intensely fervent
Islamic area, and the Medina and Mecca are two of the holiest cities in Islam,
this grant funneled exceptional wealth into the bin Laden family and company
King Saud, the ruler of Saudi Arabia in the 1960’s,
had bin Laden contracted to renovate all his palaces. With the extensive
renovation of palaces and holy sites in Medina and Mecca, the bin Laden family
gained access to, and eventually friendship with the Saudi royal family.
When King Saud left (in part due to Awad bin Laden’s
advice) during the Saud-Faisal power struggle, the country’s treasury was left
empty. In a show of wealth and friendliness to the new King Faisal, the bin
Laden Company paid the Saudi government’s employees for 6 months. This
cemented the bin Laden family and corporation into the good favor of the Saudi
government, and the bin Laden family drew even more prestigious. The bin Laden
children went to the same schools as the royal family, as well as many other
aristocrats in the Arab world. Connections of this type would later help the bin
Laden’s, especially Osama, to gain favors and tributes (“Frontline”:
The wealth gained by the company in renovation
contracts gave way to their expansion into the entire Arab world. The company
spread out into Africa and most Islamic nations; forming the bin Laden
“Group”, as it is now known. One branch of the bin Laden group, operating in
Egypt, employs 40,000 people (msnbc.com/news).
Osama bin Laden was born in Jeddah,
Saudi Arabia in 1958, the son of Mohammed Awad bin Laden and a Syrian mother. He
is the 17th son of a house of over fifty children (“Frontline”:
pbs.org). Osama, himself one of the many beneficiaries of his father’s
construction cartel, grew up in an extremely wealthy household. This household
was also home to diligent observers of Islam. Osama’s father was a man fervent
in practicing his Islamic faith, and this was heavily impressed on all of his
children. Awad bin Laden taught all his children to be confident and mature, and
he took care to ensure equal treatment of his many children (“Frontline”:
Awad bin Laden died in a plane crash in Texas, when
Osama was just 13 years old. Osama’s original inheritance from Awad’s death
was $80 million US, which he turned into an estimated $250 million US.
He married at 17 years old, and has since attained 3 additional wives and
fathered more than 10 children. Bin Laden graduated from the prestigious King
Abdul Aziz University, with a degree in civil engineering.
Aside from the family business and his children, he
found himself devoted to studying “Wahhabism” at King Abdul Aziz University
(“Frontline”: pbs.org). Wahhabism found its roots in the 1700s, with a Sunni
man named Mohammad bin Abd al Wahhab. Wahhab believed that since the death of
the Prophet Mohammed, all of Islam has been corrupted. Wahhabism rejects any
religious scholarship of the past thousand years, and advocates a return to
“true” Islam (www.lib.ecu.edu). The Wahhab sect dominates Saudi Arabia,
Osama bin Laden’s homeland.
In Western eyes, the Arab world is generally divided
into 2 main categories: Moderates and extremists. The first category, the
“moderates”, account for the majority of the Middle East. These are
countries that share non-violent relations with the United States and other
world powers. Members of this group include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and most other
OPEC countries in the region. Most moderate nations find dealing with
the West a positive and tremendously lucrative experience.
The second category, the “extremists”, are
more vital to the origins of bin Laden’s motives. Wahhabism is closely related
to the extremist movement. The extremists are composed of those who have hostile
relations with the West, or harbor groups that do. Extremist countries are
numerous, and many have unstable regime governments. These nations include
Syria, Yemen, Iran, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Jordan, Afghanistan, Palestine (though
not considered a nation), and others.
Osama bin Laden belongs to this second classification of
people. He and others in this class believe that the religion of Islam, the
dominant religion in the Middle East, cannot be practiced precisely with a
separation of church and state. According to their doctrine of Wahhabism, the
state should hold true to Islamic law and the Muslims that live in that country
are accountable to them.
Many extremist Muslims, as they are often referred to,
feel the United States is corrupting and imperializing the Arab world. Through
the United States’ involvement in the oil industry, the funding of the
anti-Islamic Israel, and American social groups in the Arab world, the US has
influenced and shaped Islam. Extremists deem this as wrong. They want to
“cleanse” the westernized moderate Islamic nations and purge all western
involvement from the Arab world. This has been Osama bin Laden’s creed and his
call of action to others (fatwah: The Islamic World Front for the struggle
against the Jews and the Crusaders).
Bin Laden, and his other associates in the Arab world,
are currently embroiled in what Muslims call “Jihad”. Jihad is an old Arabic
term found in the Qu’ran, which means “Holy War”. The Qu’ran advocates
killing only in the protection of Islam and it’s people. A jihad may be called
to serve this purpose only. Since bin Laden, as well as many other extremist
factions, believe the US is corrupting Islamic values and countries; they have
called for a jihad. Extremist
Muslims are taking aim at the United States and their influenced counterparts in
the Middle East. The goal of this jihad is to “cleanse” the Arab world of
Western infidels, overthrow moderate states, and impose a “pure” and strict
Islamic rule. Accordingly, all terrorist attacks staged by bin Laden have been
aimed at the United States, or the US backed Israelis.
Osama bin Laden began his long career of waging jihad in 1979, when he
went on a trip into Afghanistan with some Islamic militia members (Frontline:
pbs.org). This trip happened to coincide with the Soviet Union’s invasion of
Afghanistan, which would continue for a decade. The invasion of Afghanistan, an
extremely passionate Muslim nation, urged Osama into action. He returned to
Saudi Arabia, and enlisted the help of his brothers. Together they donated money
and supplies to the Afghan fighters. His support of the Afghanis in this manner
continued for three years; each year he went personally to take supplies to the
Then in 1982, Osama himself began to personally fight against the Soviet
Union’s attempt at expansion. He went into combat areas and fought along side
the Mujahedeen. As one story goes, he was using one of the bin Laden Company’s
tractors to dig a trench, and was subsequently shot at by Soviet fighters (cnn.com).
He also went into unorganized fighting areas and helped coordinate strikes and
movements. This gave him combat experience, extensive knowledge of the Afghan
interior, and the admiration loyalty of Afghani nationalists. In 1995, Osama had
this to say about the Soviet-Afghani war:
"To counter these atheist Russians, the Saudis chose me as their
representative in Afghanistan... I did not fight against the communist threat
while forgetting the peril from the West."
"For us, the idea was not to get involved more than necessary in
the fight against the Russians, which was the business of the Americans, but
rather to show our solidarity with our Islamist brothers. I discovered that it
was not enough to fight in Afghanistan, but that we had to fight on all fronts
against communist or Western oppression. The urgent thing was communism, but the
next target was America... This is an open war up to the end, until
Ironically, the Afghan also received aid from
the United States. The extent of bin Laden’s affiliation with the US is
debated. Some report bin Laden and many upper level members of the Mujahedeen
were trained in Ireland by the CIA, in conjunction with Great Britain’s MI6
spy agency (news.independent.co.uk). Although speculative, the claim has some
backing. The US, in its policy of Soviet containment, trained and funded many
freedom fighters all over the world, including those Cuba and Iran. What is
certain, however, is that in the final years of the Soviet-Afghani war, the CIA
sent billions of US dollars in arms and funds to Afghanistan (time.com). No
doubt much of this money went directly into the hands of Osama bin Laden.
Osama helped to organize the Maktab al-Khidamat
(MAK) with Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood member Abdallah Azzam. Azzam was a very influential man to bin
Laden, his zeal and activism transferred and multiplied bin Laden’s
sentiments. Azzam believed in supporting Muslim military offensives to separate
the Muslim and Western world. He also helped spread information to the Muslim world. Their organization, the MAK, or “Service Office” helped
to recruit, transport, and fund fighters from fifty countries, including the
United States of America (state.gov).
In order to facilitate movement in Afghanistan
of all the recruits of the resistance, bin Laden created a midway point for the
Mujahedeen (Muslim fighters). This point, opened in 1984, processed
and sent out each recruit to training facilities held by the resistance. It was
called the “Guesthouse” by many because of the passing of recruits through
it (“FrontLine”: pbs.org).
The “Guesthouse” in the mid to late 1980’s
was to become the center of all bin Laden’s actions in Afghanistan. The most
important of which would give bin Laden’s later terrorist network its name. In
1988, the Guesthouse was receiving many inquiries regarding the whereabouts of
Afghani freedom fighters. Bin Laden setup the Guesthouse as a tracking point for
all resistance members, keeping tabs on their arrivals and departures.
Because of this, the Guesthouse was renamed “Al Qaeda”, which is an Arabic
phrase meaning "The Base." The Base was later coined to mean anything
bin Laden had association with, especially his terrorist efforts
(Al Qaeda source: pbs.org).
Laden began to form his own training camps, with the cooperation of the
MAK. Osama and the MAK started at least 6 training
camps for the Afghani fighters in Afghanistan itself and neighboring Pakistan,
itself a friend of bin Laden at the time. These camps were the prototypes that
evolved into bin Laden’s terrorist training bases in the early 90’s (cnn.com).
Azzam and bin Laden parted company in the late
1980s. Azzam was more interested in funding military offenses in the Arab world,
while the more aggressive bin Laden wanted a worldwide campaign. Bin Laden’s
group gained influence in 1989, when Azzam was assassinated in a car bomb
incident. Azzam’s MAK split, with the more extreme members going on to join
bin Laden (Profile Usamah bin Laden: fbi.gov). The United Nations, the CIA, and
the FBI recognize bin Laden and his followers by the name Al Qaeda, so the name
After 10 long years of fighting, the Soviet
Union retreated, mostly due to the efforts of bin Laden and the Mujahedeen
fighters (the USSR’s internal conflicts no doubt quickened their withdrawal).
Osama had gained the respect of millions of Muslims, the loyalty of more than
ten thousand seasoned fighters, and a prestigious military organization in
Afghanistan. More importantly, however, he learned that passionate rebels could
indeed defeat a world superpower.
After the Soviet-Afghan war, bin Laden returned to Saudi Arabia with a
zeal and a mission. He studied with many scholars and negotiated with countless
aristocrats and leaders. Osama would soon use his acquired knowledge, money, and
influence to wage Jihad against a long-standing corruptor of Muslim values, the
United States. Bin Laden used some of his $250 million US fortune to open
additional training camps and recruit more Mujahedeen. By 1995 there were over
50 training and base encampments in Al Qaeda’s network, preparing and
indoctrinating thousands for war.
These trainees spread out all over the Earth, most staying the Middle East
or Africa, but some heading to places like the Philippines, Russia, China, and
the United States (fas.org). The most troubling aspect of the terrorists Al
Qaeda trains is their independence of bin Laden. Most of the people who train in
the camps never see bin Laden himself, and once they finish training, are given
no central orders other than to kill Americans. Since trainees have no close
relations to Al Qaeda, it is hard to catch Al Qaeda terrorists, and ever harder
to identify bin Laden as a sponsor of terrorist acts (Profile Usamah bin Laden:
Aside from funding Al Qaeda and training camps, bin Laden
became active in uniting the numerous jihad factions in the Arab world. He
became chairman of the Jihad Committee, which includes the Egyptian Islamic
Group and the Jihad Organization in Yemen, the Pakistani al-Hadith group, the
Lebanese Partisans League, the Libyan Islamic Group, Bayt al-Imam Group in
Jordan, and the Islamic Group in Algeria (http://www.intellnet.org). This was
the best and most comprehensive organization of extremist Muslims yet, and
helped solidify bin Laden as a leader in the Arab world.
The end of bin Laden’s good standing in
Saudi Arabia came with the Gulf war. A crisis arose in 1990 regarding the
Hussein dictatorship in Iraq, a close neighbor of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi
government, who then thought themselves on good terms with Iraq’s Saddam
Hussein, wanted to keep quiet. Bin Laden was at that time giving talks and
advice about a pending Iraqi invasion (Al Qaeda source: pbs.org). The Saudi
government put him under house arrest to silence him, in hopes of appeasing
Osama sent the Saudi royal family a series
of notes, offering advice and his services. He offered to quell the Iraqi
invasion using only Mujahedeen fighters, in an effort to keep American support
out of the conflict. The Saudi royal government refused the offer. When Iraq
invaded Kuwait in August of 1990 the United States (with sanctions by the
Saudi government) responded with a massive show of firepower. This move
angered Osama, who saw this as unnecessary intrusion by the US. Osama began to
organize a camp into action in his hometown of Jeddah, but the camp was raided
and dispersed by the Saudi royal family (Al Qaeda source: pbs.org).
Soon after the war, bin Laden was exiled
from his homeland. The headquarters of Al Qaeda was
then moved in 1992 from Saudi Arabia to Khartoum, Sudan. Sudan had earlier
announced a policy that would allow any Muslim inside its borders without a
visa, in a show of Islamic solidarity. Many terrorists moved to Sudan as a
result, considering it a safe haven. (New York Times 9/21/98)
Being exiled from his homeland by the
pressure of the West, Osama bin Laden’s hatred for the United States came to
a head. His sentiments were acted upon shortly thereafter. The first strike in
bin Laden’s jihad against the United States was in 1992. A hotel was bombed
in Aden, Yemen, which was home to US servicemen. The attack killed two
tourists, but no Americans.
February 23, 1993, a truck bomb in the parking garage of the World Trade
Center killed six and injured hundreds (Terrorism timeline: infoplease.com).
The bomb caused $20 million US in damage to the trade center. More chillingly,
however, are reports that a chemical weapons were set to go off as part of the
bomb, but were incinerated in the intense heat. Investigations in 1994 reveal the attack plan included hijacking a
plane and smashing it into CIA headquarters (Terrorism timeline:
infoplease.com). The Egyptian group behind the act was reportedly funded by
Osama and his
loosely knit Al Qaeda then focused their energies on United States troops in
Somalia. The US troops were sent to stabilize the area and provide food for
the Somali people; they faced a belligerent regime in the midst of civil war.
Osama's associates in several camps reportedly trained Somali militia to shoot
down US helicopters using rocket-propelled grenades. In 1993, this same tactic
was used in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, and brought down 2 US Blackhawk
helicopters (thenewrepublic.com). The fighting killed 18 American servicemen.
Laden was expelled from Sudan in 1995, when the bombing of a military
base in Riyadh killed five Americans and two Indians. The United States, as
well as Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, pressured the Sudan government into deporting
bin Laden. Thus, he moved Al Qaeda once again to
Afghanistan, where it began and where it remains to this date. Since 1995, bin
Laden has been the “guest” of the Taliban regime that rules Afghanistan.
Laden was reportedly shopping on the Russian black market in mid 1995.
Allegedly, he was looking to purchase a nuclear weapon. When his attempts
failed, he funded research in chemical and biological weaponry, and possibly
detonated one such device. When confronted by ABC’s John Miller in a 1998
interview, Bin Laden told him that the development of such weapons was his
officially stated his hatred for the United States in August of 1996.
At that time he prepared and released a “Declaration of War” against the
US, calling all Muslims to take up arms. When anti-U.S.
attacks did not materialize immediately, he explained the delay:
wanted to carry out small operations, it would have been easy to do so
immediately after the statements. Even the nature of the battle requires good
Two months later in November 1996, he
praised the bombings in Riyadh and at Khobar in Saudi Arabia. He also admitted
to orchestrating the attacks in Somalia and Yemen.
In February 1998, bin Laden announced the
formation of an umbrella organization called “The Islamic World Front for
the struggle against the Jews and the Crusaders.” This group is dedicated to
the destruction of the state of Israel, the dissolution of the Saudi
government, and the total annihilation of the United States (www.intellnet.org).
In their first official duties, the organization released a fatwah, or
“call” to all Muslims. Part of the fatwah is contained below:
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 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. (ict.org)
In a show of sincerity regarding the fatwah,
Al Qaeda struck again on August 7, 1998. The United States Embassies in Nairobi,
Kenya, and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, were car bombed simultaneously.
The most deadly of attacks up until that time, 224 people were killed and
5,000 others were injured (Press release: state.gov). Although both of the
buildings stood standing after the attack, they were a total loss. Many
buildings in the adjacent area, however, were completely destroyed.
Osama's declaration of war and successful attacks on US targets finally brought him into the sights of the US military. In August of 1998, President Bill Clinton ordered strategic air strikes on Al Qaeda bases Sudan and Afghanistan. The air raids killed 15 people, according to Taliban reports. However, these attacks would not perturb Al Qaeda's war against the West. In December of 1999, Algerian Ahmed Ressam was arrested on the US-Canada border with a trunk full of explosives and timing devices. He told interrogators that he had been trained in one of bin Laden's many Afghani camps. Upon searching Ressam's house, investigators found a map of Los Angeles International Airport (Law Center: cnn.com). Speculation has led to the notion that Ressam had planned to attack Los Angeles International on New Years Eve. This attack had failed, but it wasn't the end of Al Qaeda's jihad.
Seventeen US sailors were killed and 39 others were injured when suicide bombers attacked the USS Cole. The Cole attack occurred in Aden, Yemen, (also the site of bin Laden's first terrorist act) on October 12, 2000. An unknown number of men approached the Cole with a small boat laden with explosives, and detonated the charge when they had reached the destroyer. The force of the bomb left a 40x40 foot hole in the hull of the USS Cole (US State Dept.). Investigations led to the discovery that a small group of bin Laden trained terrorists had planned out the bombing months in advance. In a recruitment video for Al Qaeda, Osama takes credit for the attack (Al Qaeda: infoplease.com).
Following the bombing of the USS Cole, Osama bin Laden sank into seclusion, most likely in the hills of Afghanistan. In the coming months, he would prepare and execute an apparently long-planned and extensively networked terrorist attack. Bin Laden's next act would be his most infamous and horrific.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, a group of terrorists boarded four planes in the East coast of the United States, bound for California. These four planes, loaded with highly flammable jet fuel are one by one hijacked and their courses changed. Almost simultaneously, two hijacked planes hit each of the 110 story World Trade Center towers, and one hit the Pentagon. A fourth hijacked plane, believed to be en route to the White House, was reclaimed by her passengers and sent hurtling into the ground at Somerset, Pennsylvania.
The World Trade Center towers, which at the time housed more than 50,000 people, burst into flames. Dozens of people leaped to their deaths to escape the 4000° inferno that melted steel and cement (cnn.com). Thousands of people rushed the emergency stairs and made 60, 70 or 80 story descents. By 10:30AM, both towers had collapsed.
At 9:40AM by hijacked flight 77 careened into the newly renovated side of the Pentagon (Sept. 11 timeline: infoplease.com). Although the new construction work had helped limit damage, the entire side was obliterated. There were over two hundred people deaths in the Pentagon attack, sixty-four of which were the hijacked passengers.
At 10:00AM, a hijacked plane crashed in Somerset County, about 80 miles outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Later revelation, including communication between 911 operators on the ground and the hijacked passengers, would show that the passengers aboard the ill-fated plane fought with the terrorists in the cockpit (Sept. 11 timeline: infoplease.com). This resulted in the plane being flown into the ground in an unpopulated countryside, instead of the supposed target of Washington DC. Many consider the people aboard this flight to have saved thousands of lives.
All told, the World Trade Center and the Pentagon attacks killed an estimated 4,000 people (cnn.com). The perpetrators of the attack appear to be graduates of Al Qaeda's terrorist camps. Osama bin Laden at first denied having anything to do with the attacks (news.bbc.co.uk); but video of Bin Laden claiming responsibility has since been found.
Since the attack, countries world over have expressed empathy and anger over the terrorist events. Most of the Arab world has condemned the acts as well. Because of so many civilian deaths, Osama bin Laden may have effectively destroyed the loyalty so many had to him. In response to the atrocities, President George W. Bush called for a fight against terrorism. Osama bin Laden declared war against the United States, and now the United States has responded in kind.