Bin Laden, Osama

Bin Laden, Osama, (1957-), a Saudi born millionaire, an Islamic fundamentalist and a supporter of international terrorism. Many United States policies in the Middle East, particularly the U.S support for Israel and the presence of U.S military in Saudi Arabia from 1991 to 2003 were opposed by him. He is also against governments in the Islamic world who are allies of the United States. He is attributed with the founding and leadership of Al Qaeda, an international terrorist organization, which has allies with other Muslim extremist organizations around the world. It is believed by the United States and many other Western intelligence officials that bin laden masterminded a number of terrorist attacks against the U.S. In September 2001, the United States implicated bin Laden and his associates in terrorist attacks that damaged the Pentagon Building near Washington, D.C and destroyed New York City's World Trade Center, killing approximately 3,000 persons. The United States demanded that the Taliban should surrender bin Laden and shut down Qaida training camps in Afghanistan, but the Taliban refused to comply. As a consequence, the United States directed a military campaign against bin Laden, his followers, and the Afghan government (the Taliban) that supported him and later in 2001, successfully drove away the Taliban from power. Sanctions were imposed by the United Nations, in 1999 and 2000, against Afghanistan for refusing to hand over bin Laden.

U.S officials have also named bin Laden a prime suspect in the terrorist bombings of U.S embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, in which over 200 people lost their lives and more than 4,500 were injured. The United States launched missile strikes against Qaida training camps in Afghanistan.

Bin Laden was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to a wealthy family belonging to the Wahhabis, a conservative Sunni sect of Islam. He graduated from King Abdul Aziz University in Jidda in 1979 with a degree in civil engineering and management. After the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, he left Saudi Arabia to join the mujahideen in Pakistan and he also played a role in supporting the cause of Muslims fighting to oust the Soviets. He then became more involved with radical Islamic causes. The mujahideen who became guerrillas to fight jihad against the Soviets were Muslims from many, especially Arab, countries.

In the late 20th century, Bin Laden became involved in collecting funds and material support for the Muslim guerrillas. The Afghan Arabs, who are the Arab mujahideen, later became associated with al-Qaida. In order to resist the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, Bin Laden founded al-Qaida in the late 20th century. It was reported that bin Laden returned to Saudi Arabia in 1989 shortly after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The Kuwait invasion of Iraq, in 1990 led to the Persian Gulf War of 1991. To protect Kuwait from Iraqi invasion and to drive the Iraqis out of Kuwait, a military coalition led by the U.S sent troops to Saudi Arabia. The decision of the Saudi government to permit U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, where the holiest Muslim sites are located was opposed by bin Laden. Bin Laden and al-Qaida radically expanded their objectives after the Persian Gulf War of 1991. They demanded that foreign influence should be removed from Muslim countries. Bin Laden's activities against the Saudi government compelled him to find shelter outside of Saudi Arabia. He lived in Sudan from 1991 until 1996, when he was expelled by the Sudanese government, who had been pressured by the United States and Saudi Arabia. He then shifted base to Afghanistan, where he lived protected by Taliban, which was a conservative Islamic group that had control over most of that country.

The United States and the allied forces have continued to search for bin Laden and other Qaida leaders after the fall of the Taliban. Although many of the leaders have been captured or killed, other leaders, including bin Laden, still remain at large. It is believed by the United States and other officials that Bin Laden is in hiding along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. Since 2001, a number of recorded audio and video statements attributed to bin Laden have been aired by the Arabic broadcast stations, particularly by the Al-Jazeera.