Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Muhammad bin Awad bin Laden is born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 1957, the 17th of 52 children fathered by billionaire construction tycoon Muhammad Bin Laden. In 1979, bin Laden graduates with a degree in civil engineering. This is the same year the Soviets invade Afghanistan and the mujahedeen embarks on a decade-long war against the communists.
22-year-old bin Laden spends five years providing the fighters with money and equipment, sporadically engaging in battle alongside the Afghans. bin Laden is as inspired by the mujahedeen and the holy war as he is incensed by the Soviets. He believes deeply in the cause and aids his friend Sheik Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian religious scholar, when he starts his pro-jihad organization, Makhtab al Khadimat-- the "Office of Services." Designed to collect funds and recruit Islamic armies to fight the jihad in Afghanistan, bin Laden supports the Office of Services both financially and with overwhelming manpower. He personally recruits thousands of fighters from Egypt, Lebanon, and Turkey.
Before long, bin Laden begins associating with Egyptian radicals who advocate holy war, not just in Afghanistan, but anywhere in the world. In full accord with the extremist view, bin Laden establishes a training camp for Persian Gulf Arabs in 1986 called Al Masadah, "The Lion's Den." But it is bin Laden's next organization that leads him to infamy. al Qaeda is established in 1989. It is a terrorist group that will wage jihad from nearly every corner of the globe.
With the mujahedeen' s victory over the Soviets, bin Laden begins to execute what will be his life' s mission: a continual, devastating assault against America and its allies. According to bin Laden, Western culture and the US military have tarnished Islam, and a fierce opposition will come not only to Americans everywhere, but also to Arab governments who tolerate the US and its presence in the Middle East.
While planning a jihad in South Yemen, bin Laden reaches out to other extremist factions, including Saudi opposition groups. The alliance is a decision which pits bin Laden against the Saudi royal family in 1991, and eventually, costs him his freedom in Saudi Arabia. Despite his wealthy family's connections, bin Laden is so constrained in Saudi Arabia that he is forced to flee to Sudan. By 1994, bin Laden's Saudi Arabian citizenship is revoked and his assets frozen in light of his support for Muslim fundamentalist organizations.
His residence in Sudan is short lived. bin Laden's 1995 attempt to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Ethiopia gets him expelled from the country a year later. The U.N. threatens sanctions against Sudan and forces it to break ties with the al Qaeda leader. bin Laden returns to Afghanistan in 1996, around the time the Taliban comes into power, and is welcomed by the Muslim extremists who will shelter him from the US manhunt.
Members of the Islamic militant group Hezbollah attack the US Air Force barracks in Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. From Afghanistan, bin Laden praises the bombing that kills19 US servicemen, and he pledges more attacks against Americans. To help deliver his promise, bin Laden creates a new terrorist alliance, the International Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Jews and Crusaders, in February 1998. bin Laden also bankrolls various Islamic training centers that teach the art of terrorism.
On August 7, 1998, terrorists simultaneously bomb the United States Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya. The horrific attack leaves more than 200 people dead. Authorities hunt down bin Laden for his role in the murders. On June 7, 1999, they put him on the FBI' s Ten Most Wanted list.
Charged with the murder of US nationals outside the United States, conspiracy to murder US nationals outside the United States, and the attack on a federal facility resulting in death, bin Laden is also a suspect in other violent terrorist assaults throughout the world. He is alleged to be involved in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, the 1996 bombing of the military housing complex in Saudi Arabia, and the suicide bombing of the USS Cole in 2000. Authorities also believe bin Laden masterminded the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington.
There is a $25 million bounty on bin Laden's head, and the Airline Pilots Association and the Air Transport Association is offering an additional $2 million.