(1957-) Leader of the Islamist network of organizations, Al-Qa'ida, and alleged terrorist leader.
Osama bin Laden has from the late 1990's grown into becoming the most known terrorist leader from the Muslim world, even if no condemning evidence ever has been presented. Osama has however often called for fighting against what he perceives as corrupt leaders of the Muslim world, as well as fighting against powers like Israel and USA. Following several terrorist attacks in the 1990's, Osama has congratulated the perpetrators, at the same time as claiming that he is not involved.
Osama is of Saudi Arabian origin, but his Saudi citizenship was revoked in 1994 as a reaction to his attempts to overthrow the regime of Saudi Arabia. Today it is believed that he lives in Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, under the protection by the Taliban regime of Kabul.
It is doubtful if Osama is involved in the details of the terrorist actions. From his base in Afghanistan, he has little contact with the rest of the world, and it likely that he his role is defining ideology, defining core goals and distributing funds for the many terrorist groups that work together with Osama's Al-Qa'ida.
Osama's rhetorics are not different in many fields from what is rather common around the Muslim world. He condemns the corrupt regimes in many Muslim countries, and bases this upon facts that would be accepted even in Western countries. And he condemns USA and Israel strongly both for their Palestine policy as well as the US presence in the Persian Gulf. These are opinions shared by a majority of Muslims all over the world, and a growing part of the peoples in non-Muslim countries. But Osama goes further, and involves himself in violent actions around the world, especially in Muslim countries. This is a part of his policy that most Muslims will disagree with.
Osama has few friends among the leaders of the Muslim world. Persons like Mu'ammar Gadhafi and Saddam Hussayn, who also have been accused of participation in international terrorism, are his definite enemies.
No matter what one might think of Osama's policy, there is no reason to believe that he is anything but honest in his belief. That is one of the reasons why he has been able to get as far as he has. He has also a reputation of being deeply loyal to his closest men.
Osama has been described as a charismatic and ascetic man enjoying few luxuries, and who is almost mechanically true to his principles.
Some commentators have suggested that he is now gradually changing from this rather humble appearance in the 1990's, into a character that more aware of his influential position. This is deduced from a films showing a more ornamented clothing style and a less humble way of addressing his followers.
Following attempts on his life in 1997, Osama has become more concerned about his own safety than before, and he now moves between 4 or 5 camps near Kandahar. This has resulted in a great suspicion towards anyone outside the group of his closest comrades.
MAK (Maktab al-Khidamat)
Osama has been involved in establishing 2 very important organizations, MAK (Maktab al-khidamat) in 1979 and Al-Qa'ida in 1988. While the purpose of these two were different MAK was built to drive the Soviet troops out of Afghanistan they are linked in the sense that Al-Qa'ida would never have come were it not for MAK.
MAK was started by Osama together with the leader of the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood, Abdallah Azzam.
With MAK, Osama was able to recruit troops from all over the Arab world, but especially from Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Egypt. More than 10,000 are believed to have been training by MAK, and then participated in the warfare against the Soviet Union. Large number of the MAK troops lost their lives in the war, but the survivors came through as exceptionally skilled soldiers.
There have been many suggestions that MAK received both funds and training from CIA (the main intelligence organization of USA) this has never been officially denied by CIA.
MAK was one of 7 Mujahedin factions in Afghanistan, and was hence part of the great success they had in driving the Soviets out of the country. By achieving this, the Mujahedin gained a very important symbolical victory for the Muslim world, which then was still suffering from the humiliations of the lost wars against Israel.
Following the war, many of the Muslim fighters of MAK returned to their home countries, like Egypt and Algeria, where they soon got involved in actions against their own governments. It is for example hard to imagine the civil unrest of Algeria from 1992 and onwards without the military and communication skills of the MAK troops.
In other countries, like Sudan, the fighters could return as heroes, and were given important positions in the society.
Many others decided to stay on in Afghanistan, while others were afraid of returning to their home countries. These would remain in cooperation with Osama, and become the Afghanistani branch of Al-Qa'ida.
Al-Qa'ida was started as a network to continue to fight on more fields than just the battleground. While MAK focused on liberalization of Afghanistan, Al-Qa'ida aimed, and still aims, at defeating corrupt regimes in the Muslim countries, as well as defeating the powers that infiltrate the Muslim world. These powers were first and foremost USA with its direct involvement several places around the Muslim world, and Israel which was founded on Palestinian soil.
Al-Qaïda is believed to have been central in several terrorist attacks over the recent years.
Assets and Properties
ASSETS and PROPERTIES
The property of Osama is originally inherited, but he has also been very successful in his investments. During the time he was based in Sudan, he managed to run a good business.
Nobody knows how much he is good for, all figures presented are guesses. The most common guess gives an estimate of about US$300 million, but there are other guesses going both far above and below this.
These are some of the companies owned by Osama: Hijra Construction and Development owned together with the National Islamic Front and the Sudanese military; the import-export firm Wadi l-Aqiq; Taba Investment Company; Shamal Islamic Bank.
Osama's main economic activities today are run through representatives in Somalia, Switzerland and Luxembourg. Western interests are managed by Swiss lawyers, who help him cover his financial dealings so that funds find their way to all the different terrorist organizations under the Al-Qa'ida umbrella.
1957: Born in Saudi Arabia as the 17th of altogether 52 children of the wealthy entrepreneur Muhammad bin Laden.
1979: Finishes his education as civil engineer at King Abdul Aziz University of Jeddah.
Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Osama travels here to join the Mujahedin in holy war (jihad) to liberate the Muslim country. He also moves his business from Saudi Arabia here, including loyal workmen and heavy construction tools.
Osama forms MAK together with Abdallah Azzam of the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood.
1988: Osama founds the organization, or better network, Al-Qaïda.
1989: Osama returns from Afghanistan to his native Saudi Arabia as a hero. He soon gets involved in organizations working against the Saudi royal family.
Osama starts leading the Jihad Committee, where Islamic groups from Yemen, Pakistan, Lebanon, Libya, Jordan and Algeria work together.
Osama's former ally Abdallah Azzam is killed by a car bomb.
1991: Osama escapes from Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan, after he has been accused by Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Sudan for supporting subversive groups.
1992: He moves to Khartoum in Sudan, and is followed by thousands of earlier Mujahedin soldiers.
1993: 18 American soldiers are killed in Somalia. Eventually Osama admits to have behind this attack.
1994 April: Osama is stripped from his Saudi citizenship, and declared unwanted in the country. The Saudi authorities also tried to freeze his bank accounts.
1996 May: Following US pressure, Osama is requested by Sudanese authorities to leave the country. His companies stays in Sudan, leaving him with both sources of revenues, as well as good communications with the rest of the world. He establishes himself in Jalalabad in Afghanistan.
1997: Two bombs are detonated in Jalalabad in attempts to assassinate Osama. He moves to Kandahar, where he builds underground camps at several different locations.
February: Osama says in a TV interview that "if someone can kill an American soldier, it is better than wasting time on other matters."
1998: The umbrella organization Islamic World Front for the struggle and against the Jews and the Crusaders where his Al-Qa'ida is joined by other militant Islamist groups like Gama'a l-Islamiyya and Al-Jihad, both of Egypt.
2001 September 11: Following the terrorist attack on World Trade Center and the military headquarter, Pentagon in Washington DC, USA, Osama sends a messenger to his biographer in Pakistan, Hamid Mir, telling that he claims not to have been involved.
September 12: Osama is accused by US authorities of being the main suspect of the terrorist attacks the day before.
September 17: According to Arab newspapers, Osama takes refuge in the Afghani mountains together with his closest comrades, in order to escape US special soldiers.
2002: Evidence of any movements of Osama is no longer available, but there are 3 theories: he has been killed during US/Afghan actions against his hideouts in Afghanistan, he is still hiding in the Afghan mountains, he is hiding in the Pakistani mountains.