bin Laden

bin Laden

[bin lahd-n]
bin Laden, Osama or Usama, 1957?-, Saudi-born leader of Al Qaeda [Arab.,=the base], a terrorist organization devoted to uniting all Muslims and establishing a transnational, strict-fundamentalist Islamic state. The youngest son of a wealthy Yemeni-born businessman, bin Laden was trained as a civil engineer (grad. 1979, King Abdul Aziz Univ., Jidda), but following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (see Afghanistan War) he went to Pakistan where he helped to finance the mujahidin and to found Makhtab al Khadimat [services office] (MAK), which recruited and trained non-Afghani Muslims to fight in the war.

In 1987 he split with MAK to begin a jihad [holy war] against Israel and Western influence in Islamic countries; he founded Al Qaeda the next year. Following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, he returned to his family's construction business in Saudi Arabia. When U.S. troops were stationed (1990) on Saudi soil during Persian Gulf War he became violently opposed to the Saudi monarchy and the United States. After he was caught smuggling arms in 1991, he went to Sudan, where he began financing terrorist training camps while investing in businesses and increasing his fortune. His Saudi citizenship was revoked in 1994.

After the attempted assassination (1995) of Egyptian president Mubarak, to which bin Laden was linked, he was expelled (1996) from Sudan and reestablished himself in Afghanistan, where the extreme Islamic fundamentalist Taliban had come to power. That same year he issued a "declaration of war" against the United States. In its camps in Afghanistan, Al Qaeda trained a decentralized network of international terrorists that have been linked to the 1996 car bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, and the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Bin Laden also was reported to have financed or trained Islamic guerrillas operating in Kosovo, Kashmir, the Philippines, and elsewhere.

He has been indicted in the United States for the embassy bombings, and the United States launched retaliatory cruise missile attacks against his Afghanistan camps in 1998. Following the 2001 attacks the United States demanded the Taliban hand over bin Laden. When the Afghanis refused, U.S. forces began military action against Afghanistan, and in conjunction with opposition forces there largely defeated Taliban and Al Qaeda forces by Jan., 2002. Bin Laden, however, was not captured. He is believed to be in hiding in the Pashtun-dominated region that straddles the central Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and by mid-2008 was no longer believed to be overseeing Al Qaeda's everyday operations. Al Qaeda, now based mainly in parts of W Pakistan, has continued to function and launch terror attacks on a more limited scale while gradually rebuilding its capabilities, and also has provided support to and inspiration for other groups committed to a militant Islamic insurgency.

See his Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden (2005); studies by P. L. Bergen (2001 and 2006), A. J. Dennis (2002), R. Jacquard (2002), S. Coll (2004 and 2008), J. Randal (2004), and L. Wright (2006).

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