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Obituary: Osama Bin Laden, Founder Of Al-Qaeda Terrorist Network, Killed In Pakistan

Osama Bin Laden in a cave in the Jalalabad region of Afghanistan in 1988
Osama Bin Laden in a cave in the Jalalabad region of Afghanistan in 1988
By RFE/RL
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, in the United States made Osama bin Laden a household name around the world and put his militant Islamist "holy war" on the global agenda of the 21st century.

On May 1, nearly a decade after those attacks, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the founder and leader of the jihadist Al-Qaeda terrorist network was killed at his hideout in Pakistan -- a mansion about 60 kilometers north of Islamabad -- and that U.S. authorities had taken custody of his body.

Bin Laden was considered by many in the West to be the personification of evil. In the Muslim world, too, bin Laden was criticized for the deaths of innocent civilians -- including many Muslims -- in the numerous mass-casualty attacks carried out by Al-Qaeda militants. He was accused by some Muslims of hijacking a peaceful religion in order to propagate his own violent Salafi jihadist agenda.

But bin Laden also was admired and even revered by some fellow Muslims who embraced his vision of never-ending jihad against the United States and Arab governments that he deemed to be infidels.

Born Into Wealth Family


Bin Laden was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 1957 into a wealthy Saudi family -- the only son of Muhammad bin Laden's 10th wife, Hamida al-Attas. His parents divorced soon after he was born. At the age of 10, bin Laden's father was killed in an airplane crash in Saudi Arabia.

A TV grab from Al-Jazeera shows bin Laden riding a horse in Afghanistan in 1998.
Bin Laden was raised as a devout Wahhabi Muslim -- attending the elite secular Al-Thagar Model School in 1968 and then studying economics and business administration at King Abdulaziz University.

After leaving college in 1979, bin Laden joined the Palestinian Sunni Islamic theologian Abdullah Azzam to help fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan -- living for some time in Pakistan's northwestern city of Peshawar.

By 1984, bin Laden and Azzam established the group Maktab al-Khidamat, which funneled money, weapons, and militant Muslims from around the world into the Afghan war.

By 1988, bin Laden split from Maktab al-Khidamat and formed Al-Qaeda. When Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein's forces invaded Kuwait in 1990, threatening the Saudi kingdom and its ruling House of Saud, bin Laden initially offered to help defend Saudi Arabia with his mujahedin fighters. But his offer was rejected.

After U.S. help to repel Iraq from Kuwait was accepted, bin Laden publically denounced Saudi Arabia's dependence on the U.S. military and the deployment of U.S. troops on Saudi territory.

Banished By Saudi Arabia

Within months, bin Laden turned his attention to attacks on the West and in the Arab world -- including the November 1990 assassination in New York of the American-Israeli Rabbi Martin David Kahane, the December 1992 bombing of the Gold Mihor Hotel in Aden, and the failed 1993 terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center in New York,

Bin Laden at an undisclosed location in Afghanistan in November 2001
He continued to speak out publicly against the Saudi government for allowing U.S. troops to be deployed in the country after he was banished by Saudi authorities.

Bin Laden went to live in exile in Sudan in 1992, where he is thought to have developed Al-Qaeda's justification for the killing of innocent people. But he was expelled by Sudan -- under pressure from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United States -- in 1996, moving to Afghanistan and establishing contacts with the Taliban regime.

Afghan Terror Camp

It was while he was a guest of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan that bin Laden is thought to have funded the 1997 Luxor, Egypt, massacre that killed 62 people. Initially in Afghanistan, he provided cash and fighters that helped the Taliban impose their strict version of Islam on the country.

In return, bin Laden was allowed to set up a terrorist training camp at Tarnak Farms, south of Kandahar.

He was indicted in the United States for involvement in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people -- most of them Africans and many of them Muslims. Al-Qaeda also claimed responsibility for the October 2000 suicide attack against a U.S. Navy destroyer, the "USS Cole."

It was in 2004, after initial reports of denials, that bin Laden claimed responsibility for the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, when hijacked airliners crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, and a field in Pennsylvania, killing some 3,000 people.

The 9/11 attacks fulfilled bin Laden's life mission by galvanizing Muslim militants and stoking tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims around the world in what some have called a "clash of civilizations."

After Afghanistan's Taliban regime refused to hand bin Laden over to the United States in connection with 9/11, a U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban from power and marked the start of a decade of NATO troop deployments in Afghanistan under a UN mandate.

A massive manhunt for bin Laden proved to be fruitless for years, despite the offer by Washington of a $25 million bounty.

written by Ron Synovitz, with agency reports
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