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Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden (Arabic: أسامة بن محمد بن عوض بن لادن, ʾUsāmah bin Muḥammad bin ʿAwaḍ bin Lādin; born March 10, 1957, died May 1, 2011) is a member of the wealthy Saudi bin Laden family and the founder of the jihadist organization al-Qaeda, most widely recognized for the September 11 attacks on the United States and numerous other mass-casualty attacks against civilian and military targets. As a result of his dealings in and advocacy of violent extremist jihad, Osama bin Laden lost his Saudi citizenship and was disowned by his billionaire family.
Bin Laden is on the American Federal Bureau of Investigation's lists of Ten Most Wanted Fugitives and Most Wanted Terrorists due to his involvement in the 1998 US embassy bombings.
Since 2001, Osama bin Laden and his organization have been major targets of the U.S. War on Terror. Bin Laden and fellow al-Qaeda leaders are believed to be hiding near the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
Variations of bin Laden's nameThere is no universally accepted standard in the West for transliterating Arabic words and names into English, so bin Laden's name is spelled in many different ways. The version translation most often used by English-language mass media is Osama bin Laden. Most American government agencies, including the FBI and CIA, use either "Usama bin Laden" or "Usama bin Ladin", both of which are often abbreviated to UBL. Less common renderings include "Ussamah Bin Ladin" and "Oussama Ben Laden" (French-language mass media). The last two words of the name can also be found as "Binladen" or (as used by his family in the West) "Binladin". The spelling with "o" and "e" comes from a Persian-influenced pronunciation used in Afghanistan where he lived for a long time.
Strictly speaking, Arabic linguistic conventions dictate that he be referred to as "Osama" or "Osama bin Laden", not "bin Laden", as "Bin Laden" is not used as a surname in the Western manner, but simply as part of his name, which in its long form means "Osama, son of Mohammed, son of 'Awad, son of Laden". Still, "bin Laden" has become nearly universal in Western references to him.
Bin Laden's admirers commonly use several aliases and nicknames, including the Prince/Al-Amir, the Sheikh, Abu Abdallah, Sheikh Al-Mujahid, the Lion Sheik, the Director.
Childhood, education and personal lifeMain article: Childhood, education and personal life of Osama bin Laden
See also: Bin Laden family
Osama bin Laden was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. In a 1998 interview, he gave his birth date as March 10, 1957. His father Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden was a wealthy businessman with close ties to the Saudi royal family. Osama bin Laden was born the only son of Muhammed bin Laden's tenth wife, Hamida al-Attas. Osama's parents divorced soon after he was born; Osama's mother then married Muhammad al-Attas. The couple had four children, and Osama lived in the new household with three half-brothers and one half-sister.
Bin Laden was raised as a devout Wahhabi Muslim. From 1968 to 1976 he attended the "élite" secular Al-Thager Model School. Bin Laden studied economics and business administration at King Abdulaziz University. Some reports suggest bin Laden earned a degree in civil engineering in 1979, or a degree in public administration in 1981. Other sources describe him as having left university during his third year, never completing a college degree, though "hard working." At university, bin Laden's main interest was religion, where he was involved in both "interpreting the Quran and jihad" and charitable work. He also writes poetry.
In 1974, at the age of 17, bin Laden married his first wife Najwa Ghanem at Latakia. According to CNN national security correspondent David Ensore, as of 2002 bin Laden had married four women and fathered roughly 25 or 26 children. Other sources report that he has fathered anywhere from 12 to 24 children.
His father, Muhammed bin Laden, was killed in 1967 in an airplane crash in Saudi Arabia when his American pilot misjudged a landing. His eldest half-brother and head of the bin Laden family, Salem bin Laden, was killed in 1988 when he accidentally flew a plane into powerlines near San Antonio, Texas, USA.
Beliefs and ideologyMain article: Beliefs and ideology of Osama bin Laden
Bin Laden believes that the restoration of Sharia law will set things right in the Muslim world, and that all other ideologies—"pan-Arabism, socialism, communism, democracy"—must be opposed. These beliefs, along with violent expansive jihad, have sometimes been called Qutbism. He believes Afghanistan under the rule of Mullah Omar's Taliban was "the only Islamic country" in the Muslim world. Bin Laden has consistently dwelt on the need for violent jihad to right what he believes are injustices against Muslims perpetrated by the United States and sometimes by other non-Muslim states, the need to eliminate the state of Israel, and the necessity of forcing the US to withdraw from the Middle East. He has also called on Americans to "reject the immoral acts of fornication (and) homosexuality, intoxicants, gambling, and usury," in an October 2002 letter.
Probably the most infamous part of Bin Laden's ideology is that civilians, including women and children, are legitimate targets of jihad. Bin Laden is antisemitic, and has delivered warnings against alleged Jewish conspiracies: "These Jews are masters of usury and leaders in treachery. They will leave you nothing, either in this world or the next." Shia Muslims have been listed along with "Heretics,... America and Israel," as the four principal "enemies of Islam" at ideology classes of bin Laden's Al-Qaeda organization.
In keeping with Wahhabi beliefs, bin Laden opposes music on religious grounds, and his attitude towards technology is mixed. He is interested in "earth-moving machinery and genetic engineering of plants" on the one hand, but rejects "chilled water" on the other.
His viewpoints and methods of achieving them have led to him been designated as a "terrorist" by scholars, journalists from the New York Times, the BBC, and Qatari news station Al Jazeera, analysts such as Peter Bergen, Michael Scheuer, Marc Sageman, and Bruce Hoffman and he was indicted on terrorism charges by law enforcement agencies in Madrid, New York City, and Tripoli.
Militant activityMain article: Militant activity of Osama bin Laden
See also: CIA-Osama bin Laden controversy
Mujahideen in Afghanistan
Bin Laden with Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir in 1997.After leaving college in 1979 bin Laden joined Abdullah Azzam to fight the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan and lived for a time in Peshawar.
By 1984, with Azzam, bin Laden established Maktab al-Khadamat, which funneled money, arms and Muslim fighters from around the Arabic world into the Afghan war. Through al-Khadamat, bin Laden's inherited family fortune paid for air tickets and accommodation, dealt with paperwork with Pakistani authorities and provided other such services for the jihad fighters. Osama established a camp in Afghanistan, and with other volunteers fought the Soviets.
It was during his time in Peshawar that he began wearing camouflage-print jackets and carrying a captured Soviet assault rifle, which urban legends claimed he had obtained by killing a Russian soldier with his bare hands.
Formation and structuring of Al-QaedaMain article: Al-Qaeda
By 1988, bin Laden had split from Maktab al-Khidamat. While Azzam acted as support for Afghan fighters, bin Laden wanted a more military role. One of the main points leading to the split and the creation of al-Qaeda was Azzam's insistence that Arab fighters be integrated among the Afghan fighting groups instead of forming a separate fighting force. Notes of a meeting of bin Laden and others on August 20, 1988, indicate al-Qaeda was a formal group by that time: "basically an organized Islamic faction, its goal is to lift the word of God, to make His religion victorious." A list of requirements for membership itemized the following: listening ability, good manners, obedience, and making a pledge (bayat) to follow one's superiors.
According to Wright, the group's real name wasn't used in public pronouncements because "its existence was still a closely held secret." His research suggests that al-Qaeda was formed at an August 11, 1988, meeting between "several senior leaders" of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Abdullah Azzam, and bin Laden, where it was agreed to join bin Laden's money with the expertise of the Islamic Jihad organization and take up the jihadist cause elsewhere after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan. Following the Soviet Union's withdrawal from Afghanistan in February 1989, Osama bin Laden returned to Saudi Arabia in 1990 as a hero of jihad, who along with his Arab legion, "had brought down the mighty superpower" of the Soviet Union. The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990 had put the kingdom and its ruling House of Saud at risk. The world's most valuable oil fields were within easy striking distance of Iraqi forces in Kuwait, and Saddam's call to pan-Arab/Islamism could potentially rally internal dissent. bin Laden met with King Fahd, and Sultan, Minister of Defense of Saudi Arabia, telling them not to depend on non-Muslim troops, and offered to help defend Saudi Arabia with his mujahideen fighters. Bin Laden's offer was rebuffed, and after the American offer to help repel Iraq from Kuwait was accepted, involving deploying U.S. troops in Saudi territory, he publicly denounced Saudi Arabia's dependence on the U.S. military, as he believed the presence of foreign troops in the "land of the two mosques" (Mecca and Medina) profaned sacred soil. Bin Laden's criticism of the Saudi monarchy led that government to attempt to silence him.
Shortly after Saudi Arabia permitted U.S. troops on Saudi soil, bin Laden turned his attention to attacks on the west. On November 8, 1990, the FBI raided the New Jersey home of El Sayyid Nosair, an associate of al Qaeda operative Ali Mohamed, discovering a great deal of evidence of terrorist plots, including plans to blow up New York City skyscrapers, marking the earliest uncovering of al Qaeda plans for such activities outside of Muslim countries. Nosair was eventually convicted in connection to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and for the murder of Rabbi Meir Kahane on November 5, 1990.
Bin Laden continued to speak publicly against the Saudi government for harboring American troops, for which the Saudis banished him. He went to live in exile in Sudan, in 1992, in a deal brokered by Ali Mohamed.
Sudan and return to AfghanistanIn Sudan, bin Laden established a new base for mujahideen operations, in Khartoum.
Bin Laden continued his verbal assault on King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, and in response, on March 5, 1994, Fahd sent an emissary to Sudan demanding bin Laden's passport. His family was persuaded to cut off his monthly stipend, the equivalent of $7 million a year. By now bin Laden was strongly associated with Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), which made up the core of al-Qaeda. In 1995 the EIJ attempted to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The attempt failed, and the EIJ was expelled from Sudan.
Sudan also began efforts to expel bin Laden. The 9/11 Commission Report states:
"In late 1995, when Bin Laden was still in Sudan, the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) learned that Sudanese officials were discussing with the Saudi government the possibility of expelling Bin Laden. CIA paramilitary officer Billy Waugh tracked down Bin Ladin in the Sudan and prepared an operation to apprehend him, but was denied authorization. US Ambassador Timothy Carney encouraged the Sudanese to pursue this course. The Saudis, however, did not want Bin Laden, giving as their reason their revocation of his citizenship. Sudan’s minister of defense, Fatih Erwa, has claimed that Sudan offered to hand Bin Laden over to the United States. The Commission has found no credible evidence that this was so. Ambassador Carney had instructions only to push the Sudanese to expel Bin Laden. Ambassador Carney had no legal basis to ask for more from the Sudanese since, at the time, there was no indictment outstanding."
The 9/11 Commission Report further states:
"In February 1996, Sudanese officials began approaching officials from the United States and other governments, asking what actions of theirs might ease foreign pressure. In secret meetings with Saudi officials, Sudan offered to expel Bin Laden to Saudi Arabia and asked the Saudis to pardon him. US officials became aware of these secret discussions, certainly by March. Saudi officials apparently wanted Bin Laden expelled from Sudan. They had already revoked his citizenship, however, and would not tolerate his presence in their country. Also Bin Laden may have no longer felt safe in Sudan, where he had already escaped at least one assassination attempt that he believed to have been the work of the Egyptian or Saudi regimes, or both."
In May 1996, under increasing pressure on Sudan, from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United States, bin Laden returned to Jalalabad, Afghanistan aboard a chartered flight, and there forged a close relationship with Mullah Mohammed Omar. When Bin Laden left Sudan, he and his organization were significantly weakened, despite his ambitions and organizational skills. In Afghanistan, bin Laden and Al-Qaeda raised money from "donors from the days of the Soviet jihad", and from the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to establish more training camps for Mujahideen fighters .
Early attacks and aid for attacksIt is believed that the first bombing attack involving bin Laden was the December 29, 1992 bombing of the Gold Mihor Hotel in Aden in which two people were killed.
It was after this bombing that al-Qaeda was reported to have developed its justification for the killing of innocent people. According to a fatwa issued by Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, the killing of someone standing near the enemy is justified because any innocent bystander will find their proper reward in death, going to Jannah (Paradise) if they were good Muslims and to Jahannam (hell) if they were bad or non-believers. The fatwa was issued to al-Qaeda members but not the general public.
In the 1990s bin Laden's al-Qaeda assisted jihadis financially and sometimes militarily in Algeria, Egypt and Afghanistan. In 1992 or 1993 bin Laden sent an emissary, Qari el-Said, with $40,000 to Algeria to aid the Islamists and urge war rather than negotiation with the government. Their advice was heeded but the war that followed killed 150,000–200,000 Algerians and ended with Islamist surrender to the government.
Another effort by bin Laden was the funding of the Luxor massacre of November 17, 1997, which killed 62 civilians, but so revolted the Egyptian public that it turned against Islamist terror. In mid-1997, the Northern Alliance threatened to overrun Jalalabad, causing Bin Laden to abandon his Nazim Jihad compound and move his operations to Tarnak Farms in the south.
A later effort that did succeed was an attack on the city of Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan. Bin Laden helped cement his alliance with his hosts the Taliban by sending several hundred of his Afghan Arab fighters along to help the Taliban kill between five and six thousand Hazaras overrunning the city.
In 1998, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri co-signed a fatwa in the name of the World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders which declared the killing of North Americans and their allies an "individual duty for every Muslim" to "liberate the al-Aqsa Mosque (in Jerusalem) and the holy mosque (in Mecca) from their grip". At the public announcement of the fatwa bin Laden announced that North Americans are "very easy targets." He told the attending journalists, "You will see the results of this in a very short time."
In December 1998, the Director of Central Intelligence Counterterrorist Center reported to the president that al-Qaeda was preparing for attacks in the USA, including the training of personnel to hijack aircraft.
At the end of 2000, Richard Clarke revealed that Islamic militants headed by bin Laden had planned a triple attack on January 3, 2000 which would have included bombings in Jordan of the Radisson SAS Hotel in Amman and tourists at Mount Nebo and a site on the Jordan River, the sinking of the destroyer USS The Sullivans in Yemen, as well as an attack on a target within the United States. The plan was foiled by the arrest of the Jordanian terrorist cell, the sinking of the explosive-filled skiff intended to target the destroyer, and the arrest of Ahmed Ressam.
Balkan warsSee also: Bosnian mujahideen
A former U.S. State Department official in October 2001 described Bosnia and Herzegovina as a safe haven for terrorists, after it was revealed that militant elements of the former Sarajevo government were protecting extremists, some with ties to Osama bin Laden. In 1997, Rzeczpospolita, one of the largest Polish daily newspapers, reported that intelligence services of the Nordic-Polish SFOR Brigade suspected that a center for training terrorists from Islamic countries was located in the Bocina Donja village near Maglaj in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 1992, hundreds of volunteers joined an "all-mujahedeen unit" called El Moujahed in an abandoned hillside factory, a compound with a hospital and prayer hall. According to Middle East intelligence reports, bin Laden financed small convoys of recruits from the Arab world through his businesses in Sudan. Among them was Karim Said Atmani who was identified by authorities as the document forger for a group of Algerians accused of plotting the bombings in the USA. He is a former roommate of Ahmed Ressam, the man arrested at the Canadian-U.S. border in mid-December 1999 with a car full of nitroglycerin and bomb-making materials. He was convicted of colluding with Osama bin Laden by a French court.
A Bosnian government search of passport and residency records, conducted at the urging of the United States, revealed other former mujahideen who are linked to the same Algerian group or to other groups of suspected terrorists who have lived in this area 60 miles (97 km) north of Sarajevo, the capital, in the past few years. Khalil al-Deek, was arrested in Jordan in late December 1999 on suspicion of involvement in a plot to blow up tourist sites; a second man with Bosnian citizenship, Hamid Aich, lived in Canada at the same time as Atmani and worked for a charity associated with Osama Bin Laden. In its June 26, 1997 Report on the bombing of the Al Khobar building in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the New York Times noted that those arrested confessed to serving with Bosnian Muslims forces. Further, the captured men also admitted to ties with Osama bin Laden.
In 1999 it was revealed that Osama bin Laden and his Tunisian assistant Mehrez Aodouni were granted citizenship and Bosnian passports in 1993 by the Government in Sarajevo. This information was denied by the Bosnian government following the 9/11 attacks, but it was later found that Aodouni was arrested in Turkey and that at that time he possessed the Bosnian passport. Following this revelation, a new explanation was given that bin Laden "did not personally collect his Bosnian passport" and that officials at the Bosnian embassy in Vienna, which issued the passport, could not have known who bin Laden was at the time. The Bosnian daily Oslobođenje published in 2001 that three men, believed to be linked to Osama Bin Laden, were arrested in Sarajevo in July 2001. The three, one of whom was identified as Imad El Misri, were Egyptian nationals. The paper said that two of the suspects were holding Bosnian passports.
In 1998 it was reported that bin Laden was operating his Al Qaeda network out of Albania. The Charleston Gazette quoted Fatos Klosi, the head of the Albanian intelligence service, as saying a network run by Saudi exile Osama bin Laden sent units to fight in the Serbian province of Kosovo. Confirmation of these activities came from Claude Kader, a French national who said he was a member of bin Laden's Albanian network.
By 1998 four members of Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) were arrested in Albania, and extradited to Egypt at the urging of the CIA. It is believed that the 1998 bombing of US embassies in Africa occurred as retaliation for these arrests.
September 11 attacksSee also: September 11 attacks and Videos and audio recordings of Osama bin Laden
"Allah knows it did not cross our minds to attack the towers but after the situation became unbearable and we witnessed the injustice and tyranny of the American-Israeli alliance against our people in Palestine and Lebanon, I thought about it. And the events that affected me directly were that of 1982 and the events that followed – when America allowed the Israelis to invade Lebanon, helped by the U.S. Sixth Fleet. As I watched the destroyed towers in Lebanon, it occurred to me punish the unjust the same way (and) to destroy towers in America so it could taste some of what we are tasting and to stop killing our children and women."
– Osama bin Laden, 2004
After reports of repeated initial denials, in 2004 Osama bin Laden claimed responsibility for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. The attacks involved the hijacking of four commercial passenger aircraft, the subsequent destruction of those planes and the World Trade Center in New York City, New York, severe damage to The Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and the deaths of 2,974 people and the nineteen hijackers. In response to the attacks, the United States launched a War on Terror to depose the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and capture al-Qaeda operatives, and several countries strengthened their anti-terrorism legislation to preclude future attacks. The CIA's Special Activities Division was given the lead in tracking down and killing or capturing bin Laden.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has stated that classified evidence linking Al-Qaeda and bin Laden to the attacks of September 11 is clear and irrefutable. The UK Government reached a similar conclusion regarding Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden's culpability for the September 11, 2001, attacks although the government report notes that the evidence presented is insufficient for a prosecutable case. Bin Laden initially denied involvement in the attacks. On September 16, 2001, bin Laden read a statement later broadcast by Qatar's Al Jazeera satellite channel denying responsibility for the attack.
In a videotape recovered by US forces in November 2001 in Jalalabad, bin Laden was seen discussing the attack with Khaled al-Harbi in a way that indicates foreknowledge. The tape was broadcast on various news networks on December 13, 2001. The merits of this translation have been disputed. Arabist Dr. Abdel El M. Husseini stated: "This translation is very problematic. At the most important places where it is held to prove the guilt of bin Laden, it is not identical with the Arabic."
In the 2004 Osama bin Laden video, bin Laden abandoned his denials without retracting past statements. In it he stated he had personally directed the nineteen hijackers. In the 18-minute tape, played on Al-Jazeera, four days before the American presidential election, bin Laden accused U.S. President George W. Bush of negligence on the hijacking of the planes on September 11.
According to the tapes, bin Laden claimed he was inspired to destroy the World Trade Center after watching the destruction of towers in Lebanon by Israel during the 1982 Lebanon War.
In two other tapes aired by Al Jazeera in 2006, Osama bin Laden announces,
I am the one in charge of the nineteen brothers ... I was responsible for entrusting the nineteen brothers ... with the raids [5 minute audiotape broadcast May 23, 2006],
and is seen with Ramzi bin al-Shibh, as well as two of the 9/11 hijackers, Hamza al-Ghamdi and Wail al-Shehri, as they make preparations for the attacks (videotape broadcast September 7, 2006).
Criminal chargesOn March 16, 1998, Libya issued the first official Interpol arrest warrant against Bin Laden and three other people for killing two German citizens in Libya on March 10, 1994, one of which is thought to have been a German counter-intelligence officer. Bin Laden is still wanted by the Libyan government. Osama bin Laden was first indicted by the United States on June 8, 1998, when a grand jury indicted Osama bin Laden on charges of killing five Americans and two Indians in the November 14, 1995 truck bombing of a US-operated Saudi National Guard training center in Riyadh.
Bin Laden was charged with "conspiracy to attack defense utilities of the United States" and prosecutors further charged that bin Laden is the head of the terrorist organization called al Qaeda, and that he was a major financial backer of Islamic fighters worldwide. Bin Laden denied involvement but praised the attack. On November 4, 1998, Osama bin Laden was indicted by a Federal Grand Jury in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, on charges of Murder of US Nationals Outside the United States, Conspiracy to Murder US Nationals Outside the United States, and Attacks on a Federal Facility Resulting in Death for his alleged role in the 1998 United States embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. The evidence against bin Laden included courtroom testimony by former Al Qaeda members and satellite phone records, from a phone purchased for him by al-Qaeda procurement agent Ziyad Khaleel in the U.S.
Bin Laden became the 456th person listed on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, when he was added to the list on June 7, 1999, following his indictment along with others for capital crimes in the 1998 embassy attacks. Attempts at assassination and requests for the extradition of bin Laden from the Taliban of Afghanistan were met with failure prior to the bombing of Afghanistan in October 2001. In 1999, US President Bill Clinton convinced the United Nations to impose sanctions against Afghanistan in an attempt to force the Taliban to extradite him.
Years later, on October 10, 2001, bin Laden appeared as well on the initial list of the top 22 FBI Most Wanted Terrorists, which was released to the public by the President of the United States George W. Bush, in direct response to the attacks of 9/11, but which was again based on the indictment for the 1998 embassy attack. Bin Laden was among a group of thirteen fugitive terrorists wanted on that latter list for questioning about the 1998 embassy bombings. Bin Laden remains the only fugitive ever to be listed on both FBI fugitive lists.
Despite the multiple indictments listed above and multiple requests, the Taliban refused to extradite Osama Bin Laden. It wasn't until after the bombing of Afghanistan began in October 2001 that the Taliban finally did offer to turn over Osama bin Laden to a third-party country for trial, in return for the US ending the bombing and providing evidence that Osama bin Laden was involved in the 9/11 attacks. This offer was rejected by George W Bush stating that this was no longer negotiable with Bush responding that "There's no need to discuss innocence or guilt. We know he's guilty."
Attempted capture by the United States
US propaganda leaflet used in AfghanistanClinton administrationCapturing Osama bin Laden has been an objective of the United States government since the presidency of Bill Clinton. Shortly after the September 11 attacks it was revealed that President Clinton had signed a directive authorizing the CIA (and specifically their elite Special Activities Division) to apprehend bin Laden and bring him to the United States to stand trial after the 1998 United States embassy bombings in Africa; if taking bin Laden alive was deemed impossible, then deadly force was authorized. On August 20, 1998, 66 cruise missiles launched by United States Navy ships in the Arabian Sea struck bin Laden's training camps near Khost in Afghanistan, narrowly missing him by a few hours. In 1999 the CIA, together with Pakistani military intelligence, had prepared a team of approximately 60 Pakistani commandos to infiltrate Afghanistan to capture or kill bin Laden, but the plan was aborted by the 1999 Pakistani coup d'état; in 2000, foreign operatives working on behalf of the CIA had fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a convoy of vehicles in which bin Laden was traveling through the mountains of Afghanistan, hitting one of the vehicles but not the one in which bin Laden was riding.
In 2000, prior to the September 11 attacks, Paul Bremer characterized the Clinton administration as "correctly focused on bin Laden", while Robert Oakley criticized their "obsession with Osama".
Bush administrationAccording to The Washington Post, the US government concluded that Osama bin Laden was present during the Battle of Tora Bora, Afghanistan in late 2001, and according to civilian and military officials with first-hand knowledge, failure by the US to commit enough US ground troops to hunt him led to his escape and was the gravest failure by the US in the war against al Qaeda. Intelligence officials have assembled what they believe to be decisive evidence, from contemporary and subsequent interrogations and intercepted communications, that bin Laden began the battle of Tora Bora inside the cave complex along Afghanistan's mountainous eastern border. It is believed[by whom?] Bin laden escaped into the Tribal areas across the border into Pakistan.
The Washington Post also reported that the CIA unit composed of their special operations paramilitary forces dedicated to capturing Osama was shut down in late 2005.
US and Afghanistan forces raided the mountain caves in Tora Bora between 14–16 August 2007. The military was drawn to the area after receiving intelligence of a pre-Ramadan meeting held by al Qaeda members. After killing dozens of al Qaeda and Taliban members, they did not find either Osama bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, US government officials named bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda organization as the prime suspects and offered a reward of $25 million for information leading to his capture or death. On July 13, 2007, this figure was doubled to $50 million.
The Airline Pilots Association and the Air Transport Association are offering an additional $2 million reward.
Obama administrationU.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said in December 2009 that officials have had no reliable information on Bin Laden's whereabouts for "years". One week later, General Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said in December 2009 that al-Qaeda will not be defeated unless its leader, Osama Bin Laden, is captured or killed. Testifying to the U.S. Congress, he said Bin Laden had become an "iconic figure, whose survival emboldens al-Qaeda as a franchising organization across the world", and that Obama's deployment of 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan meant that success would be possible. "I don't think that we can finally defeat al-Qaeda until he's captured or killed", McChrystal said of Bin Laden. "Killing or capturing Bin Laden would not spell the end of al-Qaeda, but the movement could not be eradicated while he remained at large."
Conflicting reports of his death and his survival since 9/11Shortly after the attacks of 9/11, then US president George W. Bush issued a statement that as a consequence of the 9/11 attacks, he now hoped to "kill or capture" Bin Laden. Subsequently, Bin Laden retreated further from public contact as an obviously defensive measure against potential US capture. Since that time, numerous speculative press reports have been issued concerning various hearsay stories about his whereabouts, and also about alleged evidence of his supposed death. Meanwhile, Al Qaeda has continued to release time sensitive and professionally verified videos demonstrating Bin Laden's continued survival as recently as August 2007. Most recently, US General McChrystal emphasized the continued importance of the capture or killing of Bin Laden, thus clearly indicating that the US high command continues to believe that Bin Laden is probably still alive. Following are some of these conflicting reports regarding both his claimed death, and his claimed continued whereabouts:
Reports of his deathDecember 2001 Quoting an unnamed Taliban official, the Pakistan Observer reported that Bin Laden died of untreated lung complications and was buried in an unmarked grave in Tora Bora on December 15. This report was picked up by Fox News in the United States on December 26. Also on December 26, the Egyptian newspaper AlWafd - Daily carried a short obituary by a prominent official of the Afghan Taliban, who was allegedly present at the funeral, stating Bin Laden had been buried on or about December 13:
"(Osama bin Laden) suffered serious complications and died a natural, quiet death. He was buried in Tora Bora, a funeral attended by 30 Al Qaeda fighters, close members of his family and friends from the Taliban. By the Wahhabi tradition, no mark was left on the grave"
A videotape was released on December 27 showing a gaunt, unwell Bin Laden, prompting an unnamed White House aide to comment that it could have been made shortly before his death. On CNN, Dr Sanjay Gupta commented that Bin Laden's left arm never moved during the video, suggesting a recent stroke and possibly a symptom of kidney failure. According to Pakistani President Musharraf, Bin Laden required two dialysis machines, which also suggests kidney failure. "I think now, frankly, he is dead for the reason he is a... kidney patient," Musharraf said. If Bin Laden suffered kidney failure, he would require a sterile environment, electricity, and continuous attention by a team of specialists, Gupta said. In April 2002, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stated, "We have heard neither hide nor hair of him since, oh, about December in terms of anything hard." FBI Counterterrorism chief Dale Watson and President Karzai of Afghanistan also expressed the opinion that Bin Laden probably died at this time.
October 2002: In a CNN interview, Afghan President Hamid Karzai stated that "I would come to believe that [bin Laden] probably is dead."
April 2005: The Sydney Morning Herald stated "Dr Clive Williams, director of terrorism studies at the Australian National University, says documents provided by an Indian colleague suggested bin Laden died of massive organ failure in April last year ... 'It's hard to prove or disprove these things because there hasn't really been anything that allows you to make a judgment one way or the other,' Dr. Williams said."
Late 2005 CIA disbands "Bin Laden Issue Station" codenamed "Alec Station", the CIA's bin Laden tracking unit, 1996–2005
September 2006: On September 23, 2006, the French newspaper L'Est Républicain quoted a report from the French secret service (Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure, DGSE) stating that Osama bin Laden had died in Pakistan on August 23, 2006, after contracting a case of typhoid fever that paralyzed his lower limbs. According to the newspaper, Saudi security services first heard of bin Laden's alleged death on September 4, 2006. The alleged death was reported by the Saudi Arabian secret service to its government, which reported it to the French secret service. The French defense minister Michèle Alliot-Marie expressed her regret that the report had been published while French President Jacques Chirac declared that bin Laden's death had not been confirmed. American authorities also cannot confirm reports of bin Laden's death, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saying only, "No comment, and no knowledge." Later, CNN's Nic Robertson said that he had received confirmation from an anonymous Saudi source that the Saudi intelligence community has known for a while that bin Laden has a water-borne illness, but that he had heard no reports that it was specifically typhoid or that he had died.
November 2007: In an interview with political interviewer David Frost taken on November 2, 2007, the Pakistani politician and Pakistan Peoples Party leader Benazir Bhutto claimed that bin Laden had been murdered by Omar Sheikh. During her answer to a question pertaining to the identities of those who had previously attempted her own assassination, Bhutto named Sheikh as a possible suspect while referring to him as "the man who murdered Osama bin Laden." Despite the weight of such a statement, neither Bhutto nor Frost attempted to clarify it during the remainder of the interview. Omar Chatriwala, a journalist for Al Jazeera English, claims that he chose not to pursue the story at the time because he believes Bhutto misspoke, meaning to say Sheikh murdered Daniel Pearl and not Osama Bin Laden. The BBC drew criticism when it rebroadcast the Frost/Bhutto interview on its website, but edited out Bhutto's statement regarding Osama Bin Laden. Later the BBC apologized and replaced the edited version with the complete interview. In October 2007, Bhutto stated in an interview that she would cooperate with the American military in targeting Osama bin Laden.
March 2009: In an essay published in The American Spectator in March 2009, international relations professor Angelo Codevilla of Boston University argued that Osama bin Laden had been dead for many years.
April 2009: During an interview with the Telegraph, Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari raised the prospect that Osama bin Laden could be dead after he said that intelligence officials could find "no trace" of the al-Qaeda chief. Mr Zardari's predecessor, Pervez Musharraf, similarly suggested that the Saudi terror chief could be dead. Additionally, Pakistan's intelligence agencies also believe Osama bin Laden may be dead.
October 2009: An article in the British tabloid Daily Mail points out that the theory that Bin Laden died in 2001 "is gaining credence among political commentators, respected academics and even terror experts" and notes that the mounting evidence that supports the claim makes the theory "worthy of examination".
May 2011: Reports of Bin Ladin's death have hit the news.
Reports of his current whereaboutsMain article: Location of Osama bin Laden
Claims as to the location of Osama bin Laden have been made since December 2001, although none have been definitively proven and some have placed Osama in different locations during overlapping time periods. Since a major military offensive in Afghanistan in the wake of the 2001 al Qaeda attacks in the United States failed to uncover his whereabouts, Pakistan had regularly been identified as his suspected hiding place.
A December 11, 2005, letter from Atiyah Abd al-Rahman to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi indicates that bin Laden and the al-Qaeda leadership were based in the Waziristan region of Pakistan at the time. In the letter, translated by the United States military's Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, "Atiyah" instructs Zarqawi to "send messengers from your end to Waziristan so that they meet with the brothers of the leadership ... I am now on a visit to them and I am writing you this letter as I am with them..." Al-Rahman also indicates that bin Laden and al-Qaeda are "weak" and "have many of their own problems." The letter has been deemed authentic by military and counterterrorism officials, according to the Washington Post.
In 2009 a research team led by Thomas W. Gillespie and John A. Agnew of UCLA used satellite-aided geographical analysis to pinpoint three compounds in Parachinar as likely hideouts of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
In March 2009, the New York Daily News reported that the hunt for bin Laden had centered in the Chitral district of Pakistan, including the Kalam Valley. According to the report, author Rohan Gunaratna states that captured Al Qaeda leaders have confirmed that Chitral is where bin Laden is hiding.
In the first week of December 2009, a Taliban detainee in Pakistan said he had information that Bin Laden was in Afghanistan in 2009. The detainee said that in January or February (of 2009) he met a trusted contact who had seen Bin Laden about 15 to 20 days earlier in Afghanistan. But, the US has had no reliable information on the whereabouts of Bin Laden in years, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates admitted on December 6, 2009. Pakistan's Prime Minister Gillani rejected claims that Osama bin Laden would be hiding within his country.
On January 15, 2010, the FBI published digitally aged pictures of Osama bin Laden showing what he may look like after a decade of aging. Spanish newspaper El Mundo revealed that a picture of a Spanish politician, Gaspar Llamazares was taken from Google images and used to create the image. The FBI has admitted to this and removed the image from its website. Llamazares has responded by stating that he was stupefied by the FBI's decision to use his photograph to compose its latest image of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and that he is considering taking legal action if the FBI does not provide an explanation. An internal investigation has been launched by the FBI to find out if this was done intentionally.
On February 2, 2010, an anonymous official of the Saudi Foreign Ministry declared that the kingdom had no intention of getting involved in peacemaking in Afghanistan unless the Taliban would sever ties with extremists and expel Osama bin Laden. This condition was announced as the Afghan president Karzai arrived in the kingdom for an official visit, for a discussion of a possible Saudi role in his plan to reintegrate Taliban militants.
On June 7, 2010, the Kuwaiti Al Siyassa reported that Bin Laden was hiding in the mountainous town of Savzevar, in north eastern Iran. The Australian newspaper online published the claim on June 9.
On October 18, 2010, an unnamed NATO official suggested that bin Laden is "alive and well and living comfortably" in Pakistan, protected by elements of the country's intelligence services. A senior Pakistani official denied the allegations and said they were designed to put pressure on the Pakistani government ahead of talks aimed at strengthening ties between Pakistan and the United States.
On May 2, 2011, the White House declared that bin Laden was dead.
Criticism of Osama bin LadenMain article: Criticism of Osama bin Laden
Salafist Muslims have criticized bin Laden for adherence to Qutbism (the ideology of Sayyid Qutb), takfir and Khaarijite deviance. Critics are said to include Muhammad Ibn Haadee al-Madkhalee, Abd-al-Aziz ibn Abd-Allah ibn Baaz, Shaykh Saalih al-Fawzaan and Muqbil bin Haadi al-Waadi'ee. In August 2010, Fidel Castro claimed that bin Laden is a spy employed by the United States.
The White House reported bin Laden dead on May 1st, 2011.