Entries

Encyclopedia of World Biography International Encyclopedia of the Social SciencesThe Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.World Encyclopedia Further reading

NON JS

Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Laden

The Islamic fundamentalist leader Osama bin Laden (born 1957), a harsh critic of the United States and its policies, is widely believed to have orchestrated the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa, as well as the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden. But it is his role as the apparent mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that have made bin Laden one of the most infamous and sought-after figures in recent history.

The 6-foot-5, lanky, bearded leader—soft-spoken and effeminate, even when he rails against America—is a man of tremendous wealth, and makes an unlikely spokesman for the poor and oppressed people of Islam whom he claims to represent. Nevertheless, his call for a jihad, or holy war, against the United States and Israel, has been heeded by like-minded fundamentalist Muslims.

Raised in Great Wealth

Born in Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia, Osama bin Laden was the son of Mohammad bin Laden, one of the country's wealthiest business leaders. Some sources state that he is the seventh son, while others claim that he is the seventeenth of some 50 children born to the construction magnate and his various wives. Young bin Laden led a privileged life, surrounded by pampering servants and residing in air-conditioned houses well insulated from the oppressive desert heat. He may have heard tales of poverty from his father, who started his career as a destitute Yemeni porter. He moved to Saudi Arabia and eventually become the owner of the kingdom's largest construction company.

Mohammed bin Laden's success was in part due to the strong personal ties he cultivated with King Saud after he rebuilt the monarch's palaces for a price much lower than any other bidder. Favored by the royal family, Mohammed served for a time as minister of public works. King Faisal, who succeeded Saud, issued a decree that all construction projects go to Mohammed's company, the Binladin Group. Among these construction projects were lucrative contracts to rebuild mosques in Mecca and Medina. When Mohammed died in a helicopter crash in 1968, his children inherited the billionaire's construction empire. Osama bin Laden, then 13 years old, purportedly came into a fortune of some $300 million.

A Passion for Religious Politics

Young bin Laden attended schools in Jedda, and was encouraged to marry early, at the age of 17, to a Syrian girl and family relation. She was to be the first of several wives. In 1979 he earned a degree in civil engineering from King Abdul-Aziz University. He seemed to be preparing to join the family business, but he did not continue on that course for long.

Former classmates of bin Laden recall him as a frequent patron of Beirut nightclubs, who drank and caroused with his Saudi royalty cohorts. Yet it was also at the university that bin Laden met the Muslim fundamentalist Sheik Abdullah Azzam, perhaps his first teacher of religious politics and his earliest influence. Azzam spoke fervently of the need to liberate Islamic nations from foreign interests and interventions, and he indoctrinated his disciples in the strictest tenets of the Muslim faith. Bin Laden, however, would eventually cultivate a brand of militant religious extremism that exceeded his teacher's.

Joined the Afghan War

As a student in the late 1970s, bin Laden was galvanized by events that seemed to pit both the Western world and communist Russia against Muslim nations. One of these was the Camp David peace accords between Egypt and Israel; another was the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan. In December 1979, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, bin Laden, like many other Muslims, rose to join the jihad declared against the attackers. He did not initially enter the fray as a soldier, but instead channeled his efforts into the organization and financing of the mujahedeen, or Afghan resistance. Over the next ten years, he used his tremendous wealth to buy arms, build training camps, and provide food and medical care. He was said to have occasionally joined the fighting, and to have participated in the bloody siege of Jalalabad in 1989, in which Afghanistan wrested control from the Soviet Union.

The United States, then embroiled in the Cold War with the Soviet Union, provided help to bin Laden and his associates. Although in many respects he worked side by side with the Americans to defeat the Soviets, bin Laden remained wary of the Western superpower. "To counter these atheist Russians, the Saudis chose me as their representative in Afghanistan," bin Laden later told a French journalist in an interview quoted by the Public Broadcasting System's (PBS) Frontline. "I did not fight against the communist threat while forgetting the peril from the West. … [W]e had to fight on all fronts against communist or Western oppression."

Formed "Al Qaeda"

During the war, bin Laden forged connections with the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the militant group linked with the 1981 assassination of President Anwar el-Sadat. Under the influence of this group, bin Laden was persuaded to help expand the jihad and enlist as many Muslims as possible to rebel against so-called infidel regimes. In 1988 he and the Egyptians founded Al Qaeda, ("The Base"), a network initially designed to build fighting power for the Afghan resistance. Al Qaeda would later become known as a radical Islamic group with bin Laden at the helm, and with the United States as the key target for its terrorist acts.

After the war, bin Laden was touted as a hero in Afghanistan as well as in his homeland. He returned to Saudi Arabia to work for the Binladin Group, but he remained preoccupied with extremist religious politics. Now it was his homeland that concerned him. In 1990 Saudi Arabia's King Fahd, worried about a possible invasion by Iraq, asked the United States and its allies to station troops that would defend Saudi soil. Eager to protect its interests in the oil-producing kingdom, the United States complied. Bin Laden, euphoric after the Afghan victory and proud of the power of Muslim nations, was outraged that Fahd had asked a non-Muslim country for protection. He now channeled his energy and money into opposition movements against the Saudi monarchy.

As an outspoken critic of the royal family, bin Laden gained a reputation as a troublemaker. For a time, he was placed under house arrest in Jedda. His siblings, who had strong ties to the monarchy, vehemently opposed his antics and severed all ties—familial and economic—with their upstart brother. "He was totally ostracized by the family and by the kingdom," Daniel Uman, who worked with the Binladin Group, told an interviewer for the New York Times. The Saudi government, ever watchful of bin Laden, caught him smuggling weapons from Yemen and revoked his passport. No longer a Saudi citizen, he was asked to leave the country.

With several wives and many children, bin Laden relocated with his family to Sudan, where a militant Islamic government ruled. In Sudan, he was welcomed for his great wealth, which he used to establish a major construction company as well as other businesses. He also focused on expanding Al Qaeda, building terrorist training camps and forging ties with other militant Islamic groups. His primary aim had become to thwart the presence of American troops in Muslim countries.

Orchestrated First Terrorist Attacks

Bin Laden regarded even American humanitarian efforts as disgraces to Muslim countries. The first terrorist attack believed to trace back to bin Laden involved the December 1992 explosion of a bomb at a hotel in Aden, Yemen. American troops, en route to Somalia for a humanitarian mission, had been staying at the hotel, but they had already left. Two Austrian tourists were killed. Almost a year later, 18 American servicemen were shot down over Mogadishu in Somalia. Bin Laden initially claimed not to be involved in the attack, yet he later admitted to an Arabic newspaper that he had played a role in training the guerrilla troops responsible for the attack.

Several months later, on February 26, 1993, a bomb exploded in the parking garage of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing six and injuring more than 1,000. Though it has not been proven, bin Laden is widely suspected of being the mission's ringleader. Many believe it was the terrorist leader's first attempt to destroy the towers, which suicide hijackers succeeded in toppling in 2001. United States and Saudi leaders pressured the Sudanese government to expel bin Laden. In 1996 he left the country voluntarily, according to Sudanese officials.

Declared Holy War Against United States

That same year, bin Laden openly declared war on America, calling upon his followers to expel Americans and Jews from all Muslim lands. In a statement quoted by PBS's Frontline, he called for "fast-moving, light forces that work under complete secrecy." Interviewed by Cable News Network (CNN) in 1997, bin Laden said, "[The United States] has committed acts that are extremely unjust, hideous, and criminal, whether directly or through its support of the Israeli occupation." The following year he issued an edict evoking even stronger language: "We—with God's help— call on every Muslim who believes in God and wishes to be rewarded to comply with God's order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it."

After the Sudanese government asked him to leave, bin Laden operated out of Afghanistan. He is believed to have orchestrated at least a dozen attacks, some successful, some not. Among the worst of these were two truck bombings, both on August 7, 1998, of U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The Nairobi bombing killed 213 people (only 12 were Americans) and wounded 4,500. The Dar es Salaam attack left 11 dead and 85 wounded. This news, compounded by intelligence reports suspecting that bin Laden had been attempting to acquire chemical and biological weapons, prompted U.S. action. President Bill Clinton responded with cruise missile attacks on suspected Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan. In November 1998 the U.S. State Department promised $5 million to anyone with information leading to bin Laden's arrest.

Despite attempts to apprehend him, bin Laden eluded the American government and continued plotting against it. Not all of his efforts were successful. A failed plan to bomb Los Angeles International Airport on New Year's Eve, 1999—suspected to be one of several failed attacks designed to correspond with the millennium—was linked to Al Qaeda. Bin Laden is also suspected of orchestrating a botched attack on the USS The Sullivans, a U.S. warship stationed off the coast of Yemen. "[I]n what seemed to us a kind of comic presentation of what happened," recalled New York Times reporter Judith Miller, "the would-be martyrs loaded up their boat with explosives and set the little dingy out to meet The Sullivans and the [dingy] was overloaded and sank."

The same group, with bin Laden at the helm, is widely believed to be responsible for the October 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole, carried out in the same waters only a few months after the Sullivans failure. The terrorists had apparently learned from their mistakes. The attack killed 17 U.S. navy personnel and left many wounded. Yemeni officials later reported that five suspects in the incident had admitted to training in bin Laden's Al Qaeda camps.

Prime Suspect in Attacks on America

Bin Laden's hatred for America had become well known, but nothing had prepared Americans for the most extravagant and heinous plot allegedly hatched by the terrorist leader: the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. On the clear, late-summer morning, two hijacked commercial jets flew into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. About an hour later, another hijacked airliner slammed into the Pentagon in the nation's capital. A fourth hijacked jet did not reach its target, crashing in Western Pennsylvania instead. When the massive towers collapsed in flames, thousands perished. Among those lost in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania were the 19 hijackers, most of whom have been linked to Al Qaeda operations. Bin Laden denied involvement in the attacks, but he praised the hijackers for their acts.

The U.S. government nevertheless regarded the terrorist leader as their prime suspect. President George W. Bush demanded that Afghanistan's Taliban government turn him over or face war, but to no avail. In early October, U.S. forces began striking Afghan targets, declaring a war on terrorism and on the countries that harbor terrorists.

Bin Laden's followers, who support a radical fundamentalist brand of Islam, remain devoted to their leader and continue to heed his call for a holy war. Ever wary of the price America has put on his head, he has reportedly chosen a successor: Muhammad Atef, an Egyptian Muslim who married bin Laden's daughter in January 2001.

Periodicals

Anonymous, October 12, 2001.

Los Angeles Times, September 15, 2001.

New York Times, September 14, 2001; October 28, 2001.

Reuters, October 3, 2001.

Online

"Hunting bin Laden," Frontline,http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/binladen (October 24, 2001).

"Laden, Osama bin," Biography.com,http://www.biography.com (October 24, 2001). □

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Osama bin Laden." Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jul. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Osama bin Laden." Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. (July 26, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3404707962.html

"Osama bin Laden." Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2004. Retrieved July 26, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3404707962.html

Bin Laden, Osama

Bin Laden, Osama 1957-

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Osama bin Laden was born the seventeenth of Muhammed bin Ladens fifty-two children and the seventeenth of his twenty-four sons, in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, on March 10, 1957. Osama bin Laden was, however, the only child of Alia Ghanem of Syria, perhaps the most beautiful of Muhammed bin Ladens many wives, but different and separate from the Saudi clan and soon to be divorced by her husband. Muhammed bin Laden began life as a poor Yemeni bricklayer, uneducated and one-eyed. He became an enormously wealthy building contractor in Saudi Arabia after crafting intimate ties with the royal family.

Osama bin Ladens youth was spent in Hejaz, a southern Arabian province. In 1976 he graduated from private school, the Al Thagher Model School, near the port town of Jedda where he grew up. Described by former teachers and classmates as an outstanding student, bin Laden spent his extra time involved in a for-credit after school Islamic study group for exceptional students. Many believe it could be there that he first acquired a formal education in jihad. Classes were on the principles of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization founded in Egypt in the 1920s and based on Islamic activism, political consciousness, and jihad. Bin Laden graduated from Jeddas prestigious King Abel Aziz University with a degree in civil engineering. The stories of bin Laden as a hard-drinking partygoer in Beirut in his youth are almost certainly wrong (and probably confuse him with one of his many brothers or other family members). On the contrary, at the university bin Laden was earnest and studious. He took the Quʾran, at least his fundamentalist reading of it, to heart.

In 1979 the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in what would turn out to be a disastrous war that would lead to Soviet defeat and the collapse of the empire. There immediately arose throughout the Muslim world a mythic call for jihadembraced by the Saudi royal family itselfin defense of the Islamic peoples of Afghanistan against the godless infidel Russians. Osama bin Laden responded warmly to that call. At first he raised money for the cause, then in the early 1980s, with his spiritual mentor, Abdullah Azzam (19411989), established the Maktab al-Khidamat (services offices) in Pakistans University of Peshawar to direct support and resources to the fighters out in the field. In 1986 the twenty-nine-year-old Osama bin Laden added a heroic battlefield experience to his expanding mythic vita at the battle of Jaji. In his account, which is probably as much inspirational fairytale as actual history, he and the Afghan fighters were thirty meters from the Russians. He came close to being captured, but was so peaceful in his heart that he went to sleep for a while. Mortars fell around him and miraculously failed to explode. We beat the Soviet Union, he said (bin Laden, 2005). The Russians fled.

Bin Ladens Islamist triumphalism and his insistence on the continuation of jihad made him a nuisance in Saudi Arabia, which forced him to leave the country in 1991 and finally revoked his citizenship in 1994, despite his impeccable family ties. He spent the next half-decade in Sudan, a remote and lawless land in which he could operate mostly outside of international control as he plotted his next move. One important event in these years that led to his further radicalization was the Gulf War of 1991. He was appalled that Saudi Arabia would allow American troops to be based on what he saw as sacred Saudi soil as they massed troops for an attack against a fellow Muslim country. He personally despised Iraqi president Saddam Hussein (19372006) but regarded Iraqis as brethren in faith. Bin Laden became so extreme in his extravagant rhetoric against the royal family that the Saudi government in 1994 finally revoked his citizenship and tried to strip him of all of his assets, though by then his considerable fortune was invested in many global enterprises and out of their reach.

But Sudan in turn eventually succumbed to pressure from the United States, and in 1996 bin Laden was expelled. A man without a country, he chose to relocate in what was by then an Afghanistan controlled by the fundamentalist Taliban. It was there that bin Laden breathed new life into Al-Qaeda, or base, for global terrorist operations, an organization founded in 1988 as the Soviets were pulling out of Afghanistan. For the next five years he operated with virtual impunity in a remote land under Islamist control. In the Afghan camps, thousands of jihadis received training in terrorism. They were committed to the ideals of global jihad and to Osama bin Laden, to whom they took a personal vow of loyalty. Most of those in the camps were foot soldiers, but some, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (who devised what was called the planes projects or what became the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001) and Mohammed Atta (the head of operations for the 9/11 attacks) were central figures in the Afghan camps.

Bin Ladens chief lieutenant was Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian medical doctor who had been tortured in Cairo prisons. Al-Zawahiri had been inspired in the 1950s and 1960s by the writings of Sayyid Qutb (19061966), an Islamist intellectual who was hanged in prison by Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser (19181970). It was Qutb who resurrected an idea at least seven centuries old that violent jihad was at the center of the faith, that purification of Islam went along with eradication of infidels, and that the only goal worth pursuing was the re-creation of a world modeled on that which the Prophet specifically created. Bin Laden, of course, knew the writings of Qutb, though probably mostly through others inspired by Qutb, such as al-Zawahiri and Azzam. Al-Zawahiri, however, was important in other ways to bin Laden. Al-Zawahiri was not an effective leader himself, and in 1996 he merged his Al-Jihad into bin Ladens Al-Qaeda, formally joining the long Egyptian tradition of the Muslim Brotherhood with Wahhabi fundamentalism. Al-Zawahiri proved a formidable ally, able to conceptualize a global jihad and help implement it organizationally.

Al-Qaeda was structured along the lines of a multinational corporation. Bin Laden was the CEO, and each unit, which could thrive apart from the other divisions, was headed by the equivalent of a vice president. It was a structure intended to survive attack and disruption. Funding came in part from bin Laden himself, though his personal fortune was far less than most imagined and probably not more than a million or so dollars a year. Most funding came from donations and a global network of charities. Until 9/11 bin Laden did not seem short of funds.

It was his ideology of jihad that made bin Laden remarkable in these years. He was a religious fanatic and a well-organized businessman, a mystic and master of bureaucratic detail, a man plotting mass destruction and death, and a soft-spoken dreamer who reinvigorated an Islamist movement in ways that have not been seen in the Muslim world since Saladin in the twelfth century. On August 23, 1996, in his Declaration of Jihad bin Laden called on all his Muslim brothers to help him share in the jihad against the enemies of God, your enemies the Israelis and Americans (bin Laden 2005, pp. 2330). And on February 23, 1998, in his declaration of the World Islamic Front, bin Laden declared a kind of universal declaration of war against Jews and Crusaders and declared it was an individual duty incumbent on every Muslim in all countries to kill Americans and their allies (bin Laden 2005, pp. 5862). This declaration of war took the fight outside of the sectarian battles in the Middle East and into the very heart of the enemy lands. Bin Laden wanted concrete political things: American troops out of Saudi Arabia, the defeat of Israel and the liberation of the Palestinians, and the overthrow of corrupt secular Muslim rule in the Middle East. But he also harbored millennial dreams involving the annihilation of American, Western, and Jewish culture in a forge of violence that was redemptive and purifying.

On September 11, 2001, Al-Qaeda struck New York City and the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., in an extraordinarily successful terrorist attack. That the attacks worked as well as they did was also in large part due to pure luck on bin Ladens part. The World Trade Center collapsed in an inferno of fire mainly due to failures in the architectural conception of the buildings themselves. The whole operation cost well under half a million dollars, and it has caused several hundred billion dollars in direct and indirect damage.

But the spiritual and political costs of 9/11 are incalculable. The 2,749 people who died that day in New York lingered in the air, literally, and many were inhaled by New Yorkers with dust from the collapsed towers. It all made for incomplete mourning that certainly lasted through the months of clearing away the debris but also into the two wars that soon followed, the second of which is the extended war in Iraq. Many live with a special dread from that day, and it serves to symbolize the malevolence of contemporary history. Most Americans believe, if asked in the right way, that if Osama bin Laden had possessed nuclear weapons before 9/11 he would have placed one on a plane crashing into those towers.

Thankfully, Osama bin Laden did not possess such a weapon. As of 2007, he was hiding somewhere, probably in the mountainous border region of Pakistan and Afghanistan, basically out of commission, though by remaining alive he inspires others to act in his name and may even continue to direct some actual operations. Bin Ladens legacy is mixed. There is no question he has changed the world and the violence he directed may occasion a realignment of power in the relationship between the West and the Muslim Middle East. It also energized the new terrorism for many years and disrupted advanced economies in ways few could have imagined possible before 9/11. On the other hand, the violence of bin Laden and Al-Qaeda may backfire for the Muslim world, leading to disruption and civil war and further isolation, rather than renewal along the lines of Islamist fantasies. It may be many years before we will know with any degree of certainty whether the twenty-first century will be relatively free of terrorism and violence.

SEE ALSO Central Intelligence Agency, U.S.; Fundamentalism, Islamic; September 11, 2001; Terrorism; Terrorists

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Anti-Defamation League. Osama bin Laden: ADL

Backgrounder.

http://www.adl.org/terrorism_america/bin_l.asp.

Bergen, Peter L. 2001. Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden. New York: Free Press.

bin Laden, Osama. 2005. Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden, ed. Bruce Lawrence. London: Verso.

Coll, Steve. 2004. Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. New York: Penguin.

Hoffman, Bruce. 2003. The Leadership Secrets of Osama Bin Laden: The Terrorist as CEO. Atlantic Monthly 291 (3): 2627.

Hoffman, Bruce. 2006. Inside Terrorism. Rev. ed. New York: Columbia University Press.

Jacquard, Roland. 2002. In the Name of Osama bin Laden: Global Terrorism and the Bin Laden Brotherhood. Trans. George Holoch. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Juergensmeyer, Mark. 2003. Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence. 3rd ed. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Kepel, Gilles. 2002. JIHAD: The Trial of Political Islam. Trans. Anthony F. Roberts. Cambridge, MA: Belknap.

Randal, Jonathan C. 2004. Osama: The Making of a Terrorist. New York: Knopf.

Scheuer, Michael. 2006. Through Our Enemies Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam, and the Future of America. 2nd rev. ed. Washington, DC: Potomac Books.

Stern, Jessica. 2003. Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill. New York: HarperCollins.

Weaver, Mary Anne. 2005. The War on Terror: Four Years On: Lost at Tora Bora. New York Times Magazine. September 11: Sec 6: 54.

WGBH Boston, with New York Times Television. 2003. Frontline: Chasing the Sleeper Cell.

Williams, Paul L. 2004. Osamas Revenge: The Next 9/11, What the Media and the Government Havent Told You. New York: Prometheus.

Charles B. Strozier
Renee Cummings

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Bin Laden, Osama." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. 2008. Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jul. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Bin Laden, Osama." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. 2008. Encyclopedia.com. (July 26, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3045300191.html

"Bin Laden, Osama." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. 2008. Retrieved July 26, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3045300191.html

bin Laden, Osama

Osama bin Laden (ōsä´mə bĬn läd´ən, ŭsä´mə), 1957?–2011, Saudi-born leader of Al Qaeda, 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 the First 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 Islamist Taliban had come to power. That same year he issued a "declaration of war" against the United States. Al Qaeda trained terrorists that were linked to the 1996 car bombings 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 was 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 him over. 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. It had been thought that bin Laden was hiding in Pashtun-dominated areas of Pakistan near Afghanistan, but in 2011 he was killed in a U.S. raid in Abbottabad, NE Pakistan, where he had lived for five years. It was unclear how much control he had exercised over Al Qaeda's everyday operations during this period.

See his Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden (2005); biography by M. Scheuer (2011); M. Owen, No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama bin Laden (with K. Maurer, 2012); studies by P. L. Bergen (2001, 2006, and 2011), A. J. Dennis (2002), R. Jacquard (2002), S. Coll (2004 and 2008), J. Randal (2004), and L. Wright (2006).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"bin Laden, Osama." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2016. Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jul. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"bin Laden, Osama." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2016. Encyclopedia.com. (July 26, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-binLaden.html

"bin Laden, Osama." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2016. Retrieved July 26, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-binLaden.html

Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Laden (1957– ) Saudi dissident, leader of al-Qaeda (Arabic, ‘the base’), a loose network of terrorist groups. He commanded a group of Arab mujaheddin against Soviet troops in Afghanistan. Expelled by the Saudi government in 1991, after denouncing the presence of US soldiers in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War (1991), bin Laden went first to the Sudan and then to Afghanistan. In 1998, he was named as the architect of the bomb attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The US responded with missile attacks against suspected bases in Sudan and Afghanistan. In 2001 evidence linked him to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, New York City, and the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., which claimed more than 3000 lives. The US declared war on al-Qaeda and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Osama bin Laden." World Encyclopedia. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jul. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Osama bin Laden." World Encyclopedia. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. (July 26, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O142-OsamabinLaden.html

"Osama bin Laden." World Encyclopedia. 2005. Retrieved July 26, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O142-OsamabinLaden.html

Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Laden: see bin Laden, Osama.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Osama bin Laden." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2016. Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jul. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Osama bin Laden." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2016. Encyclopedia.com. (July 26, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-X-OsmbnLdn.html

"Osama bin Laden." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2016. Retrieved July 26, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-X-OsmbnLdn.html

Facts and information from other sites