Life and Times of World Acclaimed No.1 Terrorist

THISDAY Newspaper

Born March 1957 in the Saudi city of Riyadh, Osama was one of some 54 children born to Mohammad bin Laden, a construction magnate. His mother, of Syrian origin, was the 10th wife of Mohammed bin Laden. Osama's exact date of birth is unknown.

In 1969, Mohammed bin Laden, father of Osama, died in a helicopter crash in Saudi Arabia when his American pilot apparently misjudged a landing. Osama, then aged around 11, is believed to have inherited $80 million. Boy Osama later went on to study Civil Engineering at King Abdulaziz University in the city of Jeddah.

He formed links with extremist Muslim groups and builds up his fortune by managing the family construction business in 1973.

In 1974, bin Laden married his first wife at the age of 17. By 2002, he is believed to have married four women and fathered about two dozen children.

December 26, 1979: Soviet forces invade Afghanistan, an event that will precipitate a bloody 10-year war and radicalise a generation of Islamic extremists, including bin Laden.

1980: After leaving college, bin Laden heads to Afghanistan to fight the Soviet invasion.

In 1984, bin Laden co-founds Maktab al-Khadamat, a group which funnelled money, arms and Muslim fighters from around the Arabic world into the Afghan war.

The same 1984, bin Laden travelled to Afghanistan, responding to calls for a jihad, or holy Islamic war, against the Soviet occupying force. There, he finances and takes command of a force of some 20,000 Islamic fighters recruited from around the world.

In 1988 after splitting from Maktab al-Khadamat, bin Laden founded Al-Qaeda, although the existence of the organisation was a closely kept secret in the first few years.

When the Soviet Union withdrew its forces from Afghanistan in 1989, Al-Qaeda went on to become a worldwide network of Islamic extremist groups with members in between 35 and 60 countries and headquarters in Afghanistan.

Turning his attention to the West after Saudi Arabia allowed US troops on its soil, bin Laden was soon banished from that country and was exiled to Sudan in 1990.

In 1991, a US-led alliance launched a war to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait, which Iraq had occupied the previous year. Bin Laden declares jihad against the United States because it has based forces in his native Saudi Arabia, where Islam's two most holy places are located.

In 1992, bin Laden returned to Saudi Arabia, but his support for violent Islamic extremist groups in Egypt and Algeria led his home country to withdraw his passport. Expelled from Saudi Arabia, he took up residence in Sudan.

In 1992, the first bombing attack associated with bin Laden was reported, with the bombing of the Gold Mihor Hotel in Aden in which two people were killed.

And in February 26, 1993, another explosion in the basement of the World Trade Center in New York killed six people and injured about 1,000. The attack was later blamed on Al-Qaeda.

1994: The Saudi authorities strip bin Laden of his nationality after he issues fatwas, or Islamic religious pronouncements, denouncing both the royal family and the United States.

November 13, 1995: A car bomb explodes in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in front of a building of the Saudi National Guard where US military advisors work. Five US soldiers and two Indian nationals were killed and more than 60 people injured. The attack was attributed to bin Laden's group, which did not claim responsibility but made clear its support for those responsible.

June 25, 1996: A truck loaded with explosives destroys a building at the US military base of Khobar in Saudi Arabia. Nineteen US nationals were killed and 386 wounded.

In 1996, Sudan, facing pressure from the United Nations, tells bin Laden to leave. Rumours had it that he moved on to Yemen, then secretly to Saudi Arabia, but he ultimately resurfaces in Afghanistan, where he again issues fatwas against US citizens.

September 1996: The Taliban, a Pakistani-backed Islamic movement whose name means "religious students", captured the Afghan capital Kabul. Over the following six years they consolidated their hold over some 90 per cent of the country.

August 7, 1998: Near-simultaneous bomb attacks against US embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam killed 224 people, most of them Africans, and injured thousands.

August 20, 1998: In retaliation for the embassy attacks, the US strikes bin Laden training camps in Afghanistan and Sudan with cruise missiles, killing at least 20 people. Bin Laden was not present.

November 1998: Bin Laden was indicted by a New York court in connection with the embassy attacks in Tanzania and Kenya, and charged in absentia with murder and conspiracy to kill US citizens outside the United States.

1999: The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) placed bin Laden on its "10 most wanted" list.

October 12, 2000: A suicide attack on the destroyer USS Cole in the port of Aden in Yemen killed 17 US Marines and wounded 38. The attack was attributed to Al-Qaeda.

September 9, 2001: Ahmad Shah Masood, the head of the Afghan opposition Northern Alliance, was killed in a suicide attack in Northern Afghanistan.

September 11, 2001: Two hijacked US airliners crash into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, which subsequently collapsed. A third hijacked plane crashed into the Pentagon outside Washington and a fourth in rural Pennsylvania. The attacks killed about 3,000 people. Bin Laden was named principal suspect for coordinating the attacks in New York and Washington.

September 23, 2001: Washington offers a 25-million-dollar reward for any information leading to the arrest of bin Laden.

October 7, 2001: US-led strikes on Afghanistan began, aimed at forcing the ruling Taliban to hand over bin Laden. Bin Laden vowed no peace for the US and its citizens in a message broadcast via the Al-Jazeera television network. While not explicitly claiming responsibility for the attacks, he praised those who carried them out.

November 3, 2001: In a second message broadcast on Al-Jazeera, bin Laden appeals to all Muslims to defend their religion and Afghan citizens against the US "crusade", called the then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan a "criminal" and leaders of UN Arab members "infidels".

November 10, 2001: The Pakistani newspaper Dawn publishes an exclusive interview with bin Laden in which he claimed to have chemical and nuclear weapons. "I wish to declare that if America used chemical or nuclear weapons against us then we may retort with chemical and nuclear weapons,"

November 13, 2001: Afghan opposition forces enter the capital Kabul , marking the beginning of the end for the Taliban regime that sheltered bin Laden.

December 7, 2001: Afghan opposition forces entered the Southern city of Kandahar, the Taliban's birthplace and only remaining stronghold. Bin laden was believed to have fled to the remote Tora Bora Mountains in the East. Despite a massive US-led operation to track him down, the trail went dead.

December 13, 2001: Washington released a video recording in which bin Laden claims responsibility for the September 11 attacks and said they were beyond his expectations.

December 16, 2001: Afghan commander Haji Mohammad Zaman announces that 2,000 Al-Qaeda fighters were on the run after being flushed out of a network of caves and tunnels in Tora Bora, but that the world's most wanted man had managed to escape.

From early 2002, there were a series of claims, denials and reports on bin Laden's whereabouts. He was variously reported to be in Afghanistan, Iran Pakistan -- or dead.

February 6, 2003: Then Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf says bin Laden is probably alive and hiding in Afghanistan, but claimed Al-Qaeda was no longer an effective terrorist organisation.

March 1, 2003: Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, believed to be Al-Qaeda's number-three and the alleged mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, was arrested in Pakistan and handed over to US authorities.

March 20, 2003: US-led war against Iraq starts.

Bin Laden released a series of statements including comments on the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, threats of more attacks, and offered of a truce with the United States.

April 15, 2004: "I present a reconciliation initiative... to stop operations against all (European) countries if they promise not to be aggressive towards Muslims." (Al-Arabiya audiotape)

March 20, 2008: Warned Europe of a "reckoning" after controversial cartoons of Prophet Mohammed published. (Internet audiotape)

June 3, 2009: Scorned Obama's Middle East charm offensive and accused him of "antagonising Muslims."

January 24, 2010: Claimed botched Christmas Day bombing of US airliner and threatened more strikes on US targets. (Al-Jazeera audiotape).

January 29, 2010: Blames industrial nations for climate change and the United States for refusing to sign up to the Kyoto protocol, while urging a US dollar boycott. (Al-Jazeera audiotape).

May 1, 2011: Bin Laden is killed in a firefight with covert US forces in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad, North-east of the capital Islamabad, Obama announces in a televised address.

A US official says an adult son of the Al-Qaeda chief was also killed in the operation, which lasted less than 40 minutes.


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