Who is Osama bin laden

    • Who is Osama bin laden

      Osama Bin Laden: Has called for a holy war against the US
      Osama Bin Laden is America's most wanted man but also a hero to many young people in the Muslim world.
      He is wanted by the US in connection with a growing number of terrorist atrocities, including the 1998 bombing of two US embassies in Africa and the bombing of the USS Cole warship in October 2000.
      And now he is Washington's chief suspect in the assaults on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
      Those who have met him describe Bin Laden as a mild-mannered man, who is polite and hospitable to strangers, yet he has become the most hated and implacable opponent of the US and all it stands for.
      Born in 1957 into a wealthy family in Saudi Arabia to a Yemeni father and a Syrian mother, he had an unremarkable childhood.
      Like his father, who had made his fortune from the construction business and had close ties with the Saudi royal family, the young Bin Laden was religious but not especially so.
      At school and university he joined the Muslim Brotherhood.
      When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, he went to Pakistan, where he met the Afghan rebel leaders fighting against the occupation.
      When he returned he collected money and supplies for the Afghan resistance, the mujahedin.
      He made further trips, delivering aid and arms, spending more time in Afghanistan, where he became involved in gun battles with the Soviets.
      Rebel commander
      As a wealthy Saudi, he stood out and acquired a following.
      Other Arabs, Egyptians, Lebanese, Turks and others - numbering thousands in Bin Laden's estimate - joined their Afghan Muslim brothers in the struggle against a Soviet ideology that spurned religion.
      Bin Laden opened a guesthouse in Peshawar - a stopping-off point for Arab mujahedin fighters - and eventually, their numbers became so large that Mr Bin Laden built camps for them inside Afghanistan.
      He gave the umbrella group for his guesthouse and camps a name: al-Qaeda, Arabic for "the base".
      As a military commander, Bin Laden was respected for his organisational skills, his bravery and, above all, for his ability to survive.
      Early on, he realised that any unknown package, any unexpected visitor could spell danger.
      American backing
      The Afghan jihad against the Soviet army was backed with American dollars and had the blessing of the governments of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
      After the Soviet withdrawal, the "Arab Afghans", as Bin Laden's faction came to be called, looked forward to a warm welcome at home.
      But Bin Laden quickly became disillusioned by the lack of recognition for his achievements.
      This turned to anger when his offer to provide an army of mujahedin to defend the kingdom after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, was turned down.
      Instead, half a million US soldiers were invited onto Saudi soil - a historic betrayal in Bin Laden's eyes.
      Never a wholehearted supporter of the Saudi regime, Bin Laden now became an out-and-out opponent and began to direct his efforts against the US and its allies in the Middle East.
      In 1991 Bin Laden was expelled because of his anti-government activities.
      Period of radicalisation
      He spent the next five years in Sudan, where he used his money to fund a number of infrastructure projects for the Islamist government in Khartoum.
      The Saudi Government is said to have sought reconciliation, but when this failed, it froze his bank accounts and stripped him of his Saudi citizenship.
      The US put pressure on the Sudanese Government to expel him, prompting Bin Laden's return to his present hiding-place in Afghanistan.
      As he felt himself under more pressure Bin Laden became more messianic and radical.
      By the mid-1990s, he was calling for a global war against all Americans and Jews and in 1998, he issued his famous fatwa (religious ruling), amounting to a declaration of war against the US
      Two simultaneous bomb attacks against US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania followed a few months later.
      Although Bin Laden never claimed responsibility, those who were arrested for their part in the bombing named him as a backer.
      'Terrorist sponsor'
      The US State Department has called him "one of the most significant sponsors of Islamic extremist activities in the world today".
      But some analysts say it may have been a mistake to boost Bin Laden's stature by giving him the credit for these atrocities without adequate proof.
      This may have served to rally support from radical Sunni Muslim groups throughout the Arab and Muslim world.
      One reason for the Taleban's continuing support for Bin Laden, they say, is that he gives their claim to be the vanguard of the new Sunni Islamic revolution greater credibility.
      Islamic front
      Experts say Bin Laden is part of an international Islamic front, bringing together Saudi, Egyptian and other groups.
      Their rallying cry is the liberation of Islam's three holiest places - Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem.
      Bin Laden's organisation appears to be very different from the groups that carried out bombings and hijackings in the past in that it is not a tightly knit group with a clear command structure but a loose coalition of groups operating across continents.
      American officials believe Bin Laden's associates may operate in over 40 countries - in Europe and North America, as well as in the Middle East and Asia.
      The fear must now be that even if Bin Laden himself is eliminated, the movement in which he is a leading figure will be harder to crush.