Until his death, Osama bin Laden was a household name – Public Enemy #1. The Saudi led Muslim terror attacks under the flag of his militant group Al Qaeda.
Many people believe that bin Laden died in a cave in the wilds of Afghanistan. Not so.
On May 2, 2011 – more than nine years after the 2001 9/11 attacks – U.S. military forces and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agents tracked him to a compound in Pakistan after following his most trusted courier for several months.
Far from primitive cave-like conditions, the sprawling compound was located at the end of a long dirt road, surrounded by tall security fences, in Abbottabad, a wealthy hamlet 35 miles from Islamabad.
During the cover of darkness on a night with no moonlight, 79 American commandos in four helicopters swooped into the compound. Shots were fired. In the main house, the commandos found bin Laden in an upstairs room of the main house, an AK-47 and a Makarov pistol within arm’s reach. They shot him dead and wounded a female companion.
A Navy Seal took a camera photograph and uploaded it to analysts who ran it through a facial recognition program to confirm the Al Quaeda leader’s identity. Oddly enough, the official story is that Bin Laden’s corpse was transported in a helicopter for burial at sea rather than preserved for autopsy.
Osama bin Laden was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He was the 17th of 52 children born to Mohammed bin Laden, an immigrant from Yemeni who owned the largest construction company in Saudi Arabia. His siblings received Western educations and returned to work for the family business. By then, it had grown into a major distribution center for products ranging from Snapple drinks to Volkswagen automobiles.
Make that a golden spoon. In 1967, at about age 10, bin Laden’s father was killed in a plane crash, leaving his 17th child an inheritance reported to be about $300 million.
Osama attended a local college in Jiddah in the late 1970s, took a wife at a young age, and joined the popular Muslim Brotherhood. Bin Laden was exposed to the ideas of radical pan-Islamist scholar Abdullah Azzam who exhorted all Muslims to rise up in jihad (holy war) to create a single Islamic state – a caliphate.
The idealist Islamist objected to mounting Western (non-Muslim) influences on life in his homeland.
In 1988, bin Laden formed al Qaeda (“the Base”) to focus on symbolic acts of terrorism rather than military campaigns. In 1989, bin Laden returned to Saudi Arabia from Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal to increase fundraising efforts for his new, complex mission.
In 1990, bin Laden said that al Qaeda would overpower the Americans to become “master of this world.” Early the following year, he traveled to Sudan, seeking sympathetic militant Muslims. A year of preparation paid off with Al Qaeda’s first attack, a hotel bomb in Aden, Yemen, that killed two Austrian tourists. The hotel had sheltered American troops en route to a peacekeeping mission in Somalia.
Al Qaeda continued organizing and executing terrorist attacks:
- Training and arming the Somali rebels who killed 18 American servicemen in Mogadishu in 1993
- Linked to the 1993 bombing of New York’s World Trade Center
- The attempted assassination of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarek in 1995
- The bombing of a U.S. National Guard training center in Riyadh, also in 1995
- The truck bomb that destroyed the Khobar Towers, an American military residence in Dharan, in 1996
In 1996, bin Laden relocated from Sudan to Afghanistan as Al Qaeda attacks grew in size and fury:
On August 7, 1998, bombs exploded simultaneously at the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya (killing 213 people and injuring 4,500), and Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania (11 dead and 85 injured). Al Qaeda took credit for both bombings.
On October 12, 2000, a small boat carrying explosives rammed the hull of the U.S.S. Cole, an American naval destroyer docked off the coast of Yemen, killing 17 sailors and injuring 38. Bin Laden took credit for that attack, too.
A U.S. federal grand jury indicted bin Laden on charges related to the embassy bombings but without a defendant no trial was possible.
And then, 9/11 happened. American officials accused Al Qaeda of being responsible and intensified efforts to neutralize bin Laden. For nearly ten years, the terrorist leader succeeded in eluding detection. He broadcasted videos and radio of himself to prove he was still alive and taunt his Western enemies, issued religious decrees (fatwas), recruited zealous youth to wage jihad under his cause, and schemed up new attacks.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) put a $25-million bounty on bin Laden’s head under its Rewards for Justice program, run by the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security.
After his death, a handwritten will by Osama bin Laden said his fortune amounted to “about 29 million dollars” and <https://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2016/03/01/468692846/osama-bin-ladens-will-29-million-that-should-be-spent-on-jihad> directed</a> that all of it be spent on furthering religious war with non-Muslim nations:
“I hope, for my brothers, sisters, and maternal aunts, to obey my will and to spend all the money that I have left in Sudan on Jihad, for the sake of Allah.”