Born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on March 10, 1957, Osama bin Laden was the only son of Muhammed Awad bin Laden. Muhammed was a wealthy businessman and had close ties with the House of Saud, the royal family of Saudi Arabia. Soon after Osama bin Laden was born, his parents divorced and his mother then remarried Muhammad al-Attas. Over time, the family evolved to seven members as bin Laden had three step brothers and one step sister.
Following his father’s footsteps and while attending King Abdulaziz University, bin Laden studied economics and business administration. Although not proven, it is reported in 1979 bin Laden earned a degree in civil engineering and a public administration degree in 1981. Some sources report bin Laden fled the university during his third year never earning a degree. During his time at the university, bin Laden’s main interest was religion as he was involved in both interpreting the Quran and jihad, and charitable work. Bin Laden was raised a devoted Sunni Muslim.
Bin Laden married his first wife, Najwa Ghanem in 1974 at the age of seventeen. It is reported bin Laden married four other women, divorcing two. Sources state bin Laden has fathered 12 to 24 children.
Within his religious beliefs, bin Laden deems that the renewal of Islamic religious law will restore the Muslim world, while all other system of beliefs must be resisted. He also believes Afghanistan, under the rule of Mullah Omar’s Taliban, was the “only Islamic country” within the Muslim world. Bin Laden has consistently dwells on the need for jihad to correct what he believes are injustices against Muslims, as he feels the United States must withdrawal from the Middle East, thus the creation of al-Qaeda.
Osama bin laden founded al-Qaeda, in 1988, in order to consolidate the international network he established during the Afghan war. As the creator, his goals were the enlargement of Islamic revolutions all over the Muslim world and fending off foreign involvement in the Middle East.
From 1979 to 1988, bin Laden was involved in the altercation against the Soviet Union’s incursion of Afghanistan, the fight ended with a Soviet defeat at the hands of international militants, including the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Abdulla Azzam, Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood leader, and bin Laden teamed up and directed one of seven main cells involved in the confrontation. The two leaders established military training bases in Afghanistan and founded Makab Al Khidamat which was a support network which provided recruits with funds through worldwide establishments, including the United States.
Upon creation of Makab Al Khidamat, it was clear bin Laden and Azzam had very different views for the reasons the cell was established. Bin Laden then founded al-Qaeda with is own affiliations he had created during the Afghanistan war, as well as his own international network reputation and much access to large sums of money. Azzam was assassinated the following year.
Upon the end of the war, the Afgan-Arabs, the volunteers who fought the Soviets, returned to their countries of origin or joined the conflicts in Somalia, the Balkans and Chechnya. This assisted Al Qaeda’s global reach and facilitated the second and third generation of Al Qaeda terrorists.
After the first Gulf War, bin Laden reallocated his focus to fighting the growing U.S. existence Saudi Arabia. Al Qaeda vocally opposed the positioning of U.S. troops on what it considered the holiest of Islamic lands and waged an extended campaign of terrorism against the Saudi rulers, whom bin Laden deemed to be false Muslims. The ultimate objective of this campaign was to overthrow the Saudi royal family and install an Islamic regime on the Arabian Peninsula. The Saudi regime then deported bin Laden in 1992 while revoking his citizenship in 1994.
Bin Laden continued on leading Al Qaeda in an assassination attempt against Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in Ethiopia in June 1995. Two major terrorist actions against the U.S. military in Saudi Arabia, a November 1995 attack in Riyadh and the June 1996 Khobar Towers bombing, also fit Al Qaeda’s strategy at the time, but their connection to Al Qaeda is not entirely clear.
After moving to Afghanistan, bin Laden escalated his anti-American idiom. In an interview with the Independent in July 1996, bin Laden honored the Riyadh and Dhahram attacks on U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia, stating it made “the beginning of war between Muslims and the United States.” Although he would not take responsibility for the attacks, he said that “not long ago, I gave advice to the Americans to withdraw their troops from Saudi Arabia.” Bin Laden issued Al Qaeda’s first “declaration of war” against America, on August 23, 1996; “Message from Osama bin Laden to his Muslim brothers in the whole world and especially in the Arabian Peninsula: declaration of jihad against the Americans occupying the Land of the Two Holy Mosques (Saudi Arabia); expel the heretics from the Arabian Peninsula.”
In February 1998 bin Laden and several leading Muslim militants declared the formation of a coalition called the ‘International Islamic Front for Jihad against the Jews and Crusaders to fight the U.S.’ Member organizations included Al Qaeda, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad led by Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian Islamic Group, and organizations engaged in Kashmir and Bangladesh. Bin Laden was appointed to head the Front’s council. The militants signed a religious opinion describing the Front’s ideology and goals. The religious opinion was published in a London-based Arabic paper, Al Quds Al Arabi; it called on all Muslims to “kill the Americans and their allies – civilians and military,” wherever they may be.
Subsequently, Al Qaeda escalated its war against the U.S. In August 1998, Al Qaeda bombed two U.S. embassies in East Africa (Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania) killing more than 200 people, including 12 Americans. In retaliation, the U.S. attacked targets in Sudan and Afghanistan. In October 2000, Al Qaeda bombed the U.S.S. Cole, an American guided-missile destroyer at Aden, Yemen, killing 17 American servicemen. It committed its most devastating attack on September 11, 2001, when 19 Al Qaeda operatives hijacked four passenger planes and drove two into the Twin Towers in New York City and one into the Pentagon; a fourth plane crashed in rural Pennsylvania. Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the attack.
Osama bin Laden, the founder and head of the Islamist group Al-Qaeda, was killed in Pakistan on May 2, 2011, shortly after 1:00 am PKT (20:00 UTC, May 1) by United States Navy SEALs of the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Development Group (also known as DEVGRU or SEAL Team Six). The operation, code-named Operation Neptune Spear, was carried out in a Central Intelligence Agency-led operation. In addition to DEVGRU, participating units included the United States Army Special Operations Command’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) and CIA operatives. The raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, was launched from Afghanistan. U.S. military officials said that after the raid, U.S. forces took bin Laden’s body to Afghanistan for identification, then buried him at sea within 24 hours of his death in accordance with Islamic tradition. According to a Pakistani official, the United States had direct evidence that Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, knew of bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad.
Al-Qaeda confirmed the death on May 6 with posts made on militant websites, vowing to avenge the killing. Other Pakistani militant groups, including the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, also vowed retaliation against the U.S. and against Pakistan for not preventing the operation. The raid was supported by over 90% of the American public, was welcomed by the United Nations, NATO, the European Union, and a large number of governments, but was condemned by others, including two-thirds of the Pakistani public. Legal and ethical aspects of the killing, such as his not being taken alive despite being unarmed, were questioned by others, including Amnesty International. Also controversial was the decision to not release any photographic or DNA evidence of bin Laden’s death to the public. The Pakistani Abbottabad Commission Report was leaked toAl Jazeera on July 8, 2013