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Osama bin Laden: Billionaire heir who founded a terror empire
Published on 3 May. 2011 2:06 AM IST
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From billionaire heir to the world’s most wanted fugitive, Osama bin Laden was the poster boy of radical terrorism who masterminded some of the most audacious terror attacks the world has seen, including the 9/11 strike on the US.
For two decades, Osama, 54, managed to escape what was perhaps the world’s biggest manhunt through the close, symbiotic relationship with Islamist groups, including the Taliban.
Born in 1957 to Saudi billionaire Muhammad bin Awad bin Laden and a Yemeni mother, Osama was raised amid luxuries, only to shun it later for a life in the mountainous hideouts of Afghanistan.
Father bin Laden built his fortune in real estate, thanks to his close ties with Saudi ruling family. He died in 1967, and his billions were divided among 54 children.
Osama reportedly inherited $250-$300 million. After school, Osama enrolled in management and economics programme at the King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah.
But his real calling lay elsewhere. In 1979, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, Osama joined thousands of Muslim young men in a global jihad to oust the Communists from a Muslim country.
Osama, then backed by the US, used his millions to fund and finance the mujahedeen. He became a shadowy legend -- a billionaire fighting in rugged mountains, sleeping on the floor with fellow Muslims, all for Islam.
Osama claimed that in a battle with the Soviet army in 1980s, which soon turned into a hand-to-hand combat, he snatched a Kalashnikov from a Soviet general.
The rifle, a familiar prop in his photographs and video grabs, never left his side.
It was in Pakistan that Osama met radical Jordanian cleric Abdullah Azzam, who was to become his mentor. The seeds of Al Qaeda were sown.
Osama spent millions in relief work and funding fighters but led a spartan life.
He worked with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to set up seminaries in Pakistan for Afghan refugees. These later evolved into virtual training centres for Islamic radicals.
In 1989, as the Kremlin gave up Afghanistan, Osama returned to Saudi Arabia to a hero’s welcome. But soon he turned against the Saudi royal family.
In 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, Osama offered to Saudi Arabia to organise thousands of fighters. But the Saudis refused -- and turned to the US for help. It was an event that transformed Osama, who was incensed that non-believers (American soldiers) were stationed in the birthplace of Islam. By 1991, Osama, his four wives and seven children shifted to Sudan. His millions got him new friends. And his new enemy was the US.
In Sudan, thousands of Aghan veterans joined him, initiating the real work of developing Al Qaeda, or “the Base”, into a force capable of hitting American interests around the world. In 1993, the World Trade Centre in New York was bombed. In 1998, bombs exploded near US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania killing over 200, mostly Africans. Then came the attack on the US navy ship USS Cole in Yemen, killing 17 Americans. Osama also claimed responsibility for a 1993 gunfight that killed 18 US troops in Somalia, and the 1996 bombing of a military complex in Saudi Arabia that left 19 US soldiers dead.
In 1998, Osama and his Egyptian deputy Aymman al Zawahiri asked Muslims to attack and kill Americans. The most audacious attack was yet to come. On a clear September day in 2001, two hijacked planes rammed into the twin World Trade Centre towers. A third one flew into Pentagon and fourth crashed in a field in outside. Finally that quest ended Sunday night when his successor President Barack Obama appeared in the White House to declare that bin Laden had been killed and “justice has been done”.
‘At last some justice for the murder of 3,000 Americans’
“At last some justice for the murder of 3,000 Americans,” said a man after he learnt of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s killing. His firefighter son was killed 9/11.
Jim Riches, whose son died when the World Trade Center’s north tower collapsed, said he was gratified when he learned of Osama bin Laden’s killing in Pakistan, states IANS
“(My) son still isn’t coming home.” “(There’s) no closure, but at last some justice for the murder of 3,000 Americans, finally,” CNN quoted Riches as saying.
About 3,000 people were killed Sep 11, 2001, when two hijacked aircraft slammed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center while a third jetliner crashed into the Pentagon. A former New York firefighter, who had to retire following lung ailments caused by dust from ground zero, said: “It’s a war that I feel we just won.” Retired New York police officer Bob Gibson said the news of Osama bin Laden’s death gave him a feeling of “closure”.
Pak shocked; angry at US
“I don’t think it’s genuine” said one on Facebook. “Why do I get the sinking feeling that all hell is about to break loose in Pakistan,” tweeted another. Many in Pakistan reacted with disbelief Monday to news of Osama bin Laden’s death, while some were angry with the US for killing him on Pakistani soil.
Many Pakistanis questioned the timing of the operation, citing that the US presidential elections were due. Others said the death of bin Laden need not necessarily mean the end of terrorism in their own country, states IANS.
The Al Qaeda leader was killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan, ending a 10-year manhunt that intensified with the traumatic Sep 11, 2001 terror attack. US President Barack Obama announced the news of his death.
Commenting on TV presenter Nadeem Malik’s post on Facebook, Faysal Raza, an alumni of Bahria University in Islamabad, wrote: “I think sooo this News is not genuine. US election will be held next year. This News will help Obama to win election. Nothing else.”
‘A courier finally
led to Osama’
Osama bin Laden was marked for death the day American spies learnt about a trusted courier of the man the US had hunted for years, the New York Times reported on Monday.
According to the paper, the courier was painstakingly traced to the compound in Abbottabad near the Pakistani capital where the Al Qaeda leader finally met his death. “The property was so secure, so large, that American officials guessed it was built to hide someone far more important than a mere courier,” the daily said, revealing the inside story of Osama’s killing.
Eight months of diligent intelligence work culminated in the helicopter assault by American military and intelligence operatives, leading to the death of Osama and ending one of the biggest manhunts in the world.
For nearly a decade, American military and intelligence forces had chased the spectre of Osama through Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Times said. Once they came agonisingly close to catching him but lost him in a pitched battle at Tora Bora, in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan.
The final breakthrough came when the Americans finally figured out the name and location of Osama’s most trusted courier whom the Al Qaeda chief appeared to rely on to maintain contacts with the outside world.
The daily quoted American intelligence officials as saying that they learned the courier’s real name four years ago but it took two more years to learn the general region where he operated. And it was not until August when they tracked him to the compound in Abbottabad, the paper said. By September the CIA had determined there was a “strong possibility” that Osama himself was hiding there.

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