The most prominent face of terror in America and beyond, Osama Bin Laden, has been killed in Pakistan, U.S. officials said Sunday night.
Bin Laden was the leader of al Qaeda, the terrorist network behind the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. U.S. officials said that their forces have the body of bin Laden.
The enormity of the destruction — the World Trade Center’s towers devastated by two hijacked airplanes, the Pentagon partially destroyed by a third hijacked jetliner, a fourth flight crashed in rural Pennsylvania, and more than 3,000 people killed — gave bin Laden a global presence.
The Saudi-born zealot commanded an organization run like a rogue multinational firm, experts said, with subsidiaries operating secretly in dozens of countries, plotting terror, raising money and recruiting young Muslim men — even boys — from many nations to its training camps in Afghanistan.
He used the fruits of his family’s success — a personal fortune estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars — to help finance al Qaeda in its quest for a new pan-Islamic religious state. How much bin Laden got in the settlement of the family estate is still a matter of contention. Estimates range from tens of millions to hundreds of millions.
Even before September 11, bin Laden was already on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.
He had been implicated in a series of deadly, high-profile attacks that had grown in their intensity and success during the 1990s.
They included a deadly firefight with U.S. soldiers in Somalia in October 1993, the bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa that killed 224 in August 1998, and an attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 sailors in October 2000.
Bin Laden eluded capture for years, once reportedly slipping out of a training camp in Afghanistan just hours before a barrage of U.S. cruise missiles destroyed it.
On September 11, sources said, the evidence immediately pointed to bin Laden. Within days, those close to the investigation said they had their proof.
Six days after the attack, President George W. Bush made it clear Osama bin Laden was the No. 1 suspect.
“I want justice,” Bush said. “There’s an old poster out West that said, ‘Wanted, dead or alive.'”
Osama bin Laden was born in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1957, the 17th of 52 children in a family that had struck it rich in the construction business.
His father, Mohamed bin Laden, was a native of Yemen, who immigrated to Saudi Arabia as a child. He became a billionaire by building his company into the largest construction firm in the Saudi kingdom.
As Saudi Arabia became flush with oil money, so, too, did the bin Laden family business, as Osama’s father cultivated and exploited connections within the royal family.
One of the elder bin Laden’s four wives — described as Syrian in some accounts — was Osama’s mother. The young bin Laden inherited a share of the family fortune at an early age after his father died in an aircraft accident.
The bin Ladens were noted for their religious commitment. In his youth, Osama studied with Muslim scholars. Two of the family business’ most prestigious projects also left a lasting impression: the renovations of mosques at Mecca and Medina, Islam’s two holiest places.
As a young man attending college in Jeddah, Osama’s interest in religion started to take a political turn. One of his professors was Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian scholar who was a key figure in the rise of a new pan-Islamic religious movement.
Azzam founded an organization to help the mujahedeen fighting to repel the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.
Bin Laden soon became the organization’s top financier, using his family connections to raise money. He left as a volunteer for Afghanistan at 22, joining the U.S.-backed call to arms against the Soviets.
He remained there for a decade, using construction equipment from his family’s business to help the Muslim guerrilla forces build shelters, tunnels and roads through the rugged Afghan mountains, and at times taking part in battle.
In the late 1980s, bin Laden founded al Qaeda, Arabic for “the base,” an organization that CNN terrorism analyst and author Peter Bergen says had fairly prosaic beginnings. One of its purposes was to provide documentation for Arab fighters who fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan, including death certificates.
Al Qaeda, under bin Laden’s leadership, ran a number of guesthouses for these Arab fighters and their families. It also operated training camps to help them prepare for the fight against the Soviets.
In the early 1990s, with the disintegration of the Soviet Union, bin Laden turned his sights on the world’s remaining superpower — the United States. War-hardened and victorious, he returned to Saudi Arabia following the Soviet retreat from Afghanistan.
In a 1997 CNN interview, bin Laden declared a “jihad,” or “holy war,” against the United States.
The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait provided the next turning point in Osama bin Laden’s career.
When the United States sent troops to Saudi Arabia for battle against Iraq in the Persian Gulf War, bin Laden was outraged. He had offered his own men to defend the Saudi kingdom but the Saudi government ignored his plan.
He began to target the United States for its presence in Saudi Arabia, home to the Muslim holy sites of Mecca and Medina. With bin Laden’s criticisms creating too much friction with the Saudi government, he and his supporters left for Sudan in 1991.
There, according to U.S. officials, al Qaeda began to evolve into a terror network, with bin Laden at its helm. Tapping into his personal fortune, bin Laden operated a range of businesses involved in construction, farming and exporting.
Although the U.S. government was unaware of it at the time, bin Laden was already actively working against it.
According to court testimony, he sent one of his top lieutenants, Mohammed Atef, to help train Somalis to attack U.S. peacekeeping troops stationed there. Bin Laden would later hint, during an interview with CNN, of his involvement in the deaths of 18 U.S. Army Rangers in 1993 in Mogadishu.
Also in 1993, terrorists bombed the World Trade Center in New York, killing six and wounding hundreds. Eventually, bin Laden would be named along with many others as an unindicted co-conspirator in that case. The mastermind of the attack, Ramzi Yousef, would later be revealed to have close ties to al Qaeda.
In 1996, bin Laden took his war against the United States a step further. By then, he had been stripped of his Saudi citizenship and forced by Sudanese officials, under pressure from the United States, to leave that country. He returned to Afghanistan where he received harbor from the fundamentalist Taliban, who were ruling the country.
By then, the United States had begun to recognize a growing threat from bin Laden, citing him as a financier of terrorism in a government report.
According to reports, however, the U.S. government passed up a Sudanese government offer to turn over bin Laden, because at the time it had no criminal charges against him.
The Saudis, according to an interview with their former intelligence chief in Time magazine, also declined to take custody of bin Laden.
In Afghanistan in 1996, bin Laden issued a “fatwa,” or a religious order, entitled “Declaration of War Against Americans Who Occupy the Lands of the Two Holy Mosques.”
“There is no more important thing than pushing the American occupier out,” decreed the fatwa, which praised Muslim youths willing to die to accomplish that goal: “Youths only want one thing, to kill (U.S. soldiers) so they can get to Paradise.”
In his first interview with Western media in 1997, bin Laden told CNN that the United States was “unjust, criminal and tyrannical.”
“The U.S. today, as a result of the arrogant atmosphere, has set a double standard, calling whoever goes against its injustice a terrorist,” he said in the interview. “It wants to occupy our countries, steal our resources, impose on us agents to rule us.”
In February 1998, he expanded his target list, issuing a new fatwa against all Americans, including civilians.
They were to be killed wherever they might be found anywhere in the world, he decreed. This new fatwa announced the creation of the “The World Islamic Front for Jihad against the Jews and the Crusaders” and was co-signed by Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, head of Egypt’s al-Jihad terrorist group.
Six months later, explosions destroyed the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 224 people and injuring 4,000 more.
U.S. prosecutors later indicted bin Laden for masterminding those attacks.
By the time three hijacked airliners struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, symbols of the U.S. business and military might, bin Laden’s terror network had become global in its reach.
The organization soon became America’s prime target in Bush’s war against global terrorism. Bin Laden, its founder, became the most-wanted man in the world.
Then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell explained al Qaeda’s network this way:
“Osama bin Laden is the chairman of the holding company, and within that holding company are terrorist cells and organizations in dozens of countries around the world, any of them capable of committing a terrorist act.”
“It’s not enough to get one individual, although we’ll start with that one individual,” Powell said.
In statements released from his hideouts in Afghanistan after September 11, bin Laden denied al Qaeda was responsible for the attacks.
A videotape of bin Laden later obtained and released by the U.S. government, however, showed him saying he knew the September 11 attacks were coming, chuckling and gloating about their toll. Even with his knowledge of the construction trade, he said with a smile, he did not expect the twin towers of the World Trade Center to collapse completely.
Speaking in an earlier video recording that was first broadcast over the Arabic-language television network Al-Jazeera, bin Laden said America is “filled with fear from the north, south, east and west. Thank God for that.”
“These events have split the world into two camps — belief and disbelief,” he said.
“America will never dream or know or taste security or safety unless we know safety and security in our land and in Palestine.”
Bin Laden had taken advantage of his time in Afghanistan, cementing his ties to the Taliban.
He was particularly close to Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. He built a mansion in Kandahar but spent most of his time on the move around the country, according to intelligence sources.
Al Qaeda had a network of training camps and safe houses where recruits from around the world were brought for combat and weapons training and indoctrination.
As long as the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, bin Laden, his four wives and more than 10 children were able to avoid capture.
Before September 11, the Afghan government refused U.S. requests to turn over bin Laden. “Osama’s protection is our moral and Islamic duty,” one Taliban official was quoted as saying in July 2001.
As the United States bombing campaign helped the Afghan opposition drive the Taliban from power, however, bin Laden’s days were numbered.
The reward on his head grew to $25 million. Countless leaflets advertising the bounty were dropped from U.S. airplanes, which flew with impunity over Afghan skies.
“We’re hunting him down,” Bush said on November 19, 2001. “He runs and he hides, but as we’ve said repeatedly, the noose is beginning to narrow. The net is getting tighter.”
But he eluded U.S. and allied authorities during the war in Afghanistan, vanishing in December 2001, apparently fleeing during the intensive bombing campaign in the rugged Tora Bora region near the border with Pakistan.
“He’s alive or dead. He’s in Afghanistan or somewhere else,” then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in April 2002 when asked about bin Laden’s whereabouts.
No more videos showing bin Laden were released during the spring and summer of 2002 and there was speculation that he may have died during U.S. bombing raids in Afghanistan.
But audiotapes released in October and November 2002 and broadcast on Al-Jazeera were allegedly were from him. U.S. government experts analyzed the tapes and said the voice on the tapes was almost certainly bin Laden’s.
On February 11, 2002, a new audio message purportedly from bin Laden called on Muslims around the world to show solidarity against U.S.-led military action in Iraq.
The tape was broadcast on Al Jazeera, which originally denied its existence. The voice on tape added that any nation that helps the United States attack Iraq, “(Has) to know that they are outside this Islamic nation. Jordan and Morocco and Nigeria and Saudi Arabia should be careful that this war, this crusade, is attacking the people of Islam first.”
Courtesy of CNN.
How Obama Killed Osama – Government Sources
SAN FRANCISCO, May 01, (THEWILL) – Slain leader of Al-Qaeda Osama Bin Laden, 54, was killed inside a mansion valued at $1 million dollars in an affluent city called Abbottabad, Pakistan, security sources told CNN on Sunday night.
Osama Bin Laden was living in the mansion, which sources said is located in a community where retired Pakistani senior military officers have their homes. The compound is said to be about 8 times larger than those of his neighbours; with 12-18 ft high walls and barb wires protecting the property.
A trusted courier of Bin Laden whose pseudonym was obtained before the 9/11 bombing by US intelligence was helping him hide from capture. The real name of the courier alongside that of his brother was obtained in 2007 and their residence was located in 2010 in Abbottabad –the unsual mansion where Bin Laden made his abode.
The compound was built in 2005 and had no telephone lines or internet access, which made intelligence sources curious.
Sources also said that while neigbours put their trash cans outside to be emptied by the dustbin disposal company, the bin in Osama’s compound was always burnt, which also aroused suspicion.
A small team of US Navy Seals raided the 3-storey compound in military choppers on Sunday night (Pakistani time) and shot Bin Laden in the head killing him instantly during a gunfight. Sources say a woman Osama used as a human shield was killed in the operation, while 3 others (the courier, his brother and one of Bin Laden’s sons) were also killed.
A body believed to be Osama Bin Laden’s 6ft 4 inches dead body was extracted thereafter from the property and tests were conducted to ascertain that it was indeed Bin Laden.
Government sources told CNN that he has been buried according to Islamic tradition.
The dangerous operation which saw special forces fly into Pakistan from Afghanistan lasted for about 40 minutes.
One US chopper was destroyed in the operation by US Seal officers after it developed a technical fault.
US President Barack Obama in a televised speech said his demise should be welcomed by all those who love peace and justice.
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA ON OSAMA BIN LADEN
THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.
It was nearly 10 years ago that a bright September day was darkened by the worst attack on the American people in our history. The images of 9/11 are seared into our national memory — hijacked planes cutting through a cloudless September sky; the Twin Towers collapsing to the ground; black smoke billowing up from the Pentagon; the wreckage of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the actions of heroic citizens saved even more heartbreak and destruction.
And yet we know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the world. The empty seat at the dinner table. Children who were forced to grow up without their mother or their father. Parents who would never know the feeling of their child’s embrace. Nearly 3,000 citizens taken from us, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts.
On September 11, 2001, in our time of grief, the American people came together. We offered our neighbors a hand, and we offered the wounded our blood. We reaffirmed our ties to each other, and our love of community and country. On that day, no matter where we came from, what God we prayed to, or what race or ethnicity we were, we were united as one American family.
We were also united in our resolve to protect our nation and to bring those who committed this vicious attack to justice. We quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda — an organization headed by Osama bin Laden, which had openly declared war on the United States and was committed to killing innocents in our country and around the globe. And so we went to war against al Qaeda to protect our citizens, our friends, and our allies.
Over the last 10 years, thanks to the tireless and heroic work of our military and our counterterrorism professionals, we’ve made great strides in that effort. We’ve disrupted terrorist attacks and strengthened our homeland defense. In Afghanistan, we removed the Taliban government, which had given bin Laden and al Qaeda safe haven and support. And around the globe, we worked with our friends and allies to capture or kill scores of al Qaeda terrorists, including several who were a part of the 9/11 plot.
Yet Osama bin Laden avoided capture and escaped across the Afghan border into Pakistan. Meanwhile, al Qaeda continued to operate from along that border and operate through its affiliates across the world.
And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.
Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.
Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.
For over two decades, bin Laden has been al Qaeda’s leader and symbol, and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies. The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda.
Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must –- and we will — remain vigilant at home and abroad.
As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not –- and never will be -– at war with Islam. I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.
Over the years, I’ve repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was. That is what we’ve done. But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding. Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.
Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.
The American people did not choose this fight. It came to our shores, and started with the senseless slaughter of our citizens. After nearly 10 years of service, struggle, and sacrifice, we know well the costs of war. These efforts weigh on me every time I, as Commander-in-Chief, have to sign a letter to a family that has lost a loved one, or look into the eyes of a service member who’s been gravely wounded.
So Americans understand the costs of war. Yet as a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed. We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies. We will be true to the values that make us who we are. And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda’s terror: Justice has been done.
Tonight, we give thanks to the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who’ve worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome. The American people do not see their work, nor know their names. But tonight, they feel the satisfaction of their work and the result of their pursuit of justice.
We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country. And they are part of a generation that has borne the heaviest share of the burden since that September day.
Finally, let me say to the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 that we have never forgotten your loss, nor wavered in our commitment to see that we do whatever it takes to prevent another attack on our shores.
And tonight, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11. I know that it has, at times, frayed. Yet today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people.
The cause of securing our country is not complete. But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.
Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Thank you. May God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.