The U.S. government has named him as the prime suspect ultimately responsible for the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack, in which around 3300 people are presumed to have died. He has thus far denied this accusation, though he has expressed admiration for whoever is responsible.
A November 9th, 2001 'home video' of Osama bin Laden has been unearthed and released to the world media, see videos of bin Laden. The film shows bin Laden had apparent foreknowledge of the September 11th, 2001 Terrorist Attacks on the United States, an attack that left more than 3,000 dead. The release of the tape has stirred controversy as to its validity, and also the timing of the release in relation to situations in the Middle East. The Bush Adminstration, however, sees it as the final straw in the mountain of evidence against bin Laden. CNN is also reporting that Mr. bin Laden is cornered cave in Tora Bora, Afghanistan cave complex.
Many in the middle east consider him a freedom fighter for the Afghan cause, or admire him for his aid to the poor. This support is not unilateral across the arab world however, and he has been banned from his own country of Saudi Arabia and disowned by his family.
He is also wanted by the United States in connection with the August 7, 1998 bombings of the United States embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya. Over 200 people died in these attacks. Due to this incident he is on the FBI Most Wanted Terrorists list.
Bin Laden was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 1957, the 17th of 52 children of Muhammad Bin Laden, a wealthy man involved in construction and with close ties to the royal family of Saudi Arabia. His family originally came from Yemen. Bin Laden was raised in a lavish environment as a devout Muslim, and in interviews he frequently mentions Allah.
After his father died, Bin Laden inherited what was first estimated to be a fortune of $300 million; more recent estimates put his holdings at about $25 million. His wealth and connections permitted him to pursue his interest in supporting the mujahedeen, Muslim freedom fighters fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan following the Soviet invasion in 1979. See the History of Afghanistan.
By 1984 he was running a front organization called Maktab al-Khidamar (MAK), which funneled money, arms and fighters from the outside world into the Afghan war. MAK was nurtured by Pakistan's state security services and the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), the CIA's primary mechanism for the covert conduct of war against the Soviet occupation.
The Afghan rebels won against the Soviet Union in 1989. After a civil war, the Taliban government was established in 1996. The country remains devastated by the last twenty years of nihilistic war. Bin Laden is believed to have moved to Afghanistan in 1996 and to have had close connections to some top leaders there.
Bin Laden had split from the relatively conventional MAK in 1988 and established a new guerilla group, al-Qaida, which included many of the more extreme MAK members he had met in Afghanistan. Many of the Afghan veterans, or Afghanis, as the Arabs who fought in the struggle against the Soviets became known, turned up later behind violent Islamic movements around the world. Among them: the GIA in Algeria, thought to be responsible for the massacres of tens of thousands of civilians; Egypt's Gamat Ismalia, which has murdered western tourists in recent years; and Saudi Arabia's Shiite militants, who were responsible for the Khobar Towers and Riyadh bombings of 1996.
Bin Laden was lauded as a hero in Saudi Arabia, but during the Gulf War against Iraq he was critical of Saudi Arabia's dependence on the U.S. military and demanded that all foreigners leave the country. It was the U.S. support of what he viewed to be a corrupt, materialist, and irreligious Saudi monarchy that turned him against the United States. He began to criticize the monarchy and was forced to flee to Sudan in 1991, where he set up a new base of operations. He lost his Saudi citizenship in 1994 after he admitted his involvement in terrorist attacks in Riyadh and Dachran.
In 1998 he issued a fatwa declaring it the religious duty of all Muslims "to kill the Americans and their allies - civilians and military ... in any country in which it is possible."
He is believed to live in Afghanistan, perhaps in Tora Bora and was accused of training and financing Islamic extremist terrorists. His group al-Qaida is suspected of having ties to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1998 American embassy bombings in Africa, and the attack on the American destroyer USS Cole in Yemen in 2000. The American government has offered a $25,000,000 reward leading to his apprehension or conviction and has convinced the United Nations to impose sanctions against Afghanistan in 1999 in an attempt to force the Taliban government to turn him over for trial. President Clinton ordered his assets to be frozen in 1998, but none were ever found; Clinton also admits authorizing bin Laden's arrest and/or assassination while in office; one assassination attempt with cruise missiles in August 1998 failed, while killing 19 other people. U.S. never apologized for these killings, since the attack was directed at what they considered to be a meeting of terrorists.
-  Interview with Osama bin Laden. Questions partly by some of his followers and partly by ABC reporter John Miller, (May 1998).
-  Transcript (.pdf file) of interview by CNN correspondent Peter Arnett (March 20, 1997). The interview was first broadcast on CNN on May 10, 1997. This was Osama bin Laden's first sit-down with a Western TV journalist.
-  CNN story about the interview.
-  Michel Chossudovsky, Who Is Osama Bin Laden?, Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG), Montréal, (september 12, 2001).
-  David Hollander, Osama Bin Laden: International Terrorist and Muslim Hero, 10-page pdf-document, (May 3, 2001).
-  FBI announcement: Osama bin Laden is the most wanted fugitive, (june 1999).
-  Interpol notice (1998)
-  Picture of Bin Laden and two brothers on a visit to Oxford in 1971. Story on BBC.
- BBC | Clinton ordered Bin Laden killing
-  MSNBC's coverage of "The bin Laden Tape." December 13th, 2001.
-  CNN