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The Most Wanted Man in the World


The Most Wanted Man in the World



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interesting info

From: x
Date: Tue, 18 Sep 2001 22:33:05 -0400
To: x
Cc: x
Subject: Fwd: [UIBLSAAlumni] The Most Wanted Man in the World

I certainly don't want to fuel the hysteria - but this is a good write-up on bin Laden, from a Time magazine reporter.  Gave me more info than I knew before.  Better to be informed than not.  I hold no claims or assumptions to this piece, just thought it informative...

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To: x
Subject: Fwd: [UIBLSAAlumni] The Most Wanted Man in the World
Date: Tue, 18 Sep 2001 08:46:25 -0400

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Subject: x The Most Wanted Man in the World
Date: Mon, 17 Sep 2001 13:09:37 -0500

The Most Wanted Man in the World
He lives a life fired by fury and faith. Why terrors $250 million
man loathes the U.S.

Things might have turned out differently for Osama bin Laden -- and
for the denizens of southern Manhattan -- if the tall, thin,
soft-spoken 44-year-old hadn't been born rich, or if he'd been born
rich but not a second-rank Saudi. It might have bee n another story
if, while studying engineering in college, the young man had drawn a
different teacher for Islamic Studies rather than a charismatic
Palestinian lecturer who fired his religious fervor. Things might
have been different if the Soviet Union hadn't invaded Afghanistan,
if Saddam Hussein hadn't stolen Kuwait, or if U.S. forces hadn't
retreated so hastily after a beating in Somalia, giving bin Laden
the idea that Americans are cowards who can be defeated easily.

Of course, Osama bin Laden wouldn't buy any of that. For him, life
is preordained, written in advance by God, who in bin Laden's view
must have delighted in the deaths of all those infidels in Manhattan
last week. Still, those are among the seminal detail s that shaped
the man U.S. officials believe to be not only capable but also
guilty of one of the worst single massacres of civilians since
Hitler's camps were shut down. How does any one man, and an
intelligent man, come to be so angry? And so callous? B in Laden has
considered himself at war with the U.S. for years, even if the U.S.
is getting there only now. Still, how does one man come to be so
comfortably certain in the face of responsibility for so many
devoured lives?

Last week's deadly operation took planning, patience, money, cool,
stealth and extraordinarily committed operatives. It was a measure
of the sophistication of the complex network of devout,
high-spirited Islamic militants whom bin Laden has been assemblin g
for almost 20 years. The big challenge here was will. Whence did the
will grow to do something so atrocious?

In many ways, bin Laden's story is like that of many other Muslim
extremists. There's the fanatical religiosity and the intemperate
interpretation of Islam; the outrage over the dominance,
particularly in the Arab world, of a secular, decadent U.S.; the i
ndignation over U.S. support for Israel; the sense of grievance over
the perceived humiliations of the Arab people at the hands of the

But bin Laden brings some particular, and collectively potent,
elements to this equation. As a volunteer in the war that the
Islamic rebels of Afghanistan fought against the Soviets in the
1980s, bin Laden had a front-row seat at an astonishing and empowe
ring development: the defeat of a superpower by a gaggle of
makeshift militias. Though the U.S., with billions of dollars in
aid, helped the militias in their triumph, bin Laden soon turned on
their benefactor. When U.S. troops in 1990 arrived in his sac red
Saudi homeland to fight Saddam Hussein, bin Laden considered their
infidel presence a desecration of the Prophet Muhammad's birthplace.
He was inspired to take on a second superpower, and he was funded to
do so: by a fortune inherited from his contrac tor father, by an
empire of business enterprises, by the hubris that comes from being
a rich kid whose commands had always been obeyed by nannies, butlers
and maids.

Though bin Laden grew up wealthy, he wasn't entirely within the
charmed circle in Saudi Arabia. As the son of immigrants, he didn't
have quite the right credentials. His mother came from Syria by some
reports, Palestine by others. His father moved to Saudi Arabia from
neighboring Yemen, a desperately poor country looked down on by
Saudis. If bin Laden felt any alienation or resentment about his
status, it was good preparation for the break he would ultimately
make with the privileged and bourgeois life that was laid out for
him a t birth.

The family's wealth came from the Saudi bin Laden Group, built by
Osama's father Mohamed, who had four wives and 52 children. Mohamed
had had the good luck of befriending the country's founder, Abdel
Aziz al Saud. That relationship led to important govern ment
contracts such as refurbishing the shrines at Mecca and Medina,
Islam's holiest places, projects that moved young Osama deeply.
Today the company, with 35,000 employees worldwide, is worth $5
billion. Osama got his share at 13 when his father died, l eaving
him $80 million, a fortune the son subsequently expanded to an
estimated $250 million. At the King Abdel Aziz University in Jidda,
bin Laden, according to associates, was greatly influenced by one of
his teachers, Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian who was a major figure
in the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that has played a large role in
the resu rgence of Islamic religiosity. Bin Laden, who like most
Saudis is a member of the puritanical Wahhabi sect of Sunni Islam,
had been pious from childhood, but his encounter with Azzam seemed
to deepen his faith. What's more, through Azzam he became steeped
not in the then popular ideology of pan-Arabism, which stresses the
unity of all Arabs, but in a more ambitious pan-Islamicism, which
reaches out to all the world's 1 billion Muslims. And so bin Laden
at age 22 was quick to sign up to help fellow Muslims in Afghanistan
fight the godless invading Soviets in 1979. For hard-liners like bin
Laden, a non-Muslim infringement on Islamic territory goes beyond
the political sin of oppression; i t is an offense to God that must
be corrected at all costs.

At first, bin Laden mainly raised money, especially among rich Gulf
Arabs, for the Afghan rebels, the mujahedin. He also brought in some
of the family bulldozers and was once famously using one to dig a
trench when a Soviet helicopter strafed him but miss ed. In the
early 1980s, Abdullah Azzam founded the Maktab al Khidmat, which
later morphed into an organization called al-Qaeda (the base). It
provided logistical help and channeled foreign assistance to the
mujahedin. Bin Laden joined his old teacher and became the group's
chief financier and a major recruiter of the so-called Arab Afghans,
the legions of young Arabs who left their homes in places like
Egypt, Algeria and Saudi Arabia to join the mujahedin. He was
instrumental in building the training camps that prepared them to
fight. Bin Laden saw combat too; how much is in dispute.

During the same years, the CIA, intent on seeing a Soviet defeat in
Afghanistan, was also funneling money and arms to the mujahedin.
Milton Bearden, who ran the covert program during its peak years --
1986 to 1989 -- says the CIA had no direct dealing s with bin Laden.
But U.S. officials acknowledge that some of the aid probably ended
up with bin Laden's group anyway.

In 1989, the exhausted Soviets finally quit Afghanistan. With his
mentor Azzam dead at the hands of an assassin and his job seemingly
done, bin Laden went home to Jidda. The war had stiffened him. He
became increasingly indignant over the corruption of th e Saudi
regime and what he considered its insufficient piety. His outrage
boiled over in 1990. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and
threatened Saudi Arabia, bin Laden informed the royal family that he
and his Arab Afghans were prepared to defend the kin gdom. The offer
was spurned. Instead, the Saudis invited in U.S. troops for the
first time ever. Like many other Muslims, bin Laden was offended by
the Army's presence, with its Christian and Jewish soldiers, its
rock music, its women who drove and wore p ants. Saudi Arabia has a
singular place among Islamic countries as the cradle of Islam and as
home to Mecca and Medina, which are barred to non-Muslims.

When bin Laden began to write treatises against the Saudi regime,
King Fahd had him confined to Jidda. So bin Laden fled the country,
winding up in Sudan. That country was by then under the control of
radical Muslims headed by Hassan al-Turabi, a cleric b in Laden had
met in Afghanistan who had impressed him with the need to overthrow
the secular regimes in the Arab world and install purely Islamic
governments. Bin Laden would go on to marry al-Turabi's niece.
Eventually the Saudis, troubled by bin Laden's growing extremism,
revoked his citizenship. His family renounced him as well. After
relatives visited him in Sudan to exhort him to stop agitating
against Fahd's regime, he told a reporter, he apologized to them
because he knew they'd been forced to do i t. In Sudan, bin Laden
established a variety of businesses, building a major road,
producing sunflower seeds, exporting goatskins. But he was seething.
He was also gathering around him many of the old Arab Afghans who,
like him, returning home after the war, faced suspicion from, if not
detention by, their governments.

In 1993, 18 U.S. soldiers, part of a contingent sent on a
humanitarian mission to famine-struck Somalia, were murdered by
street fighters in Mogadishu. Bin Laden later claimed that some of
the Arab Afghans were involved. The main thing to bin Laden, howev
er, was the horrified American reaction to the deaths. Within six
months, the U.S. had withdrawn from Somalia. In interviews, bin
Laden has said that his forces expected the Americans to be tough
like the Soviets but instead found that they were "paper ti gers"
who "after a few blows ran in defeat."

Bin Laden began to think big. U.S. officials suspect he may have had
a financial role in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center by a
group of Egyptian radicals. This may have been bin Laden's first
strike back at the entity he believed to be the sourc e of so much
of his own and his people's trouble. That same year, U.S. officials
now believe, bin Laden began shopping for a nuclear weapon, hoping
to buy one on the Russian black market. When that failed, they say,
he started experimenting with chemical warfare, perhaps even testing
a device. Then, in 1995, a truck bombing of a military base in
Riyadh killed five Americans and two Indians. Linking bin Laden to
the attack, the U.S. -- along with the Saudis -- pressured the
Sudanese to expel him. To hi s dismay, they did.

With his supporters, his three wives (he is rumored to have since
added a fourth) and some 10 children, bin Laden moved again to
Afghanistan. There he returned full time to jihad. This time,
instead of importing holy warriors, he began to export them. He
turned al-Qaeda into what some have called "a Ford Foundation" for
Islamic terror organizations, building ties of varying strength to
groups in at least a few dozen places. He brought their adherents to
his camps in Afghanistan for training, then sent the m back to
Egypt, Algeria, the Palestinian territories, Kashmir, the
Philippines, Eritrea, Libya and Jordan. U.S. intelligence officials
believe that bin Laden's camps have trained tens of thousands of
fighters. Sometimes bin Laden sent his trainers out to , for
instance, Tajikistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen,
according to the State Department. As a result, U.S. officials
believe bin Laden's group controls or influences about 3,000 to
5,000 guerrilla fighters or terrorists in a very loose o rganization
around the world.

Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian who was arrested entering the U.S. from
Canada in December 1999 with a carful of explosives, has told
interrogators that his al-Qaeda curriculum included lessons in
sabotage, urban warfare and explosives. He was trained to attack
power grids, airports, railroads, hotels and military installations.
Visitors to al-Qaeda camps say that students receive instruction not
only in using intricate maps of U.S. cities and targeted venues but
also in employing scale models of potential site s for strikes. A
180-page al-Qaeda manual offers advice to "sleepers" (agents sent
overseas to await missions) on how to be inconspicuous: shave your
beard, wear cologne, move to newly developed neighborhoods where
residents don't know one another.

Bin Laden's far-flung business dealings have been a tremendous asset
to his network. U.S. officials believe he has interests in
agricultural companies, banking and investment firms, construction
companies and import-export firms around the globe. Says a U .S.
official: "This empire is useful for moving people, money,
materials, providing cover." Though American authorities did break
up two al-Qaeda fund-raising operations in the past year, they have
been mostly unsuccessful in finding and freezing bin Lad en's

As he built his syndicate, bin Laden also became more open about
what he was up to. In 1996 he issued a "Declaration of Jihad." His
stated goals were to overthrow the Saudi regime and drive out U.S.
forces. He expanded the target with another declaration in early
1998 stating that Muslims should kill Americans, civilians included,
wherever they could find them. Later that year, his operatives used
car bombs against the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing
224, mostly Africans. Those blasts provok ed a U.S. cruise-missile
attack on an al-Qaeda base in Afghanistan that missed bin Laden and
only burnished his image as an authentic hero to many Muslims.

Bin Laden has spoken out against Israel, which he, like many
Muslims, regards as an alien and aggressive presence on land
belonging to Islam. Lately, he has lauded the current Palestinian
uprising against Israel's continued occupation of Palestinian terri
tories. But his main fixation remains the U.S. Officially, he is
committed to preparing for a worldwide Islamic state, but for now he
focuses on eradicating infidels from Islamic lands.

Bin Laden's precise place in the terror franchise he's associated
with is somewhat nebulous. Certainly, he is its public face. But
Ressam has told interrogators that bin Laden is only one of two or
three chieftains in al-Qaeda. Many bin Laden watchers and even
ex-associates have observed that bin Laden appears to be a simple
fighter without a brilliant head for tactics. His lieutenant, Ayman
al Zawahiri, an Egyptian physician who heads the Egyptian al Jihad,
which took credit for the assassination of Egyp tian President Anwar
Sadat in 1981, is often mentioned as the brains behind the
operations. U.S. federal prosecutors have asserted in court filings
that al Jihad "effectively merged" with al-Qaeda in 1998. Mohamed
Atef, al-Qaeda's military commander, is a lso a powerful figure. He
is said to be a former Egyptian policeman who joined the Arab
Afghans in 1983. His daughter recently married bin Laden's eldest
son Mohamed. Speculation that bin Laden is in poor health -- he
sometimes walks with a cane and is rumored to have kidney problems
-- has focused succession discussions on these two men.

It's not clear that any of the three key figures actually issues
specific attack orders to adherents. Ressam told investigators the
al-Qaeda operatives are rarely given detailed instructions. Rather,
they are trained and then sent out to almost autonomous cells to act
on their own, to plan attacks and raise their own funds, often using
credit-card scams to load up on money, despite the Islamic
prohibition against theft. Bin Laden, whose general practice is to
praise terror attacks but disclaim any direct connection to them,
has said, "Our job is to instigate."

If his current hosts, the radical Islamic Taliban regime in
Afghanistan, are to be believed, that's about the maximum bin Laden
can personally do now. Under heavy international pressure to give
their guest up, the Taliban claims to have denied him phone a nd fax
capabilities. (He had already quit using his satellite phone because
its signal can be traced.) Bin Laden has been forced to rely on
human messengers. He leads a spartan life; he no longer has a
comfortable camp. U.S. officials believe he lives on the move, in a
sturdy Japanese pickup truck, changing sleeping locations nightly to
avoid attempts on his life.

He's still able to get out his message, though, through interviews
and videotapes produced for his supporters. A tape of his son's
wedding last January features bin Laden reading an ode he'd written
to the bombing by his supporters of the U.S.S. Cole in Y emen, an
attack that killed 17 service members. "The pieces of the bodies of
the infidels were flying like dust particles," he sang. "If you had
seen it with your own eyes, your heart would have been filled with
joy." What would he say about the civilian men and women, the moms
and dads, the children who died in New YorK City on Sept. 11? He
might say, as he said to abc News in 1998, "In today's wars, there
are no morals. We believe the worst thieves in the world today and
the worst terrorists are the Americans. We do not have to
differentiate between military or civilian. As far as we are
concerned, they are all targets."

With reporting by Hannah Bloch/Kabul, Massimo Calabresi/ Washington,
Bruce Crumley/Paris, Meenakshi Ganguly/New Delhi, Scott
MacLeod/Cairo, Simon Robinson/Nairobi, Douglas Waller/ Washington,
Rebecca Winters/New York and Rahimullah Yusufzai/Peshawar

September 11 Email: Date

Thu, 20 Sep 2001 23:47:28 EDT

September 11 Email: Subject

The Most Wanted Man in the World


“The Most Wanted Man in the World,” September 11 Digital Archive, accessed September 27, 2020,