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Osama, This Is Your Life

A detailed guide to the life and times of al Qaeda financier and puppetmaster Osama bin Laden.

12:01 AM, Oct 10, 2001 • By BO CRADER
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1957

  • July 30: Born
    in Riyadh to Yemeni bricklayer cum construction magnate Mohammed bin Laden
    and his fourth wife, reported variously as a Syrian or Palestinian woman.1
  • He is the 17 th
    of
    Mohammed's reported 52 children and the only child of his mother. 2

1968

  • Inherits somewhere
    between $20 million and $80 million when his father perishes in a plane crash.
    Reports that his inheritance was between $200 and $300 million are generally
    viewed as inaccurate.
    3

1975

  • Begins school
    at King Abdel Aziz University in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia.
    4
    He
    is largely believed to study civil engineering, although some sources cite
    his field of study as economics, business administration, or management.
    5
  • Of particular interest
    to bin Laden are courses in Middle East politics under Sheikh Abdullah
    Azzam, a former PLO operative.
    6
  • Others, including
    a former barber, report that bin Laden was a "spoiled brat" and party
    animal, drinking heavily, gambling, and entertaining a penchant for belly
    dancers and bar brawls. 7

1979

  • The Soviet Union invades
    Afghanistan. Bin Laden graduates from college and moves to Afghanistan to
    aid the mujahedeen against Soviet forces, using his considerable means and
    family's construction empire to deliver food, ammunition, weapons, and
    medical supplies to the guerrillas.
    8
  • He also builds a number
    of training camps, housing facilities, and logistical networks. The organization
    he establishes for the undertaking of these operations is known as Maktab
    al Khadimat (MAK) 9 which
    serves as a global recruiting network for the Muslim forces. 10
    This
    infrastructure later grows into the organization now known as al Qaeda
    (Arabic for "military base").
    11
    The
    group provides materiel and training to the guerrillas, as well as recruits new members and encourages
    like-minded groups. 12
  • Al Qaeda will reportedly
    train over 5,000 militants in the coming years. 13
    Many
    of those trained are "sleepers," operatives blending in with their environs
    in host countries until ordered to strike.

1989

  • Returns
    to Saudi Arabia after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. Bin Laden harshly
    criticizes what he views as the ruling family's pro-Western politics. 14


1991

  • Criticizes
    the Saudi ruling family for employing Western troops to fight Saddam Hussein
    in lieu of Saudi troops. Bin Laden considers the presence of Western troops in the
    same country as Mecca and Medina a desecration of sacred land. 15
  • Moves to Sudan and expands his financial network to include an Islamic bank,
    a construction company, investment organizations, an agricultural business, and
    export firms.
    16
    Sometime
    during the early 1990s he founds the London-based PR organization the Advisory
    and Reform Committee, distributing propaganda against the Saudi regime's
    pro-Western inclinations. 17 Such
    assets are suspected of funding and providing logistical support for al
    Qaeda operations.
  • Bin Laden reports
    a number of assassination attempts against him while in Sudan. 18

1993

  • February 26: World Trade
    Center is bombed, killing 6 and injuring more than 1,000. 19
    The mastermind of the bombings, Ramzi Ahmed Yousef,
    is later linked to the al Qaeda network. 20
  • October 3-4: Operatives
    of al Qaeda take part in an attack on U.S. miltary personnel on a humanitarian
    mission in Somalia. 18 Americans are killed.21

1994

  • Bin Laden's Saudi
    citizenship is revoked. 22
  • Bin Laden's family
    allegedly disavows Osama, although some of his brothers have reportedly
    maintained contact with him. 23
  • Plots to assassinate
    the pope during his visit to the Philippines and to bomb the Israeli and
    American embassies in Manila are traced back to al Qaeda
    through Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, convicted mastermind of the 1993 World Trade
    Center bombing. 24

1995

  • Plots to assassinate
    President Clinton during his visit to the Philippines and to bomb U.S. transpacific
    flights are also traced back to al Qaeda through Ramzi Ahmed Yousef. 25

1996