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
  • Under pressure from the United States and Egypt, Sudan expells bin Laden.26
  • Bin Laden moves to Afghanistan, reportedly building ties with Taliban leader Mullah Omar. 27
  • Al Qaeda member Jamal Ahmed Al-Fadl defects to the United States and reveals both the extent of bin Laden's involvement in international terrorism and the objectives of the organization. 28
  • October 12: Bin Laden issues a declaration of jihad, against what he calls the "Zionist-Crusader alliance and their collaborators," the United States, Israel, and their allies. 29
  • The United States begins negotiations with the ruling Taliban over the extradition of bin Laden.30
1998
  • February: Issues fatwa calling for the murder of United States servicemen and civilians worldwide. 31
  • June: The United States indicts bin Laden on terrorist conspiracy charges. 32
  • August 7: Al Qaeda operatives truck-bomb the United States embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, killing 213 and injuring over 4,500. At approximately the same time, al Qaeda agents detonate a bomb in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killing 11. 33
  • August 20: U.S. launches cruise missile attacks against a suspected al Qaeda meeting near Khost, Afghanistan, and a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan suspected of producing chemical weapons. 34 Although reportedly killing between 20 and 30 al Qaeda members, the attacks are now largely viewed as ineffective. 35
  • After the attacks bin Laden begins to use couriers in lieu of cell phones and electronic wire transfers to make it difficult for tech-heavy U.S. intelligence networks to track him. 36
  • Bin Laden reportedly attempts to develop a "super-heroin" that could be used to increase addiction and undermine stability in the Western world.37
  • December 22: Bin Laden neither denies nor accepts responsibility for the embassy bombings, but praises the attacks and identifies himself only as a source of inspiration for the terrorists. 38
1999
  • Administration and Treasury Department officials travel to the Middle East in an attempt to pressure governments into freezing al Qaeda's assets, with limited results. 39
  • June 7: Bin Laden is placed on the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted List," with a reward of $5 million for his capture. 40
  • Late December: An individual attempting to sneak over 100 pounds of bomb-making material into the United States is apprehended. He confesses to plotting to detonate the materials at the Los Angeles International Airport on New Year's Eve. He received his training and instructions at an al Qaeda camp. 41
2000
  • January 3: Al Qaeda operatives attempt to bomb a U.S. destroyer in the Middle East, but fail when their explosive-laden boat sinks. 42
  • October 12: U.S.S. Cole bombed by a small mooring ship while docked in Aden harbor, killing 17 and injuring 40. Perpetrators are identified as having been trained by al Qaeda. 43
  • An unidentified Afghan group attempts to assassinate bin Laden. 44
  • At his child's wedding bin Laden recites a poem he wrote about the attacks on the Cole: "The pieces of the bodies of the infidels were flying like dust particles / If you had seen it with your own eyes, your heart would have been filled with joy."45
2001
  • Training videos depicting bin Laden and others calling for attacks against American and Jewish targets are distributed worldwide. 46
  • August and September: Bin Laden associates are instructed to return to Afghanistan before September 10. 47
  • Just before September 11: Bin Laden indicates he is preparing an upcoming attack on the United States. Known associates of bin Laden name September 11 as the date of the attack. 48
  • September 11: Two L.A.-bound jetliners crash into the World Trade Center towers. Shortly thereafter, another jetliner crashes into the Pentagon, and yet another, suspected to be targeting Washington, D.C., crashes south of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Nineteen men are identified as the hijackers,three of whom have been identified as al Qaeda operatives. One of bin Laden's senior associates is identified as planning the attack.49
  • Presently thought to be hiding in Afghanistan with three wives and 15 children as a "guest" of the ruling Taliban. 50 Reports suggest he is in ill health, with kidney problems. 51
  • A large portion of his wealth has been frozen by various governments and reports circulate that he is operating at a fraction of his estimated $300 million net worth. 52 Authorities claim to be withholding additional evidence against bin Laden as "too sensitive to release" in an effort to maintain the integrity of any possible criminal prosecution and to protect intelligence sources. 53





1 Kenneth Katzman, Policy Papers, 8/17/2001.

2 Lisa Beyer, Time, 9/24/2001.

3 Robert McFadden, New York Times, 9/30/2001.

4 Lisa Beyer, Time, 9/24/2001.

5 Michael Dobbs, Washington Post, 9/30/2001.

6 Robert McFadden, New York Times, 9/30/2001.

7 Jerry Lawton, Daily Star, 9/28/2001; Christine Middap, Daily Telegraph, 10/4/2001; Yossef Bodansky,

Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America; Robert McFadden, New York Times, 9/30/2001.

8 Oliver Burkeman, The Guardian, 9/25/2001.

9 Lisa Beyer, Time, 9/24/2001.

10 Robert McFadden, New York Times, 9/30/2001.

11 Kenneth Katzman, Policy Papers, 8/17/2000.

12 Robert McFadden, New York Times, 9/30/2001.

13 Robert McFadden, New York Times, 09/30/2001

14 Lisa Beyer, Time, 9/24/2001.

15 Lisa Beyer, Time, 9/24/2001.

16 "Responsibility for the Terrorist Atrocities in the United States, 11 September 2001," a report issued by

the government of the United Kingdom; Kenneth Katzman, Policy Papers, 8/17/2000.

17 Kenneth Katzman, Policy Papers, 8/17/2000.

18 Kenneth Katzman, Policy Papers, 8/17/2000.

19 Robert McFadden, New York Times, 9/30/2001.

20 Kenneth Katzman, Policy Papers, 08/17/2000.

21 "Responsibility for the Terrorist Atrocities in the United States, 11 September 2001"

22 Kenneth Katzman, Policy Papers, 08/17/2000.

23 Kenneth Katzman, Policy Papers, 08/17/2000.

24 Kenneth Katzman, Policy Papers, 08/17/2000.

25 Kenneth Katzman, Policy Papers, 08/17/2000.

26 Kenneth Katzman, Policy Papers, 08/17/2000.

27 Barry Bearak, New York Times, 9/19/2001.

28 James Risen, New York Times, 09/30/2001.

29 "Responsibility for the Terrorist Atrocities in the United States, 11 September 2001."

30 "Responsibility for the Terrorist Atrocities in the United States, 11 September 2001."

31 "Responsibility for the Terrorist Atrocities in the United States, 11 September 2001."

32 James Risen, New York Times, 09/30/2001.

33 "Responsibility for the Terrorist Atrocities in the United States, 11 September 2001."

34 Kenneth Katzman, Policy Papers, 08/17/2000.

35 James Risen, New York Times, 09/30/2001.

36 James Risen, New York Times, 09/30/2001.

37 Barry Meier, New York Times, 10/04/2001.

38 "Responsibility for the Terrorist Atrocities in the United States, 11 September 2001."

39 James Risen, New York Times, 09/30/2001.

40 Kenneth Katzman, Policy Papers, 08/17/2000.

41 "Responsibility for the Terrorist Atrocities in the United States, 11 September 2001."

42 "Responsibility for the Terrorist Atrocities in the United States, 11 September 2001."

43 "Responsibility for the Terrorist Atrocities in the United States, 11 September 2001."

44 James Risen, New York Times, 09/30/2001.

45 Lisa Beyer, Time, 9/24/2001.

46 "Responsibility for the Terrorist Atrocities in the United States, 11 September 2001."

47 "Responsibility for the Terrorist Atrocities in the United States, 11 September 2001."

48 "Responsibility for the Terrorist Atrocities in the United States, 11 September 2001."

49 "Responsibility for the Terrorist Atrocities in the United States, 11 September 2001."

50 Robert McFadden, New York Times, 9/30/2001.

51 Lisa Beyer, Time, 9/24/2001.

52 Chris Blackhurst, Independent on Sunday, 9/16/2001.

53 "Responsibility for the Terrorist Atrocities in the United States, 11 September 2001."


Bo Crader is an editorial assistant at The Weekly Standard.
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