Who is Osama bin Laden?
Osama bin Laden is the alleged leader of a vast terrorist network called al-Qaeda, Arabic for "the base." He is also the prime suspect in the recent World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.
Bin Laden declared a holy war against the United States in 1998, accusing the country of wanting to dominate Muslim affairs.
Bin Laden was born in 1957 to one of Saudi Arabia's richest families and has used his fortune to pay for terrorist activities. He uses a complicated financial network to launder money and may be sponsored by some governments.
Previous acts of terrorism against the U.S.
• World Trade Center, New York City; Feb 26, 1993
Terrorists exploded a bomb in the underground garage of the second World Trade Center tower, killing six people. The building was damaged but subsequently repaired. Six Islamic radicals with ties to al-Qaeda were tried and convicted by a U.S. court.
• Murrah Federal Building, Oklahoma City; Apr 19, 1995
A truck bomb exploded in front of the building, killing 168 people and injuring over 500. At the time, it was the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil. Americans Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were convicted. McVeigh was executed this year, and Nichols is serving a life sentence.
• Khobar Towers, Saudi Arabia; June 25, 1996
Terrorists exploded a tanker truck near an Air Force housing complex, wounding 500 people and killing 19 American servicemen. Authorities believe that the Saudi Hezbollah terrorist group was responsible for the attack and suspect that Osama bin Laden may have been involved as well. Thirteen Saudis and one Lebanese man were indicted last June. However, Saudi Arabia refuses to extradite the suspects.
• U.S. embassies in Africa; Aug 7, 1998
Terrorists exploded truck bombs outside U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. In Nairobi, Kenya, 257 people died and 5,000 were wounded. In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 11 people died and hundreds were wounded. Four men with ties to al-Qaeda were convicted last May and sentenced to life in prison by a U.S. court.
• U.S.S. Cole, Aden, Yemen; Oct 12, 2000
Suicide bombers killed 17 sailors aboard a naval destroyer in the Yemeni port of Aden. Yemeni authorities arrested several suspects tied to al-Qaeda, but the investigation has since stalled.
Recent American involvement in Afghanistan
Afghanistan, an Islamic country in southwestern Asia, has come under U.S. attack recently for sanctioning Osama bin Laden and his operations. Currently, an orthodox Islamic group called the Taliban controls most of Afghanistan. Pakistan is the only country that currently has diplomatic relations with the Taliban.
Many members of the Taliban come from religious schools organized in the 1980s during Afghanistan's fight with Soviet Union forces. The U.S. gave training to many Taliban fighters in an effort to oppose the Soviets. Osama bin Laden also gave the fighters financial aid.
The Taliban seized power in 1994 and has sheltered Osama bin Laden since 1996. Recently, however, a group of Muslim clerics has requested that bin Laden leave the country. However, the Taliban has also noted that bin Laden is currently under the government's protection.
Information compiled by
Kang-Xing Jin from www.britannica.com, The Washington Post and other news sources.
Kang-Xing Jin. Kang-Xing ("Mr. K") Jin is a senior in the Blair magnet program. His first name is pronounced exactly like it is spelled--"consin," as in the last two syllables of Wisconsin, where he was born. This year, he is co-managing news editor of Chips. Besides journalism, ... More »