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The War on Terror… in review Who is Osama bin Laden, September 2001 Suspect No1 By Christopher KremmerOsama bin Laden is the man most likely to have been behind Tuesday's disasters. Christopher Kremmer profiles the terrorist the world fears the most. HE'S A millionaire but lives like a desert nomad. He studied business administration but is prouder of his ability to handle an AK-47 assault rifle than to pick financial winners. He was once an ally in the West's war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan but is now America's most implacable foe. Osama bin Laden, thought most likely by US intelligence officials to be the perpetrator of Tuesday's stunning attacks, is hunkered down in his adopted Afghan homeland. Like the suicide terrorists, the rage of the 44-year-old bin Laden knows no limits. Like them, he is almost certainly resigned to a violent death as a martyr to his cause. But before his own personal Judgment Day comes, he is determined to force the United States to remove what he regards as its occupying force of 20,000 troops from his original homeland, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. The son of a Yemeni construction magnate, bin Laden's Saudi citizenship was revoked for his opposition to the country's royal family, whom he regards as puppets of the US. A tall, willowy figure of pious disposition, he cut his teeth fighting alongside the Afghan Mujaheddin against the Soviet occupation of the country in the 1980s. After the Soviet withdrawal in 1988, he relocated to Sudan but under Western pressure returned to Afghanistan in 1996, continuing to run a global network of weapons-trained sympathisers. In August 1998 he narrowly escaped death when scores of US missiles crashed into training camps run by his group, Al Qaeda ("The Base") near Khost, south of the capital, Kabul. The attack, in retaliation for the bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania blamed on bin Laden, was timed to coincide with his presence in the camps. In the event, he was elsewhere at the time. Since the embassy bombings and a $7 million bounty on his head by the FBI his movements have become more peripatetic. He shifts camps regularly while contributing to the ruling Taliban's offensives in its civil war against its Northern Alliance enemies. Despite the freezing of his assets estimated at about $US400 million ($780 million) by UN member nations, he appears to have continuing access to at least part of his fortune with which to fund his mainly Arab legions. Some experts believe that bin Laden's influence in Afghanistan far exceeds that of a fugitive offered refuge by the Taliban. "He's virtually running the show," said an Islamabad-based diplomat. "Without bin Laden's financial support, and more importantly the Islam legitimacy he bestows on their regime, the Taliban would be vulnerable." By contributing millions of dollars to the Taliban's coffers and making the movement heavily dependent on his patronage bin Laden has bought himself insurance against extradition.
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But leaving nothing to chance, he has cemented his relationship to the Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, by marriage as well. The two are close friends. Despite the fact that the whole country is under UN Security Council sanctions on bin Laden's account, the Taliban has shown little sign of any willingness to surrender him. In fact, Western leverage over the hardline militia is nil. There are no Western embassies to pull out in protest, no CIA intelligence stations to organise a coup or assassination. Cutting aid would only hurt some of the poorest people in the world and increase the flood of Afghan refugees fleeing the country, which has been at war for 20 years. In countries neighbouring landlocked Afghanistan, attitudes towards an aggressive US operation to apprehend bin Laden's group are divided. The Pakistan military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, is said privately to oppose allowing his country to be used as a platform for any such bid, which he fears may spark an Islamic revolution in Pakistan itself. Russia, which confronts bin Laden-trained and financed militants in Chechnya, Uzbekistan, where the government is fighting against more of his disciples, and India, which faces bin Laden-backed militants in Kashmir, all would welcome a stronger US posture. The man in the eye of the storm has long since ceased claiming responsibility for attacks in his name. He has become a radical folk hero who can probably claim to inspire more attacks than he organises. After similar outrages in the past, he has praised the perpetrators of bloodshed against innocent civilians. "These are true men who we respect and hold in the highest esteem," he said of the bombers of the US embassies in Africa. Source Publication:dne MorningHeraldThe SDate: 13 September 2001 Section: News and Features Page: 21This file photo taken in 1989 shows Osamabin Laden walking with Afghanis in the Jalalabad area. AFP PHOTO / HO / FILES
Herald Education teaching and learning activities www.heraldeducation.com.au
May 2011