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The War on Terror… in review Who is Osama bin Laden, September 2001


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The War on Terror… in review Who is Osama bin Laden, September 2001



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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 The son of a Yemeni construction magnate, bin Laden's Saudi citizenship was revoked for his opposition to the country's royal family, whom he regards as puppets of the US.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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May 2011