News / Asia

Osama bin Laden Was Target of Perhaps Largest Manhunt in US History

In this Dec. 24, 1998 file photo, al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden speaks to a selected group of reporters in mountains of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan
In this Dec. 24, 1998 file photo, al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden speaks to a selected group of reporters in mountains of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan
TEXT SIZE - +
Michael Kitchen

The world's most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden, is dead at the age of 54.  U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the world's most wanted terrorist was killed by U.S. forces on Sunday at a compound deep inside Pakistan.

Blamed for terrorist atrocities on at least three continents, Osama bin Laden was the target of perhaps the largest U.S. manhunt in history.

Following the catastrophic attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, President Bush publicly vowed to find the man believed to be the master mind - Osama bin Laden. "This man wants to destroy any semblance of civilization for his own power and his own good.  He's so evil that he's willing to send young men to commit suicide while he hides in caves.  Not only is he guilty of incredible murder, [but] he has no conscience and no soul," he said.

But bin Laden's image as the world's most-wanted terrorist stands in sharp contrast to his peaceful and comfortable upbringing.

Born March 10, 1957, he was one of more than 50 children of a wealthy Saudi construction magnate who died when Osama bin Laden was a teenager.

Raised in the opulence of Saudi Arabia's upper-class, rubbing shoulders with members of the ruling royal family, bin Laden went on to pursue an engineering degree and seemed headed for work in the family business.

But his life forever changed when, in 1979, the former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.

Bin Laden, like many Muslims, left home to join the fight against the Soviets, although at first his participation amounted only to logistical support for new recruits to the Afghan mujahedin Islamic fighters - the same ones supported by the United States.



But in the mid-1980's, bin Laden decided to use his share of his family's wealth to form his own militia force, which later became known as "al-Qaida" - Arabic for "The Base."

After the Soviets withdrew, bin Laden returned home, but kept ties with fellow veterans from the Afghan war and maintained an interest in other Muslim causes.

Turning point


Another major turning point in his life came in 1990 when Iraq invaded the oil-rich Persian Gulf state of Kuwait, prompting Saudi Arabia to invite U.S. troops to deploy within its territory.

Bin Laden saw the arrival of non-Muslims on what he considered holy land as an affront to Islam.  He protested strongly against the move, resulting in his expulsion from Saudi Arabia in 1991.

Bin Laden found refuge in Sudan, where he is said to have orchestrated attacks on the U.S. military in Somalia and Saudi Arabia. Under U.S. pressure, the Sudanese expelled him in 1996, and he returned once more to Afghanistan.

Vikram Parekh, an analyst for the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, says bin Laden quickly became a close ally of Afghanistan's new rulers, the hard-line Islamist Taliban movement, providing them with needed funds. "It gave the Taliban an independent financial base from pure reliance for example on Pakistan for the maintenance of its administration, for the coordination of its military campaign," he said.

Terror plots

But even as he involved himself once again in Afghan politics, bin Laden stayed involved in his global struggle against the United States.  He allegedly masterminded the 1998 bombing of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Parekh notes that as Osama bin Laden became associated with attacks on the West, his popularity grew among disaffected Arabs and those unhappy with U.S. policy in the Middle East. "He has become sort of an icon of resistance to the United States, regardless of whether or not people actually support Osama as an individual or the ideology he represents," he said.

Stopping bin Laden became the top priority for the United States following the New York and Washington attacks in 2001, which claimed more than 3,000 lives.  

When the Taliban refused to surrender the al-Qaida leader to U.S. authorities, the United States went to war, ousting the Taliban from Afghanistan in December 2001 and sending Osama bin Laden into hiding.

Life at large

In his years at large, bin Laden released a series of audiotapes condemning the United States, causing great frustration for Washington - a frustration that has now ended.

Even before the hunt for bin Laden ended, U.S. Ambassador J. Coffer Black, former head of counter-terrorism for the Central Intelligence Agency, said it would have great meaning for many in the United States. "A good day, a day that the relatives of all the victims of 9-11 will certainly remember," he said.

But, he added, it would not mean the end of foreign terrorist threats against the United States.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid