Osama bin Laden was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in early 1957. His parents were some of the wealthiest people in Saudi Arabia, allowing him an affluent upbringing. He was the seventh son and had nearly fifty brothers and sisters. He made a fortune working in this family's construction business. He lost his father at the age of 13 and married a Syrian girl when he was 17. His education took place in Jeddah, where he obtained a degree in public administration from King Abdul-Aziz University in 1981.
His father had often hosted hundreds of Islamic pilgrims during the Hajj season, a tradition that his older brothers continued. During these times he was able to make acquaintances with Islamic scholars and hardliners from all over the world.
During the early part of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, he went to Pakistan, where he met with some refugees and leaders from within Afghanistan. The secret trip lasted a month, but he returned to Saudi Arabia and collected donations from his friends and relatives in Saudi Arabia for the jihad (holy war) against the Soviets. He made several more trips there with money and eventually moved inside Afghanistan in 1982.
He brought construction machinery for the mujahedeen to use and began making more frequent trips to Afghanistan. He occasionally joined battles and encouraged people from Saudi Arabia to come and join the war. In 1984 he built a guesthouse in Peshawar for people coming to Afghanistan to join the jihad. After they stayed at the guesthouse a while, he sent them to the Afghan factions, where they would be trained and put on the front.
In 1986, he started his own camps, building six of them within a two year period. He started conducting battles with the soldiers under his own command. He brought men from Syria and Egypt with military experience to serve as leaders under him and help train his soldiers. Islamic militants began coming from all over the place to join Osama in fighting against the Soviet army.
By this time, he was staying in Afghanistan most of his time. He waged several major battles with the Soviet army, although most of his operations were small.
The Al-Qaeda operation was formed in 1988 for the primary purpose of keeping track of his soldiers so that their families could be notified if they died. Over time, his "organization" of soldiers became known as Al-Qaeda after their focus shifted outside of Afghanistan.
In 1989, he traveled to Saudi Arabia, where he was banned from all travel. The Saudi regime was embarrassed by his extremist views and lectures about Saddam Hussein's intended invasion of the kingdom. He wrote a letter to the king predicting the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, which happened several weeks later. He viewed it as his prophecy being fulfilled and asked the king if he could assist in defending the kingdom against the Iraqis.
When he heard that the United States were sending soldiers, he was both shocked and depressed. He was able to get an Islamic scholar to issue a fatwah, telling the Saudi people that training and readiness was a religious duty. An estimated four thousand people went to Afghanistan in response to undergo training and join his operation. The regime in Saudi Arabia did not like his actions and raided his Jeddah farm, causing him to write a letter of protest to the Saudi Prince.
Osama very much wanted to return to Afghanistan, but he couldn't with the travel restrictions placed on him. He convinced his brother, who was good friends with Prince Ahmed, that he needed to go to Pakistan briefly on business and would return shortly. His brother managed to get Ahmed to lift the travel ban and Osama went to Pakistan immediately in April of 1991. He sent a letter of apology to his brother saying that he would not return.
He left Pakistan immediately, knowing that the Pakistanis would try to deport him to Saudi Arabia, and went to Afghanistan. He arrived at the time of the collapse of the Afghanistan government and watched the various political factions squabble over control. He tried to mediate the disputes, but ultimately failed. During this time, the Saudi government worked with Pakistani intelligence to have him assassinated, but he was always notified by contacts beforehand. He left Afghanistan for Sudan after a few months.
In Sudan he was treated as a VIP by the regime and worked towards helping the Islamic Fundamentalist group that took control of the country. He donated construction equipment and took command of numerous projects to help improve the country. He managed to convince his friends in Saudi Arabia to invest in Sudanese interests, further helping the situation there.
In 1993, the World Trade Center was bombed, killing and wounding many American citizens. He was implicated as the individual funding and planning the operation, making him a much wanted terrorist by many agencies. While it made him very unpopular with many people in the world, it proved a popular action among Islamic hardliners and militants, attracting more people to his banner.
In 1994, Saudi Arabia stripped Osama of his citizenship, announcing their contempt for his actions. He condemned the action and started a group called the Advice and Reform Committee (ARC), which issued a number of scathing reports about the Saudi Arabian regime, but never called for violence.
In 1995, a car bomb went off in Riyadh and, although he never claimed responsibility, the government accused him of responsibility after four Afghans confessed to the bombing. By that time, Sudan was beginning to suffer international pressure for hosting him and he fled to Afghanistan in 1996. In June of '96, a bomb went off in Khobar, Saudi Arabia and he was once again implicated for responsibility.
That same year, he issued a twelve-page declaration of war against American forces in the Arabian Peninsula. In 1996, the Taliban took power in Afghanistan and Mullah Omar, the leader, promised Osama that he would receive excellent protection under their rule. This was the start of a long working relationship between Osama and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
In 1997, the Saudis sent a number of mercenaries into Afghanistan, but Osama found out and moved to Qandahar, causing the operation to be canceled. He finally met Mullah Omar soon after, who requested that he keep a low profile. That same year, a major operation to kidnap Osama was being planned by the US Special Forces. However, he caught wind of it after the government hesitated and it was published in a newspaper, forcing the plans to be canceled.
In 1998, bombs were detonated in Kenya and Tanzania. By this time he had declared war against America anywhere and was obviously determined to use whatever means necessary to show his distaste for American policies. The US retaliated by attempting to kill Osama by firing a missile at a camp in Khost. However, he was hundreds of miles away and only several people connected with him were killed.
On September 11, 2001, he unleashed an attack on the World Trade Center once again, using sleeper agents. The agents had been trained to fly jumbo jets and hijacked four that day. The first impacted the top of one of the WTC towers. Shortly after, a second plane collided with the second tower, later causing the two towers to collapse. Later on, a plane struck the Pentagon and another crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, although it is rumored that it was intended for the US Capitol in Washington DC. Nearly two thousand people were killed in the attacks, and a bruised America demanded action.
George W. Bush, the president, declared Osama bin Laden as responsible and declared war on him and his organization, making him the number one wanted terrorist by United States agencies. Shortly after, US forces invaded Afghanistan, removing the Taliban from power and arresting or killing all individuals associated with the Taliban or Osama bin Laden. A heavy manhunt went underway, looking for Osama in all places that he could be hiding.
Osama bin Laden has not yet been found, although he is in hiding and has released several videotapes praising the attacks against American interests. Today, he is one of the most hated, if not the most hated, individuals in the world. The United States forces claim that they will eventually find him and bring him to justice, working closely in conjunction with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Although Al-Qaeda has lost much of its organization and power, it still has some degree of power, but experts predict that the organization will have essentially dissolved within a short period of time.