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Osama: billionaire heir who founded a terror empire

By The Assam Tribune

WASHINGTON, May 2 (IANS): From billionaire heir to the world's most wanted fugitive, Osama bin Laden was the poster boy of radical terrorism who masterminded some of the most audacious terror attacks the world has seen, including the 9/11 strike on the US.

For two decades, Osama, 54, managed to escape what was perhaps the world's biggest manhunt through the close, symbiotic relationship with Islamist groups, including the Taliban.

Born in 1957 to Saudi billionaire Muhammad bin Awad bin Laden and a Yemeni mother, Osama was raised amid luxuries, only to shun it later for a life in the mountainous hideouts of Afghanistan.

Father bin Laden built his fortune in real estate, thanks to his close ties with Saudi ruling family. He died in 1967, and his billions were divided among 54 children. Osama reportedly inherited $250-$300 million.

After school, Osama enrolled in management and economics programme at the King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah.

But his real calling lay elsewhere. In 1979, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, Osama joined thousands of Muslim young men in a global jihad to oust the Communists from a Muslim country.

Osama, then backed by the US, used his millions to fund and finance the mujahedeen. He became a shadowy legend -- a billionaire fighting in rugged mountains, sleeping on the floor with fellow Muslims, all for Islam.

Osama claimed that in a battle with the Soviet army in 1980s, which soon turned into a hand-to-hand combat, he snatched a Kalashnikov from a Soviet general.

The rifle, a familiar prop in his photographs and video grabs, never left his side.

It was in Pakistan that Osama met radical Jordanian cleric Abdullah Azzam, who was to become his mentor. The seeds of Al Qaeda were sown.

Osama spent millions in relief work and funding fighters but led a spartan life.

He worked with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to set up seminaries in Pakistan for Afghan refugees. These later evolved into virtual training centres for Islamic radicals.

In 1989, as the Kremlin gave up Afghanistan, Osama returned to Saudi Arabia to a hero's welcome.

But soon he turned against the Saudi royal family.

In 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, Osama offered to Saudi Arabia to organise thousands of fighters. But the Saudis refused -- and turned to the US for help.

It was an event that transformed Osama, who was incensed that non-believers (American soldiers) were stationed in the birthplace of Islam.

By 1991, Osama, his four wives and seven children shifted to Sudan. His millions got him new friends. And his new enemy was the US.

In Sudan, thousands of Aghan veterans joined him, initiating the real work of developing Al Qaeda, or "the Base", into a force capable of hitting American interests around the world.

In 1993, the World Trade Centre in New York was bombed. In 1998, bombs exploded near US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania killing over 200, mostly Africans.

The came the attack on the US navy ship USS Cole in Yemen, killing 17 Americans.

Osama also claimed responsibility for a 1993 gunfight that killed 18 US troops in Somalia, and the 1996 bombing of a military complex in Saudi Arabia that left 19 US soldiers dead.

In 1998, Osama and his Egyptian deputy Aymman al Zawahiri asked Muslims to attack and kill Americans.

The most audacious attack was yet to come.

On a clear September day in 2001, two hijacked planes rammed into the twin World Trade Centre towers. A third one flew into Pentagon and fourth crashed in a field in outside.

As thousands died, Osama became America's enemy number one -- with a $25 million bounty.

Six days later, President George W. Bush ordered a massive manhunt for Osama.

"I want justice," Bush said. "There's an old poster out West that said, 'Wanted, dead or alive.'"

Finally that quest ended Sunday night when his successor President Barack Obama appeared in the White House to declare that bin Laden had been killed and "justice has been done".

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Osama: billionaire heir who founded a terror empire

WASHINGTON, May 2 (IANS): From billionaire heir to the world's most wanted fugitive, Osama bin Laden was the poster boy of radical terrorism who masterminded some of the most audacious terror attacks the world has seen, including the 9/11 strike on the US.

For two decades, Osama, 54, managed to escape what was perhaps the world's biggest manhunt through the close, symbiotic relationship with Islamist groups, including the Taliban.

Born in 1957 to Saudi billionaire Muhammad bin Awad bin Laden and a Yemeni mother, Osama was raised amid luxuries, only to shun it later for a life in the mountainous hideouts of Afghanistan.

Father bin Laden built his fortune in real estate, thanks to his close ties with Saudi ruling family. He died in 1967, and his billions were divided among 54 children. Osama reportedly inherited $250-$300 million.

After school, Osama enrolled in management and economics programme at the King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah.

But his real calling lay elsewhere. In 1979, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, Osama joined thousands of Muslim young men in a global jihad to oust the Communists from a Muslim country.

Osama, then backed by the US, used his millions to fund and finance the mujahedeen. He became a shadowy legend -- a billionaire fighting in rugged mountains, sleeping on the floor with fellow Muslims, all for Islam.

Osama claimed that in a battle with the Soviet army in 1980s, which soon turned into a hand-to-hand combat, he snatched a Kalashnikov from a Soviet general.

The rifle, a familiar prop in his photographs and video grabs, never left his side.

It was in Pakistan that Osama met radical Jordanian cleric Abdullah Azzam, who was to become his mentor. The seeds of Al Qaeda were sown.

Osama spent millions in relief work and funding fighters but led a spartan life.

He worked with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to set up seminaries in Pakistan for Afghan refugees. These later evolved into virtual training centres for Islamic radicals.

In 1989, as the Kremlin gave up Afghanistan, Osama returned to Saudi Arabia to a hero's welcome.

But soon he turned against the Saudi royal family.

In 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, Osama offered to Saudi Arabia to organise thousands of fighters. But the Saudis refused -- and turned to the US for help.

It was an event that transformed Osama, who was incensed that non-believers (American soldiers) were stationed in the birthplace of Islam.

By 1991, Osama, his four wives and seven children shifted to Sudan. His millions got him new friends. And his new enemy was the US.

In Sudan, thousands of Aghan veterans joined him, initiating the real work of developing Al Qaeda, or "the Base", into a force capable of hitting American interests around the world.

In 1993, the World Trade Centre in New York was bombed. In 1998, bombs exploded near US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania killing over 200, mostly Africans.

The came the attack on the US navy ship USS Cole in Yemen, killing 17 Americans.

Osama also claimed responsibility for a 1993 gunfight that killed 18 US troops in Somalia, and the 1996 bombing of a military complex in Saudi Arabia that left 19 US soldiers dead.

In 1998, Osama and his Egyptian deputy Aymman al Zawahiri asked Muslims to attack and kill Americans.

The most audacious attack was yet to come.

On a clear September day in 2001, two hijacked planes rammed into the twin World Trade Centre towers. A third one flew into Pentagon and fourth crashed in a field in outside.

As thousands died, Osama became America's enemy number one -- with a $25 million bounty.

Six days later, President George W. Bush ordered a massive manhunt for Osama.

"I want justice," Bush said. "There's an old poster out West that said, 'Wanted, dead or alive.'"

Finally that quest ended Sunday night when his successor President Barack Obama appeared in the White House to declare that bin Laden had been killed and "justice has been done".