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Bin Laden family in Sweden in 1971. Osama is in the green shirt and blue jeans, second from the right.


spaceWhen a communist government fell out of power in Afghanistan in 1979, the Soviet Union sent in troops to reassert their influence in the country. Muslims from around the world went to Afghanistan to join the battle against the Soviet Empire. Among those who came from Saudi Arabia was Osama bin Laden. Although his support was mostly financial and not military, bin Laden emerged from the decade-long war in 1998 as a leading member in resistance movements. As a leading fundraiser for the resistance against the Soviets, Bin Laden was also a leader in the movement to form an organization after the war to continue similar activities. Created in mid-1988, Bin Laden was now a very influential leader in the group that officially became to be known as al-Qaeda later in the 1990s.

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spaceIn August of 1990, Iraq invaded Saudi Arabia-controlled Kuwait. Bin Laden went to his homeland's leadership and proposed to Saudi leaders that he use his financial resources and recruiting network to bring fighters to the cause of retaking Kuwait. Saudi royalty rejected his offer in favor of the United States establishing legitimate military bases from which to fight against Saddam Hussein's Iraqi army. Bin Laden was furious, and publicly ridiculed his homeland's leadership for their actions. The Saudi government then took away his passport. After Bin Laden snuck out of the country anyway, Saudi Arabia's leaders froze his financial assets and removed his citizenship.

spaceDuring the next few years, Bin Laden operated out of Sudan and was known to be a part of or implicated in many terrorist attacks. Among such incidents were: two 1992 hotel bombings where US troops stopped in Aden on the way to Somalia, possible involvement in the 1993 shooting down of two US Blackhawk helicopters in Somalia, a November 1995 car bomb outside a Saudi-US training facility in Riyadh, and a June 1996 truck bomb in the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. By 1996, Bin Laden was no longer welcome in Sudan. Since Saudi Arabia would no longer accept Bin Laden in their country, he sought haven in Afghanistan.

spaceIn 1997, Bin Laden conducted his first television interview with CNN's Peter Arnett. In it he outlines reasons for his hatred of the United States. Although the jihad he describes focuses mainly on the military, he extended the instructions to kill all Americans in the fatwa discussed in the paragraph below the video.




spaceOn February 23rd, 1998, Osama Bin Laden and Egyptian physician Ayman al-Zawahiri issued a fatwa through an Arabic newspaper in London outlining a rationale for their terrorist actions. A fatwa is an interpretation of Islamic law that is issued by a respected Islamic authority. Bin Laden, already a terrorist, and al-Zawahari, already a fugitive, clearly were not respected within the Muslim community, and therefore, did not speak for Islam. That fact did not stop them from issuing directives that included, "the ruling to kill the Americans and their allies -- civilians and military -- is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it." The terrorists went on to later instruct, "We -- with Allah's help -- call on every Muslim who believes in Allah and wishes to be rewarded to comply with Allah's order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it." Because of statements in the fatwa, many incorrectly interpreted the Bin Laden's and al-Zawahiri's words to be those of all Muslims. See the page entitled "Social Issues" after viewing the entire museum for more on this topic.

spaceOn August 7th, 1998, the US Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya was attacked by al-Qaeda operatives driving trucks laden with explosives. The attack on the US embassy killed 12 Americans, 201 others and injured 5,000 overall. An attack four minutes later at 10:39am in Dar es Salaam killed 11 more, although none were American, who were the principal group al-Qaeda targeted. Displaying his complete disregard for human life on any level, Bin Laden spoke of the dangers of killing Muslims as his group aimed to kill Americans, "when it becomes apparent that it would be impossible to repel these Americans without assaulting them, even if this involved the killing of Muslims, this is permissible under Islam." Once again, Bin Laden spoke for an enormous Muslim nation that he did not represent.

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The physical damage of the 1998 al-Qaeda bombing in KenyaaadadadPeople struggle to get critically injured Africans medical attention

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A US Embassy worker(above left) is helped to an ambulance after the Nairobi terror attacks. Douglas Sidialo(above right) remembers the victims of the Nairobi attacks with a prayer. Sidialo, who was was blinded in the attacks, was inspired to visit the memorial after hearing news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed. Sidialo told the Associated Press, “A day to remember those whose lives were changed forever. A day of great relief to us victims and survivors to see that bin Laden has been killed.”



spaceDuring the next few years bin Laden spent time training and financing preparations for the 2001 terrorist attacks on America. Below are some training videos created by al-Qaeda which include brainwashing children(below left) to storm residences with automatic weapons, executing on a rooftop(below center), and how to commit a drive by assassination(below right).