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12 May 2011

Osama Bin Laden: A Timeline

By Sophie Elmhirst

10 March 1957 Born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, only child of the businessman Mohammed Bin Laden by Alia Ghanem (later “Hamida”), his tenth wife. (It is estimated that Bin Laden Sr has 22 wives – though no more than four at a time – and fathers 52 children in all.) The Bin Ladens have close ties to the Saudi royal family and he is raised as a devout Wahhabi Muslim
1967 Bin Laden Sr dies in a plane crash
1968 Enters the secular al-Thager Model School in Jeddah
1974 Marries his first wife, Najwa, a cousin
1976 Enters King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah to study economics and business administration, graduating in 1981
1979 Soviet troops invade Afghanistan. The action enrages him
Early 1980s Moves to Afghanistan and from there to Peshawar, Pakistan
1984 Becomes involved in the organisation Maktab al-Khidamat with the Palestinian Sunni scholar Abdullah Azzam. The group, a forerunner to al-Qaeda, channels money, arms and fighters into the Afghan war
August 1988 Al-Qaeda is formed at a meeting attended by senior leaders of Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), Azzam and Bin Laden. It is agreed that the jihadist cause will continue after the Soviet army withdraws from Afghanistan
1992 Moves to Sudan to take part in Hassan al-Turabi’s Islamic revolution
1994 Saudi Arabia revokes his citizenship after he publicly criticises the Saudi government for harbouring US troops during the first Gulf war
1995 EIJ, with which Bin Laden is closely associated, attempts to assassinate President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. It fails, and the EIJ is expelled from Sudan
May 1996 Bin Laden returns to Afghanistan, landing in Jalalabad, and forms a close relationship with the Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar
1998 Co-signs a fatwa with Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian al-Qaeda leader, declaring the killing of Americans and their allies – “civilian and military” – an “individual duty for every Muslim”
August 1998 EIJ and Bin Laden are held responsible for attacks on US embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya
June 1999 Bin Laden becomes the 456th person to be listed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list
11 September 2001 Attacks on New York and Washington, DC by 19 plane hijackers kill nearly 3,000 people
16 September 2001 Bin Laden releases a taped statement to al-Jazeera denying any involvement in the 11 September attacks:
“I stress that I have not carried out this act, which appears to have been carried out by individuals with their own motivation.” Further statements emerge in October and November defending the attacks and criticising the “crusader” west, but still not taking responsibility. By this time, Bin Laden is believed to be in hiding in Afghanistan
October 2004 Finally claims responsibility for the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States in a videotape broadcast on the pan-Arab television network al-Jazeera
December 2005 A letter obtained by the US security services indicates that Bin Laden and the al-Qaeda leadership are based in the Waziristan region of Pakistan
May 2006 Al-Jazeera broadcasts a five-minute audiotape from Bin Laden in which he claims that he assigned the hijackers to perform the 11 September attacks
July 2007 US Senate votes to double the $25m reward for information leading to his capture or death
August 2007 US and Afghan forces raid the mountain caves in Tora Bora, Afghanistan, killing al-Qaeda and Taliban members but failing to find Bin Laden
2007-2009 A series of audiotapes is released, purportedly containing messages from Bin Laden encouraging the insurgency in Iraq and calling for an end to western military involvement in Afghanistan
December 2009 Defence Secretary
Robert Gates says that US officials have had no reliable information on Bin Laden’s whereabouts for “years”. That same month, the Pakistani prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, denies that Bin Laden is in Pakistan
18 October 2010 An unnamed Nato official says Bin Laden is “alive and well and living comfortably” in Pakistan, under the protection of elements of that country’s intelligence services
21 January 2011 In an audiotape broadcast on al-Jazeera, Bin Laden says the release of two French journalists held by Afghan rebels depends on the pullout of French soldiers from Afghanistan. He also warns Paris that there will be a “high price” for its policies: “We repeat the same message to you – the release of your prisoners in the hands of our brothers is linked to the withdrawal of your soldiers from our country.” This is the final tape release before his death
1 May 2011 President Barack Obama announces that Bin Laden has been killed by US special forces during a covert operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan. It is alleged that Bin Laden used his fourth wife as a human shield, but this is later disputed. His body is buried at sea within 24 hours

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