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BREAKING NEWS: Osama Bin Laden Killed
Bin Laden was the leader of al Qaeda, the terrorist network behind the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. U.S. officials said that their forces have the body of bin Laden.
The enormity of the destruction -- the World Trade Center's towers devastated by two hijacked airplanes, the Pentagon partially destroyed by a third hijacked jetliner, a fourth flight crashed in rural Pennsylvania, and more than 3,000 people killed -- gave bin Laden a global presence.
The Saudi-born zealot commanded an organization run like a rogue multinational firm, experts said, with subsidiaries operating secretly in dozens of countries, plotting terror, raising money and recruiting young Muslim men -- even boys -- from many nations to its training camps in Afghanistan.
He used the fruits of his family's success -- a personal fortune estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars -- to help finance al Qaeda in its quest for a new pan-Islamic religious state. How much bin Laden got in the settlement of the family estate is still a matter of contention. Estimates range from tens of millions to hundreds of millions.
Even before September 11, bin Laden was already on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.
He had been implicated in a series of deadly, high-profile attacks that had grown in their intensity and success during the 1990s.
They included a deadly firefight with U.S. soldiers in Somalia in October 1993, the bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa that killed 224 in August 1998, and an attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 sailors in October 2000.
Bin Laden eluded capture for years, once reportedly slipping out of a training camp in Afghanistan just hours before a barrage of U.S. cruise missiles destroyed it.
On September 11, sources said, the evidence immediately pointed to bin Laden. Within days, those close to the investigation said they had their proof.
Six days after the attack, President George W. Bush made it clear Osama bin Laden was the No. 1 suspect.
"I want justice," Bush said. "There's an old poster out West that said, 'Wanted, dead or alive.'"
Osama bin Laden was born in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1957, the 17th of 52 children in a family that had struck it rich in the construction business.
His father, Mohamed bin Laden, was a native of Yemen, who immigrated to Saudi Arabia as a child. He became a billionaire by building his company into the largest construction firm in the Saudi kingdom.
As Saudi Arabia became flush with oil money, so, too, did the bin Laden family business, as Osama's father cultivated and exploited connections within the royal family.
One of the elder bin Laden's four wives -- described as Syrian in some accounts -- was Osama's mother. The young bin Laden inherited a share of the family fortune at an early age after his father died in an aircraft accident.
The bin Ladens were noted for their religious commitment. In his youth, Osama studied with Muslim scholars. Two of the family business' most prestigious projects also left a lasting impression: the renovations of mosques at Mecca and Medina, Islam's two holiest places.
As a young man attending college in Jeddah, Osama's interest in religion started to take a political turn. One of his professors was Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian scholar who was a key figure in the rise of a new pan-Islamic religious movement.
Azzam founded an organization to help the mujahedeen fighting to repel the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.
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