Once dubbed the world’s most wanted man. The Islamic fundamentalist who established Al-Qaeda (the ‘base’) and brought one of the most powerful nations to its knees. Though the focus of unrelenting media attention, he was also a shadowy figure, a man of enormous mystique. Softly spoken and unwavering in his belief that he was a devout Islamist, here are some things you may not know about him.
The protracted debacle in Vietnam was a perpetual ghost of failure for the United States of America. A chance for payback to their Communist nemesis the Soviet Union came in the form of Afghanistan. The Soviets had invaded the country in 1979 to prop up the Communist-leaning government of President Mohammad Najibullah.
The CIA covertly funded and equipped Afghan rebel groups to repel the invading Soviets through various channels including that of the Pakistani secret services – the ISI. These arms were fed to the Mujahideen ( meaning one who is engaged in an Islamic struggle ).
Osama bin Laden was part of this coalition and so was, therefore, fighting on the same side as the Americans. While there is disagreement on this, some commentators argue that the CIA effectively helped to establish Al-Qaeda. There is a word for this; blowback, when an intelligence operation comes back to haunt its creators.
4Bin Laden Family Jet Crash
According to the AAIB (Air Accidents Investigative Branch), the Saudi-registered Phenom 300 jet was travelling 40% faster than it should have been and so could not pull up in time on the runway. It was attempting to land at Blackbushe Airport in Surrey on July 31, 2015. Upon hitting earthworks, the plane became airborne very briefly before smashing into parked vehicles and setting alight. The three passengers were Raja Bashir Hashem, 75 (Osama’s stepmother), her daughter Sana bin Laden, 53, and another relative, Zouheir Anuar Hashem, 56. The pilot, 58-year-old Mazen Salim Alqasim also perished and was from Jordan.
The AAIB also stated in its report that the plane had no obvious technical deficiencies and the pilot’s autopsy revealed no unknown substances in his body. The weather was fine, and visibility was excellent.Osama bin Laden had over 50 brothers and sisters and many stepmothers, with several of them, having connections to the West.
Rumours always persist around the bin Laden family, but it is not thought that foul play was the cause of the crash.
3His Last Refuge
The headlines flashed around the world. America’s decade-long hunt for the man believed to be responsible for 9/11 had finally reached its climax. The U.S. proudly, and with great relief, announced that on May 2nd, 2011, Osama bin Laden had been located and neutralised by Special Forces.
It was a seminal moment and one the Americans had been dreaming of. The official version reads that Bin Laden’s corpse was buried at sea in a Muslim ceremony which deliberately allowed for no memorial or constructed worship at a place of his resting. There was some speculation that his body was flown to America to a pathology lab and then later cremated but this has always been denied.
Perhaps the biggest question though is why did it take the U.S five years to track him down? Were they being deceived by so-called friends and allies? Amongst some intelligence agencies and parts of the media, the thinking travels along this line; that Pakistani government and the ISI (Pakistani secret services) knew of bin Laden’s whereabouts and were waiting for the right deal from the US to reveal his location.
It has also been speculated that the Saudis were also aware and were keen to keep him out of America’s hands for fear of what bin Laden could do to their reputation – in other words, what he knew about Saudi involvement with terrorism.
2His Wife’s Tooth
When you’re the most wanted man on the planet, it must be quite easy to succumb to nervous exhaustion and paranoia. By most accounts, Osama bin Laden was not a man to treat his security with anything other than a high-level of wariness and suspicion. He knew the forces that opposed him would stop at nothing to bring him to justice or assassinate him.
According to recently declassified reports on documents and emails uncovered by the American authorities, it appears that bin Laden was not only cognizant of U.S drones, spy satellites, suitcase bombs or lone assassins but also of the suspected collusion of Iranian dentistry!
Letters unearthed apparently claim that bin Laden had discovered what appeared to be a tracking device in his wife’s tooth after she had dental work carried out in Iran. It is, of course, difficult to substantiate whether it was actually some kind of device or what actions he took to negate it.
Although Osama bin Laden fell out with the Saudi authorities over their acquiescence in allowing US forces access to the Muslim Holy Lands in their efforts to oust Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in 1991, there was a time when he and his family held privileged access to the moneyed pot of the Saudi royal family – Al Saud.
In 1931, Osama’s father, Mohammad bin Awad bin Laden founded a construction company and in the decades that followed was responsible for some of the biggest and most iconic building projects in the kingdom. These included refurbishing the mosques of Mecca and Medina, restoration work on the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and a network of highways throughout the country.
Though Osama bin Laden was stripped of his Saudi citizenship in 1994, his family continued to have connections with the Al Saud family.