Osama bin Laden remains prime suspect in attack

by Dan Haugen and

No organization has taken responsibility for Tuesday’s terrorist attack against the United States.

But one name is batted about by television anchors and security correspondents with almost exclusive regularity.

United States State Department calls Osama bin Laden “one of the most significant sponsors of Islamic extremist activities in the world today.”

Although bin Laden and his terrorist group, Al-Qaeda, deny being affiliated with the attack in which hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington D.C., spokesmen for the organization have expressed support for the actions.

At press time 4,763 people were still missing, possibly trapped underneath the rubble of the collapsed 110-story World Trade Center towers. Another hijacked plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania, killing all who were aboard.

If bin Laden is found to be connected with the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil, it will not be the first time he has been linked to aggressions against the United States.

“(Osama) bin Laden is wanted in connection with the August 7, 1998, bombings of the United States embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya,” reads the FBI’s Web site. “These attacks killed over 200 people.”

Bin Laden was added to the bureau’s list of the ten most wanted fugitives after the attacks on the embassies, and he is also thought to have connections to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center that killed six and injured more than 1,000 people.

But bin Laden has successfully avoided authorities by seeking refuge in Afghanistan – a country with which he’s been involved for more than 20 years – under the Taliban.

In 1979, he left Saudi Arabia to fight against the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. The United States-funded Afghanis succeeded in expelling the communist forces, and bin Laden became a hero among his fellow Muslims for his role. This marked the beginning of his quest to keep non-Muslims from occupying Muslim lands.

After the war, he returned to Saudi Arabia and worked in his family’s construction business.

His hatred of the United States involvement in the Middle East escalated after the Persian Gulf War in 1991, a year in which he was expelled from Saudi Arabia for his anti-government activities.

“He looks at the world in very stark, black-and-white terms,” said Joshua Teitelbaum, a research fellow at Tel Aviv University who has studied bin Laden’s early career. “For him, the U.S. represents the forces of evil that are bringing corruption and domination into the Islamic world, and particularly to Saudi Arabia, the holiest land in the world for Muslims.”

According to U.S. officials, bin Laden started funding terrorist training camps in Sudan after being exiled from his homeland.

Following political pressure from the United States on the Sudanese government, bin Laden and many of his supporters were forced to leave Sudan in 1996.

U.S. terrorism experts believe he has been granted asylum from the Taliban, Islamic fundamentalist rulers of most of Afghanistan. In return, bin Laden supplies the Taliban with money and Arab fighters for use in the continuing civil war.

According to the Taliban, bin Laden is a political refuge from Saudi Arabia. They deny knowledge of any terrorist activity performed by bin Laden.

The United States’ requests concerning the extradition of bin Laden have been refused on the grounds that turning bin Laden over to one of his enemies would not be Islamic. A New York grand jury charged bin Laden with “conspiracy to attack the defense utilities of the United States” following the bombing of the U.S. embassies in August 1998.

– The Associated Press and wire services contributed to this report.

Mike Zacharias welcomes comments at [email protected] or
(612) 627-4070 x3297.