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Osama bin Laden: More of a myth than a legend

Osama bin Laden was a man who lived a life of extremes and contradictions.

Osama bin Laden was a man who lived a life of extremes and contradictions.

Born into great wealth, he lived a simple, austere life of relative poverty according to his twisted version of the Islamic faith.

He urged a strict adherence to a medieval form of Islam — and yet he organized his terrorist followers using the full power of technology available to him.

A graduate in civil engineering, a man of science, he instead lived a life of rigid piety and portrayed himself as a religious warrior and scholar.

Someone who described himself as a humble follower of the word of Allah, bin Laden was so aware of his reputation and his place in posterity that he would often refer to himself in the third person.

The myth of Osama bin Laden also extended to his time fighting Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Jihadist legend describes him as the Lion.

In fact, he spent most of his time fundraising and building roads for the jihadi movement in Afghanistan.

Bin Laden was the 17th of 52 children born to Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden, who left a dirt-poor, conservative region of Yemen in 1930 and went to the Saudi city of Jeddah. There he formed a construction company which, by the time of Osama’s birth in March 1957, was one of the biggest in the oil-rich Arabian Gulf.

Mohammed bin Laden had many wives.

Osama’s mother, a beautiful Syrian woman who shunned the Islamic veil in favor of Chanel suits, was a low-ranking tenth wife, who even so lived in luxury.

Osama grew up in a Jeddah palace, where his father died in a helicopter crash when the boy was 11. Already, Osama was showing signs of religious piety. In 1974, he married his mother’s 14-year-old niece and he enrolled in a civil engineering course.

In 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini created an Islamic republic in Iran and at Christmas that year, the then Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.

Bin Laden was drawn to the Islamic struggle against the invaders and arrived in the city of Peshawar in 1981. He has been linked with the Afghan jihad’s ‘foreign legion’ but there are doubts about the extent of his involvement in the war against the Soviets.

He raised funds and used resources from the family engineering firm to build roads and other infrastructure in the region.

In 1987, bin Laden began acting as a go-between with competing Afghan and Arab mujahideen, and around this time he formed his first connection with an Egyptian doctor, Ayman Al-Zawahari.

Al Qaeda was born.

The 1990 invasion of Kuwait by Iraq and the subsequent use of Kuwaiti territory by American armed forced infuriated bin Laden who accused the Americans of ‘desecrating holy Arab soil.’

Al Qaeda’s first attempt at a ‘spectacular’ in America came in 1993 with the first attack on the World Trade Center.

In the 1990s, bin Laden made full use of technology, especially the burgeoning Internet, to arrange attacks on American and Western interests in East Africa and the southern Arabian Gulf.

Al Qaeda-inspired offshoots erupted in the Far East, culminating in the bombing of a disco in Bali, Indonesia.

And then, on Sept. 11, 2001, bin Laden fulfilled his twisted ambition in the most spectacular fashion possible.

That sparked an American-led manhunt which came to an end early yesterday at a villa in an isolated Pakistani town.

 
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