Established with the help of US and Pakistani secret agencies in the early '80s to train fighters to combat Soviet forces in Afghanistan, these camps have also been visited by William Casey, then director ClA, and the late General Akhtar Abdur Rehman, then director general of the ISI. At the time, several camps run by mujahideen commanders were operating in the provinces of Kunar, Nangarhar and Khost in Afghanistan, sharing a border with Pakistan. And the mujahideen commandos had been trained by American instructors and Pakistani military officials, in line with guide books of the US Marines. Some of these guides were later recovered from the houses of Arabs in Peshawar, when there was a crackdown on extremists in 1993. Similar books translated into Arabic were also confiscated from a camp in Jalalabad. The camps in Khost, supervised by Commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, accommodated most of the Arabs who crossed into Afghanistan in the wake of the crackdown. Osama bin Laden has become a new source of inspiration for the radical Arab groups. Osama took refuge in Afghanistan in May 1996, after his eviction from Sudan. The number of Osama's supporters from Arab countries presently hiding in Afghanistan is estimated to be around 200. The 43 year-old tall and frail-looking Saudi dissident, who used to carry a Kalashnikov assault rifle on his shoulder, is escorted by a squad of his trusted supporters. Mindful of his security and the hunt launched by the United States, Osama keeps changing his sanctuary from Nangarhar to Kandahar to Khost. He has announced the formation of the International Islamic Front for jehad against America and Israel and believes that his mujahideen would evict the infidel forces from the holy land, a reference to Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, back at the training camps in Afghanistan, radical groups angered by the American attack on their bases, have vowed to strike back and target installations of their enemy. "We will be back with full force and vengeance" says one Harkat leader.
London-Based Islamic Center Publishes Usamah Bin-Ladin's Biography
GMP20000422000025 (Internet) Islamic Observation Center WWW-Text in Arabic 22 Apr 00
[Biography of Usamah Bin-Ladin, "written by brother Mujtahid with minor modifications"]
Usamah Bin-Ladin was born in 1377 hegira, corresponding to 1957, to a Syrian mother from Damascus. He is the 43d among his brothers and sisters, and the 21st among his brothers--the children of the famous contractor Muhammad Awad Bin-Ladin.
Usamah's father, Muhammad Awad Bin-Ladin, arrived in Jeddah from Hadhramaut around the year 1930. Those who knew his father remember that he was an epitome of perseverance, hard work, and self-reliance. Therefore, in a few years time, Muhammad Bin-Ladin turned from a construction worker at the primitive Jeddah Port into the largest construction contractor in the Kingdom. In addition, Usamah's father was courageous and willing to take risks. Thus, he managed to convince King Sa'ud that he was the best to handle difficult and challenging projects. During King Sa'ud's rule, he managed to establish a good relationship with senior members of the ruling family, including Faysal, who was prince then. When the famous dispute took place between Faysal and Sa'ud, he was one of those who persuaded King Sa'ud to step down in favor of Faysal.
This was not all. Muhammad Bin-Ladin paid the salaries of all state employees for almost six months after Sa'ud's departure when the treasury was completely empty. To repay him, King Faysal issued a decree awarding all construction contracts to him. The king practically entrusted Muhammad Bin-Ladin with the Ministry of Construction.
In 1969, Muhammad Bin-Ladin took it upon himself to rebuild Al-Aqsa Mosque after the fire that broke out at the mosque. He had already contributed to the first Saudi expansion of the two mosques [in Mecca and Medina]. That is why the Bin-Ladin family says that they had the honor of building the three [holy] mosques.
Muhammad Bin-Ladin was a religious, generous, and modest man, in spite of his enormous wealth. He had kept the bucket with which he used to carry construction materials and hung it in his living room to show pride in his perseverance and to remind himself and his children that he was a simple man before he became the biggest contractor in the region. Muhammad Bin-Ladin died in 1970 in a plane crash. It is said that he was inspecting the famous Al-Hada road project when the plane crashed.
Muhammad Bin-Ladin had possessed a strong personality. He had kept all his children in one residence. He was extremely careful about their discipline and observance of religion and morals. Muhammad Bin-Ladin died when Usamah was nine and a half years. The strongest person in the family after the father was the eldest son, Salim Bin-Ladin, who enjoyed a strong personality and prestige. It is said that King Fahd could not force the family to make him a partner until after Salim's death in a plane crash. Bakr Bin-Ladin could not fill the vacuum left by Salim.
His Study and Marriage
Usamah was brought up as a good Muslim. He has been a practicing Muslim since his early childhood. He married for the first time when he was 17 years old. His wife was a daughter of a maternal uncle in Syria. He received his elementary, secondary, and university studies in Jeddah. He earned a university degree in public administration science. During his studies, he familiarized himself with the activities of famous Islamic currents and met many Islamic personalities. Nothing special happened during his studies.
Contrary to the claims of some Arab and Western newspapers, Usamah did not travel to any country other than the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, and Sudan. All the reports about trips to Switzerland, London, and the Philippines are baseless. Also, the claims that Usamah became religious after a stage of deviation are untrue and unfounded.
How Was Bin-Ladin's Mentality Shaped?
In addition to the conservative atmosphere in which Usamah was brought up, Muhammad Bin-Ladin, Usamah's father, used to host a large number of pilgrims every year, some of whom were well-known Islamic figures. Usamah's brothers continued this tradition after the death of their father. This provided Usamah with an opportunity to learn from some distinguished figures from among the guests. However, at the university, there were two people who left a lasting impression on his life. They were Muhammad Qutub and Shaykh Abdallah Azzam. Islamic education was a mandatory course for all university students.
Bin-Ladin Begins Jihad
Usamah's relationship with Afghanistan began in the first weeks of the Russian invasion of that country. He was shocked by the news of the occupation of a Muslim country and the displacement of its people in this manner at the hands of atheist Communists. Usamah wanted to have a first-hand look at the situation since its very inception. So he arranged with the Islamic group a trip to Pakistan. The group took him from Karachi to Peshawar, where he met with a group of mujahidin commanders, such as Sayyaf and Rabbani. He was already familiar with their names, because some of them used to frequent his father's place during the hajj season. Usamah was careful to keep the trip a secret because he was unaware of the stand of the state. He was also careful to make the trip exploratory in nature before making a decision on that issue. The trip lasted one month, and he was convinced that the issue deserved most of his attention.
When he returned to the Kingdom and felt that he could speak about the trip, he started to tell his brothers, relatives, and fellow students about his observations. He also managed to conduct a public relations campaign in favor of the mujahidin. The result of the campaign was a huge amount of donations and contributions to the mujahidin. Usamah took the donations and went on another trip to Pakistan, in the company of a large number of Pakistanis and Afghans who work at the Bin-Ladin Corporation. Usamah spent another month there. He repeated these trips, carrying donations with him, in the company of people of different nationalities. He went only to the areas of the camps, without entering Afghanistan. This situation continued until the year 1982.
In 1982, Usamah decided to cross the border and enter Afghanistan to take part in the jihad. He saw the rugged mountainous terrain of Afghanistan, so he decided to use his experience as a contractor. He brought a huge number of bulldozers, excavators, and other equipment to help the mujahidin go through the mountains, build roads, and set up camps. Usamah made more visits to Afghanistan and supervised the delivery of funds, weapons, and equipment. He sometimes took part in some battles, but irregularly. Some people of the Peninsula were influenced by Usamah's visits and started to head to Afghanistan, but in small numbers, since the issue had not yet become a public campaign and organized in establishments, offices, and camps.
The year 1984 saw the emergence of the first model of institutional action of the jihad of the Arabs in Afghanistan; namely, Bayt al-Ansar [House of Supporters] in Peshawar. Bayt al-Ansar was established as an advance station or temporary residence to welcome the people coming to take part in jihad before they head for training and then jihad. In spite of the establishment of Bayt al-Ansar, Usamah did not have his own agency or infrastructure, including camps, stores, supply, and communications. He did not have his own front. He used to send the newly arriving young people to one of the combatant parties, such as Hekmatyar, Sayyaf, or Rabbani.
The establishment of Bayt al-Ansar coincided with the setting up of a services office in Peshawar by Shaykh Abdallah Azzam, may God rest his soul. The office and Bayt complemented the work of each other. The office carried out the media mission, collection of donations, and urging the Muslims, especially the Arabs, to sacrifice their lives and donate their money for the cause of jihad. Meanwhile, Bayt al-Ansar carried out the practical mission of receiving and directing those who wish to take part in the jihad or who want to learn about the situation of the Afghans. During that period, the relationship between Shaykh Abdallah and Usamah grew stronger; however, it was the opinion of both people that it would be better to keep their work separate and to have several fronts, while maintaining good coordination.
In 1986, Usamah decided to expand the organization of jihad and to have his own camps and lines of supply. Indeed, he managed to build six camps. By virtue of his experience in constructions, he managed to move and transfer these camps more than once according to the war conditions. Thus, Usamah gained experience in camps and managed to adopt Arab mujahidin from the first moment of their arrival and to train them and make them take part in the battles. This made the idea of taking part in jihad sound very attractive, because young people started to spread the news of how simple the idea was and to lessen the fear of participating in jihad, since the people who receive, train, and command the participants were all Arabs.
During that period, a huge number of Arab mujahidin started to report to Bayt al-Ansar and the camps. Those people included high-school and university students and perhaps illiterate people and others who had come to atone for their grave sins. They included engineers, doctors, and even efficient officers who were experienced in combat.
In the beginning, the Arab mujahidin took part in several skirmishes and limited fighting. They then took part in fierce battles, the most famous of which was the Jaji battle at the end of that year. In that battle, the Arab mujahidin defeated elite and well-armed Russian units and killed a number of the best Russian commandos.
Between 1986 and 1989, the Arab mujahidin fought five major battles with the Russians and hundreds of minor clashes and skirmishes. It was one of the best periods for the mujahidin because there was an opportunity to carry out jihad without harassment by the rulers of the Kingdom or the Pakistani Government. During that period, Usamah returned to the Kingdom only for a very short while. He spent most days of the year in Afghanistan. He was busy carrying out jihad and training and supervising the mujahidin. God blessed his company, although he was away from his business doing other things.
Al-Qa'idah [The Base]
In the end of the 1980s, specifically in 1988, Usamah noticed that there was an increase in the activity and travels of the Arab mujahidin to the battlefront and also in the number of wounded and martyred people, and that he did not have a record of this activity despite its importance and the fact that this was part of the ABC's of the military. The lack of information often caused embarrassment to Usamah with some families, which inquired about their sons by telephone or by sending an envoy to know the fate of a family member who had joined him. Usamah felt that the lack of information is shameful, besides being a basic administrative mistake. Therefore, he decided to keep records for the Arab mujahidin.
The idea of the records expanded to include full details about everyone who had arrived in Afghanistan through arrangements by the shaykh's group. The records were arranged in a way to include the date of arrival of the person, his joining Bayt al-Ansar, and then details of his joining the training camps and then sending him to the front. The records became like an independent administration. There was a need to give it a name for internal purposes. Usamah and his aides agreed to call it the Base Registry, since the base includes Bayt al-Ansar, the training camps, and the fronts.
So this is the base. It is not the monster depicted by the Americans in a Hollywood style. Of course, the word base continued to be used by the group associated with Usamah. The Americans, and other people who are ignorant of the modus operandi of jihad groups, got the impression that it was the name of a terrorist organization.
Return to the Kingdom
In 1989, specifically after the withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan, Usamah returned to the Kingdom to finish a few things there. He thought this trip was like other trips to the Kingdom. However, this time it was different from the previous trips. Usamah learned after his arrival that he was banned from travel. He thought that the reason was the Russian withdrawal and the understanding reached between the major powers and the Kingdom. No doubt, this was one factor, but Usamah was surprised to learn about the main reason, which he had not thought about.
Usamah started to plan for launching a jihad front against South Yemen from the Kingdom and North Yemen. The rulers of the Kingdom were worried about the diplomatic embarrassment this would cause. They were also more worried because this plan by Usamah was evidence that the man wants jihad for its own sake and not to use the opportunity of common interests with major powers and governments. This was the main reason for preventing him from travel, and God knows better.
Warns of the Danger of the Iraqi Regime
Usamah's behavior during that period showed that the man started to act as if he was an official who was concerned about a cause. The rulers were greatly upset when he spoke publicly about the danger of the Iraqi regime and predicted that this regime would invade the Gulf. He said this in public and recorded lectures at a time when the Iraqi regime was one of the strongest friends of the Kingdom. King Fahd had returned from a visit to Iraq then.
Secret Advice to the State
The Saudi Interior Ministry was not content with preventing him from travel. It also warned him against carrying out any public activity, telling him that he could be arrested or placed under house arrest if he did not comply with the orders. Despite the hostile attitude of the state toward him, Usamah wrote a letter including advice to the state. The letter was delivered via one of his brothers to Prince Ahmad Bin-Abd-al-Aziz. The letter included general advice and personal ideas. The general advice demanded comprehensive reform, while the personal part was a repeat of his predictions about Saddam's ambitions in the region and the need for preparation for this situation. Prince Nayif had made it a point to meet Usamah when he read a report about his lecture about Saddam's ambitions.
After the Invasion of Kuwait
As soon as Usamah heard about the invasion of Kuwait in the news, he acted in a manner that reflected his feeling of a large part of responsibility. He wrote another letter to the state, explaining his view of the best way to protect the country from the Iraqi threat. He included several suggestions on the best way to mobilize the nation against this danger and the best way practically to face it. He also suggested asking all the Arab mujahidin, who listen to him, to come to the defense of Saudi Arabia. The letter was delivered in the same method the first letter was delivered. The state's reaction was a promise to examine this issue.
In spite of his doubts about the regime's position on religious and national issues, Usamah had expected a request for some contribution to the defense of the country. He thought that the regime, in spite of its religious violations, had some concern about the country and a desire to protect it. But instead of benefiting from the offer Usamah had made, the state made a decision to invite US troops. This decision was the reason for the greatest change in Usamah's life. Usamah says that when he heard the news about calling US troops, this was the greatest shock in his life. In his opinion, this was the first time since the Prophet's mission that the infidels control the Arabian Peninsula by their military forces. He was also shocked because the US forces did not come through occupation or against the will of the rulers. Rather, they came at the request of those rulers, who rushed to seek the help of the Americans. Usamah felt frustrated and worried about the future of the Peninsula following this serious development. At that point, he realized that sending letters and memorandums to Saudi officials is useless and that he must think about another method.
Usamah acted on two fronts. First, he sought to obtain a fatwa [religious ruling] that every Muslim, especially the people of the Peninsula, should prepare to fight. Indeed, Shaykh Bin-Uthaymin issued such a fatwa, and Usamah used it to spur young people to go to Afghanistan and get some training there. In response to his call, a large number of young people traveled to Afghanistan. Second, he sought to assemble the largest number of ulema [Muslim scholars] in an independent Islamic institution other than the Senior Ulema Commission so that this new institution would be an authority for the people. In his opinion, the Senior Ulema Commission had turned into a tool in the hand of the state after issuing a fatwa sanctioning the invitation of [foreign] forces.
Although Usamah's movement was restricted, since he was almost under house arrest, he managed to achieve some of his goals, especially on the first front. However, his attempts to gather the ulema in an independent body were not successful because of the restrictions imposed on his movement and because the ulema, including young ones, had not yet comprehended the idea of independent institutions.
Usamah Terrorized by the Authority
Usamah did not comply with the restrictions imposed on him. He delivered a number of lectures and held a large number of meetings with ulema and activists in the area of the Islamic call. The authorities did not accept this. Therefore, Usamah was summoned several times and strictly warned that he must freeze his activities. To intimidate him, the authority sent a detachment of the National Guard in Jeddah to raid his farm in the suburbs of Jeddah and conduct a surprise search. He was not present when the raid took place. The detachment arrested some workers on the farm (they were released later) and wrote down a list of the items they found on the farm and videotaped the farm and its warehouses and other facilities. When Usamah learned about the incident, he was extremely angry and wrote a strong protest letter to Prince Abdallah. Usamah was surprised when he received a reply from Prince Abdallah, denying his knowledge of the incident and promising to punish those responsible.
Outside the Country Once Again
The accumulation of these incidents, whether at the level of the country or on the personal level, made Usamah think seriously about leaving the country. But how can he do that when he is banned from travel and all his movements are closely watched? Bin-Ladin, however, managed to leave the country easily and publicly.
How Did He Leave the Kingdom?
The days went by while Usamah experienced an unbearable situation. He was a man of action, jihad, and movement, but all of a sudden he found himself under house arrest. Another thing he could not put up with was the presence of [foreign] forces in the Arabian Peninsula. He thought he would be contradicting himself if he claimed that he had fought the infidels in Afghanistan because they occupied a Muslim country, while the infidels were now in the Arabian Peninsula, which is a more sacred place.
Usamah bitterly tolerated the period of the war "Desert Storm." He then reached a conviction that he could not be honest with himself if he remained in the Kingdom. His escape was not easy, since he is a well-known figure and his house was always guarded. That is why he thought of a method that is close to a normal style, and this method was a success.
One of his brothers was close to Prince Ahmad Bin-Abd-al-Aziz, deputy interior minister. Usamah spoke with his brother, telling him that he had many financial commitments in Pakistan and other areas and that people owed him certain obligations and he owed others some obligations. He said he could not ask another person to resolve all these issues on his behalf, since some of them were based on trust and personal relations.
His brother was convinced of the idea and promised to explain this to Prince Ahmad. Prince Nayif was about to take a leave, so Usamah's brother waited until Nayif went on leave and spoke to Prince Ahmad. He managed to persuade him to return Usamah's passport and allow him to travel. Prince Ahmad agreed and allowed him one trip and he asked the security agencies to watch him. Thus, Usamah abandoned the method of escape and disguise and left the country in a normal manner.
When he arrived in Pakistan, the first thing he did was to write a tender letter of apology to his brother, telling him that he was not planning to return and that he would cause him embarrassment with Prince Nayif. He apologized to him, telling him that the price was high and that it deserved resorting to such a method.
To Afghanistan Once Again
Usamah knew that it would not be safe for him to stay in Pakistan because of the Saudi-Pakistani security cooperation. So he hurriedly entered Afghanistan once again. His presence there coincided with the collapse of the Communist regime and the fall of Kabul and the beginning of war among the Afghan factions.
The first measure he took to deal with this issue was to issue a directive to Arab youths not to get involved in the ongoing conflict and not to side with any party. He maintained this stand until the Taleban entered Kabul. He decided then to side with the Taleban.
The second measure he took was to make huge efforts to reconcile the factions. Regrettably, however, his efforts did not achieve any result worth mentioning. While in Afghanistan, his country's intelligence, led by a well-known prince, cooperated with the Pakistani intelligence to kill or kidnap him. But all attempts failed because his sympathizers within the Pakistani security agency and the other country were quick to leak information to him so he would remain cautious.
He remained in Afghanistan for several months and continued his attempts to settle differences. After his repeated failure, he knew that he had reached a dead end. Usamah felt that his presence in Afghanistan was useless, especially since many people were lying in wait for him and would continue to try to kidnap or assassinate him. After studying the situation with a number of his close associates, he decided to look for another place from which he can serve Islam other than Afghanistan.