Who was Osama bin Laden?

Mon May 2, 2011 10:36am IST

Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden speaks in this still image taken from video and provided to Reuters on September 11, 2007. REUTERS/Handout/Files

Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden speaks in this still image taken from video and provided to Reuters on September 11, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Handout/Files

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REUTERS - Here are some key facts about Osama bin Laden, who U.S. officials said late on Sunday has been killed and his body recovered by U.S. Authorities.

* Bin Laden was born in Saudi Arabia in 1957, one of more than 50 children of millionaire construction magnate Mohamed bin Laden. His first marriage was to a Syrian cousin at the age of 17, and he is reported to have at least 23 children from at least five wives.

* Convinced that Muslims are victims of U.S.-led terrorism, bin Laden is blamed for masterminding a series of attacks on U.S. targets in Africa and the Middle East in the 1990s. His family, which became rich from the Saudi construction boom, disowned him, and he was stripped of his Saudi citizenship.

* He fought in the U.S.-funded insurgency in the 1980s against Soviet troops in Afghanistan, where he founded al Qaeda. He returned to Afghanistan in the 1990s, training Islamist militants from across the world in camps allowed to function by the ruling Taliban.

* Tall, gaunt and bearded, bin Laden was unhurt by U.S. missile strikes on his Afghan camps after the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa. According to some reports, he was nearly killed by a U.S. bomb when militants were being hunted late in 2001 in the Tora Bora mountains in eastern Afghanistan.

* Bin Laden approved the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States in which nearly 3,000 people died, saying later that the results had exceeded his expectations. With a $25 million U.S. bounty on his head, he then evaded the world's biggest manhunt for a decade, with tens of thousands of U.S. and Pakistani troops looking for him.

* Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in Dec. 2009 that the United States does not know where bin Laden has been hiding and has not had any good intelligence on his whereabouts in years.

* More than 60 messages have been broadcast by bin Laden, al Qaeda's number two Ayman al-Zawahri, and their allies since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.

* In a Sept, 2007 video marking the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks bin Laden said the United States was vulnerable despite its economic and military power, but he made no specific threats.

(Writing by Mark Trevelyan and David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit, Editing by William Maclean)

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