He often drove a bulldozer across the precipitous mountain peaks

“Osama bin Muhammad bin Awad bin Laden was born in 1955, the youngest of some twenty surviving sons of one of Saudi Arabia’s wealthiest and most prominent families. He is part puritanical Wahhabi, the dominant school of Islam in Saudi Arabia, yet at one time he may have led a very liberated social life. He is part feudal Saudi, an aristocrat who, from time to time, would retreat with his father to the desert and live in a tent. And he is of a Saudi generation that came of age during the rise of OPEC, with the extraordinary wealth that accompanied it: a generation whose religious fervor or political zeal, complemented by government airline tickets, led thousands to fight a war in a distant Muslim land. That Pan-Islamic effort, whose fighters were funded, armed, and trained by the C.I.A., eventually brought some twenty-five thousand Islamic militants, from more than fifty countries, to combat the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The United States, intentionally or not, had launched Pan-Islam’s first jihad, or holy war, in eight centuries.”

Posted September 15, 2001

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