Osama bin Laden; once a friend of US, now a foe

By Staff Writer
September 20, 2001

by Vince DeFruscio

staff writer

Osama bin Laden is considered the greatest threat to Americans, but ironically he was an allie of the U.S. in the mid-80s. Bin Laden was born into a wealthy Saudi Arabian family in 1955. His father was the founder of the bin Laden Group, a construction firm that received many contracts from the Saudi Government.

In 1979, Bin Laden left Saudi Arabia to go to Afghanistan to fight the Russian Soviet invasion. It was during the 1980s that bin Laden first interacted with the United States. The U.S. funded a group bin Laden co-founded called the Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK), or “service office.” This group helped funnel money to Afghan resistance fighters.

America, then in the final stages of the Cold War, supported bin Laden to stop the spread of Communism. Afghanistan borders China and the former Soviet Union. If Afghanistan had fallen to Communism, it could have created a super-power territory in the Eastern Hemisphere.

An unclassified profile on bin Laden from the CIA explains the workings of the MAK in general terms. The MAK developed recruitment centers in the U.S., Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. The group would enlist, shelter, and transport thousands of people from over 50 countries into Afghanistan. The MAK organized paramilitary training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They also brought heavy equipment into Afghanistan to cut roads, dig tunnels, and build hospitals.

In 1988, bin Laden split from the MAK to form his own organization called Al-Qaeda, or “the base.” In 1989, the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan and the MAK split into two factions, with the extremists joining Al-Qaeda. The purpose of Al-Qaeda, in bin Laden’s words, is to “unite all Muslims and establish a government which follows the rules of the Caliphs.” According to a declassified CIA document on Al-Qaeda, the group’s goal is to “overthrow nearly all Muslim governments, which bin Laden views as `corrupt,’ to drive Western influence from those countries, and eventually work to abolish state boundaries.”

Bin Laden was expelled from Saudi Arabia in 1991 because of his anti-government sentiments. He relocated to Sudan. In 1996, Sudan expelled bin Laden from U.S. pressure. The U.S. saw him as a formidable threat. After expulsion from Sudan, bin Laden sought refuge in Afghanistan, where it is believed he is currently located.

President Bush has said that bin Laden is “wanted dead or alive,” as he is the prime suspect in the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on Sept. 11. British intelligence agencies have also said that bin Laden is their prime suspect for the terror in the U.S.

As of press time, bin Laden was vehemently denying any involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks.

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