bin Laden, Osama

[ (lah-duhn) ]

An Islamic terrorist and the head of the Al Qaeda network of terrorists. Born into a wealthy family in Saudi Arabia, bin Laden went to Afghanistan to train Islamic warriors known as mujahideen after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979. After the Soviets pulled out in 1989, he returned to Saudi Arabia. During the Persian Gulf War, he developed strong objections to the American presence in Saudi Arabia. He was expelled in 1991. Fleeing first to the Sudan and then back to Afghanistan in 1996, he orchestrated a series of attacks on American targets, including, it is believed, the destruction of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001 (see September 11 attacks).

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.