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The Investigation:
Bush wants bin Laden "dead or alive"

Osama Bin Laden
Osama Bin Laden from the U.S. State Department's wanted poster.
(Photo: U.S. State Department)

No group or individual has yet taken responsiblity for the attacks, but U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has confirmed that Osama bin Laden is the prime suspect. Bin Laden has been living in Afghanistan since .

Bin Laden, 44, has become the main U.S. counterterrorism target and was placed on the State Department and FBI's most wanted lists in 1999. He was indicted as the mastermind of the August 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa that killed 224 people. He also is a suspect in the October 2000 bombing of the Navy destroyer USS Cole in Yemen. The blast killed 17 sailors.

The son of a Saudi construction magnate, bin Laden's personal wealth has been estimated at $300 million dollars. Information about how many followers he has, his true financial worth, and precisely where his followers' cells are located, is difficult to confirm.

His organization -- known as "al Qaeda," an Arabic word meaning "the base" -- has cells in countries including Algeria, Indonesia, Philippines, Lebanon, Iraq and others. The organization was originally formed in 1988 to channel fighters and funds to the Afghan resistance against Soviet invasion. That goal has shifted and al Qaeda's purpose now is to oppose non-Islamic governments with force and violence, in particular, the United States.

Security analysts say bin Laden is different from other terrorists confonted in the past. According to Daniel Benjamin, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, bin Laden believes in his mind that using violence against the U.S. is divinely sanctioned.

"He views the U.S. to be an intrusive and evil force and believes that it's a pious Muslim duty to repel this force."

Osama bin Laden is believed to spend most of his time in and around the city of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, as what the Taliban calls their "guest." They have refused all requests by the U.S. and other countries for his extradition.

Benjamin says even if bin Laden were gone, the problem of terrorism would not go away. "The ground is fertile," he says. "Even though his ideology is appalling to so many Muslims, many find it attractive... it will be with us for a while."

Hear some recent stories:

listenInvestigating Al Qaeda
Weekend All Things Considered host Jacki Lyden talks with Barnett Rubin, a senior fellow at the Center on International Cooperation at New York University, about the Taliban and its relationship to Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.  Sept. 23, 2001.

listenThe Hijacker-bin Laden Connection
From New York, NPR's Melissa Block reports on the status of the investigation into the airplane hijackers and their association with alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden.  Sept. 23, 2001.

listenAfghan Clerics
Clerics today issued an appeal to Saudi-expatriate and suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden to leave the country voluntarily. Morning Edition host Bob Edwards discusses the implications with NPR's Michael Sullivan. Sept. 20, 2001

listenArabs on bin Laden
Arab leaders have reservations about joining an American-led coalition to retaliate for the recent attacks. NPR's Kate Seelye reports from Beirut. Sept. 18, 2001

Listen as Terry Gross talks with Robert Fisk who has met with and interviewed Osama bin Laden three times. Fisk has been a reporter with the London Independent for 25 years, and says bin Laden is neither "insane" nor "demonic."

Listen as All Things Considered host Noah Adams talks with Retired Air Force Major General Perry Smith about what kind of operation it might take to find Osama Bin Laden.

Listen as NPR's Michael Sullivan reports on the Pakistani government's pledge of cooperation with U.S. officials in the hunt for terrorists. Pakistan has close ties with Afghanistan's Taliban government, which is harboring bin Laden.

Listen as All Things Considered host Linda Wertheimer talks with security analyst Daniel Benjamin about Osama bin Laden.

Other Resources

See more about bin Laden's status as a wanted person at the U.S. State Department Web site.

Find out more about bin Laden at the FBI Web site.