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The Investigation:
"Prime suspect" Osama bin Laden

listenFamilies of Victims to Sue Terrorist Suspects
Families of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks plan to sue Osama bin Laden, the Taliban and the al Qaeda terrorist network. Settlement could come from frozen terrorist assets, but there are other claims on them. NPR's Tovia Smith reports for Morning Edition. Oct. 26, 2001.

search More radio coverage on Osama bin Laden's connection to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

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

No one has claimed responsibility for the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., but U.S. and British officials say all the evidence points to Saudi exile Osama bin Laden.

Shortly after the U.S. and British military began attacks on Afghanistan, bin Laden released a video to Arab television. Speaking in front of what appeared to be a cave, bin Laden said that America's actions in the Middle East amounted to a war on Islam, and that the attacks were the result of America's policies for Iraq and the Palestinians.

"I swear by God ... neither America nor the people who live in it will dream of security before we live it in Palestine, and not before all the infidel armies leave the land of Muhammad, peace be upon him," bin Laden said in the Oct. 7 video.

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."

Benjamin says even if bin Laden were not around, 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."

Other Resources

Osama bin Laden statement Hear a translation of Osama bin Laden's statement. Oct. 7, 2001.

Read the British government's document outlining evidence to show Osama bin Laden's involvement with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Find out more about the Taliban in the article, Afghanistan: Inside the Taliban by journalist Ahmed Rashid. It was published in the Far Eastern Economic Review on Oct. 18, 2001.