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World - Africa

Osama bin Laden's 'holy war' began years ago

bin Laden
Bin Laden has declared a jihad or holy war on the U.S.  
August 28, 1998
Web posted at: 7:38 p.m. EDT (2338 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Exiled Saudi billionaire Osama bin Laden's alleged connection to the recent embassy bombings in East Africa is not the first time the Islamic militant has come under the scrutiny of U.S. law enforcement officials.

Many Americans first learned of bin Laden after President Clinton called him "the pre-eminent organizer and financier of international terrorism" after U.S. intelligence linked him to the August 7 bombings in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 258 people and injured more than 5,000 others.

But for over a year now, a federal grand jury in New York has been hearing testimony about bin Laden, who is charged with conspiring "to commit any offense against the United States."

The charges against bin Laden are similar to those brought against Sheik Abdel Rahman, who authorities say inspired a 1994 terrorist plot to blow up Manhattan landmarks.

Part of the evidence that prosecutors are using against bin Laden is his own call for violence against the United States.

"We declared a jihad -- a holy war -- on the United States government because it is unjust and tyrannical," bin Laden told CNN in an April 1997 interview.

Dr. Saad al Fagih, a Saudi opposition leader familiar with bin Laden, says his statements and terrorist threats against the United States are taken "almost like a religious order" by his network of followers.

U.S. authorities have linked bin Laden to terrorist acts around the globe. They include:

  • The 1995 bombing of U.S. military barracks in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, that killed five people. The men who carried out the attack said they were influenced by bin Laden.

  • A 1992 bombing attempt on U.S. troops in Yemen.

  • An attack on U.S. soldiers in Somalia in 1993.

  • The 1996 Khobar Towers bombing that killed 19 U.S. servicemen in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

  • Ties to Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. After the bombing, Yousef fled to a Pakistani safe house financed by bin Laden.

  • A 1994 plot to assassinate President Clinton during a trip to the Philippines.

    Correspondent Peter Bergen contributed to this report.
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