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Profile: Osama bin Laden

 
  

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Osama bin Laden actively participated in the following events:

 
  

Early 1980: Osama bin Laden, with Saudi Backing, Supports Afghan Rebels      Complete 911 Timeline

      
Osama bin Laden's father, Mohammed Awad bin Laden, was extremely powerful and influential in Saudi Arabia.
Osama bin Laden begins providing financial, organizational, and engineering aid for the mujahedeen in Afghanistan, with the advice and support of the Saudi royal family. [New Yorker, 11/5/01] Some, including Richard Clarke, counterterrorism “tsar” during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, believe he was handpicked for the job by Prince Turki al-Faisal, head of Saudi Arabia's Secret Service. [Sunday Times, 8/25/02; New Yorker, 11/5/01] The Pakistani ISI want a Saudi prince as a public demonstration of the commitment of the Saudi royal family and as a way to ensure royal funds for the anti-Soviet forces. The agency fails to get royalty, but bin Laden, with his family's influential ties, is good enough for the ISI. [Miami Herald, 9/24/01] (Clarke will argue later that the Saudis and other Muslim governments used the Afghan war in an attempt to get rid of their own misfits and troublemakers.) This multinational force later coalesces into al-Qaeda. [Clarke, 2004, pp 52]
People and organizations involved: Richard A. Clarke, Osama bin Laden, Turki bin Faisal bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, al-Qaeda
          

1984: Bin Laden Develops Ties with Pakistani ISI and Afghan Warlord      Complete 911 Timeline

       Bin Laden moves to Peshawar, a Pakistani town bordering Afghanistan, and helps run a front organization for the mujahedeen known as Maktab al-Khidamar (MAK), which funnels money, arms, and fighters from the outside world into the Afghan war. [New Yorker, 1/24/00] “MAK [is] nurtured by Pakistan's state security services, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, the CIA's primary conduit for conducting the covert war against Moscow's occupation.” [MSNBC, 8/24/98] Bin Laden becomes closely tied to the warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and greatly strengthens Hekmatyar's opium smuggling operations. [Le Monde, 9/14/01] Hekmatyar, who also has ties with bin Laden, the CIA, and drug running, has been called “an ISI stooge and creation.” [Asia Times, 11/15/01]
People and organizations involved: Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Osama bin Laden, Central Intelligence Agency, Maktab al-Khidamar, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence
          

1985-1989: Precursor to al-Qaeda Puts Down US Roots      Complete 911 Timeline

      
Sheikh Abdullah Azzam.
Sheikh Abdullah Azzam, bin Laden's mentor, makes repeated trips to the US and other countries, building up his organization, Makhtab al-Khidimat (MAK), also known as the Services Office. Branches of the MAK open in over 30 US cities, as Muslim-Americans donate millions of dollars to support the Afghan war against the Soviet Union. Azzam is assassinated in a car bomb attack in late 1989. Some US intelligence officials believe bin Laden ordered the killing. Bin Laden soon takes over the MAK, which morphs into al-Qaeda. His followers take over MAK's offices in the US, and they become financial conduits for al-Qaeda operations. [Lance, 2003, pp 40-41]
People and organizations involved: Abdullah Azzam, Makhtab al-Khidimat, Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda
          

1986: Bin Laden Works with CIA, at Least Indirectly      Complete 911 Timeline

       The CIA, ISI, and bin Laden build the Khost tunnel complex in Afghanistan. This will be a major target of bombing and fighting when the US attacks the Taliban in 2001. [Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 9/23/01; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/23/01; The Hindu, 9/27/01] It will be reported in June 2001 that “bin Laden worked closely with Saudi, Pakistani, and US intelligence services to recruit mujahedeen from many Muslim countries,” but this information has not been reported much since 9/11. [UPI, 6/14/01] A CIA spokesperson will later claim, “For the record, you should know that the CIA never employed, paid, or maintained any relationship whatsoever with bin Laden.” [Ananova, 10/31/01]
People and organizations involved: Taliban, Central Intelligence Agency, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Osama bin Laden
          

August 11, 1988: Bin Laden Forms al-Qaeda      Complete 911 Timeline

       Bin Laden conducts a meeting to discuss “the establishment of a new military group,” according to notes that are found later. Over time, this group becomes known as al-Qaeda, roughly meaning “the base” or “the foundation.” [Associated Press, 2/19/03 (B)] It will take US intelligence years even to realize a group named al-Qaeda exists.
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda
          

August 2, 1990-March 1991: The First Gulf War      Complete 911 Timeline

       After Iraq invades Kuwait (see August 2, 1990), Laden, newly returned to Saudi Arabia, offers the Saudi government the use of his thousands of mujahedeen fighters to defend the country in case Iraq attacks it. The Saudi government turns him down, allowing 300,000 US soldiers on Saudi soil instead. Bin Laden is incensed, and immediately goes from ally to enemy of the Saudis. [Coll, 2004, pp 221-24, 270-71] After a slow buildup, the US invades Iraq in March 1991 and reestablishes Kuwait. [Posner, 2003, pp 40-41] Bin Laden soon leaves Saudi Arabia and soon forms al-Qaeda ((see Summer 1991)).
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden
          

November 5, 1990: First bin Laden-Related Terror Attack on US      Complete 911 Timeline

      
Rabbi Meir Kahane (left) and his assassin El Sayyid Nosair (right).
Egyptian-American El Sayyid Nosair assassinates controversial right-wing Zionist leader Rabbi Meir Kahane. Kahane's organization, the Jewish Defense League, was linked to dozens of bombings and is ranked by the FBI as the most lethal domestic militant group in the US at the time. Nosair is captured after a police shoot-out. An FBI informant says he saw Nosair meeting with Muslim leader Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman a few days before the attack, and evidence indicating a wider plot with additional targets is found. [Village Voice, 3/30/93] Files found in Nosair's possession give details of an Islamic militant cell, mention al-Qaeda, and discuss the destruction of tall US buildings. Incredibly, this vital information is not translated until years later. [ABC News, 8/16/02] Instead, within 12 hours of the assassination, New York police declare the assassination the work of a “lone gunman” and they stick with that story. In Nosair's subsequent trial, prosecutors will choose not to introduce his incriminating possessions or his confession as evidence, and an apparent “open-and-shut case” will end with his acquittal. However, he will be sentenced to 22 years on other lesser charges. [Village Voice, 3/30/93] Bin Laden contributes to Nosair's defense fund. Many of those involved in Kahane's assassination will plan the 1993 WTC bombing. As one FBI agent puts it, “The fact is that in 1990, myself and my detectives, we had in our office in handcuffs, the people who blew up the World Trade Center in '93. We were told to release them.” [ABC News, 8/16/02]
People and organizations involved: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Osama bin Laden, Meir Kahane, El Sayyid Nosair, World Trade Center, Jewish Defense League, Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, al-Qaeda
          

Summer 1991: Bin Laden Leaves Saudi Arabia      Complete 911 Timeline

      
Prince Turki al-Faisal.
Bin Laden, recently returned to Saudi Arabia, has been placed under house arrest for his opposition to the continued presence of US soldiers on Saudi soil. [PBS Frontline, 9/01] Controversial author Gerald Posner claims that a classified US intelligence report describes a secret deal between bin Laden and Saudi intelligence minister Prince Turki al-Faisal at this time. Although bin Laden has become an enemy of the Saudi state, he is nonetheless too popular for his role with the mujahedeen in Afghanistan to be easily imprisoned or killed. According to Posner, bin Laden is allowed to leave Saudi Arabia with his money and supporters, but the Saudi government will publicly disown him. Privately, the Saudis will continue to fund his supporters with the understanding that they will never be used against Saudi Arabia. The wrath of the fundamentalist movement is thus directed away from the vulnerable Saudis. [Posner, 2003, pp 40-42] Posner alleges the Saudis “effectively had [bin Laden] on their payroll since the start of the decade.” [Time, 8/31/03] This deal is reaffirmed in 1996 and 1998. Bin Laden leaves Saudi Arabia in the summer of 1991, returning first to Afghanistan. [Coll, 2004, pp 229-31, 601-02] After staying there a few months, he moves again, settling into Sudan with hundreds of ex-mujahedeen supporters (see 1992-1996). [PBS Frontline, 9/01]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, Turki bin Faisal bin Abdul Aziz al Saud
          

1992-1996: Bin Laden Attacks US Interests Using Sudanese Base      Complete 911 Timeline

       With a personal fortune of around $250 million (estimates range from $50 to $800 million [Miami Herald, 9/24/01] ), Osama bin Laden begins plotting attacks against the US from his new base in Sudan. The first attack kills two tourists in Yemen at the end of 1992. [New Yorker, 1/24/00] The CIA learns of his involvement in that attack in 1993, and learns that same year that he is channeling money to Egyptian extremists. US intelligence also learns that by January 1994 he is financing at least three militant training camps in North Sudan. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B); PBS Frontline, 9/01; New York Times, 8/14/96]
People and organizations involved: Central Intelligence Agency, Osama bin Laden
          

1993: Bin Laden Buys Airplane From US Military to Kill US Soldiers      Complete 911 Timeline

       Bin Laden buys a jet from the US military in Arizona. The US military approves the transaction. The aircraft is later used to transport missiles from Pakistan that kill American Special Forces in Somalia. A man named Essam al Ridi will testify in a US trial before 9/11 that he buys a Saber-40 aircraft for $210,000, then flies it from Texas to Khartoum, Sudan. Bin Laden wants the plane to transport Stinger missiles, and apparently it is used in to transport some kind of missile from Pakistan that kill US Special Forces in Somalia in 1993. Essam al Ridi had just taken flying lessons himself (at the Ed Boardman Aviation School in Fort Worth) in an apparently early attempt by bin Laden to get more pilots. [Washington Post, 5/19/02; Sunday Herald, 9/16/01]
People and organizations involved: Essam al Ridi, Osama bin Laden
          

April 9, 1994: The Saudi Government Publicly Breaks with Osama bin Laden      Complete 911 Timeline

       The Saudi government revokes bin Laden's citizenship and moves to freeze his assets in Saudi Arabia because of his support for Muslim fundamentalist movements. [PBS Frontline, 9/01; New York Times, 4/10/94] However, allegedly, this is only a public front and they privately continue to support him as part of a secret deal allegedly made in 1991 (see Summer 1991).
People and organizations involved: Saudi Arabia, Osama bin Laden
          

1995-2001: Persian Gulf Elite Go Hunting with bin Laden in Afghanistan      Complete 911 Timeline

       After the Taliban takes control of the area around Kandahar, Afghanistan, in September 1994, prominent Persian Gulf state officials and businessmen, including high-ranking United Arab Emirates and Saudi government ministers, such as Saudi intelligence minister Prince Turki al-Faisal, frequently secretly fly into Kandahar on state and private jets for hunting expeditions. [Los Angeles Times, 11/18/01] General Wayne Downing, Bush's former national director for combating terrorism, says: “They would go out and see Osama, spend some time with him, talk with him, you know, live out in the tents, eat the simple food, engage in falconing, some other pursuits, ride horses. One noted visitor is Sheik Mohammed ibn Rashid al Maktum, United Arab Emirates Defense Minister and Crown Prince for the emirate of Dubai.” [MSNBC, 9/5/03] While there, some develop ties to the Taliban and al-Qaeda and give them money. Both bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar sometimes participate in these hunting trips. Former US and Afghan officials suspect that the dignitaries' outbound jets may also have smuggled out al-Qaeda and Taliban personnel. [Los Angeles Times, 11/18/01] On one occasion, the US will decide not to attack bin Laden with a missile because he's falconing with important members of the United Arab Emirates' royal family (see February 1999).
People and organizations involved: Wayne Downing, al-Qaeda, Mullah Omar, Taliban, Osama bin Laden, Sheik Mohammed ibn Rashid al Maktum, Turki bin Faisal bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, United Arab Emirates
          

June 1995: US Considers Bombing bin Laden for Sponsoring Assassination Attempt      Complete 911 Timeline

      
Hassan al-Turabi.
There is a failed assassination attempt on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as he visits Ethiopia. The CIA concludes bin Laden authorized the operation, and they plan a retaliation attack. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)] Evidence suggests that the government of Sudan and Hassan al-Turabi, Sudan's leader, know where bin Laden is living and helped support the plot. The United Nations Security Council places sanctions on Sudan as a result. The US examines options for attacking bin Laden and/or al-Turabi's facilities in the Sudanese capital. The options developed by the US military are rejected for being unstealthy and a de facto war on Sudan. In the ensuing months, there are reports of Egyptian covert operations against bin Laden and an Egyptian military build-up on the Sudanese border. These factors influence bin Laden's decision to move to Afghanistan in 1996 (see May 18, 1996). [Clarke, 2004, pp 140-41]
People and organizations involved: Sudan, Osama bin Laden, Central Intelligence Agency, Hosni Mubarak, United Nations Security Council, Hassan al-Turabi
          

Late 1995: Bin Laden Said to Consider Asylum in Britain      Complete 911 Timeline

       Osama bin Laden is said to be unhappy with his exile in Sudan, where authorities are making noises about expelling him. Consequently, he requests asylum in Britain. Several of his brothers and other relatives, who are members of the bin Laden construction empire, own properties in London. He has already transferred some of his personal fortune to London, to help his followers set up terror cells in Britain and across Europe. Bin Laden employs Khalid al-Fawwaz, a Saudi businessman described as his “de facto ambassador” in Britain, to assess his chances of moving there. British Home Secretary Michael Howard later says, “In truth, I knew little about him, but we picked up information that bin Laden was very interested in coming to Britain. It was apparently a serious request.” After Home Office officials investigate bin Laden, Howard issues an immediate order banning him under Britain's immigration laws. [London Times, 9/29/05] bin Laden ends up going to Afghanistan instead in 1996 (see May 18, 1996).
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, Khalid al-Fawwaz
          

Early 1996-October 1998: US Tracks bin Laden's Satellite Phone Calls      Complete 911 Timeline

       During this period, bin Laden and Mohammed Atef, his military commander, use a satellite phone provided by a friend to direct al-Qaeda's operations. Its use is discontinued two months after a US missile strike against bin Laden's camps on August 20, 1998, when an unnamed senior official boasts that the US can track his movements through the use of the phone. [Sunday Times, 3/24/02] Records show “Britain was at the heart of the terrorist's planning for his worldwide campaign of murder and destruction.” 260 calls were made to 27 phone numbers in Britain. The other countries called were Yemen (over 200 calls), Sudan (131), Iran (106), Azerbaijan (67), Pakistan (59), Saudi Arabia (57), a ship in the Indian Ocean (13), the US (6), Italy (6), Malaysia (4), and Senegal (2). “The most surprising omission is Iraq, with not a single call recorded.” [Sunday Times, 3/24/02]
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, Mohammed Atef
          

May 18, 1996: Sudan Expels bin Laden; US Fails to Stop His Flight to Afghanistan      Complete 911 Timeline

       After Sudan asks bin Laden to leave the country, he moves to Afghanistan. He departs along with many other al-Qaeda members, plus much money and resources. Bin Laden flies to Afghanistan in a C-130 transport plane with an entourage of about 150 men, women, and children, stopping in Doha, Qatar, to refuel, where governmental officials greet him warmly. [Coll, 2004, pp 325; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02] The US knows in advance that bin Laden is going to Afghanistan, but does nothing to stop him. Elfatih Erwa, Sudan's minister of state for defense at the time, later says in an interview, “We warned [the US]. In Sudan, bin Laden and his money were under our control. But we knew that if he went to Afghanistan no one could control him. The US didn't care; they just didn't want him in Somalia. It's crazy.” [Washington Post, 10/3/01; Village Voice, 10/31/01]
People and organizations involved: Elfatih Erwa, al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, Somalia, Sudan
          

June 1996: Bin Laden Meets with Pakistani Military Leaders      Complete 911 Timeline

       Controversial author Gerald Posner claims bin Laden and al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida meet with senior members of Pakistan's military, including Mushaf Ali Mir, who becomes chief of Pakistan's air force in 2000. Bin Laden had moved to Afghanistan the month before, and the Pakistanis offer bin Laden protection if he allies with the Taliban. The alliance proves successful, and bin Laden calls it “blessed by the Saudis,” who are already giving money to both the Taliban and al-Qaeda. [Time, 8/31/03; Posner, 2003, pp 105-06] Perhaps not coincidentally, this meeting comes only one month after a deal is reportedly made that reaffirms Saudi support for al-Qaeda. Bin Laden is initially based in Jalalabad, which is free of Taliban control, but after the deal he moves his base to Kandahar, which is the center of Taliban power. [Asia Times, 9/17/03]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, Abu Zubaida, Mushaf Ali Mir, Taliban
          

June 25, 1996: Khobar Towers Are Bombed; Culprit Is Unclear      Complete 911 Timeline

      
Destruction at the Khobar Towers, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.
Explosions destroy the Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing 19 American soldiers and wounding 500. [CNN, 6/26/96] Saudi officials later interrogate the suspects, declare them guilty, and execute them—without letting the FBI talk to them. [Irish Times, 11/19/01; PBS Frontline, 2001] Saudis blame Hezbollah, the Iranian-influenced group, but US investigators still believe bin Laden was somehow involved. [Seattle Times, 10/29/01] Bin Laden admits instigating the attacks in a 1998 interview. [Miami Herald, 9/24/01] Ironically, the bin Laden family is later awarded the contract to rebuild the installation. [New Yorker, 11/5/01] In 1997, Canada catches one of the Khobar Tower attackers and extradites him to the US. However, in 1999, he is shipped back to Saudi Arabia before he can reveal what he knows about al-Qaeda and the Saudis. One anonymous insider calls it, “President Clinton's parting kiss to the Saudis.” [Palast, 2002, pp 102] In June 2001, a US grand jury will indict 13 Saudis for the bombing. According to the indictment, Iran and Hezbollah were also involved in the attack. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)]
People and organizations involved: William Jefferson ("Bill") Clinton, Hezbollah, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda
          

August 1996: Bin Laden Calls for Attack on Western Targets in Arabia      Complete 911 Timeline

       Osama bin Laden issues a public fatwa, or religious decree, authorizing attacks on Western military targets in the Arabian Peninsula. This eliminates any doubts that bin Laden is merely a financier of attacks, rather than an active militant. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 9/18/02]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden
          

Late 1996: Bin Laden Becomes Active in Opium Trade      Complete 911 Timeline

       Bin Laden establishes and maintains a major role in opium drug trade, soon after moving the base of his operations to Afghanistan. Opium money is vital to keeping the Taliban in power and funding bin Laden's al-Qaeda network. Yossef Bodansky, Director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare and author of a 1999 biography on bin Laden, says bin Laden takes a 15 percent cut of the drug trade money in exchange for protecting smugglers and laundering their profits. [Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 9/30/01] Another report estimates that bin Laden takes up to 10 percent of Afghanistan's drug trade by early 1999. This would give him a yearly income of up to $1 billion out of $6.5 to $10 billion in annual drug profits from within Afghanistan. [Financial Times, 11/28/01]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, Taliban, al-Qaeda
          

1997: Bin Laden Family Financial Connection With Osama Continues Until At Least This Year      Complete 911 Timeline

       In 2004, Osama bin Laden's half brother Yeslam Binladin admits that he and other bin Laden family members share a Swiss bank account with Osama bin Laden from 1990 until 1997. The bin Laden family claims to have disowned Osama bin Laden in 1994, and the US government officially designated him as a financier of terrorism in 1996. Yeslam had previously denied any financial dealings with Osama at this late date until evidence of this bank account was uncovered by French private investigator Jean-Charles Brisard. In December 2001, French authorities will open an investigation into the financial dealings of the Saudi Investment Company (SICO) run by Yeslam Binladin. [Scotsman, 9/28/04; Agence France-Presse, 7/26/04] In 2002, his house will be raided by French police. [Associated Press, 3/20/2] No charges have been made as of yet, but the investigation will continue and in fact widen its scope in late 2004. A French magistrate will claim he is looking into “other instances of money laundering” apparently involving financial entities connected to Yeslam and other bin Laden family members. [Reuters, 12/26/04] Yeslam claims he's had no contact with Osama in 20 years. Yet, in 2004, when asked if he would turn in Osama if given the chance, he replies, “What do you think? Would you turn in your brother?” [MSNBC, 7/10/04] His ex-wife Carmen Binladin will also comment around the same time, “From what I have seen and what I have read, I cannot believe that [the rest of the bin Laden family] have cut off Osama completely. ... And I cannot believe that some of the sisters [don't support him.] They are very close to Osama.” [Salon, 7/10/04]
People and organizations involved: Jean-Charles Brisard, Carmen Binladin, Saudi Investment Company, Bin Laden Family, Yeslam Binladin, Osama bin Laden
          

1998: US and Uzbekistan Conduct Joint Operations Against Taliban      Complete 911 Timeline

       Beginning in 1998, if not before, Uzbekistan and the US conduct joint covert operations against Afghanistan's Taliban regime and bin Laden. [Times of India, 10/14/01; Washington Post, 10/14/01]
People and organizations involved: Taliban, Osama bin Laden, Uzbekistan, United States
          

February 22, 1998: Bin Laden Expands Fatwa Against US, Allies      Complete 911 Timeline

       Bin Laden issues a fatwa, declaring it the religious duty of all Muslims “to kill the Americans and their allies—civilians and military ... in any country in which it is possible.” [Sunday Herald, 9/16/01; al-Quds al-Arabi, 2/23/98; PBS Frontline, 2001] This is an expansion of an earlier fatwa issued in August 1996, which had called for attacks in the Arabian Peninsula only.
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden
          

Spring 1998: Bin Laden's Stepmother Visits Afghanistan      Complete 911 Timeline

       Sources who know bin Laden claim his stepmother, Al-Khalifa bin Laden, has the first of two meetings with her stepson in Afghanistan during this period. This trip was arranged by Prince Turki al-Faisal, then the head of Saudi intelligence. Turki was in charge of the “Afghanistan file” for Saudi Arabia, and had long-standing ties to bin Laden and the Taliban since 1980. [New Yorker, 11/5/01]
People and organizations involved: Taliban, Osama bin Laden, Turki bin Faisal bin Abdul Aziz al Saud
          

May 26, 1998: Bin Laden Promises to Bring Jihad to US      Complete 911 Timeline

       Bin Laden discusses “bringing the war home to America,” in a press conference from Afghanistan. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 9/18/02] He indicates the results of his jihad will be “visible” within weeks. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)] Two US embassies will be bombed in August.
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden
          

May 28, 1998: Bin Laden Wants to Use Missiles Against US Aircraft      Complete 911 Timeline

       Bin Laden indicates he may attack a US military passenger aircraft using antiaircraft missiles, in an interview with ABC News reporter John Miller. In the subsequent media coverage, Miller repeatedly refers to bin Laden as “the world's most dangerous terrorist,” and “the most dangerous man in the world.” [ABC News, 5/28/98; Esquire, 2/99; 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B); ABC News, 6/12/98] Bin Laden admits to knowing Wali Khan Amin Shah, one of the Bojinka plotters, but denies having met Bojinka plotter Ramzi Yousef or knowing about the plot itself. [PBS Frontline, 10/3/02 (C)]
People and organizations involved: Ramzi Yousef, Osama bin Laden, Wali Khan Amin Shah
          

Summer 1998: One of Bin Laden's Four Holy War Goals is to Bring Down US Airliners      Complete 911 Timeline

      
Sheik Omar Bakri Mohammed.
Bin Laden sends a fax from Afghanistan to Sheik Omar Bakri Mohammed, a London-based Muslim cleric who dubs himself the “mouth, eyes, and ears of Osama bin Laden.” Bakri publicly releases what he calls bin Laden's four specific objectives for a holy war against the US. The instruction reads, “Bring down their airliners. Prevent the safe passage of their ships. Occupy their embassies. Force the closure of their companies and banks.” Noting this, the Los Angeles Times wryly comments that “Bin Laden hasn't been shy about sharing his game plan.” [Los Angeles Times, 10/14/01] In 2001, FBI agent Ken Williams will grow concerned about some Middle Eastern students training in Arizona flight schools. He links several of them to Al-Muhajiroun, an extremist group founded by Bakri. Williams quotes several fatwas (calls to action) from Bakri in his July 2001 memo (see July 10, 2001). However, he apparently isn't aware of this particular call to action. These students linked to Bakri's group apparently have no connection to any of the 9/11 hijackers. In another interview before 9/11, Bakri will boast of recruiting “kamikaze bombers ready to die for Palestine.” (see Early September 2001) [Associated Press, 5/23/02]
People and organizations involved: Sheik Omar Bakri Mohammed, Ken Williams, Al-Muhajiroun, Osama bin Laden
          

July 1998: Taliban and Saudis Meet and Purportedly Make a Deal      Complete 911 Timeline

       Taliban officials allegedly meet with Prince Turki, head of Saudi intelligence, to continue talks concerning the Taliban's ouster of bin Laden from Afghanistan. Reports on the location of this meeting, and the deal under discussion differ. According to some reports, including documents exposed in a later lawsuit, this meeting takes place in Kandahar. Those present include Prince Turki al-Faisal, head of Saudi Arabian intelligence, Taliban leaders, senior officers from the ISI, and bin Laden. According to these reports, Saudi Arabia agrees to give the Taliban and Pakistan “several hundred millions” of dollars, and in return, bin Laden promises no attacks against Saudi Arabia. The Saudis also agree to ensure that requests for the extradition of al-Qaeda members will be blocked and promise to block demands by other countries to close down bin Laden's Afghan training camps. Saudi Arabia had previously given money to the Taliban and bribe money to bin Laden, but this ups the ante. [Sunday Times, 8/25/02] A few weeks after the meeting, Prince Turki sends 400 new pickup trucks to the Taliban. At least $200 million follow. [New York Post, 8/25/02; Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 9/23/01] Controversial author Gerald Posner gives a similar account said to come from high US government officials, and adds that al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida also attends the meeting. [Posner, 2003, pp 189-90] Note that reports of this meeting seemingly contradict reports of a meeting the month before between Turki and the Taliban, in which the Taliban agreed to get rid of bin Laden (see June 1998).
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Turki bin Faisal bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, Abu Zubaida, Pakistan, al-Qaeda, Taliban
          

Late August 1998: Captured Al-Qaeda Operatives Leads US to Safe House Phone Number      Complete 911 Timeline

       An al-Qaeda operative involved in the bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi is captured and interrogated by the FBI. The FBI learns the telephone number of a safe house in Yemen, owned by bin Laden associate Ahmed al-Hada, hijacker Khalid Almihdhar's father-in-law [Die Zeit, 10/1/02; Newsweek, 6/2/02] US intelligence also learns that the safe house is an al-Qaeda “logistics center,” used by agents around the world to communicate with each other and plan attacks. [Newsweek, 6/2/02] It is later revealed that bin Laden called the safe house dozens of times from 1996 to 1998 (the two years he had a traced satellite phone). [Sunday Times, 3/24/02; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02] The NSA and CIA jointly plant bugs inside the house, tap the phones, and monitor visitors with spy satellites. [Mirror, 6/9/02] The NSA later records Khalid Almihdhar and other hijackers calling this house, including calls from the US. In late 1999, the phone line will lead the CIA to an important al-Qaeda meeting in Malaysia. [Newsweek, 6/2/02] It appears al-Qaeda continues to use this phone line until the safe house is raided by the Yemeni government in February 2002. [CBS News, 2/13/02]
People and organizations involved: Ahmed al-Hada, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Khalid Almihdhar, al-Qaeda, Central Intelligence Agency, Osama bin Laden, National Security Agency
          

November 4, 1998: US Issues Public Indictment of bin Laden, Others for Embassy Bombings      Complete 911 Timeline

       The US publicly indicts bin Laden, Mohammed Atef, and others for the US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. Bin Laden had been secretly indicted on different charges earlier in the year in June. Record $5 million rewards are announced for information leading to his arrest and the arrest of Mohammed Atef. [PBS Frontline, 2001] Shortly thereafter, bin Laden allocates $9 million in reward money for the assassinations of four US government officials in response to the reward on him. A year later, it is learned that the secretary of state, defense secretary, FBI director, and CIA director are the targets. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 9/18/02; 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03; MSNBC, 9/18/02]
People and organizations involved: United States, Osama bin Laden, Mohammed Atef, George Tenet, Madeleine Albright, William S. Cohen, Louis J. Freeh
          

Late 1998: Failed Missile Attack Said to Increase bin Laden's Stature in Muslim World      Complete 911 Timeline

       According to reports, the failed US missile attack against bin Laden on August 20, 1998 greatly elevates bin Laden's stature in the Muslim world. A US defense analyst later states, “I think that raid really helped elevate bin Laden's reputation in a big way, building him up in the Muslim world. ... My sense is that because the attack was so limited and incompetent, we turned this guy into a folk hero.” [Washington Post, 10/3/01 (C)] An Asia Times article published just prior to 9/11 suggests that because of the failed attack, “a very strong Muslim lobby emerge[s] to protect [bin Laden's] interests. This includes Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, as well as senior Pakistani generals. Crown Prince Abdullah has good relations with bin Laden as both are disciples of slain Sheikh Abdullah Azzam (see 1985-1989).” [Asia Times, 8/22/01] In early 1999, Pakistani President Musharraf complains that by demonizing bin Laden, the US has turned him into a cult hero. The US decides to play down the importance of bin Laden. [UPI, 6/14/01]
People and organizations involved: Abdullah Azzam, Osama bin Laden, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, Pervez Musharraf
          

Spring 1999: New Jersey HMO Is Possibly Funding al-Qaeda      Complete 911 Timeline

       Randy Glass is a con artist turned government informant participating in a sting called Operation Diamondback. [Palm Beach Post, 9/29/01] He discusses an illegal weapons deal with an Egyptian-American named Mohamed el Amir. In wiretapped conversations, Mohamed discusses the need to get false papers to disguise a shipment of illegal weapons. His brother, Dr. Magdy el Amir, has been a wealthy neurologist in Jersey City for the past twenty years. Two other weapons dealers later convicted in a sting operation involving Glass also lived in Jersey City, and both el Amirs admit knowing one of them, Diaa Mohsen. Mohsen has been paid at least once by Dr. el Amir. In 1998, Congressman Ben Gilman was given a foreign intelligence report suggesting that Dr. el Amir owns an HMO that is secretly funded by bin Laden, and that money is being skimmed from the HMO to fund al-Qaeda activities. The state of New Jersey later buys the HMO and determines that $15 million were unaccounted for and much of that has been diverted into hard-to-trace offshore bank accounts. However, investigators working with Glass are never given the report about Dr. el Amir. Neither el Amir has been charged with any crime. Mohamed now lives in Egypt and Magdy continues to practice medicine in New Jersey. Glass's sting, which began in late 1998, will uncover many interesting leads before ending in June 2001. [MSNBC, 8/2/02]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, Diaa Mohsen, Mohamed el Amir, Randy Glass, Operation Diamondback, Magdy el Amir
          

June 1999: Bin Laden Wants All US Males Killed      Complete 911 Timeline

       In an interview with an Arabic-language television station, bin Laden steps up his rhetoric and issues a further threat indicating that all US males should be killed. [MSNBC, 12/11/01]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden
          

Late November 1999: Hamburg Cell Members Arrive in Afghanistan for Training      Complete 911 Timeline

       Investigators believe hijackers Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, and Ziad Jarrah and associates Ramzi Bin al-Shibh and Said Bahaji (all members of the same Hamburg, Germany, cell) arrive separately in Afghanistan around this time. They meet with bin Laden and train for several months. [CBS News, 10/9/02; New York Times, 9/10/02] In a 2002 interview with Al Jazeera, bin al-Shibh says, “We had a meeting attended by all four pilots including Nawaf Alhazmi, Atta's right-hand man.” The Guardian interprets this to mean that Alhazmi flew Flight 77, not Hani Hanjour as popularly believed. [Guardian, 9/9/02]
People and organizations involved: William Safire, Said Bahaji, Osama bin Laden, Mohamed Atta, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, Ziad Jarrah, Marwan Alshehhi, Nawaf Alhazmi
          

January 1, 2000-September 11, 2001: Following Release from Prison, Saeed Sheikh Lives Openly; Supports Future 9/11 Hijackers      Complete 911 Timeline

       After being released from prison at the end of 1999, Saeed Sheikh stays in Kandahar, Afghanistan, for several days and meets with Taliban leader Mullah Omar. He also meets with bin Laden, who is said to call Saeed “my special son.” He then travels to Pakistan and is given a house by the ISI. [Vanity Fair, 8/02] He lives openly and opulently in Pakistan, even attending “swanky parties attended by senior Pakistani government officials.” US authorities conclude he is an asset of the ISI. [Newsweek, 3/13/02] Amazingly, he is allowed to travel freely to Britain, and visits family there at least twice. [Vanity Fair, 8/02] He works with Ijaz Shah, a former ISI official in charge of handling two militant groups; Lieutenant-General Mohammed Aziz Khan, former deputy chief of the ISI in charge of relations with Jaish-e-Mohammed; and Brigadier Abdullah, a former ISI officer. He is well known to other senior ISI officers. He regularly travels to Afghanistan and helps train new al-Qaeda recruits in training camps there. [National Post, 2/26/02; Guardian, 7/16/02; New York Times, 2/25/02; India Today, 2/25/02] Saeed helps train the 9/11 hijackers also, presumably in Afghanistan. [Daily Telegraph, 9/30/01] He also helps al-Qaeda develop a secure web-based communications system, and there is talk that he could one day succeed bin Laden. [Daily Telegraph, 7/16/02; Vanity Fair, 8/02] He wires money to the 9/11 hijackers in August 2001 and possibly several other times. Presumably, he sends the money from the United Arab Emirates during his many trips there. [Guardian, 2/9/02]
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda, Abdullah, Mohammed Aziz Khan, Ijaz Shah, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Osama bin Laden, Saeed Sheikh, Mullah Omar
          

Spring 2000: Saudi Suggestion to Track bin Laden's Stepmother in Planned Meeting with Bin Laden Is Rejected      Complete 911 Timeline

       Sources who know Osama bin Laden later claim that his stepmother, Al-Khalifa bin Laden, has a second meeting with her stepson in Afghanistan (her first visit took place in the spring of 1998 (see Spring 1998)). The trip is approved by the Saudi royal family. The Saudis pass the message to him that “‘they wouldn't crack down on his followers in Saudi Arabia’ as long as he set his sights on targets outside the desert kingdom.” In late 1999, the Saudi government had told the CIA about the upcoming trip, and suggested placing a homing beacon on her luggage. This does not happen—Saudis later claim they weren't taken seriously, and Americans claim they never received specific information on her travel plans. [New Yorker, 11/5/01; Washington Post, 12/19/01]
People and organizations involved: Al-Khalifa bin Laden, Osama bin Laden, Central Intelligence Agency, Saudi Binladin Group
          

March 17, 2000: Bin Laden Reportedly Ill      Complete 911 Timeline

       Reports suggest bin Laden appears weak and gaunt at an important meeting of supporters. He may be very ill with liver ailments, and is seeking a kidney dialysis machine. [Associated Press, 3/25/00] It is believed he gets the dialysis machine in early 2001. [Times of London, 11/01/01] He is able to talk, walk with a cane, and hold meetings, but little else. [Deutsche Presse-Agenteur, 3/16/00; Asiaweek, 3/24/00] The ISI is said to help facilitate his medical treatment. [CBS News, 1/28/02]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence
          

July 2000: Potential Informant Ignored by Australian and US Authorities      Complete 911 Timeline

      
Jack Roche.
Jack Roche, an Australian Caucasian Muslim, tries to inform on al-Qaeda for Australia or the US, but is ignored. In April, Roche returned from a trip to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Malaysia, where he took an explosives training course and met with bin Laden, Mohammed Atef, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and other top al-Qaeda leaders. In Pakistan, Mohammed discussed attacking US jets in Australia and gave Roche money to start an al-Qaeda cell in Australia. Roche also met Hambali in Malaysia and was given more money there. Early this month, he tries to call the US embassy in Australia, but they ignore him. He then tries to contact The Australian intelligence agency several times, but they too ignore him. In September 2000, his housemate also tries to contact Australian intelligence about what he has learned from Roche but his call is ignored as well. Australian Prime Minister John Howard later acknowledges that authorities made a “very serious mistake” in ignoring Roche, though he also downplays the importance of Roche's information. Roche is later sentenced to nine years in prison for conspiring with al-Qaeda to blow up an Israeli embassy. [BBC, 6/1/04; Los Angeles Times, 6/7/04]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Nurjaman Riduan Isamuddin, al-Qaeda, John Howard, Jack Roche, Mohammed Atef
          

September-October 2000: Predator Flights over Afghanistan Are Initiated Then Halted      Complete 911 Timeline

      
Footage from a Predator drone apparently shows bin Laden surrounded by security.
An unmanned spy plane called the Predator begins flying over Afghanistan, showing incomparably detailed real-time video and photographs of the movements of what appears to be bin Laden and his aides. It flies successfully over Afghanistan 16 times. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04] President Clinton is impressed by a two-minute video of bin Laden crossing a street heading toward a mosque. Bin Laden is surrounded by a team of a dozen armed men creating a professional forward security perimeter as he moves. The Predator has been used since 1996, in the Balkans and Iraq. One Predator crashes on takeoff and another is chased by a fighter, but it apparently identifies bin Laden on three occasions. Its use is stopped in Afghanistan after a few trials, mostly because seasonal winds are picking up. It is agreed to resume the flights in the spring, but the Predator fails to fly over Afghanistan again until after 9/11. [Clarke, 2004, pp 220-21; Washington Post, 12/19/01] On September 15, 2001, CIA Director Tenet apparently inaccurately tells President Bush, “The unmanned Predator surveillance aircraft that was now armed with Hellfire missiles had been operating for more than a year out of Uzbekistan to provide real-time video of Afghanistan.” [Washington Post, 1/29/02]
People and organizations involved: William Jefferson ("Bill") Clinton, George W. Bush, Osama bin Laden, George Tenet, Central Intelligence Agency
          

January 19, 2001: UN Sanctions on Taliban Do Not Stop Illegal Trade Network      Complete 911 Timeline

       New United Nations sanctions against Afghanistan take effect, adding to those from November 1999. The sanctions limit travel by senior Taliban authorities, freeze bin Laden's and the Taliban's assets, and order the closure of Ariana Airlines offices abroad. The sanctions also impose an arms embargo against the Taliban, but not against Northern Alliance forces battling the Taliban. [Associated Press, 12/19/00] The arms embargo has no visible effect because the sanctions fail to stop Pakistani military assistance. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04] The sanctions also fail to stop the illegal trade network that the Taliban is secretly running through Ariana. Two companies, Air Cess and Flying Dolphin, take over most of Ariana's traffic. Air Cess is owned by the Russian arms dealer Victor Bout, and Flying Dolphin is owned by the United Arab Emirates' former ambassador to the US, who is also an associate of Bout. In late 2000, despite reports linking Flying Dolphin to arms smuggling, the United Nations gives Flying Dolphin permission to take over Ariana's closed routes, which it does until the new sanctions take effect. Bout's operations are still functioning and he has not been arrested. [Los Angeles Times, 1/20/02; Montreal Gazette, 2/5/02] Ariana is essentially destroyed in the October 2001 US bombing of Afghanistan. [Los Angeles Times, 11/18/01]
People and organizations involved: Ariana Airlines, Air Cess, Osama bin Laden, Victor Bout, Taliban, Flying Dolphin, Northern Alliance, United Nations
          

February 2001: Bin Laden's Sisters Seen Handing Money to al-Qaeda Member      Complete 911 Timeline

       A former CIA anti-terrorism expert later claims that an allied intelligence agency sees “two of Osama's sisters apparently taking cash to an airport in Abu Dhabi [United Arab Emirates], where they are suspected of handing it to a member of bin Laden's al-Qaeda organization.” This is cited as one of many incidents showing an “interconnectedness” between bin Laden and the rest of his family. [New Yorker, 11/5/01]
People and organizations involved: Bin Laden Family, Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda
          

February 26, 2001: Osama Attends Son's Wedding with Other bin Laden Family Members      Complete 911 Timeline

      
Mohammed bin Laden (center), the son of Osama bin Laden (right), marries the daughter of Mohammed Atef (left).
Bin Laden attends the wedding of his son Mohammed in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Although bin Laden is supposedly long estranged from his family, bin Laden's stepmother, two brothers, and sister are also said to attend, according to the only journalist who was invited. [Sunday Herald, 10/7/01; Reuters, 3/1/01]
People and organizations involved: Mohammed bin Laden, Al-Khalifa bin Laden, Osama bin Laden
          

May-June 2001: Muslim Convert Inadvertently Learns of 9/11 Plot      Complete 911 Timeline

      
John Walker Lindh.
John Walker Lindh, a young Caucasian man from California who has converted to Islam, travels to Peshawar, Pakistan, in an attempt to fight for Islamic causes. He had been studying the Koran for about six months elsewhere in Pakistan, but otherwise had no particularly special training, qualifications, or connections. Within days, he is accepted into al-Qaeda and sent to the al Faruq training camp in Afghanistan. Seven other US citizens are already training there. He inadvertently learns details of the 9/11 attacks. In June, he is told by an instructor that “bin Laden had sent forth some fifty people to carry out twenty suicide terrorist operations against the United States and Israel.” He learns that the 9/11 plot is to consist of five attacks, not the four that actually occur. The other fifteen operations are to take place later. He is asked if he wants to participate in a suicide mission, but declines. [Mahoney, 2003, pp 162, 216; Bamford, 2004, pp 234-36] Author James Bamford comments, “The decision to keep CIA employees at arm's length from [al-Qaeda] was a serious mistake. At the same moment the CIA was convinced al-Qaeda was impenetrable, a number of American citizens were secretly joining al-Qaeda in Afghanistan—and being welcomed with open arms.” [Bamford, 2004, pp 161]
People and organizations involved: John Walker Lindh, Osama bin Laden, James Bamford, al-Qaeda, Central Intelligence Agency
          

Summer 2001: Bin Laden Speech Mentions 20 Martyrs in Upcoming Attack; Other Hints of Attack Spread Widely      Complete 911 Timeline

       Word begins to spread within al-Qaeda that an attack against the US is imminent, according to later prison interrogations of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. Many within al-Qaeda are aware that Mohammed has been preparing operatives to go to the US. Additionally, bin Laden makes several remarks hinting at an upcoming attack, spawning rumors throughout Muslim extremist circles worldwide. For instance, in a recorded speech at the al Faruq training camp in Afghanistan, bin Laden specifically urges trainees to pray for the success of an upcoming attack involving 20 martyrs. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/16/04 (B)] There are other indications that knowledge of the attacks spreads in Afghanistan. The Daily Telegraph later reports that “the idea of an attack on a skyscraper [is] discussed among [bin Laden's] supporters in Kabul.” At some unspecified point before 9/11, a neighbor in Kabul sees diagrams showing a skyscraper attack in a house known as a “nerve center” for al-Qaeda activity. [Daily Telegraph, 11/16/01] US soldiers will later find forged visas, altered passports, listings of Florida flight schools and registration papers for a flight simulator in al-Qaeda houses in Afghanistan. [New York Times, 12/6/01] A bin Laden bodyguard later claims that in May 2001 he hears bin Laden tell people in Afghanistan that the US would be hit with an attack, and thousands would die. [Guardian, 11/28/01]
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Osama bin Laden
          

June 13, 2001: Bin Laden Wants to Assassinate Bush with an Explosives-Filled Airplane      Complete 911 Timeline

       Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak later claims that Egyptian intelligence discovers a “communiqué from bin Laden saying he wanted to assassinate President Bush and other G8 heads of state during their summit in Genoa, Italy” on this day. The communiqué specifically mentions this would be done via “an airplane stuffed with explosives.” The US and Italy are sent urgent warnings of this. [New York Times, 9/26/01] Mubarak claims that Egyptian intelligence officials informed American intelligence officers between March and May 2001 that an Egyptian agent had penetrated al-Qaeda. Presumably, this explains how Egypt is able to give the US these warnings. [New York Times, 6/4/02]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, Hosni Mubarak, Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda
          

June 21, 2001: Senior al-Qaeda Officials Say Important Surprises Coming Soon      Complete 911 Timeline

       A reporter for the Middle East Broadcasting Company interviews Osama bin Laden. Keeping a promise made to Taliban leader Mullah Omar, bin Laden does not say anything substantive, but Ayman al-Zawahiri and other top al-Qaeda leaders promise that “[the] coming weeks will hold important surprises that will target American and Israeli interests in the world.” [Associated Press, 6/25/01; Associated Press, 6/24/01] The reporter says, “There is a major state of mobilization among the Osama bin Laden forces. It seems that there is a race of who will strike first. Will it be the United States or Osama bin Laden?” [Reuters, 6/23/01] After 9/11, the reporter concludes, “I am 100 percent sure of this, and it was absolutely clear they had brought me there to hear this message.” [Bamford, 2004, pp 236] The reporter is also shown a several-months-old videotape with bin Laden declaring to his followers, “It's time to penetrate America and Israel and hit him them where it hurts most.” [CNN, 6/21/01] Author James Bamford theorizes that the original 9/11 plot involved a simultaneous attack on Israel and that shoe bomber Richard Reid may have originally wanted to target an Israeli aircraft around this time. For instance, Reid flies to Tel Aviv, Israel on July 12, 2001, to test if airline security would check his shoes for bombs. [Bamford, 2004, pp 236-39]
People and organizations involved: Ayman al-Zawahiri, James Bamford, Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda, Mullah Omar
          

July 2, 2001: Osama bin Laden Periodically Undergoes Dialysis with Approval of the ISI      Complete 911 Timeline

       Indian sources claim that “bin Laden, who suffers from renal deficiency, has been periodically undergoing dialysis in a Peshawar military hospital with the knowledge and approval of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), if not of [Pakistani President] Musharraf himself.” [SARPA, 7/2/01] While one might question the bias of an Indian newspaper on this issue, highly respected intelligence newsletter Jane's Intelligence Digest later reports the story, and adds, “None of [these details] will be unfamiliar to US intelligence operatives who have been compiling extensive reports on these alleged activities.” [Jane's Intelligence Digest, 9/20/01] CBS will later report bin Laden had emergency medical care in Pakistan the day before 9/11. [CBS News, 1/28/02] If these stories are true, it appears Pakistan could have captured bin Laden for the US at any time. The Jane's Intelligence Digest article adds, “It is becoming clear that both the Taliban and al-Qaeda would have found it difficult to have continued functioning—including the latter group's terrorist activities—without substantial aid and support from Islamabad [Pakistan].” [Jane's Intelligence Digest, 9/20/01]
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda, Taliban, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Osama bin Laden
          

July 4-14, 2001: Bin Laden Reportedly Receives Lifesaving Treatment in Dubai, Said to Meet with CIA While There      Complete 911 Timeline

      
The American Hospital in Dubai.
Bin Laden, America's most wanted criminal with a $5 million bounty on his head, supposedly receives lifesaving treatment for renal failure from American specialist Dr. Terry Callaway at the American hospital in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. He is possibly accompanied by Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri (who is said to be bin Laden's personal physician, al-Qaeda's second-in-command, and leader of Egypt's Islamic Jihad), plus several bodyguards. Callaway supposedly treated bin Laden in 1996 and 1998, also in Dubai. Callaway later refuses to answer any questions on this matter. [Le Figaro, 10/31/01; Times of London, 11/01/01; Agence France-Presse, 11/1/01] During his stay, bin Laden is visited by “several members of his family and Saudi personalities,” including Prince Turki al Faisal, then head of Saudi intelligence. [Guardian, 11/1/01] On July 12, bin Laden reportedly meets with CIA agent Larry Mitchell in the hospital. Mitchell apparently lives in Dubai as an Arab specialist under the cover of being a consular agent. The CIA, the Dubai hospital, and even bin Laden deny the story. The two news organizations that broke the story, Le Figaro and Radio France International, stand by their reporting. [Le Figaro, 10/31/01; Radio France International, 11/1/01] The explosive story is widely reported in Europe, but there are only two, small wire service stories on it in the US. [Reuters, 11/10/01; UPI, 11/1/01] The Guardian claims that the story originated from French intelligence, “which is keen to reveal the ambiguous role of the CIA, and to restrain Washington from extending the war to Iraq and elsewhere.” The Guardian adds that during his stay bin Laden is also visited by a second CIA officer. [Guardian, 11/1/01] In 2003, reporter Richard Labeviere will provide additional details of what he claims happened in a book entitled “The Corridors of Terror.” He claims he learned about the meeting from a contact in the Dubai hospital. He claims the event was confirmed in detail by a Gulf prince who presented himself as an adviser to the Emir of Bahrain. This prince claimed the meeting was arrange by Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia's intelligence director. The prince said, “By organizing this meeting...Turki thought he could start direct negotiations between [bin Laden] and the CIA on one fundamental point: that bin Laden and his supporters end their hostilities against American interests.” In exchange, the CIA and Saudis would allow bin Laden to return to Saudi Arabia and live freely there. The meeting is said to be a failure. [Reuters, 11/14/03] On July 15, Larry Mitchell reportedly returns to CIA headquarters to report on his meeting with bin Laden. [Radio France International, 11/1/01] French terrorism expert Antoine Sfeir says the story of this meeting has been verified and is not surprising: It “is nothing extraordinary. Bin Laden maintained contacts with the CIA up to 1998. These contacts have not ceased since bin Laden settled in Afghanistan. Up to the last moment, CIA agents hoped that bin Laden would return to the fold of the US, as was the case before 1989.” [Le Figaro, 11/1/01] A CIA spokesman calls the entire account of bin Laden's stay at Dubai “sheer fantasy.” [Reuters, 11/14/03]
People and organizations involved: Turki bin Faisal bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, Islamic Jihad, Terry Callaway, Larry Mitchell, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden, Central Intelligence Agency, al-Qaeda
          

August 25, 2001: Bin Laden Publicly Hints at Attack on US      Complete 911 Timeline

       Bin Laden gives an interview to Middle Eastern television. According to ABC News, “When asked about his supporters, he says with a significant and knowing smile there is going to be a surprise to the United States.” [ABC News, 9/14/01 (B)]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden
          

August 30, 2001: Osama Reportedly Named Commander of Afghanistan Army      Complete 911 Timeline

       It is reported in Russia and Pakistan that the Taliban has named bin Laden commander of the Afghanistan army. [UPI, 8/30/01]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, Taliban
          

Late August 2001: Bin Laden Boasts in Interview of Very, Very Big Strike Against US      Complete 911 Timeline

       In an interview with the London-based newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi, bin Laden boasts that he is planning a “very, very big” and “unprecedented” strike against the US. The interview is not publicly released until after 9/11, however, so it is unclear if US intelligence is aware of this before 9/11. [ABC News, 9/12/01; Independent, 9/17/01]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden
          

Early September 2001: Bin Laden's Intercepted Phone Calls Discuss an Operation in the US Around 9/11 Date      Complete 911 Timeline

       According to British inside sources, “shortly before September 11,” bin Laden contacts an associate thought to be in Pakistan. The conversation refers to an incident that will take place in the US on, or around 9/11, and discusses possible repercussions. In another conversation, bin Laden contacts an associate thought to be in Afghanistan. They discuss the scale and effect of a forthcoming operation; bin Laden praises his colleague for his part in the planning. Neither conversation specifically mentions the WTC or Pentagon, but investigators have no doubt the 9/11 attacks were being discussed. The British government has obliquely made reference to these intercepts: “There is evidence of a very specific nature relating to the guilt of bin Laden and his associates that is too sensitive to release.” These intercepts haven't been made public in British Prime Minister Tony Blair's presentation of al-Qaeda's guilt because “releasing full details could compromise the source or method of the intercepts.” [Sunday Times, 10/7/01]
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, Tony Blair
          

September 6, 2001: Bin Laden Allegedly Informed of Exact Attack Date      Complete 911 Timeline

       According to a later interview with would-be hijacker Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, a courier sent by bin al-Shibh tells bin Laden on this day when the 9/11 attacks will take place. [Australian, 9/9/02] However, there are doubts about this interview (see April, June, or August 2002).
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh
          

September 9, 2001: Osama Tells His Stepmother That Big News Will Come in Two Days      Complete 911 Timeline

       It is later reported that on this day, bin Laden calls his stepmother and says, “In two days, you're going to hear big news and you're not going to hear from me for a while.” US officials later tell CNN that “in recent years they've been able to monitor some of bin Laden's telephone communications with his [step]mother. Bin Laden at the time was using a satellite telephone, and the signals were intercepted and sometimes recorded.” [New York Times, 10/2/01] Stepmother Al-Khalifa bin Laden, who raised Osama bin Laden after his natural mother died, is apparently waiting in Damascus, Syria, to meet Osama there, so he calls to cancel the meeting. [Sunday Herald, 10/7/01] They had met periodically in recent years. Before 9/11, to impress important visitors, NSA analysts would occasionally play audio tapes of bin Laden talking to his stepmother. The next day government officials say about the call, “I would view those reports with skepticism.” [CNN, 10/2/01]
People and organizations involved: National Security Agency, Osama bin Laden, Al-Khalifa bin Laden
          

September 10, 2001: Intelligence Intercepts Show al-Qaeda Agents Ordered to Return to Afghanistan by This Date      Complete 911 Timeline

       In a major post-9/11 speech, British Prime Minister Tony Blair claims that “shortly before September 11, bin Laden told associates that he had a major operation against America under preparation, [and] a range of people were warned to return back to Afghanistan because of action on or around September 11.” His claims come from a British document of telephone intercepts and interrogations revealing al-Qaeda orders to return to Afghanistan by September 10. [CNN, 10/4/01; Time, 10/5/01] However, Blair may have the direction incorrect, since would-be hijacker Ramzi Bin al-Shibh later claims that he is the one who passes to bin Laden the date the attacks will happen and warns others to evacuate. [Australian, 9/9/02]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, Tony Blair, al-Qaeda, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh
          

September 11, 2001: Planned Rice Speech on Threats Contains No Mention of al-Qaeda      Complete 911 Timeline

       National Security Adviser Rice is scheduled to deliver a speech claiming to address “the threats and problems of today and the day after, not the world of yesterday.” The speech is never given due to the 9/11 attacks earlier in the day, but the text is later leaked to the media. The Washington Post calls the speech “telling Insight into the administration's thinking” because it promotes missile defense and contains no mention of al-Qaeda, bin Laden, or Islamic extremist groups. The only mention of terrorism is in the context of the danger of rogue nations such as Iraq. In fact, there are almost no public mentions of bin Laden or al-Qaeda by Bush or other top Bush administration officials before 9/11, and the focus instead is on missile defense. [Washington Post, 4/1/04 (D); Washington Post, 4/1/04]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, Condoleezza Rice, Bush administration, Central Intelligence Agency, al-Qaeda
          

September 11, 2001-January 2002: Saeed Sheikh Lives Openly in Pakistan      Complete 911 Timeline

      
Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, partying in Pakistan after 9/11.
After probably completing last-minute financial transactions with some 9/11 hijackers, Saeed Sheikh flies to Pakistan. [Knight Ridder, 10/7/01] He meets with bin Laden in Afghanistan a few days later. [Guardian, 7/16/02; Washington Post, 2/18/02; Times of London, 2/25/02] The US government claims Saeed fights for the Taliban in Afghanistan in September and October 2001. [CNN, 3/14/02] Some reports indicate that after the defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Saeed acts as a go-between with bin Laden and the ISI seeking to hide bin Laden. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/3/02] He also helps produce a video of a bin Laden interview. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/3/02] Sometime in October 2001 [Guardian, 7/16/02] , Saeed moves back to his home in Lahore, Pakistan, and lives there openly. He is frequently seen at local parties hosted by government leaders. In January 2002, he hosts a party to celebrate the birth of his newborn baby. [USA Today, 2/25/02; Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/3/02] He stays in his well-known Lahore house with his new wife and baby until January 19, 2002—four days before reporter Daniel Pearl is kidnapped. [BBC, 7/16/02]
People and organizations involved: Saeed Sheikh, Bush administration, Daniel Pearl, Taliban, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Osama bin Laden
          

September 16, 2001: Bin Laden Denies Involvement in 9/11 Attacks      Complete 911 Timeline

       Confirming earlier reports [Reuters, 9/13/01 (D)] , bin Laden denies any involvement in the 9/11 attacks. In a statement to Al Jazeera, he states, “I would like to assure the world that I did not plan the recent attacks, which seems to have been planned by people for personal reasons.” [CNN, 9/17/01 (C)] The US claims that he confesses his role in a video message two months later, but the contents of that video are highly disputed.
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, Al Jazeera
          

Late September-Early October 2001: Bin Laden Reportedly Agrees to Face International Tribunal; US Not Interested?      Complete 911 Timeline

       Leaders of Pakistan's two Islamic parties are negotiating bin Laden's extradition to Pakistan to stand trial for the 9/11 attacks during this period, according to a later Mirror article. Under the plan, bin Laden will be held under house arrest in Peshawar and will face an international tribunal, which will decide whether to try him or hand him over to the US. According to reports in Pakistan (and the Daily Telegraph ), this plan has been approved by both bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar. [Mirror, 7/8/02] Based on the first priority in the US's new “war on terror” proclaimed by President Bush, the US presumably would welcome this plan. For example, Bush had just announced, “I want justice. And there's an old poster out West, I recall, that says, ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive.’ ” [ABC News, 9/17/01] Yet, Bush's ally in the war on terror, Pakistani President Musharraf, rejects the plan (stating that his reason for doing so was because he “could not guarantee bin Laden's safety”). Based on a US official's later statements, it appears that the US did not want the deal: “Casting our objectives too narrowly” risked “a premature collapse of the international effort [to overthrow the Taliban] if by some lucky chance Mr. bin Laden was captured.” [Mirror, 7/8/02]
People and organizations involved: Pervez Musharraf, George W. Bush, Mullah Omar, Osama bin Laden
          

October 14, 2001: Bin Laden Reportedly Has Supporters at All Levels of Saudi Arabia      Complete 911 Timeline

       The Boston Herald reports: “Three banks allegedly used by Osama bin Laden to distribute money to his global terrorism network have well-established ties to a prince in Saudi Arabia's royal family, several billionaire Saudi bankers, and the governments of Kuwait and Dubai. One of the banks, Al-Shamal Islamic Bank in the Sudan, was controlled directly by bin Laden, according to a 1996 US State Department report.” A regional expert states, “I think we underestimate bin Laden. He comes from the highest levels of Saudi society and he has supporters at all levels of Saudi Arabia.” [Boston Herald, 10/14/01]
People and organizations involved: Al-Shamal Islamic Bank, Osama bin Laden
          

Late October-Early November 2001: Al-Qaeda Fighters, Bin Laden Said to Move into Jalalabad Without Hindrance      Complete 911 Timeline

       Since late October, US intelligence reports began noting that al-Qaeda fighters and leaders were moving into and around the Afghanistan city of Jalalabad. By early November, bin Laden is said to be there. Knight Ridder Newspapers reports that “American intelligence analysts concluded that bin Laden and his retreating fighters were preparing to flee across the border. However, the US Central Command, which was running the war, made no move to block their escape. ‘It was obvious from at least early November that this area was to be the base for an exodus into Pakistan,’ said one intelligence official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity. ‘All of this was known, and frankly we were amazed that nothing was done to prepare for it.’ ” The vast majority of leaders and fighters are eventually able to escape into Pakistan. [Knight Ridder, 10/20/02]
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden
          

November 5, 2001: Has Bin Laden Family Really Disowned Osama?      Complete 911 Timeline

       The New Yorker points to evidence that the bin Laden family has generally not ostracized itself from bin Laden as is popularly believed, but retains close ties in some cases. The large bin Laden family owns and runs a $5 billion a year global corporation that includes the largest construction firm in the Islamic world. One counterterrorism expert says, “There's obviously a lot of spin by the Saudi Binladin Group [the family corporation] to distinguish itself from Osama. I've been following the bin Ladens for years, and it's easy to say, ‘We disown him.’ Many in the family have. But blood is usually thicker than water.” The article notes that neither the bin Laden family nor the Saudi royal family have publicly denounced bin Laden since 9/11. [New Yorker, 11/5/01]
People and organizations involved: Saudi Binladin Group, Bin Laden Family, Osama bin Laden
          

November 14, 2001: Al-Qaeda Convoy Flees to Tora Bora; US Fails to Attack      Complete 911 Timeline

       The Northern Alliance captures the Afghan city of Jalalabad. [Sydney Morning Herald, 11/14/01] On this night, a convoy of 1,000 or more al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters escapes from Jalalabad and reaches the fortress of Tora Bora after hours of driving and then walking. Bin Laden is believed to be with them, riding in one of “several hundred cars” in the convoy. The US bombs the nearby Jalalabad airport, but apparently does not attack the convoy. [Knight Ridder, 10/20/02; Christian Science Monitor, 3/4/02 (B)]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, Northern Alliance, al-Qaeda, Taliban
          

November 25, 2001: Bin Laden Reportedly Gives Last Public Speech to Followers      Complete 911 Timeline

       It is believed bin Laden makes a speech before a crowd of about 1,000 followers in the village of Milawa, Afghanistan. This village is on the route from Tora Bora to the Pakistani border, about eight to ten hours by walking. In his last known public appearance, bin Laden encourages his followers to leave Afghanistan, so they could regroup and fight again. [Knight Ridder, 10/20/02] It is believed he leaves the country a few days later. [Daily Telegraph, 2/23/02]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden
          

November 28, 2001: Bin Laden Reportedly Escapes Tora Bora by Helicopter      Complete 911 Timeline

       A US Special Forces soldier stationed in Fayetteville, North Carolina, later (anonymously) claims that the US has bin Laden pinned in a certain Tora Bora cave on this day, but fails to act. Special Forces soldiers allegedly sit by waiting for orders and watch two helicopters fly into the area where bin Laden is believed to be, load up passengers, and fly toward Pakistan. No other soldiers have come forward to corroborate the story, but bin Laden is widely believed to have been in the Tora Bora area at the time. [Fayetteville Observer, 8/2/02] However, other reports indicate that bin Laden may have left the Tora Bora region by this time. Newsweek separately reports that many locals “claim that mysterious black helicopters swept in, flying low over the mountains at night, and scooped up al-Qaeda's top leaders.” [Newsweek, 8/11/02 (B)] Perhaps coincidentally, on the same day this story is reported, months after the fact, the media also will report a recent spate of strange deaths at the same military base in Fayetteville. Five soldiers and their wives died since June 2002 in apparent murder-suicides. At least three were Special Forces soldiers recently returned from Afghanistan. [Independent, 8/2/02]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda
          

Early December 2001: Battle for Tora Bora Is Called Charade      Complete 911 Timeline

       The Daily Telegraph later reports on the battle for Tora Bora around this time: “In retrospect, and with the benefit of dozens of accounts from the participants, the battle for Tora Bora looks more like a grand charade.” Eyewitnesses express shock that the US pinned in Taliban and al-Qaeda forces, thought to contain many high leaders, on three sides only, leaving the route to Pakistan open. An intelligence chief in Afghanistan's new government says, “The border with Pakistan was the key, but no one paid any attention to it. In addition, there were plenty of landing areas for helicopters had the Americans acted decisively. Al-Qaeda escaped right out from under their feet.” [Daily Telegraph, 2/23/02] It is believed that up to 2,000 were in the area when the battle began. The vast majority successfully flee, and only 21 al-Qaeda fighters are finally captured. [Christian Science Monitor, 3/4/02 (B)] The US relies on local forces “whose loyalty and enthusiasm were suspect from the start” to do most of the fighting. [Knight Ridder, 10/20/02] Some of the local commanders drafted to help the US had ties to bin Laden going back to the 1980s. [New York Times, 9/30/02 (B)] These forces actually help al-Qaeda escape. An Afghan intelligence officer says he is astounded that Pentagon planners did not consider the most obvious exit routes and put down light US infantry to block them. It is later widely believed that bin Laden escapes along one of these routes on November 30 or December 1, walking out with about four loyal followers. [Christian Science Monitor, 3/4/02; Christian Science Monitor, 3/4/02 (B)] Al-Qaeda's number two leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, also escapes the area. [Knight Ridder, 10/20/02]
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda, Taliban, Osama bin Laden, US Department of Defense, Ayman al-Zawahiri
          

December 17, 2001      Torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere

       US intelligence and Pentagon officials admit having lost track of Osama bin Laden in the Tora Bora area in the Northwest of Afghanistan. “The chatter stopped,” says John Stufflebeem. According to commanders of the Northern Alliance, as many as 500 al-Qaeda members might still be at large. [St. Petersburg Times, 12/18/2001] The same day, Rumsfeld says he has heard that there were 30 or 31 persons being held in custody around Tora Bora as of December 16. It is unclear whether any high-ranking al-Qaeda members are among them. Meanwhile, a detention center is being built at Kandahar. [Associated Press, 12/17/2001]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, Donald Rumsfeld, John Stufflebeem
          

December 19, 2001      US confrontation with Iran

       The Asia Times reports that Osama bin Laden has sought refuge in Iran and is being sheltered by members of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK). The report—citing Pakistani jihadi who fought in Afghanistan, journalists, and intelligence sources—says bin Laden crossed into Iran from Afghanistan around the time of the surrender of Kandahar (see November 25, 2001). [Asia Times, 12/19/2001]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, Mujahedeen-e Khalq
          

December 20, 2001: Bush Says He Didn't Feel ‘Sense of Urgency’ to Deal With Bin Laden Before 9/11      Complete 911 Timeline

       In an interview with the Washington Post, President Bush says that before 9/11: “I knew [bin Laden] was a menace and I knew he was a problem. I was prepared to look at a plan that would be a thoughtful plan that would bring him to justice, and would have given the order to do that. I have no hesitancy about going after him. But I didn't feel that sense of urgency.” [Washington Post, 5/17/02]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, George W. Bush
          

November 12, 2002: New Bin Laden Recording Could Be a Forgery      Complete 911 Timeline

       A new audio tape purportedly made by bin Laden, in which he praises recent attacks in Bali, Kuwait, Yemen and Moscow, is broadcast by Al Jazeera. [BBC, 11/13/02; BBC, 11/18/02] US officials believe the voice is “almost certainly” bin Laden, but the Dalle Molle Institute for Perceptual Artificial Intelligence in Switzerland, one of the world's leading voice-recognition institutes, is 95 percent certain the tape is a forgery. [BBC, 11/18/02; BBC, 11/29/02; Toronto Star, 12/16/02] Two weeks later, a British newspaper publishes the complete text of a “letter to the American people,” purportedly written by bin Laden. [Observer, 11/25/02] However, “diplomats [are] skeptical about the authenticity of the document.” [Guardian, 10/15/02]
People and organizations involved: Dalle Molle Institute, Osama bin Laden
          

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