Fox News Digital is republishing this story to pay tribute to the Americans who lost their lives in the September 11, 2001, terror attacks. Usama bin Laden, a notorious jihadist leader, was responsible for orchestrating these devastating attacks, which propelled the United States into its longest war. Bin Laden’s path to infamy began in 1979 when he joined the jihad against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He played a crucial role in funding the training of new mujahideen fighters. In 1989, he co-founded al Qaeda with Abdullah Yusuf Azzam. Despite initial success, bin Laden and Azzam eventually disagreed on the focus of their jihad, with bin Laden setting his sights on targeting the Western democracies, notably the United States.
The profound schism between bin Laden and Azzam became evident as they clashed over the “near enemy” (authoritarian regimes in the Middle East) versus the “far enemy” (Western democracies supporting these regimes). After Azzam’s death in 1989, bin Laden continued to pursue his vision of targeting the West. The invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in 1990 further strained bin Laden’s relationship with the Saudi royal family, as he vehemently opposed any external intervention by the United States. As al Qaeda worked on a global scale, evidence of terrorist plots reminiscent of the 9/11 attacks came to light, linking bin Laden to individuals involved in planning acts of terrorism.
Growing criticism of the U.S.-Saudi alliance led to bin Laden’s expulsion from Saudi Arabia in 1991, ultimately resulting in his establishment of a base for mujahideen fighters in Afghanistan. From there, bin Laden plotted his first major attack, which took place in Aden, Yemen, in 1992. The attack targeted U.S. troops, but they had already left the hotel where the bomb exploded. The following year, the World Trade Center bombing in New York City further demonstrated bin Laden’s determination to strike the United States. While the attack did not achieve its intended goal of toppling the towers, it resulted in six deaths and over 1,000 injuries.
Al Qaeda’s attacks on U.S. interests continued in subsequent years, including the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia and the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. These attacks claimed the lives of hundreds of people and left thousands injured. In 2000, al Qaeda attacked the USS Cole, killing 17 sailors and injuring many more. The Clinton administration had plans to kill bin Laden, but they were never authorized.
Ahmad Shah Massoud, a prominent Afghan politician and mujahedeen commander, attempted to warn the U.S. government about bin Laden’s plans in early 2001, but his efforts were tragically cut short when he was assassinated by al Qaeda operatives just two days before the September 11 attacks. On that fateful day, al Qaeda terrorists hijacked and crashed four planes, resulting in the deaths of nearly 3,000 people. This horrific event led to a U.S.-led military coalition invading Afghanistan in an effort to combat bin Laden, al Qaeda, and the Taliban.
For almost a decade, bin Laden evaded capture until he was located in a compound in Pakistan. In 2011, U.S. Navy SEALs conducted a raid on the compound, killing bin Laden and four others, marking the end of his reign of terror. However, the consequences of his actions still reverberate today, as the United States recently withdrew its troops from Afghanistan in a chaotic manner, bringing an end to the longest war in American history.
In remembrance of the lives lost on September 11, 2001, we honor their memory and the resilience of their families, who continue to grapple with the aftermath of this tragic event.