39 Facts About Osama Bin Laden, The World’s Most Infamous Terrorist
By Alec | Checked By John Kuroski
Published August 15, 2021
Updated August 19, 2021
These fascinating Osama Bin Laden facts lay bare the founder of Al-Qaeda and the mastermind of the September 11th terrorist attacks.
At the start of the 21st century, no one left an imprint on the collective human psyche like Osama Bin Laden.
The son of a billionaire construction magnate, Bin Laden turned his back on the opulent lifestyle of his family and embraced a radical interpretation of Islam that led him to organize attacks against the United States and its allies on almost every continent across the globe.
After masterminding September 11th, the deadliest terrorist attack in history, bin Laden spent a decade successfully evading a global coalition. He was eventually tracked down and killed at a safe house in Pakistan in 2011, but not before he unleashed a virulent strain of terrorism that continues to plague the world.
Below, we look at thirty-nine fascinating Osama bin Laden facts that reveal the man who made Al Qaeda a household name:
Osama bin Laden was the 17th of an estimated 58 children of construction magnate Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden.Wikimedia Commons
Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden was a Yemeni immigrant who founded the multi-billion dollar construction conglomerate, The Saudi Binladin Group.Wikimedia Commons
Bin Laden received an elite, Western-style education in Saudi Arabia and attended a Quaker school in Lebanon for a year.Vintage.es
Bin Laden graduated with a degree in civil engineering in 1979 from King Abdulaziz University in Jedda, Saudi Arabia.Wikimedia Commons
Bin Laden first went to Afghanistan in 1979, where he used supplies from his father's company to help support the jihadist movement against the Soviet Union’s invasion.Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images
The CIA supported extremist Islamic groups in the 1980s -- including bin Laden's -- with weapons and over $1 billion when they were fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.Robert Nickelsberg / Getty Images
While his father married 22 times and fathered 58 children, bin Laden married at least five women and fathered approximately 24 children.Getty Images
Al Qaeda was formed in 1988 under Bin Laden's guidance during the final years of the Soviet-Afghan war with the goal of transforming jihad into a global movement.AFP/Getty Images
Bin Laden received between $25 to $30 million in inheritance after his father's death, which he funneled to jihadist activities in Afghanistan.AFP/Getty Images
Following the conclusion of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the arrival of American troops in Saudi Arabia in 1990 during the first Gulf War, bin Laden made the United States his primary target.Getty Images
Bin Laden was expelled from Saudi Arabia in 1991. He and other Al Qaeda members then relocated to Sudan with an estimated $250 million that they used to grow their terror network.MIR HAMID/DAILY DAWN/Getty Images
The United States and Saudi Arabia agreed to match funding to jihadi groups in 1991, when over $400 million was given to what would later become the Taliban.Getty Images
After radical Islamists first struck the World Trade Center with a car bomb in 1993, bin Laden was implicated as a co-conspirator.MARK D. PHILLIPS/Getty Images
Bin Laden was a passionate fan of Arsenal F.C. and reportedly visited their stadium twice during a trip to London in 1994.Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
In 1998, soon after endorsing a fatwa titled "International Islamic Front for Jihad on the Jews and Crusaders," Al Qaeda detonated truck bombs outside of American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya that killed 224 people in what was their first major attack against the United States.Thomas Coax/Getty Images
According to Kola Boof, a Sudanese writer who claims to have been made bin Laden's sex slave in the 1990s, he was obsessed with Whitney Houston, and regularly spoke of his dreams of marrying her and killing her husband, Bobby Brown.L. Cohen/Getty Images
Bin Laden forbade his followers from listening to music as well as drinking iced water.Getty Images
After being expelled from Sudan in 1996, he moved to Afghanistan where he cemented an alliance between Al Qaeda and the Taliban.Getty Images
Deadly force against bin Laden had been authorized as far back as the Clinton administration.
In fact, two U.S. missile strikes came extremely close to killing bin Laden in the years just before September 11th. One attack in particular successfully targeted his convoy but blew up another vehicle, not the one bin Laden himself was riding in. ROMEO GACAD/Getty Images
Knowing that the United States could not be defeated militarily, bin Laden's long-term strategy was to draw out the United States into a costly war of attrition. He believed he could bankrupt the U.S. economy by forcing the country into wars across the globe.Scott Nelson/Getty Images
After the United States launched missile attacks against Al Qaeda's compound in Afghanistan by tracking satellite phone use, Bin Laden didn't use a phone after 1998.Getty Images
According to biographers and associates, bin Laden loved Westerns, which is largely why he owned so many horses and took to wearing cowboy hats at his Abbottabad compound.Getty Images
Bin Laden publicly denied responsibility for the September 11th attacks, only finally taking credit in 2004.Spencer Platt/Getty Images
In an elaborate attempt to fake his death, Al Qaeda staged a funeral for bin Laden in the Tora Bora mountains of Afghanistan in 2001.ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images
Bin Laden stated in 2004 that his motivation for the September 11th attacks was American support for the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982.Getty Images
Bin Laden penned a letter to President Barack Obama in 2011 urging him to act on climate change.David McNew/Getty Images
Bin Laden was between 6'4" and 6'6" but weighed only 160 pounds.Salah Malkawi/Getty Images
A gem dealer from Michigan named Tom Lee claims to have learned of Osama bin Laden's hiding place in Abbottabad, Pakistan from a friend in Pakistani intelligence all the way back in 2003. He immediately passed the info on to the FBI.
When bin Laden was killed in that very hiding place in 2011, Lee sought the advertised $25 million reward, but was ignored by the FBI.ROMEO GACAD/Getty Images
Osama bin Laden was killed on May 2nd, 2011 by United States Navy SEALs, with his body disposed of at sea the same night.U.S. Navy / Getty Images
The person who broke the news of bin Laden's death to the public was none other than Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.
In a tweet that went out over an hour before the president addressed the nation, Johnson, likely acting on a tip from his Navy SEAL cousin, was the first to hint at the historic news that would soon be shared with the world.Jason Kempin/Getty Images
The Center for Public Integrity calculates the cost of tracking and killing Osama Bin Laden at $450 billion, making him the most expensive assassination target in world history.The White House/Getty Images
While the exact method used to ultimately locate Osama bin Laden prior to the operation that ended with his death hasn't been released by the U.S. government, most accounts point to a Pakistani intelligence officer who disclosed his location for a $25 million reward.Wikimedia Commons
Bin Laden kept the soccer balls and cricket balls of neighborhood children that flew over his fence in Abbottabad.
Instead of returning the balls, bin Laden's staff would simply reimburse the children on the spot. Eventually, the children learned that the reimbursement was more valuable than the balls and thus began purposely sending balls over the fence in order to turn a profit.Getty Images
After bin Laden was killed, operatives searched his compound and found a collection of porn that Reuters called "extensive."
The government has turned down several Freedom of Information Act requests to release the contents of that collection to the public, stating that the material is part of operations files that cannot be released for reasons of national security.AAMIR QURESHI/Getty Images
Just after his death, marijuana plants were found growing just outside bin Laden's Abbottabad compound.Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Though his name is known the world over, the version of that name seen outside the Arabic world is something of a fabrication.
There's no agreed-upon way to transliterate Arabic names into the English alphabet. Thus, bin Laden's name has been rendered many different ways, with the CIA and FBI, for example, both preferring Usama bin Laden.John Moore/Getty Images
No physical evidence of Osama bin Laden's death has been released to the public.
The Atlantic conservatively estimates that bin Laden cost the United States at least $3 trillion over 15 yearsGetty Images
In a will that was created shortly after September 11th, Osama bin Laden asked his children not to join Al Qaeda or participate in jihad.AFP/Getty Images
For an encapsulating look at how Osama bin Laden was tracked and killed, watch this HBO documentary Manhunt: The Search for Bin Laden, which details the CIA's pursuit of bin Laden over the course of two decades:
Alexander is a Brooklyn-based cofounder of All That's Interesting with an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia in History and Economics and an MSc from the School of Oriental and African Studies in Economics. He specializes in American history, the Cold War, and true crime.