— -- Osama bin Laden, labeled “one of the most significant financial sponsors of Islamic extremist activities in the world,” has been linked to terrorist actions for years, and has been named the prime suspect in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.
The Saudi exile also is suspected of playing large roles in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa and the attack on the USS Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden in October 2000.
He has been a man on the run since a U.S.-led attack in late 2001 drove out Afghanistan's ruling Taliban party, which had refused an American demand to turn over bin Laden to U.S. custody.
Bin Laden had been living in Afghanistan, and the United States asserts that he ran his terrorist operations out of that country. Since late 2001, news organizations have received a series of pre-recorded statements purportedly from bin Laden, but the terrorist kingpin's whereabouts have never been definitively determined.
The capture of one of his deputies, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in Pakistan, which was announced March 1, had raised hopes that the world's most-wanted man may finally be nabbed after an intense, high-profile manhunt.
It followed information allegedly supplied by Mohammed to his interrogators that weeks before his capture, Mohammed met bin Laden in Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan province or in the rugged mountain peaks that run along the border with Afghanistan.
Bin Laden's al Qaeda organization is a loose umbrella association of radical groups and people believed to operate in dozens of countries around the world.
Long before the embassy bombings in Africa, al Qaeda members were suspected of playing a role in several attacks against U.S. interests, including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, failed plots to kill President Clinton and the pope, and attacks on U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia and Somalia.
Bin Laden has also used his millions to bankroll terrorist training camps in Sudan, the Philippines and Afghanistan, sending holy warriors to foment revolution and fight with fundamentalist Muslim forces across North Africa, in Chechnya, Tajikistan and Bosnia.