9/11: US refused chance to kill Osama Bin Laden two years before attacks

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A documentary which will air tonight reveals the man behind terror group Al-Qaeda changed when he fought against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Osama Bin Laden, conspirator of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, was killed in 2011 by a United States military special operations unit. Born in Saudi Arabia in 1957, it was the invasion of the Arab nation that proved a “turning point in his life”, according to an al-Qaeda expert.

Channel 4 documentary ‘Bin Laden: The Road to 9/11’ speaks to a childhood friend of his, who explains how the Russian invasion of Afghanistan proved a turning point in Bin Laden’s life.

Khaled Batarfi, who grew up with Bin Laden, said: “People change and war changes people. That’s what happened to Osama.”

As his hatred towards the West, notably America, grew, he declared war on the US.

Despite assurances from President George H. W. Bush to Saudi Arabian King Fahd that American troops would be withdrawn once the Iraqi threat was dealt with, they still remained in 1996.

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Osama Bin Laden was on US radar for a long time – yet they did nothing about it. (Image: GETTY)

Bin Laden declared war on America twice. (Image: GETTY)

Bin Laden felt the “evils” of the Middle East arose from the attempted American takeover of the region, and that Saudi Arabia had been turned into an “American colony”.

He twice declared war on the US, first in 1996 and later in 1998.

The 9/11 Commission later used the second declaration, called a fatwa, as evidence that linked Bin Laden and al-Qaeda to 9/11.

His first declaration of war, however, “set alarm bells ringing with Agent John O’Neill”, according to the narrator of Amazon Prime documentary ‘Alone Against al-Qaeda: Could 9/11 Have Been Avoided?’.

Bin Laden was finally killed in 2011. (Image: GETTY)

Al-Qaeda expert Lawrence Wright told the documentary of Bin Laden’s intentions: “He wanted the United States to replicate the same problem that had happened to the Soviet Union, which was that Soviets went into Afghanistan in 1979, spent 10 years there, and withdrew.

“And what happened? The Soviet Union shattered. It fell apart.

“Bin Laden actually believed that he’d do the same thing to the United States.

“It would become the ‘dis-United States’ and that would open up the way for Islam to regain its rightful place as the preeminent power in the world.”

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The 9/11 terror attacks killed nearly 3000 people. (Image: GETTY)

Even after the declaration of war, and private terror investigations from the International Secret Services, Bin Laden was not listed on the FBI’s most wanted list until June 1999.

The narrator said: “Inertia remains in Washington.”

By this point, the Americans had missed arguably their best chance to rid the world of Bin Laden.

As the Holy War in Afghanistan was “entering a new phase”, according to the narrator, Americans started to take note.

American officials receiving an update on the mission to kill Osama Bin Laden. (Image: GETTY)

The CIA had pushed for a military strike against Bin Laden, and with the US Navy stationed in the Arabian Sea, they could have easily reached targets in Afghanistan.

Michael Scheuer, former CIA intelligence officer, told Amazon Prime: “I think the most interesting chance to kill Osama Bin Laden, and surely the one that would have caused the least collateral damage, happened in March 1999.”

However, the White House refused. FBI agent John O’Neill instead preferred to put Bin Laden on trial.

The FBI were asked to build a case against Bin Laden and his second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

They had missed their chance – Bin Laden built training camps now thriving with hundreds of men training to be terrorists, united by a hatred of the US.

Two years down the line, they pulled off their ultimate goal.

The 9/11 attacks saw 2,977 victims killed, alongside the deaths of a further 19 al-Qaeda terrorists.

Bin Laden: The Road to 9/11 airs tonight on Channel 4 at 9pm.