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In Photos: At Home With Osama bin Laden

Newly released photos reveal bin Laden's crude living conditions in the Tora Bora mountainside of Afghanistan back in 1996.

by Arijeta Lajka
Mar 13 2015, 7:15pm

Photo par Abdel Bari Atwan

Rare photos from nearly two decades ago of Osama bin Laden hiding out in the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan have been released, giving further insight into his lifestyle and the conditions under which the al Qaeda leader lived during the time he declared war on the US.

The images, in which bin Laden is seen hiking along the jagged mountainside and holding guns, resurfaced during the trial of 52-year-old al Qaeda lieutenant Khalid al-Fawwaz, who was convicted in February of the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi, which killed 224 people. The photographs were introduced as evidence at his trial in Manhattan.

The set of photos was taken during then photojournalist Abdel Bari Atwan's 1996 visit to the compound. The images offer a glimpse of the terror leader's life in the snowy Afghan mountains before he was forced to flee in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

Five years before the terror attack, bin Laden wanted to announce his declaration of war on the US to the Arab world. He contacted Atwan, who was founder and editor-in-chief of Al-Quds Al-Arabi, an independent Arabic weekly published in London. Atwan had released the story about bin Laden's first fatwa in August 1996, where he protested the presence of US troops in various countries. A month later, Al-Fawwaz, described as bin Laden's spokesman, went to Atwan's office and offered him an interview with bin Laden.

Bin Laden first made his way to Afghanistan in the 1980s. The shabby two-bedroom Tora Bora compound was made up of mud and stone. In the interview with Atwan, bin Laden said he would "rather die than settle in any European state" when asked if he would seek asylum there.

Bin Laden fled his hideaway in 2001, when US forces raided the area while searching for him.

On the snowy mountainside, Bin Laden often hiked with bodyguards, according to reports.

In the Tora Bora region, bin Laden is shown grinning while holding a Kalashnikov rifle. 

On the left is Syrian-born Abu Musab al-Suri, a suspected al Qaeda member who was an ally of bin Laden's, and on the right is British journalist Gwynne Roberts. 

Abu Musab al-Suri, whose real name is Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, is part of the second generation of the jihadist movement.

The late al Qaeda leader often recorded addresses in front of Islamic texts. The interviews began in 1996 when he issued his first fatwa. After that, bin Laden granted several interviews to publicize his outrage towards the US.

Reports say that bin Laden lived in the compound with his three wives and a dozen children. They struggled due to the lack of food and other necessities. The only heating in the compound was provided by a wood-burning stove.

Bin Laden was killed by the US Navy Seals in 2011 in Pakistan.