Sudan Expels Osama Bin Laden Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Under pressure from the United States, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, the Sudanese government expelled Osama Bin Laden, who then shifted the operations of his al-Qaeda terrorist organization to Afghanistan, where al-Qaeda was able to expand its membership, training, and funding.

Summary of Event

In early 1991, Osama Bin Laden, who was born in Saudi Arabia, relocated from Afghanistan to Sudan. At that time, the United States considered Bin Laden a member of the mujahideen, or Islamic guerrilla fighters. Bin Laden spent the next five years in Sudan, where he poured millions of dollars into thirty businesses, beginning with some initial investments in heavy machinery. Wadi al-Aqiq, the first business that Bin Laden created, is believed to have been the main source of financial backing for the terrorist organization al-Qaeda while Bin Laden was in Sudan. Under Wadi al-Aqiq, Laden International was established as an import-export company, allowing al-Qaeda to import goods without paying taxes or undergoing inspections. Al-Qaeda[Al Qaeda] [kw]Sudan Expels Osama Bin Laden (May, 1996) [kw]Bin Laden, Sudan Expels Osama (May, 1996) Al-Qaeda[Al Qaeda] [g]Africa;May, 1996: Sudan Expels Osama Bin Laden[09460] [g]Sudan;May, 1996: Sudan Expels Osama Bin Laden[09460] [c]Diplomacy and international relations;May, 1996: Sudan Expels Osama Bin Laden[09460] [c]Terrorism, atrocities, and war crimes;May, 1996: Sudan Expels Osama Bin Laden[09460] Bin Laden, Osama Bashir, Omar al- Turabi, Hassan al- Omar, Mohammad Sayyaf, Abdul Rasul Mubārak, Hosnī

Taba Investment, a money-exchange business, was also created under Wadi al-Aqiq, as was al-Hajira, a construction company that helped to build roads in Sudan. Bin Laden built more than 300 miles of roads under contract with the Sudanese government before Sudan reneged on the deal. A large part of Bin Laden’s Sudanese business profits were obtained through the export of gum arabic, which is used to make carbonated beverages, among many other things. It is believed that many of these businesses either directly or indirectly aided efforts to expand the power of al-Qaeda, although there is debate about the extent of the profits made by these and other Bin Laden companies.

Eventually, Bin Laden owned companies dealing in agriculture and manufacturing. Outside the city of Ad-Damazin, al-Qaeda members grew sesame, peanuts, and white corn, which were processed and sold by al-Themar al-Mubaraka, another of Bin Laden’s companies. The farm was also used as a location for training al-Qaeda members in the use of weapons. In late 1991, local residents complained about explosions at the farm, and the Sudanese police arrested a few al-Qaeda members. Sudanese intelligence officials released them, however. Bin Laden had been providing funds to the Sudanese government, and, in return, the National Islamic Front (NIF) provided Bin Laden with land for training camps.

Prior to the time he spent in Sudan, Bin Laden had been relatively lenient in his opposition to the Saudi Arabian government, but in Sudan he shifted to a very outspoken view, calling for serious reforms in Saudi Arabia, criticizing the government and its religious institutions, which he asserted were hypocritical. One important reason for this significant shift was Bin Laden’s feeling of betrayal when the Saudi royal family allowed U.S. troops to enter Saudi Arabia after the 1990 confrontation between Iraq and Kuwait. Saudi Arabia also played a role in the ousting of Bin Laden from Sudan. In March of 1994, the Saudi government stripped Bin Laden of his citizenship, denounced his behavior, and froze his Saudi bank accounts.

In June of 1995, an assassination attempt was made against Egypt’s president, Hosnī Mubārak, who was on his way to attend a diplomatic summit in Ethiopia. Egypt, a major ally of the United States, believed that Sudanese NIF agents helped orchestrate the attempt. Hassan al-Turabi, leader of the NIF in Sudan, had often clashed with Bin Laden, and behind Bin Laden’s back, Turabi convinced the NIF to eject Bin Laden from Sudan. Turabi believed this would help improve the global view of Sudan, get Sudan back into the good graces of the United States, and eliminate the world’s suspicions that Sudan was supporting terrorists. Since August of 1993, Sudan had been on the U.S. State Department’s list of states that sponsor terrorism (along with Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, North Korea, and Cuba).

In 1994, Turabi had aided France in the capture of the international terrorist Illich Ramírez Sánchez (known as Carlos the Jackal), so there was little doubt of Turabi’s potential success with respect to handing over Bin Laden, but the United States did not have enough evidence of Bin Laden’s involvement in specific crimes to present in court and thus justify his extradition. The United States believed, however, that if Bin Laden could be removed from his vast wealth in Sudan, his influence on terrorist organizations would be reduced.

In May, 1996, Sudanese president Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir responded to political pressure from the United States, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia and ordered the expulsion of Bin Laden from Sudan. According to some, Bin Laden helped negotiate the terms on which he left. Earlier that year, he had threatened to leave Sudan and take all his money and businesses with him, and because this removal of significant revenues and important businesses would have crushed Sudan’s economy, he was allowed to transport various assets to Pakistan, then to Afghanistan, over a period of weeks with the aid of Sudanese intelligence operatives.

When he was ordered to leave, Bin Laden chartered a plane and flew from Sudan to Kabul, Afghanistan, then settled in Jalālābād, having been invited there by Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, the leader of the Islamic Union for the Liberation of Afghanistan and a member of the Afghan Northern Alliance. Bin Laden then developed close relationships with leaders of the Taliban, the ruling government in Afghanistan, especially Mullah Mohammad Omar. While in Afghanistan, Bin Laden supported the Taliban financially and through paramilitary aid.


It is believed that Bin Laden’s years in Sudan were crucial to the expansion of al-Qaeda because they provided the terrorist organization with numerous opportunities to increase its wealth, strengthen its network, and import the goods needed to carry out its activities. Experts have also argued that the expulsion from Sudan increased Bin Laden’s hatred of the United States, because the United States was influential in bringing about his exile. Because he could not return to Saudi Arabia, Bin Laden traveled to Afghanistan, where he was able to build up al-Qaeda even further with the aid, direct and indirect, of Afghan leaders. While in Afghanistan, Bin Laden had complete freedom to train individuals to fight his jihad, or holy war. Within two years after he was expelled from Sudan, Bin Laden became one of America’s most wanted men following al-Qaeda’s attacks on the U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. Al-Qaeda[Al Qaeda]

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Andersen, Lars Erslev, and Jan Aagaard. In the Name of God: The Afghan Connection and the U.S. War Against Terrorism. Odense, Denmark: University Press of Southern Denmark, 2005. Describes the evolution of global terrorism and how terrorism can flourish in weak states.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bergen, Peter L. Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama Bin Laden. New York: Free Press, 2001. Draws parallels between the corporation and the jihad al-Qaeda has waged. Presents detailed information in a journalistic style.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">_______. The Osama Bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al-Qaeda’s Leader. New York: Free Press, 2006. Compilation of transcripts of court proceedings, newspaper articles, and interviews tells the story of the creation of al-Qaeda and documents the actions of Bin Laden.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bin Laden, Osama. Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama Bin Laden. Edited by Bruce Lawrence and translated by James Howarth. New York: Verso, 2005. Contains translations of twenty-four public statements made by Bin Laden from 1994 to 2004.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bodansky, Yossef. Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America. New York: Random House, 2001. Chronicles Bin Laden’s rise to power and discusses some of the possible reasons Bin Laden turned his anger against the United States.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gunaratna, Rohan. Inside al-Qaeda: Global Network of Terror. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002. Presents detailed descriptions of numerous al-Qaeda operations and documents related court proceedings. Focuses much attention on Bin Laden.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hamud, Randall B. Osama Bin Laden: America’s Enemy in His Own Words. San Diego, Calif.: Nadeem, 2005. Provides translations of statements made by Bin Laden, presented in chronological order and accompanied by a discussion of the context of each statement.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Randal, Jonathan. Osama: The Making of a Terrorist. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004. Details the events of Bin Laden’s life and the numerous failed attempts made by the United States to capture him.

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Categories: History