Under the Gun

Give credit where it's due: Osama bin Laden has a feel for melodrama that Hollywood might well admire. In 1998 the 1.95-m-tall bearded figure in white—the color of both his turban and gold-embroidered robe—arrived at an Afghan camp intent on formally declaring war on the U.S. An eyewitness reports that as bin Laden stepped from his car, an escort of 24 hooded bodyguards saluted him with "frenzied shooting"—firing rocket-propelled grenades at the surrounding mountains.

Flanked by his senior adviser, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and his military commander, Mohammed Atef...

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