A document of 21 pages now lodged in the House of Commons library details Osama bin Laden's career from volunteer mujahideen fighter against the Soviets in Afghanistan to alleged terrorist mastermind of al Qaeda, a shadowy organisation with tentacles and cells in up to 50 countries.

It also alleges his involvement in the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the suicide attack on the USS Cole in Aden harbour last year, and in the deaths of 18 US soldiers in Somalia in 1993.

A prefacing statement states, however, that ''this document does not purport to provide a prosecutable case against Osama bin Laden in a court of law''.

That said, it declares: ''On the basis of all the information available, Her Majesty's government is confident of its conclusions.''

The material on the East Africa attacks, which killed 224 and injured 5000, and on the USS Cole bombing, which cost the lives of 17 crewmen and wounded 40 more, came from ''indictments and intelligence sources''.

Bin Laden has called frequently for jihad - holy war - against America and Israel and in February 1998 issued a fatwa religious decree in which he called for ''the killing of Americans and their civilian and military allies''.

He urged all Muslims ''to comply with God's order to kill Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it''.

In two television interviews in 1997 and 1998, he referred to the Islamic terrorists who carried out an earlier truck bombing of New York's World Trade Centre in 1993 as ''role models'' and exhorted his followers ''to take the fighting to America''. But although he has consistently praised the perpetrators of a series of attacks on US property and military personnel, he has never admitted liability for any terrorist act.

He even issued a categoric denial of his alleged part in the September 11 kamikaze attacks on the US via Afghanistan's Taliban, the regime that has given him shelter and protection since his expulsion from Sudan in 1996.

Despite British and US statements that he is the guiding hand behind al Qaeda and the planning and funding of major atrocities, the public dossier detailing his alleged role ''lacks strong evidence'', a leading civil rights lawyer claimed last night.

Nick Blake, QC, of London-based human rights and extradition specialists Matrix Chambers, said: ''Frankly, I don't think they have got much evidence to indict him for murder. Nothing in the disclosed material shows actual participation in the murders, as opposed to giving approval to terrorist attacks.

''They would need to disclose in a court context more concrete evidence to establish actual murder. In reality, they would probably aim to establish conspiracy to murder. They do not have evidence of a quality to associate him with the World Trade Centre bombing.''

Mr Blake added that the UK government argument that ''multiple simultaneous attacks'' such as the African embassy bombings and the recent US ''flying bomb'' outrage were a virtual signature of al Qaeda's operational technique was a supporting piece of evidence rather than anything more significant. ''Once certain people have been trained in certain types of attack, that can be copied,'' he said.

key figures in the web of terror

MEN involved directly with bin Laden and al Qaeda, and cited in the report:

Ayman Zawahiri: The leader of Egypt's Islamic Jihad, the group which was responsible for attacks on tourists and assassination of ''un-Islamic'' officials.

Saif al Adel: Senior member of al Qaeda who provided training for Somali militiamen to enable them to tackle US peacekeepers in Mogadishu, in 1993.

Mohammed Atef: Co-ordinator of attacks on US and UN troops in Somalia, and the linkman between al Qaeda and the Somali warlords.

Mullah Omar: Spiritual leader of Afghanistan's ruling Taliban which provides sanctuary for bin Laden, who is also his son-in-law.

Ali Mohammed: Admitted al Qaeda member who holds a US passport and carried out reconnaissance of US embassy in Kenya in preparation for bombing attack.

Mohammed Rashed Daoud al Owali: A Saudi who learned demolition, hijacking, kidnapping, assassination, and intelligence techniques in the Afghan camps and later fought alongside the Taliban against the northern mujahideen. Took part in the 1998 Nairobi embassy attack.He later identified the cell leaders responsible for the attack on the USS Cole as members of the team who planned the East Africa bombings.

Khaflan Khamis Mohammed: Admitted bombing US embassy in Tanzania and implicated other members of al Qaeda. Most were members of Egypt's Islamic Jihad.

Ahmed Ressam: An Algerian stopped at the US-Canadian border driving a car filled with 100lbs of bomb-making equipment in December 1999. Admitted membership of al Qaeda and said his task was to detonate the explosives at Los Angeles International Airport just after midnight on New Year's Day, 2000. Trained in Afghan camps run by bin Laden.