In a rare interview, Osama Bin Laden’s mother has opened up for the first time to talk about her dead son and his journey from a shy young man to the world’s most dreaded figure.
In an exclusive interview with London’s The Guardian newspaper, Osama’s mother, Alia Ghanem, has spoken at length about her pain to see her son ‘s radicalisation that led to his killing by the US marines in Pakistan.
Ghanem said that Osama was radicalised to be a jihadist at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, when he was in his early 20s. “The people at university changed him.. He became a different man.” She said that it was here that Osama met a man called Abdullah Azzam, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood who was later exiled from Saudi Arabia and became Osama’s spiritual adviser.
“He was a very good child until he met some people who pretty much brainwashed him in his early 20s. You can call it a cult. They got money for their cause. I would always tell him to stay away from them, and he would never admit to me what he was doing, because he loved me so much.”
When Osama travelled to Afghanistan in the 90s to fight the Russian occupation, his family was very proud of him, said one of Osama’s brothers, Hassan. “Everyone who met him in the early days respected him.. At the start, we were very proud of him. Even the Saudi government would treat him in a very noble, respectful way. And then came Osama the mujahid.”
However, former al-Qaeda leader’s half brothers did not agree with their mother’s account of Osama. They said that it was important to remember that a mother was rarely an objective witness. One of Osama’s half-brothers, Ahmed, told The Guardian journalist, “It has been 17 years now [since 9/11] and she remains in denial about Osama.” He continued, “She loved him so much and refuses to blame him. Instead, she blames those around him. She only knows the good boy side, the side we all saw. She never got to know the jihadist side.”
“I was shocked, stunned,” he says now of the early reports from New York. “It was a very strange feeling. We knew from the beginning [that it was Osama], within the first 48 hours. From the youngest to the eldest, we all felt ashamed of him. We knew all of us were going to face horrible consequences. Our family abroad all came back to Saudi.” They had been scattered across Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Europe. “In Saudi, there was a travel ban. They tried as much as they could to maintain control over the family.” The family say they were all questioned by the authorities and, for a time, prevented from leaving the country. Nearly two decades on, the Bin Ladens can move relatively freely within and outside the kingdom.
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