Alia Ghanem and two of the brothers of the former Al Qaeda leader speak to the press for the first time. “[Osama] was a very good child and he loved me very much,” says Bin Laden’s mother, who still refuses to accept that her son is primarily responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.
Alia Ghanem is the mother of Osama bin Laden, the former leader of al-Qaeda, and agreed to speak for the first time. British daily The Guardian has spoken to the woman in her living room in her home in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where framed photographs of her eldest son, killed in 2011 by the US military at his residence in Abbottabad, 50 kilometers north of the Pakistani capital , Islamabad, almost ten years after the attack on the twin towers of New York.
Alia, who is over 70 years old, receives Martin Chulov, a Guardian reporter in the Middle East since 2005, in the company of Ahmad and Hassan, her two remaining children, and the second husband, Mohammed al-Attas, who created Osama since one of the main faces of the rise of international terrorism was three years. He was a good father, she says. “[Osama] was a very good child and he loved me very much.”
For generations, Jiddah, a trading city on the Red Sea coast and one of the richest in the Middle East, serves as home to the bin Laden clan. The family, whose fortune is rooted in a building empire, remains one of the most powerful and influential in the country.
It was through the Saudi Government that the Guardian reporter came to the family, which has been silent all these years. It was under pressure from the new leadership, headed by Mohammed bin Salman , a young prince with an unusual taste for confrontation and change that mother and brothers agreed to speak. Riyadh, Martin Chulov writes, is aimed at demonstrating that, contrary to what some have long advocated, the one who is given the main responsibility for 9/11 was not an agent for this Sunni Arab Persian Gulf power, but an outlaw.
The radicalization of Osama bin Laden, a timid and applied boy, started early in college, his mother said. It was at King Abdulaziz University, where he studied Economics, meeting Abdullah Azzam of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Palestinian who provided theological support for Afghan jihad and who became the spiritual advisor. In his reading of what happened in the eldest son’s life, everything went well until he met “some people who basically brainwashed him when he was just over 20.” Alia Ghanem calls it “a cult” who was trying to raise money for the cause: “I always told him to stay away from them and he never told me what he was doing because he loved me so much.”
It is Hassan, one of the half-brothers, who in the course of the conversation tries to explain how Osama as a respected fighter against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan – where he was in the early 1980s – the unchallenged leader of al-Qaeda for almost two decades marked for the attacks in the United States, moments that put the world to face the phenomenon of terrorism on a global scale.
“I’m very proud of him because he was my big brother. He taught me many things, “he says,” but I’m not as proud of him as a man. He achieved stardom on the world stage but it was for nothing. “
Through the head of Alia Ghanem never passed the possibility of the eldest son, a very intelligent and committed boy, if he becomes a jihadist. “Why would he waste everything in that way?” He asks himself, admitting the sadness he felt when they began to tell him that Osama bin Laden had become a radical responsible for the deaths of thousands of people and was the most wanted man of the world.
The family says he last saw him in 1999, the year he visited him twice at the base outside Kandahar, Afghanistan. They were happy. Osama killed an animal and had a party to which all were invited.
When Alia leaves the Bin Laden room, the other half-brother, Ahmad, admits that her mother still does not accept what happened: “It’s been 17 years [since 9/11] and she’s still in denial about Osama. She loved him so much that she refused to blame him. Instead he blames those around him. She only knows the side of the good guy, the side we all saw. She never got to know the side of the jihadist. “
Unlike his mother, bin Laden’s brothers knew practically from the beginning that he was responsible. “I was shocked,” admits Ahmad. “It was a very strange feeling. We knew in the first 48 hours [it had been Osama] . From the youngest to the oldest we are all ashamed. We knew that all of us would have to face terrible consequences [after what had just happened] . Our entire family who was abroad has returned to Saudi Arabia. “
The family was then barred from traveling abroad, and even within the kingdom, all movements were monitored. Those were difficult times, he admits. Only now, after almost 20 years, does it begin to gain more freedom.
The Guardian writes that what is left of the immediate family of Osama bin Laden was allowed to return to the kingdom and that at least two of the women (one of them was with him in the compound in Abbottabad when he was shot down by US special forces) their children in Jeddah. The mother of the former Al Qaeda leader talks to them almost every week, she says. They can walk around the city without restrictions but are not allowed to leave the kingdom.
Hamza, 29, the 15th son of Osama (in 2001, the jihadist was 23), lived in Iran and Syria and is now raising concerns – he is determined to avenge his father’s death and follow his apparently under the protection of Al-Qaeda’s new leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. According to the latest information known lives in Afghanistan now.
“We thought we’d gotten past this,” says one of the uncles, Hassan. “I do not want to go back to it.” If Hamza was in front of me now, I would say to him: ‘May God guide you, think twice about what you are doing, do not take the same path as your father. of your soul. ‘”
According to secret services from different countries, Hamza bin Laden wants to offer jihadists a new alternative to the Islamic state, the Washington Post wrote in June 2017 . In audio recordings this year, young bin Laden called for attacks on Jewish, American and European interests. Seen by many terrorism experts as the Crown Prince of Al-Qaeda, he even has a voice ring that occasionally reminds him of his father.
“Prepare diligently to inflict devastating losses on those who do not believe,” says Hamza bin Laden in a message recorded and broadcast for the first time two days before the terrorist attack in Manchester (UK) in May 2017 , and in which he does a precise call for attacks on European and North American cities to avenge the death of Syrian children in air strikes. “Follow the steps of the martyrs who came before you.”