Osama Bin Laden
The mother of al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden has spoken publicly about her son for the first time, seven years on from his 2011 death.
Alia Ghanem gave an interview to British newspaper the Guardian from the family’s home in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
She told the publication her son had been a shy and “good child” growing up, but was “brainwashed” at university.
The family say they last saw Bin Laden in 1999, two years before the 9/11 attacks, when he was in Afghanistan.
By that time he was considered a major global terror suspect, after moving to the country initially to fight the invading Soviet forces in the 1980s.
“We were extremely upset. I did not want any of this to happen. Why would he throw it all away like that?” Ms Ghanem told the newspaper, when asked how she felt after learning her son had become a jihadist militant.
She also said the Muslim Brotherhood organisation, which her son became involved with while studying, was like a “cult”.
The Bin Laden family remain one of the most influential families in Saudi Arabia after gaining vast wealth in construction. Bin Laden’s father, Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden, divorced Alia Ghanem three years after Osama’s birth, and had more than 50 children in total.
After the 9/11 attacks, the family say they were interrogated by the Saudi government who then limited their travel and movement.
Journalist Martin Chulov writes in the piece that he believed the gulf kingdom granted him permission to speak to Ms Ghanem because senior officials hoped it would demonstrate that the former al Qaeda leader was an outcast and not a state agent, as some have alleged.
Two of Bin Laden’s brothers, Hassan and Ahmad, were also present for the Guardian interview and described their shock at learning of his involvement in the 9/11 attacks.
“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,” Ahmad told the newspaper.
He also said his mother remains “in denial” about Bin Laden 17 years on from the 9/11 attacks, instead blaming the people around him.
Stay updated with the latest Nigerian news from Information Nigeria