English newspaper The Guardian was able to interview Alia Ghanem for the first time, the mother of the jihadist and head of the al-Qaeda terrorist network, Osama Bin Laden. The latter, who claimed responsibility for the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York on September 11th, 2001, was killed on May 2nd, 2011 in Pakistan by US soldiers. The journalist Martin Chulov was able to question the bin Laden family, which is among the richest in Saudi Arabia.
Osama bin Laden indoctrinated in the late 1970s
In her living room, surrounded by Osama’s half-brothers Ahmad and Hassan, Mohammed al-Attas, the father-in-law of the terrorist, and a government agent, Alia recounts her son's life. ‘My life was very difficult because he was so far away from me,’ she said, adding that this shy and brilliant child at school ‘loved her very much.’
‘He was a very good boy before he met the people who brainwashed him when he was 20 years old.’
According to her, Osama Bin Laden was indoctrinated in the late 1970s, at the University of Jeddah. It was there that he met his mentor Abdullah Azzam, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
‘She loves him so much that she refuses to blame him’
Little by little, he was radicalised. After fighting the Russians in Afghanistan in the 1980s, he led soldiers during the war, who later found themselves in the al-Qaida terrorist organisation. His family saw him for the last time in 1999, two years before the attacks in the United States. When the family learned of his radicalisation ‘we were very angry,’ said her mother Alia Ghanem, who also said ‘I never wanted this to happen.’
His half-brother Ahmad then said, ‘She loves him so much that she refuses to blame him (…). She has always refused to see the jihadist part in him.’ After being watched by the government for years without being able to leave Saudi territory, Osama Bin Laden's family is slowly starting to live ‘freely' again.