Osama bin Laden's mother breaks her long silence

For the first time, Osama bin Laden's mother, Alia Ghanem, has...

Posted: Aug 5, 2018 6:28 AM
Updated: Aug 5, 2018 6:28 AM

For the first time, Osama bin Laden's mother, Alia Ghanem, has given an interview. Conducted in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, by Martin Chulov of The Guardian, the interview is noteworthy because bin Laden, the architect of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and his mother were exceptionally close.

What Ghanem says in the interview is largely credible and tracks with the little that is publicly known about her relationship with her son. Ghanem recalls bin Laden as "a very good kid and he loved me so much."

al Qaeda

Companies

Continents and regions

Guardian Media Group

Middle East

Middle East and North Africa

Misc people

Osama Bin Laden

Saudi Arabia

Peter Bergen

September 11

According to Ghanem, who is now in her mid-70s, she was divorced from Mohammed bin Laden, the enormously wealthy bin Laden family patriarch, when Osama was three. Osama was the only child of their union.

Mohammed bin Laden had 53 other children with some 20 wives. He died in a plane crash when Osama was 10.

After his parents' divorce, Ghanem's second husband, Mohammed al-Attas, raised Osama.

Ghanem and her family live in a well-to-do section of Jeddah, a testament to the fact that the bin Laden construction business is one of the largest in the Middle East.

According to The Guardian, Ghanem is speaking out for the first time because the Saudi government, led by the 32-year-old Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, allowed the interview. The Saudi interest in permitting the interview is clear: They want to make the argument that bin Laden received no Saudi state support, despite the claims in an ongoing lawsuit by some of the families of the 9/11 victims. And, the newspaper noted, a Saudi government minder sat in during the interview.

The case remains unresolved, but there is little hard evidence that the Saudi state supported bin Laden. After all, bin Laden's principal goal was overthrowing the Saudi monarchy.

In the interview with The Guardian, bin Laden's mother blames outsiders such as bin Laden's Palestinian mentor, Abdullah Azzam, who purportedly "brainwashed" her son and converted him to jihadism when bin Laden was a young man in his 20s fighting in the "holy war" in Afghanistan against the Soviets in the mid-1980s.

Azzam was killed by an assassin in Pakistan in 1989. While he was certainly bin Laden's mentor, he was not focused on attacking the United States.

Bin Laden's mother confirmed to The Guardian that she is an Alawite from Syria. Alawism is a branch of Shia Islam. This had long been suspected, but this helps fill in a key aspect of bin Laden's background. The fact that bin Laden's beloved mother is an Alawite may help explain why bin Laden never advocated for or fought wars against the Shia, as have other Sunni jihadist groups, such as ISIS.

Ghanem says that within the first 48 hours of the 9/11 attacks, she learned her son Osama was responsible, and said she was "shocked. ... We all felt ashamed of him. We knew all of us were going to face horrible consequences." The bin Ladens were questioned by Saudi authorities and for a period could not leave the country.

Ghanem is in regular touch with the three widows of bin Laden who survived the 2011 US Navy SEAL operation that killed al Qaeda's leader in Abbottabad, Pakistan. They are now living in Saudi Arabia but cannot leave the country.

Bin Laden's mother allowed herself to be photographed for The Guardian story, which is surprising because the photography of women's faces in Saudi Arabia is still not common.

The last time that Ghanem said she saw her son was in the city of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan in 1999, the year after al Qaeda's attacks on two US embassies in Africa that killed more than 200 people.

Unmentioned in the Guardian interview is that, according to bin Laden's chief bodyguard, Abu Jandal, bin Laden's mother went to Kandahar at the behest of the Saudi government in an effort to persuade her son to abandon his life of terrorism.

Bin Laden's bodyguard recalled that bin Laden treated his mother with great respect but told her he could not stop fighting his jihad: "This is a principle. I keep it in my heart and I have promised God not to abandon it."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 479326

Reported Deaths: 9353
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison32779484
Hinds30924582
DeSoto30319353
Jackson23542341
Rankin21235366
Lee14803219
Madison14120271
Jones13327223
Forrest13078236
Lauderdale11501303
Lowndes10377176
Lamar10163130
Pearl River9008217
Lafayette8193137
Hancock7404111
Oktibbeha6909122
Washington6900150
Monroe6459159
Neshoba6441201
Warren6387163
Pontotoc623093
Panola6203125
Bolivar6072144
Marshall6068121
Union571386
Pike5574135
Alcorn533289
Lincoln5283131
George466072
Scott454796
Leflore4444140
Prentiss443377
Tippah442180
Itawamba441599
Adams4376116
Tate4327101
Simpson4313112
Wayne430766
Copiah429587
Yazoo419686
Covington413292
Sunflower4123104
Marion4073104
Leake395486
Coahoma391098
Newton367274
Grenada3543104
Stone350359
Tishomingo333288
Attala324286
Jasper313162
Winston303091
Clay294173
Chickasaw286265
Clarke279890
Calhoun263940
Holmes261387
Smith248048
Yalobusha219647
Tallahatchie217550
Walthall209958
Greene206845
Lawrence205732
Perry198553
Amite197651
Webster195042
Noxubee177739
Montgomery171654
Jefferson Davis167442
Carroll161437
Tunica150834
Benton141533
Kemper138039
Claiborne126134
Choctaw126026
Humphreys125937
Franklin116328
Quitman103426
Wilkinson101536
Jefferson87333
Sharkey62320
Issaquena1926
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 778549

Reported Deaths: 13665
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1105871747
Mobile704651206
Madison49152610
Baldwin35946479
Shelby35796302
Tuscaloosa33410532
Montgomery32906672
Lee22231216
Calhoun20791397
Morgan19605326
Etowah18837449
Marshall17465272
Houston16452368
St. Clair15233293
Limestone14376182
Cullman14348246
Elmore14241256
Lauderdale13298278
Talladega12699230
DeKalb12036233
Walker10430323
Autauga9568133
Blount9555152
Jackson9235146
Coffee8728169
Colbert8426179
Dale8410170
Escambia6526114
Tallapoosa6501172
Covington6396163
Chilton6293141
Russell598555
Franklin5719100
Chambers5315133
Marion4734115
Dallas4665182
Clarke457076
Pike456294
Geneva4315116
Winston417192
Lawrence4086108
Bibb401680
Barbour341968
Marengo323183
Butler314988
Monroe314652
Pickens300470
Randolph299955
Henry298356
Hale289383
Cherokee284652
Fayette275672
Washington244848
Crenshaw235168
Clay225163
Macon217657
Cleburne217149
Lamar192140
Conecuh179646
Lowndes170158
Coosa166432
Wilcox155736
Bullock147742
Perry136036
Sumter124136
Greene120142
Choctaw72826
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
58° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 58°
Columbus
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 57°
Oxford
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 54°
Starkville
Partly Cloudy
55° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 55°
Fall has started off exactly as you would have anticipated and it looks like we should have a number of dry days still ahead, but this isn’t a permanent switch, because heat is pegged to return.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather