CLOSINGS: View Closings

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 7:28 AM
Updated: Aug 5, 2018 7:28 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."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1560117

Reported Deaths: 20796
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion2118112563
Lake1021301523
Allen964791027
Hamilton75541551
St. Joseph66476761
Elkhart51045634
Vanderburgh50511531
Tippecanoe45721338
Johnson39600527
Hendricks37933463
Porter35132476
Madison30330547
Clark27296331
Vigo26401347
Monroe24100249
LaPorte23921313
Howard23237381
Delaware22453370
Hancock19314220
Bartholomew18980216
Kosciusko18400204
Warrick17733216
Wayne16982303
Floyd16686257
Grant15966300
Morgan15091232
Boone13924138
Dearborn12235113
Shelby12225152
Noble12170142
Henry12027202
Dubois11696152
Marshall11625171
Jackson11111104
Cass10578143
Lawrence10529221
Huntington10523140
DeKalb10482132
Gibson10114127
Montgomery9671144
Harrison9471117
Knox9415125
Whitley902571
Steuben8934105
Putnam8542100
Miami8533135
Clinton849397
Jasper8462116
Jefferson8319127
Wabash8027140
Ripley7504117
Scott685787
Adams6829103
Daviess6825130
White638184
Greene6317112
Clay628975
Decatur6261121
Jennings619781
Wells6090121
Fayette6054122
Posey580148
LaGrange549097
Randolph5364129
Washington528071
Owen5211100
Fountain493681
Spencer467456
Sullivan462066
Fulton450993
Orange449784
Starke448887
Rush433941
Jay432564
Perry409155
Carroll394749
Franklin394650
Vermillion370762
Pike334246
Parke331239
Tipton330475
Blackford282255
Pulaski281775
Brown239856
Newton239761
Benton228921
Crawford224932
Switzerland207914
Martin196722
Warren183922
Union178119
Ohio129216
Unassigned0763

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 2515949

Reported Deaths: 31987
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin2719422100
Cuyahoga2606673087
Hamilton1758091756
Montgomery1177451651
Summit1089011418
Lucas935321193
Butler83907963
Stark771001431
Lorain64214809
Warren53428489
Mahoning51224930
Lake47591611
Clermont46928452
Delaware41107220
Trumbull39746790
Licking38790416
Medina38646427
Fairfield35828349
Greene34313435
Portage32429366
Clark32361453
Richland29653444
Wood29379301
Allen25875403
Miami24243408
Muskingum23564255
Columbiana23046409
Wayne22093365
Tuscarawas19637428
Marion18616235
Erie18608224
Ashtabula18569362
Scioto18159214
Ross17594260
Pickaway16419181
Hancock16115232
Geauga15511229
Lawrence15094186
Belmont14236248
Union1419584
Huron13908184
Jefferson13656261
Sandusky13268200
Athens12877107
Knox12160201
Seneca12055204
Darke11440202
Ashland11248184
Washington11152172
Auglaize10873147
Crawford10432178
Shelby10402160
Brown10094145
Highland9746151
Fulton9726154
Guernsey9683122
Defiance9567137
Logan9470147
Clinton9428132
Mercer9099112
Madison9032111
Preble8524170
Williams8305138
Putnam8069136
Champaign8040113
Ottawa7971123
Jackson7848121
Perry7514102
Coshocton7411136
Morrow729184
Fayette715992
Pike666689
Hardin6564133
Gallia638891
Adams6227127
Van Wert6065121
Henry602596
Hocking5918105
Wyandot503594
Carroll5009101
Holmes4880167
Paulding426465
Meigs400974
Monroe316468
Harrison299162
Noble296952
Morgan292748
Vinton258646
Unassigned08
Fort Wayne
Partly Cloudy
wxIcon
Hi: 19° Lo: 13°
Feels Like: -4°
Angola
Cloudy
16° wxIcon
Hi: 19° Lo: 15°
Feels Like: 16°
Huntington
Partly Cloudy
10° wxIcon
Hi: 18° Lo: 8°
Feels Like: 0°
Decatur
Partly Cloudy
wxIcon
Hi: 19° Lo: 13°
Feels Like: -4°
Van Wert
Mostly Cloudy
18° wxIcon
Hi: 20° Lo: 16°
Feels Like: 7°
The coldest air of the season filters into the region Tuesday night into Wednesday.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events