Osama bin Laden was head and founder of Al Qaeda. It attacked the U.S. on 9/11/2001 with four highjacked, commercial airliners in the U.S. and used them in suicidal crashes to kill nearly 3,000 Americans. This was the worst tragedy conducted against Americans since the Japanese military bombed Pearl Harbor which led the U.S. into World War II.
Osama bin Laden’s mother, Alia Ghanem, who is in her mid-70s in age, lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. She has never granted an interview since 9/11. The reason is that the Saudi Arabian government had prevented it. But not any longer. Progressive, 32-year old, Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman recently allowed Ghanem to be interviewed by no less than The Guardian newspaper journalist Martin Chulov.
The main reason is that an ongoing class-action lawsuit by families of 9/11 victims alleges that the Saudi government financially supported Osama bin Laden in his activities directed against the U.S. (During the 1990s, he twice declared a Jihadist fatwa against the U.S. and his Al Qaeda attacked a U.S. naval vessel, killing sailors, and attacked two U.S. embassies in Africa, killing 200+ people.) The weakness of this lawsuit is that Osama bin Laden had always alleged that the Saudi royal family was ethically corrupt, advocated their overthrow, and therefore did not live in Saudi Arabia. This interview is significant because Osama had a close relationship with his mother.
Award-winning journalist and author, Peter Bergen (whom I’ve met) writes today as CNN National Security Analyst about this interview and provides some background for it. He says, Osama’s father was the extremely wealthy Mohammed bin Laden, who was in the construction trade. He was Ghanem’s first husband. They were divorced when Osama was three years old. Mohammed bin Laden had 20 wives, 53 children, and died in a plane crash when Osama was ten years old. Osama was raised by his mother and her second husband, Mohammed al-Attas.
Ghanem says her son Osama was “a very good kid and he loved me so much.” She says Osama was “brainwashed” by Muslim Jihadists when he was in his early 20s in age. She says it was primarily by his foremost religious mentor, Palestinian Abdullah Azzam. (I have written about this multiple times on my blog.) At that time, Osama was fighting “holy war” in Afghanistan against the Soviets, in the mid-1980s. Bergen says Azzam was a Jihadist who was not focused on attacking the U.S. Azzam was killed by an assassin in Pakistan in 1989.
Ghanem revealed in the interview that she is an Alawite from Syria, which had long been suspected. Alawites are a branch of Shiite Muslims, whereas Saudi Arabia is over 90% Sunni Muslim. So, its monarchy is Sunni as well. Muslims are sharply divided between Sunni (the large majority), located mostly in the southern, Persian Gulf states of the Middle East, and Shiite, located mostly in the northern states of the Middle East. The Syrian regime, headed by Bashar al-Assad, is Alawite. Syria has been in a tragic civil war now for over seven years, which was sparked by Arab Spring in early 2011.
Ghanem says when she learned that her son, Osama, had spearheaded the 9/11 attacks, she was “shocked” and “ashamed of him.” Ghanem, being Alawite, thereafter no doubt felt her life was in jeopardy due to living in Sunni Saudi Arabia.
Bergen reports that according to Osama bin Laden’s chief bodyguard, Osama’s mother, at the request of the Saudi government, went to Pakistan two years prior to 9/11 and met with her son, Osama bin Laden, and tried to persuade him to abandon Jihad. The bodyguard, Abu Jandal, says Osama treated his mother respectfully but said, “This is a principle. I keep it in my heart, and I have promised God not to abandon it.”