A teenage daughter of Osama bin Laden has been allowed to fly out of Tehran where she had taken refuge in Saudi Arabia's embassy, a Saudi-financed newspaper reported yesterday. Asharq al Awsat said Iman bin Laden arrived in Damascus on a commercial flight on Thursday together with her mother Najwa al Ghanem, the fugitive al Qa'eda chief's first wife. The mother, of Syrian origin, had travelled to Iran from Damascus to collect the teenager, it said.
Asharq al Awsat said that Saudi diplomatic efforts had led to her being authorised to leave the Islamic republic, unlike other members of the bin Laden family. Iman bin Laden, 17, who holds Saudi nationality, escaped her Iranian minders and took refuge in the Saudi embassy in January. Asharq al Awsat reported in late December that 18 members of the bin Laden family missing since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States had been living under house arrest in Iran.
Bin Laden's youngest daughter, Bakr, 16, was allowed to leave for Syria on December 25, after having spent eight years in Iran, according to Asharq al Awsat. In a message distributed by the Global Islamic Media Front and carried by the SITE Intelligence Group monitoring service on Sunday, one of bin Laden's sons, Khalid, called on Tehran to release the relatives. It was addressed to Iran's supreme leader Ali Khamenei.
"After the Crusader attack on Afghanistan... they were forced to enter Iran through unofficial means, and most of those who did were women and children," the letter said. "They requested a number of times to leave Iran, only to be beaten and silenced," Khalid bin Osama bin Laden wrote. On Friday, SITE reported that al Qa'eda in the Islamic Maghreb called on the Iranian government to release bin Laden's family members, in a letter posted on jihadist forums on March 18.
"We call upon the reasonable ones in the Iranian regime to review their calculations in this case," the North African branch of al Qa'eda said, echoing the appeal from Khalid bin Laden. "They should know we are people of dignity, glory and honour, and we are ready to sacrifice ourselves and all that we own for Sheikh Osama and his family and for every Muslim man and woman." Last year, Iranian media reported that six of the al Qa'eda leader's children and one of his wives, missing since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, were under house arrest in Iran.