Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 23 May 2019

Osama Bin Laden was 'brainwashed' by Muslim Brotherhood, says his mother

Alia Ghanem said her son was a "good child" until he was radicalised at university

Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in an undated file photo. AP
Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in an undated file photo. AP

Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind 9/11, was “brainwashed” at university by the Muslim Brotherhood, his mother has revealed.

Speaking about her son, the founder of Al Qaeda, publicly for the first time since the aftermath of terror attack on the World Trade Centre in 2001, Alia Ghanem said she noticed a change in Bin Laden while studying economics at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the 1970s.

“He was a very good child until he met some people who pretty much brainwashed him in his early 20s. You can call it a cult,” Mrs Ghanem told British newspaper The Guardian from her family home in Jeddah.

“They got money for their cause. I would always tell him to stay away from them, and he would never admit to me what he was doing, because he loved me so much.”

One of the people Mrs Ghanem referred to was Muslim Brotherhood member Abdullah Azzam, who later became his spiritual adviser.

“The people at university changed him,” she told the newspaper. “He became a different man.”


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Mrs Ghanem, a member of the influential Bin Laden family by marriage, said her son travelled to Afghanistan to fight against the Soviet occupation in the early 1980s, telling her he was going there on family business. She said she had no idea that he had become a terrorist.

Bin Laden’s had three half-brothers and a half-sister, through Mrs Ghanem’s second marriage, and 55 other half siblings from his father Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden’s marriages. His mother and father, founder of the multinational construction company Saudi Binladin Group, divorced three years after his birth in 1957.

Two of Bin Laden’s half brothers Hassan and Ahmad, who were present at the interview, said they were shocked when they learned of his involvement in the 9/11 attacks that killed around 3000 people. They said the last time they saw him was during a trip to Afghanistan in 1999 at his base outside Kandahar.

After years on the run, Bin Laden was eventually found in 2011 in Pakistan and shot dead by a US Navy Seal team.

Mrs Ghanem said that two of her son’s wives, one of whom was with him when he was killed, have been allowed back in Saudi Arabia with their children. She said she speaks to his “harem” most weeks and they live nearby.

One of Bin Laden’s sons Hamza, 29, has followed in his father’s footsteps, having emerged as Al Qaeda’s leader.

One of his uncles, Hassan said: “If Hamza was in front of me now, I would tell him, ‘God guide you. Think twice about what you are doing. Don’t retake the steps of your father.”

Last year, Hamza became the subject of a “kill or capture” mission by US-led coalition forces in Syria, where he is believed to have fled to from Pakistan.

Updated: August 3, 2018 04:24 PM