The mother of the late Al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden, has claimed that her son was a shy boy who was “brainwashed” while studying at Jeddah University in Saudi Arabia.
Speaking out for the first time after her son’s death in May 2011, Alia Ghanem told the Guardian UK that the family was “extremely upset” to see their “academically capable” child become a global terrorist target.
According to her, the family last saw Osama in 1999, two years before the September 11 attacks, when he was in Afghanistan.
She accused Abdullah Azzam of the Muslim Brotherhood, who later became Osama’s spiritual adviser, of radicalising her son.
Ghanem said, “He was academically capable. He became a strong, driven, pious figure in his early 20s while studying Economics at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, where he was also radicalised.
“The people at (the) university changed him. He became a different man. One of the men he met there was Abdullah Azzam, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood who was later exiled from Saudi Arabia and became Osama’s spiritual adviser. He was a very good child until he met some people who pretty much brainwashed him in his early 20s.
“We were extremely upset. I did not want any of this to happen. Why would he throw it all away like that?”
Describing the terrorist movement as a “cult”, Ghanem said Osama was manipulated for financial gains but he did not inform her of his activities because he cared for her.
“You can call it a cult. 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.”
Also speaking during the interview, Hassan, one of Osama’s younger brothers, said the family was not proud of his actions, especially after learning he was the mastermind of the World Trade Center terrorist attack on September 11, 2011.
He also admitted that his mother was still in denial of Osama’s involvement of the terrorist plot 17 years after it occurred.
“From the youngest to the eldest, we all felt ashamed of him. We knew all of us were going to face horrible consequences. Our family abroad all came back to Saudi.
“She only knows the good boy side, the side we all saw. She never got to know the jihadist side.”
The Bin Laden family remain one of the most influential families in Saudi Arabia after gaining vast wealth in construction.
Over 3,000 people died in the September 2001 terror attack, which has been described as the deadliest in human history.
Osama was later killed by the US military in Pakistan on May 2, 2011, approximately 10 years after the attack.