A family of extremes, global terrorism to playboys: The bin Ladens

Published May 4th, 2011 - 14:43 GMT

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World's most dysfunctional family 

Even before OBL's much hyped capture, the bin-Laden family, as with many modern families, has somewhat dispersed, more so given the circumstances involved in being a fugitive family. Any large family comes with variety. And this is a large clan of a family.  Even the core family unit- that is all four or five wives and between 12 and 26 children- travelled widely due to husband/ father’s career that took them from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan, Sudan and Afghanistan. Continue reading below »

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OBL:  At 15 he was a devout and pious Koran-studying kid, and a reclusive, not so typical teenager. He was not accustomed to receiving affection from his own father whom he was estranged from, living his childhood instead with his step-father.
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Image 1 of 14:  1 / 14OBL: At 15 he was a devout and pious Koran-studying kid, and a reclusive, not so typical teenager. He was not accustomed to receiving affection from his own father whom he was estranged from, living his childhood instead with his step-father.

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Saad bin Laden: the apple doesn't always fall far from the tree. He took a leadership position at the base of al- Qaeda that ran the organization from Iran and helped coordinate the al-Qaeda cell in KSA, master-minding the Riyadh compound attack. Active Jihadist that made his father proud.
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Image 2 of 14:  2 / 14Saad bin Laden: the apple doesn't always fall far from the tree. He took a leadership position at the base of al- Qaeda that ran the organization from Iran and helped coordinate the al-Qaeda cell in KSA, master-minding the Riyadh compound attack. Active Jihadist that made his father proud.

Enlarge
Wafah Dufour – Naughty niece: appeared in GQ magazine as pictured below.  Referred to as ‘the Arabic Madonna’, she is not exactly the model niece (though she models and sings for a career). She took her mother’s maiden name after 9/11 – and says she never met Uncle OBL.
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Image 3 of 14:  3 / 14Wafah Dufour – Naughty niece: appeared in GQ magazine as pictured below. Referred to as ‘the Arabic Madonna’, she is not exactly the model niece (though she models and sings for a career). She took her mother’s maiden name after 9/11 – and says she never met Uncle OBL.

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OBL Jnr, 4th son, Omar bin-Laden: rebelled against his father’s sobriety and spartan life. He has lived in the West, married older Brit, and recently undertook the antithesis of Dad's global terror: a 'glitzy global peace’ mission. Enough to drive ashamed father to live his days in hiding!
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Image 4 of 14:  4 / 14OBL Jnr, 4th son, Omar bin-Laden: rebelled against his father’s sobriety and spartan life. He has lived in the West, married older Brit, and recently undertook the antithesis of Dad's global terror: a 'glitzy global peace’ mission. Enough to drive ashamed father to live his days in hiding!

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The apple of father's eye, pet Hamza: one of his youngest sons, who was recently rumoured to have been chosen as the Formidable Father's heir.
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Image 5 of 14:  5 / 14The apple of father's eye, pet Hamza: one of his youngest sons, who was recently rumoured to have been chosen as the Formidable Father's heir.

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Omar, 29 and British wife, Jane Felix Brown (Zaina Alsabah), 54, who made headlines hiring a British pole-dancing surrogate for their twin children, court show biz while father prefers the quiet life.
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Image 6 of 14:  6 / 14Omar, 29 and British wife, Jane Felix Brown (Zaina Alsabah), 54, who made headlines hiring a British pole-dancing surrogate for their twin children, court show biz while father prefers the quiet life.

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Najwa Ghanem: Original wife and 1st cousin of ‘tyrant’ in her own words, and mother to 11/14 children, she admits candidly that he wanted many sons in order to propagate Islamic warriors, training those sons be suicide bombers. Of Syrian extract, she lives in Damascus with son Abdullah.
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Image 7 of 14:  7 / 14Najwa Ghanem: Original wife and 1st cousin of ‘tyrant’ in her own words, and mother to 11/14 children, she admits candidly that he wanted many sons in order to propagate Islamic warriors, training those sons be suicide bombers. Of Syrian extract, she lives in Damascus with son Abdullah.

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OBL was no fun: Dancing, joking and laughing were forbidden from his weddings. He kept his wife in isolation, only meeting family. His children recall a childhood not so different from their post 9/11 ‘Anne Frank-esque’ life in hiding. No toys, no air-con (in Jeddah!), no fridges, TVs or phones.
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Image 8 of 14:  8 / 14OBL was no fun: Dancing, joking and laughing were forbidden from his weddings. He kept his wife in isolation, only meeting family. His children recall a childhood not so different from their post 9/11 ‘Anne Frank-esque’ life in hiding. No toys, no air-con (in Jeddah!), no fridges, TVs or phones.

Enlarge
Compound of Capture: Abbottabad, this luxury ‘mansion’ hideaway is a step up from the caves he was accustomed to. Another notorious hideout, following the caves of Afghanistan and Saddam’s underground hole. High walls, opaque windows and no communication cables or phone wires.
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Image 9 of 14:  9 / 14Compound of Capture: Abbottabad, this luxury ‘mansion’ hideaway is a step up from the caves he was accustomed to. Another notorious hideout, following the caves of Afghanistan and Saddam’s underground hole. High walls, opaque windows and no communication cables or phone wires.

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His Will, No frill! Not material gifts.'Wives':'Keep to the path of austerity. Thanks for the support; from day 1 you knew that the road would be strewn with brambles [bombs] & mines. You left the comfort of parents’, chose to suffer the ascetic life with me; so stick to it—DON’T REMARRY.'
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Image 10 of 14:  10 / 14His Will, No frill! Not material gifts.'Wives':"Keep to the path of austerity. Thanks for the support; from day 1 you knew that the road would be strewn with brambles [bombs] & mines. You left the comfort of parents’, chose to suffer the ascetic life with me; so stick to it—DON’T REMARRY."

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'But you, my children': 'Forgive me because I spent so little time with you for the sake of the Jihad. I adopted the Muslim cause. I chose a path fraught with dangers, and suffered the hardships and drawbacks-  it wasn't quite what I expected as I faced treachery and betrayal along the way.
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Image 11 of 14:  11 / 14'But you, my children': "Forgive me because I spent so little time with you for the sake of the Jihad. I adopted the Muslim cause. I chose a path fraught with dangers, and suffered the hardships and drawbacks- it wasn't quite what I expected as I faced treachery and betrayal along the way.

Enlarge
Bin-Laden household ruled in a draconian fashion: ban on play- frequent caning and lack of cuddles or smiles prevailed. Military style training episodes involved forcing his sons to scale mountains and desert without water or supplies.
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Image 12 of 14:  12 / 14Bin-Laden household ruled in a draconian fashion: ban on play- frequent caning and lack of cuddles or smiles prevailed. Military style training episodes involved forcing his sons to scale mountains and desert without water or supplies.

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The human, contradictory side: He loved fast cars and he spoke English fluently.
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Image 13 of 14:  13 / 14The human, contradictory side: He loved fast cars and he spoke English fluently.

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OBL's favorite hobby was working the land and raising the best corn crop and the largest sunflower plants. No wonder, hidden away from technology and people - nature was his best bet!
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Image 14 of 14:  14 / 14OBL's favorite hobby was working the land and raising the best corn crop and the largest sunflower plants. No wonder, hidden away from technology and people - nature was his best bet!

Enlarge

1

OBL:  At 15 he was a devout and pious Koran-studying kid, and a reclusive, not so typical teenager. He was not accustomed to receiving affection from his own father whom he was estranged from, living his childhood instead with his step-father.

Image 1 of 14OBL: At 15 he was a devout and pious Koran-studying kid, and a reclusive, not so typical teenager. He was not accustomed to receiving affection from his own father whom he was estranged from, living his childhood instead with his step-father.

2

Saad bin Laden: the apple doesn't always fall far from the tree. He took a leadership position at the base of al- Qaeda that ran the organization from Iran and helped coordinate the al-Qaeda cell in KSA, master-minding the Riyadh compound attack. Active Jihadist that made his father proud.

Image 2 of 14Saad bin Laden: the apple doesn't always fall far from the tree. He took a leadership position at the base of al- Qaeda that ran the organization from Iran and helped coordinate the al-Qaeda cell in KSA, master-minding the Riyadh compound attack. Active Jihadist that made his father proud.

3

Wafah Dufour – Naughty niece: appeared in GQ magazine as pictured below.  Referred to as ‘the Arabic Madonna’, she is not exactly the model niece (though she models and sings for a career). She took her mother’s maiden name after 9/11 – and says she never met Uncle OBL.

Image 3 of 14Wafah Dufour – Naughty niece: appeared in GQ magazine as pictured below. Referred to as ‘the Arabic Madonna’, she is not exactly the model niece (though she models and sings for a career). She took her mother’s maiden name after 9/11 – and says she never met Uncle OBL.

4

OBL Jnr, 4th son, Omar bin-Laden: rebelled against his father’s sobriety and spartan life. He has lived in the West, married older Brit, and recently undertook the antithesis of Dad's global terror: a 'glitzy global peace’ mission. Enough to drive ashamed father to live his days in hiding!

Image 4 of 14OBL Jnr, 4th son, Omar bin-Laden: rebelled against his father’s sobriety and spartan life. He has lived in the West, married older Brit, and recently undertook the antithesis of Dad's global terror: a 'glitzy global peace’ mission. Enough to drive ashamed father to live his days in hiding!

5

The apple of father's eye, pet Hamza: one of his youngest sons, who was recently rumoured to have been chosen as the Formidable Father's heir.

Image 5 of 14The apple of father's eye, pet Hamza: one of his youngest sons, who was recently rumoured to have been chosen as the Formidable Father's heir.

6

Omar, 29 and British wife, Jane Felix Brown (Zaina Alsabah), 54, who made headlines hiring a British pole-dancing surrogate for their twin children, court show biz while father prefers the quiet life.

Image 6 of 14Omar, 29 and British wife, Jane Felix Brown (Zaina Alsabah), 54, who made headlines hiring a British pole-dancing surrogate for their twin children, court show biz while father prefers the quiet life.

7

Najwa Ghanem: Original wife and 1st cousin of ‘tyrant’ in her own words, and mother to 11/14 children, she admits candidly that he wanted many sons in order to propagate Islamic warriors, training those sons be suicide bombers. Of Syrian extract, she lives in Damascus with son Abdullah.

Image 7 of 14Najwa Ghanem: Original wife and 1st cousin of ‘tyrant’ in her own words, and mother to 11/14 children, she admits candidly that he wanted many sons in order to propagate Islamic warriors, training those sons be suicide bombers. Of Syrian extract, she lives in Damascus with son Abdullah.

8

OBL was no fun: Dancing, joking and laughing were forbidden from his weddings. He kept his wife in isolation, only meeting family. His children recall a childhood not so different from their post 9/11 ‘Anne Frank-esque’ life in hiding. No toys, no air-con (in Jeddah!), no fridges, TVs or phones.

Image 8 of 14OBL was no fun: Dancing, joking and laughing were forbidden from his weddings. He kept his wife in isolation, only meeting family. His children recall a childhood not so different from their post 9/11 ‘Anne Frank-esque’ life in hiding. No toys, no air-con (in Jeddah!), no fridges, TVs or phones.

9

Compound of Capture: Abbottabad, this luxury ‘mansion’ hideaway is a step up from the caves he was accustomed to. Another notorious hideout, following the caves of Afghanistan and Saddam’s underground hole. High walls, opaque windows and no communication cables or phone wires.

Image 9 of 14Compound of Capture: Abbottabad, this luxury ‘mansion’ hideaway is a step up from the caves he was accustomed to. Another notorious hideout, following the caves of Afghanistan and Saddam’s underground hole. High walls, opaque windows and no communication cables or phone wires.

10

His Will, No frill! Not material gifts.'Wives':'Keep to the path of austerity. Thanks for the support; from day 1 you knew that the road would be strewn with brambles [bombs] & mines. You left the comfort of parents’, chose to suffer the ascetic life with me; so stick to it—DON’T REMARRY.'

Image 10 of 14His Will, No frill! Not material gifts.'Wives':"Keep to the path of austerity. Thanks for the support; from day 1 you knew that the road would be strewn with brambles [bombs] & mines. You left the comfort of parents’, chose to suffer the ascetic life with me; so stick to it—DON’T REMARRY."

11

'But you, my children': 'Forgive me because I spent so little time with you for the sake of the Jihad. I adopted the Muslim cause. I chose a path fraught with dangers, and suffered the hardships and drawbacks-  it wasn't quite what I expected as I faced treachery and betrayal along the way.

Image 11 of 14'But you, my children': "Forgive me because I spent so little time with you for the sake of the Jihad. I adopted the Muslim cause. I chose a path fraught with dangers, and suffered the hardships and drawbacks- it wasn't quite what I expected as I faced treachery and betrayal along the way.

12

Bin-Laden household ruled in a draconian fashion: ban on play- frequent caning and lack of cuddles or smiles prevailed. Military style training episodes involved forcing his sons to scale mountains and desert without water or supplies.

Image 12 of 14Bin-Laden household ruled in a draconian fashion: ban on play- frequent caning and lack of cuddles or smiles prevailed. Military style training episodes involved forcing his sons to scale mountains and desert without water or supplies.

13

The human, contradictory side: He loved fast cars and he spoke English fluently.

Image 13 of 14The human, contradictory side: He loved fast cars and he spoke English fluently.

14

OBL's favorite hobby was working the land and raising the best corn crop and the largest sunflower plants. No wonder, hidden away from technology and people - nature was his best bet!

Image 14 of 14OBL's favorite hobby was working the land and raising the best corn crop and the largest sunflower plants. No wonder, hidden away from technology and people - nature was his best bet!

Reduce

The bin Laden family is one of the most prominent in Saudi Arabia. The Binladin Group, a family construction business, is one of the Kingdom's largest. It builds roads and bridges, renovates mosques and has expanded into property, textiles, telecommunications and distribution.  The extended family is large and relations are complicated by the fact that many disowned Bin Laden after he was stripped of his Saudi citizenship in 1994 for suspected terrorist activities and for criticism of the Al Saud dynasty.

A couple of junior bin Ladens adopted the ‘Cause’ with him, as the loyal Hamza, Khaled and Saad; others adopted a rather different choice of life than such a father might expect.  Those that emulated their father didn't always live to succeed his work. The whereabouts of his son Hamza, who has played a key role in al-Qaida propaganda, is unknown. Bin Laden's son, Khalid, was killed with his father upon capture.

Relatives, including OBL's first wife, live in Syria and Europe as well as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghanistan. At least six of his children took refuge in Iran after 9/11 and were later placed under house arrest.  

OBL's former sister-in-law Carmen bin Ladin said she was sure the family would be mourning his death. "Blood is thicker than anything and they still consider him as part of the family."

So rumor of his collective or Saudi-based family disowning him is not quite accurate.  However the ties are complex ones that do not preclude dis-ownership and distancing. And the variety offered in this single family- from extreme religious devotion, as well as terrorism, to modeling and Showbiz (let’s call them the ‘Celebrity Bin-Laden’ wing) is pretty radical.

 

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