- Meet the OTHER Bin Ladens
KNOW THE HISTORY & GEOGRAPHY OF OSAMA FAMILY.
With their monstrous black sheep apparently 20,000 leagues under the Arabian Sea, it’s back to business for the much misunderstood Bin Laden clan.
And for most of them — but not all, as we shall see — that business is making money.
Ten years of living with the stigma of the most infamous surname in the world will have done little to boost profits for one of the Middle East’s richest families.
But while Osama’s notoriety has understandably seen a shift in business focus away from the U.S. and Britain, the good times have continued to roll elsewhere. The Saudi Red Sea trading port of Jeddah is the business HQ for the construction family’s fabulously successful Saudi BinLadin Group (SBG).
Meanwhile, the Swiss have been European hosts to several of the family’s scions throughout the difficult years of post 9/11.
But the question today is how many of the hundreds of the Al Qaeda chief’s close relations will mourn Osama’s passing. His own generation within the family has stuck to the public line that he disgraced the name Bin Laden. Well-connected ‘friends’ are already making statements about how the wider family hope his demise signals ‘a page of history that’s closed’. No kidding.
But not all who bear the family name — if they are still alive — will agree.
Below, a 1971 photograph of a 14-year-old Osama posing with just a fraction of his 50-plus siblings, while on holiday in the small Swedish town of Falun, shows just how westernised his roots were.
And what a family it grew to be; Mohammed married a staggering 22 times.
The path to the Bin Laden riches was hardly one taught at Harvard Business School.
Gaining exclusive rights to all religious building projects under Saudi control in Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem, Mohammed Bin Laden then branched out into lucrative civil projects.
When he was killed in a plane crash in 1967, it was his Millfield-educated son, Salem — he is also in the Falun picture — who eventually took over as figurehead of the family firm.
Salem became a close friend of Saudi King Fahd. He also had business connections with future U.S. President George W. Bush, through a mutual associate called James Bath
Seventies swinger: A 14-year-old Osama Bin Laden (circled) on holiday with 21 of his siblings in Falun, Sweden, in 1971
Mr Bath worked for Salem Bin Laden and reportedly invested in a Bush venture. The conspiracy theorists picked up on this when the U.S. Government allowed some 13 Bin Laden family members to fly out of the U.S. shortly after 9/11.
Like his father, Salem died in a plane crash, in Texas in 1988. He was succeeded as family business supremo by his Miami-educated brother, Bakr, who continues to head SPG from its base in Jeddah.
While rarely seen in public, Bakr is said to be regarded as the most important figure in that city, whose international airport he has inevitably won the contract to expand.
More than a dozen Bin Laden brothers and half-brothers sit on the SBG board and help to run its operations from regional HQs across the Middle East.
SBG is estimated to be worth many billions of pounds. How much the Bin Ladens also own abroad is a moot point.
Big brother: Osama's late sibling, Salem, with his family in 1975. He died in a plane crash in 1988
They have been linked to major shareholdings in Microsoft and Boeing, through the family’s Geneva-based equity arm, the Saudi Investment Company. This is headed by another of Osama’s half-brothers, Yeslam Bin Laden. Aged 60, Yeslam has lived in Switzerland for many years and has become a citizen of that country. One of the most westernised of Osama’s siblings, he is, however, not quite as free-thinking as one of his daughters, Wafah Dufour.
Born in California, of a Swiss-Iranian mother, Wafah was studying at Columbia Law School in New York when her uncle’s operatives hit the Twin Towers.
Since then she has posed in lingerie in GQ magazine and is pursuing a singing career. Of the Bin Ladens, she seems the least affected by Osama’s radicalism.
Other third-generation Bin Ladens present contrasting figures. Among the more high profile recently has been Osama’s fourth son, Omar, who as a child lived with his father in Al Qaeda camps in Sudan and Afghanistan.
Black sheep: Osama was one of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Laden's many children, but his own son Hamza has followed in his footsteps, featuring in a jihadist film(see above)
Abandoned: Bin Laden's brother Khalil once owned this five-bedroom, Mediterranean-style mansion in Florida
He has now renounced Al Qaeda and has married a British interior designer called Zaina, who is 25 years his senior — although that match has not been enough to persuade the UK authorities that he is worthy of a visa. The couple now divide their time between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
None of the above-mentioned is an advocate of terrorism. But a number of Osama’s sons have become deeply involved in it — and it is they who present the greatest danger that the Bin Laden name might yet be further mired in blood. One son, Khalid Bin Laden, is said by U.S. sources to have been among the dead in the special forces raid on Osama’s Pakistani hideout. A photograph released by the White House this week is said to be of 20-something Khalid lying on his back in a large pool of blood which appears to be from a head wound.
But the whereabouts of others who followed their father into hiding remains unclear.
Saad Bin Laden, who, if still alive, would be around 32, was among several family members understood to have fled across the Iranian border following the post-9/11 American invasion of Afghanistan.
Some are believed still to be under house arrest there, though Saad was either released or he escaped to return to the front line.
An active member of Al Qaeda, he was reported to have been killed in a CIA drone attack on the Afghan-Pakistan border. However, his death was not confirmed and Islamist sources claim he was unharmed.
The undoubted star of the current generation of Bin Laden terrorists — and favourite to succeed his father in Al Qaeda — is Hamza who, if still alive, is around 19. In 2005, aged 14, Hamza featured in a jihadist film shot in the Pakistani tribal area on the Afghan border.
Bearing a semi-automatic assault rifle, he was said to have just taken part in a battle with Pakistani security forces.
In another film, taken at his brother Mohammed’s wedding, Hamza wore combat dress and read a poem dedicated to his father’s exploits.
One passage went: ‘I’m warning America that its people will face terrible results if they chase my father. Fighting Americans is the basis for faith.’
Dubbed the ‘Crown Prince of Terror’ by Tory MP and security expert Patrick Mercer, Hamza also appeared in a video to celebrate the third anniversary of the 7/7 bombings in London.
In it, he called for a quickening of the destruction of the U.S., Britain, France and Denmark.
‘Oh God, reward the fighters,’ he declared. ‘God, be pleased with those who want to go for jihad. Grant victory to the Taliban over the gangs of infidels.
Hamza was also implicated in the murder of Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto, who had named him as a leader of one of the Al Qaeda-linked groups of assassins planning to kill her. She said she had been warned by the then Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.
With his father’s violent death at the hands of the very enemies he railed against, Hamza is unlikely to be turned from the path of bloodshed.
The rest of the Bin Ladens will contine to make money from peaceful projects, as they have done for 80 years. But even with Osama dead, at least one branch continues to blight the family tree.
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