Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden’s mother Alia Ghanem has spoken for the first time on his death in May 2011, describing him as “a good kid who loved her so much”.
Alia told the Guardian that she recalls Osama as a shy boy who became a strong, driven pious figure in his early 20s.
She described him as a bright kid who somehow lost his ways after joining King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, where he studied Economics.
“The people at university changed him. He became a different man,” she said.
Alia claimed while studying, Osama met some people who brainwashed him and he changed his ways.
“He was a very good child until he met some people who pretty much brainwashed him in his early 20s,” she said.
“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.”
The Guardian reports that Osama, while in the university, met Abdullah Azzam, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood who was later exiled from Saudi Arabia and became Osama’s spiritual adviser.
Alia added that her life became very difficult because her first-born child was always far away from her.
The last time the family saw Osama was in Afghanistan in 1999, a year in which they visited him twice at his base outside Kandahar.
It was a place near the airport that they had captured from the Russians,” Alia said.
However, Osama’s half-brother Ahmad said that their mother was still in denial as she still loved her son.
“Instead, she blames those around him. She only knows the good boy side, the side we all saw. She never got to know the jihadist side,” Ahmad told the Guardian.
He admits that all Osama’s siblings felt ashamed of his actions and knew they were going to face horrible consequences for his actions.
Ahmad said all family members had to go back to Saudi Arabia where they were questioned by the authorities and, for a time, prevented from leaving the country.
Nearly two decades on, the Ladens can now move relatively freely within and outside the kingdom.
The family remains one of the kingdom’s wealthiest families.